News | March 9, 2023
From the moment scholars arrive at the Young Women’s Leadership Academy (YWLA) of Las Vegas, they are immersed in an environment that reinforces the Academy’s main goals – instilling leadership skills, empowering young women with pride to be active community participants and educating the whole person.
Scholars start their day by joining their student mentors or mentees for breakfast on campus, a dedicated time to connect with peers and learn from each other. After breakfast, scholars join the school-wide morning huddle where they link arms and share current goals, challenges and successes with each other. “The morning huddle is a daily opportunity for our scholars to connect with each other in a nurturing environment and be reminded of what it means to be part of a community – we actively support each other,” said Whitney McIntosh, YWLA of Las Vegas principal.
After the morning huddle, scholars begin their classes, which focus on providing rigorous, college-preparatory academics fused with nationally recognized best practices in education and social-emotional support to empower scholars to lead in school and beyond.
One of the most important parts of a scholar’s day is the advisory period, which combines college-preparatory initiatives with emotional support, a defining feature of YWLA. “The advisory period provides a space for scholars to form trusted relationships with adult leaders, who help scholars feel comfortable talking about their needs and fears, often by sharing their own vulnerability,” McIntosh said.
In addition to providing emotional support, advisory sessions help YWLA of Las Vegas better understand support services scholar mays need, such as food, clothing or even hygiene access. “This initiative is a credit to my staff and teachers, who care deeply about our scholars – not just about the high-quality education they provide, but ensuring our scholars have everything they need for their sustained success and well-being.”
YWLA of Las Vegas scholars say the advisory period is a valuable time. According to one scholar: “My favorite part of advisory period is when we have a circle and I’m able to express how I feel about a subject.” Another scholar shared: “Something I like about the advisory period is when we’re able to talk about things without judgement, how we’re all able to be so open with our classmates. It makes me feel more comfortable to be around classmates who can also relate to me.”
Leadership and empowerment are also goals of the advisory period. Scholars are encouraged to take ownership of their campus, both in its appearance and the extracurricular activities offered. Scholars can imprint their vision on the campus by working together and with staff to prepare exhibits or performances for the school, as well as plan clubs, sports and even spirit weeks.
“Being actively engaged in their school builds a strong connection to this community and cultivates skill sets that will help scholars participate in positive community engagement throughout their lives,” McIntosh said. “Instead of merely having their school community decided for them, we empower our scholars to actively shape and take pride in their environment.”
Scholars enjoy having a voice in their campus environment and culture, with one sharing: “One project I like doing is helping decorate and making the school better.” Another echoed this sentiment: “A project I did and really liked was our first Black History bulletin board. I feel like I really contributed with the rest of the people working on it.”
Sands played an integral role in bringing YWLA of Las Vegas to fruition, from identifying the need and opportunity for the school in the community to providing seed contributions through Sands Cares to enable facility development, purchases of furniture and other school equipment, and technology access for all scholars. Sands chairman and CEO Rob Goldstein and EVP and global general counsel Zac Hudson serve on YWLA’s governing board to help guide and shape the school’s development and critical growth years. In the future, Sands plans to introduce special programs such as internships and job shadowing for YWLA scholars.
Sands’ partnership with Young Women’s Leadership Academy complements Sands Cares’ broad spectrum of support for education, as part of the company’s commitment to building the workforce of the future and removing barriers for underrepresented communities. Educational initiatives supported through Sands Cares span investments in scholarships, mentorship and youth development organizations, schools for underserved populations, higher education institutions, and educational nonprofit and advocacy organizations.
To learn more or apply to become a YWLA scholar, please visit www.ywlalasvegas.org.