The Women of Tomorrow is committed to women’s education


By: Diana Bello Aristizábal

Para leer en Español

Dropping out of school, meaning leaving high school without graduating, can create a long-term negative impact on aspects such as job stability and the level of economic income, while also decreases the possibilities of living up to the full potential in life. An organization that understands this celebrates 27 years in August working to change this reality for many young women.


This is The Women of Tomorrow Mentor & Scholarship Program (WOT). The organization was founded in 1997 with the purpose of inspiring, motivating and empowering at-risk high school young women through a group mentoring program and scholarship opportunities so that they not only graduate from school but gain practical life skills that allow them to be successful and access higher education.


Reducing school dropouts is one of the reasons why the districts of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach have opened the doors of their schools to this program, which currently operates in more than 100 high schools, including JC Bermudez Doral Senior High School, covering around 3,000 students annually. Each school can enroll no more than 30 students.


Belinda Leon

“They see it as a tool that helps their students stay in school and graduate. Ninety-six to 99% of the young women who enroll in our program do. In addition, up until now we have given almost 8 million dollars in scholarships for higher education,” Belinda Leon, Program Director, says.


These figures are not a small achievement when looked at from a broader perspective, because if the graduation rate is so high it means that at least 29 girls per school who possibly would not have graduated without the intervention of WOT, changed their situation.


Why some fail to graduate? The reasons are mainly social and economic. “We have students who live in a very high level of poverty: They don’t have a home, their residence is located in a hotel, they live alone or with a single caregiver who must cover all expenses. I have even seen some live in their cars,” Belinda explains.


“When there are academic reasons for not finishing high school, there will always be a tutor or a teacher to help you get better grades. But how can a teacher help a student who doesn’t have parents at home or that lives in a car?” Belinda asks herself while remembering the story of a pregnant 16-year-old girl who wanted to graduate but didn’t have support and her group’s mentor was the one who encouraged her to move forward and believe in herself.


A strong network of support and knowledge

The program the organization currently offers, free to schools, began as a small project created by television reporter Jennifer Valoppi and former Telemundo Network President, Don Browne. It stems out of a study found by Valoppi in which it was stated that a mentor could drastically change the life of a young person for the better.


“She began talking with the Miami-Dade district to enter their schools with the help of a small group of women and little by little expanded to the other two counties and recruited more women,” Belinda says.


The heart of the program lies in its mentors who are chosen through a committee. Its members review the applications of the candidates and select those who have accumulated a certain number of years of professional experience.


Those still in college can participate as volunteers in areas outside of mentoring or if they have been students of the program previously start as mentor’s assistants to eventually join the organization as mentors.


As for the teenagers who join the program, the schools are in charge of making that decision based on the needs and traits of the student body. Each school must choose an employee representative to serve as a liaison and the organization assigns them a mentor. To date, more than 170 mentors have participated.


They meet once a month with their group to discuss different topics such as how to conduct an interview for a job or for college admission or they review basic information like the deadline to apply for a specific scholarship.


But even though the program’s core is mentoring, students have access to other resources. These are: Discussions with guest speakers; annual educational field trips; summits where they receive information about specific jobs and the experience of working in them as a woman; the opportunity to apply for scholarships after three years of enrollment in the program and to join the Alumni Network, an association for WOT graduates.


According to Belinda, the experience of working with the students is very satisfying because they manage to remove barriers from their lives in order to graduate and achieve success. “One of the young women who won a scholarship got into Harvard and we are very proud of her.”


As future projects, the organization is considering granting more scholarships and making some of them of four years. Additionally, she aims to introduce students to the benefits of studying careers that have not typically been for women, such as aviation. “The goal is to make them see that they have many options available in life and not just one path to follow.”


The program begins with each school year and all activities are exclusively scheduled during the day and during school hours in order to make it easier for students to follow it. For more information, check the website



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