I’m a Tulsa Kid: Kate McCollum: BTW RISE Girl Up Club Founder and President

Booker T. Washington High School Senior Kate McCollum believes all young women around the world should have an opportunity to experience the power of education. Two years ago, Kate started the RISE Girl Up Club at Booker T. Washington and currently serves as its president. Girl Up is an innovative campaign of the United Nations Foundation that gives American girls the opportunity to become global leaders and to channel their energy and compassion to raise awareness and funds for United Nations’ programs that help some of the world’s hardest-to-reach adolescent girls. The organization’s vision is a world where all girls, no matter where they live, have the opportunity to become educated, to be healthy and safe, and positioned to be the next generation of leaders. Kate recently was selected as one of 20 young women from more than 200 nominations around the country to serve as a teen advisor in the Girl Up Teen Program.

TK: Why did you start a RISE Girl Up Club at Booker T. Washington, and how many members do you currently have in the club?

Kate: When I learned about the hardships that girls face across the globe, I was shocked at my own lack of awareness on the issues, and that is what ultimately encouraged me to start RISE, the Girl Up Club at my school. This campaign has not only done amazing work for adolescent girls in the developing world, but I’ve witnessed the way it can also empower girls locally and help them realize that they can make a difference. I am amazed at this campaign’s ability to make a difference for adolescent girls across the world, but also its ability to help girls to discover their ability to be change makers. As of right now, we have about 45 girls coming to our meetings and events, so it is very exciting!

TK: What global issues affecting girls influenced your decision to start the Girl Up Club?

Kate: Girl Up works to ensure adolescent girls are educated, healthy, safe from violence, counted, and positioned to be the next generation of leaders. Personally, I am most passionate about education. I recognize the power of an educated woman, and the power of education to create positive change. A woman who is educated takes that knowledge and pours it back into her family, her community, and eventually, the larger society. Her kids are far more likely to be literate and educated, and I recognize that educating a girl is one of the highest return investments in breaking cycles of poverty. Working with this campaign has made me appreciate my opportunities that much more.

TK: What activities and fundraisers does the Booker T. Washington Girl Up Club do to assist the Girls Up national program?

Kate: Our club works to hold fundraising and awareness activities. We have held two pancake breakfasts in the past year and raised over $800 for the Girl Up Campaign. During May of 2013 we worked to bring the documentary film Girl Rising to Tulsa. We successfully screened the film twice at the Circle Cinema to a sold-out theater. Girl Rising is a documentary that tells the story of nine girls from nine different countries, and illustrates the power of education in a girl’s life. Most recently, our club held a leadership summit for girls in seventh-twelfth grades in Tulsa. We successfully held leadership and empowerment workshops at the summit for over 40 girls from the Tulsa area.

TK: You were selected along with 19 other girls nationally to be a Girl Up Teen Advisor? What will be your role as a Teen Advisor?

Kate: Girl Up is a “For Girls, By Girls” Campaign, so as a Teen Advisor, I am one of 20 girls from across the nation that serve a year-long term to represent the campaign. I provide feedback as well as share ideas with the campaign. So far, I have been able to attend leadership training, national events at the United Nations for International Day of the Girl, and the United Nations Association Global Leadership Dinner in New York where Malala Yousafzai was being honored.

TK: How has your involvement in Girl Up affected your college and future plans?

Kate:Working with this campaign has completely changed my perspective. As far as my future endeavors, I’m not sure exactly what my future plans are, but I’m interested in women and gender studies programs, as well as sociology/anthropology. Along with that, I am so grateful for the relationships and lessons I’ve gained from great teachers and mentors in my life, so I would love to be able to do something that makes a difference in students’ lives.