Alexandria Hosts Women Helping Women Event

The Alexandria Campus hosted the 10th annual Women Helping Women event, sponsored by the Campus’ Women’s Retention Project and the Braden Center for Women, Gender, and Social Equity. This year’s focus was “Cultivating Courage, Confidence, and Career.” The event was attended by nearly 100 participants.

With the support of Dr. George Gabriel in the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Student Success Initiatives Research, the Women’s Retention Project was developed in 2009 to ensure that women students get the mentorship they need to attain their academic and career goals.

Women’s Retention Project director and founder Dr. Jill Biden kicked off the event by warmly welcoming the students and presenting the first Child Care Support Gift to a deserving student mentee. NOVA Alexandria provost Dr. Annette Haggray gave an encouraging speech, followed by NOVACares director Connie Kirkland who shared her experiences of finding her path.

An empowering movement class led by Meredith Patel from Old Town Alexandria Barre3 got attendees on their feet. Piano music was played by Melanie Casey and artwork by faculty member Britt Conelly was featured. Braden Center Women’s Leadership Circle student Samia Hajjaoui partnered with student Zalina Zangieva and the Photography Department to create an interactive portrait exhibition of courageous and confident women on our campus, which was a powerful addition to the day’s program.

After lunch, international motivational speaker Valerie Biden Owens gave an inspiring workshop on body language, presentation, and how to exude confidence. One student exclaimed, “I loved Valerie’s talk! Now I’ll have confidence in my abilities especially when meeting new people.”

Dr. Carolyn Lorente then moderated a session with former community college students Alina Stropa, Linda Gray, Linda Campos, and Ginny Holloway who shared their stories of how they overcame personal struggles with self-doubt, economic insecurity, and other barriers. The women talked about how they learned to reach out to others for support and emphasized the idea that women don’t have to do this alone.

One participant remarked, “By attending this event I learned about how I can have confidence with myself and encourage myself to go forward. I learned tools to deal with challenges, difficult moments, and the importance of having a community of support.”

A special thank you to Professor Lisa Hill and the student graphic design team for contributing their time and creativity to the promotional materials. Beautiful work by Gifti Bayou, Bianca Marcia, and for Gina Armstrong whose design was featured on the fliers.

NOVA TV was there to record the event, which can be viewed at

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