Our Lady of Mercy School for Young Women recently announced the launch of the $1.2 million Cheryl Speranza Leadership Institute for all students enrolled in grades nine through 12, particularly economically disadvantaged women of color.
The Institute is in honor of Cheryl Speranza, a 1965 Mercy graduate who passed away from pancreatic cancer in March 2018 and had a passion for serving others, including Rochester’s young women and youth. Prior to her passing, Paul and Cheryl Speranza co-created and co-funded the institute through a gift of more than $1.2 million from the Speranza family and the Cheryl and Paul Speranza Foundation.
“Prior to my wife’s passing, she asked me to lead a holy, simple life, continue to help those in need, and make her proud,” said Paul. “That’s what I’m trying to do through the Cheryl Speranza Leadership Institute.”
After the announcement, Bernice A. King, CEO of The King Center and daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, gave a special keynote address focusing on the importance the Cheryl Speranza Leadership Institute, which will create the next generation of diverse civic, business, and community leaders.
“The Cheryl Speranza Leadership Institute aligns with fulfilling my father’s dream,” said King. “The very painful truth is that there are very few women of color in high leadership positions in America. Poverty and discrimination prohibit the success of a disproportionate number of women of color. This Institute will help address these issues.”
The institute will benefit the Mercy high school student body, with funding available for more than 11 emerging leaders from diverse and socioeconomic backgrounds, such as young women with limited financial and emotional support. The institute will provide scholars with the necessary tools to succeed in school and beyond, including access to mentors, tutors, and youth advocates. It will create a “new girls” network, which will provide life and career assistance to its scholars throughout their lifetime while in college, graduate school and in their career.
The institute will be led by a program chair and supported by a youth advocate, both open positions. Recruitment efforts to fill the roles will begin immediately. Candidates for the program chair should be strong leaders in their community whose passion aligns with the Institute’s mission of developing young female leaders.
“This gift provides Mercy with an amazing opportunity, not just for our students, but for the entire Rochester community,” said Mercy Vice President of Institutional Advancement Christian Jensen. “Through the Cheryl Speranza Leadership Institute, Mercy will continue to take the lead in providing academic excellence to young women in our area.”
The inaugural program will kick off in fall 2019, with scholarship awardees beginning pre-work in July. Applications for the Institute are open. Each student who desires to participate must meet Mercy’s prescribed criteria for need-based financial aid and demonstrate academic promise, natural leadership ability, work ethic, teacher recommendations and other evaluations as determined by Mercy’s academic leadership.
Visit www.speranzainstitute.com for more information.