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In Kids & Family

TYWIGS offers stimulating, supportive environment for females

The Young Women's Institute for Global Studies (TYWIGS) is a new school, soon to be born in Milwaukee. It was created out of a mother's love and determination to provide the optimal school experience for her daughters.

In 2002, when a lengthy search for the right school, through public, charter, and private, produced disappointing, at times even disturbing, findings, Virginia Cassel turned to research on school models to determine what it was that she was looking for.

Clarity came while viewing a documentary about an all girls' school in Harlem called The Young Women's Leadership School. TYWLS, which opened in 1998, was designed to provide engaging educational opportunities for girls and to address their intellectual as well as developmental needs.

Research reveals that girls thrive in all-girl educational settings. Girls from all-girl school settings outperform girls from co-educational settings, have more leadership opportunities and assume more leadership positions in addition to pursuing a statistically higher number of degrees in science and math. Cassel was inspired. This was what she wanted for her daughters-a school where her daughters would be "encouraged not discouraged."

"Genderism is systemic, institutionalized, and so deep within our culture that women have internalized it to such an extent that they don't even realize that they promote it," says Cassel.

A specifically girl supporting environment would go a long way towards countering societal gender bias by eliminating classroom gender bias. Unfortunately, the Milwaukee area didn't offer such school and so Cassel, drawing on her business background, created a proposal and approached Milwaukee Public Schools with her plan. The idea was appreciated but public single sex schools at that time were illegal.

Discouraged but not defeated, Cassel continued to develop her ideas. The schools that she had visited during her earlier search she felt weren't truly meeting the needs of the students and so she sat down with students and recent graduates and asked them what they liked and didn't like about school, what a school would look like if they designed it. She found out that students felt that their education was isolated. They didn't want just college preparatory courses; they needed to know how the world worked. Prompted by her interviews and independent research, Cassel worked with students, parents, community members and educators to create an integrated curriculum that focuses on exploring other cultures and how they affect one another.

The Young Women's Institute for Global Studies is designed to be a year 'round, all girls' high school that will be divided into trimesters. The adult to student ratio will be 12-1. TYWIGS will provide a rich, dynamic, integrated, real world curriculum that utilizes project-based leaning and community partnerships. The school intends to engage, empower and mentor young girls to reach great heights by leading educated, fulfilling, prosperous and meaningful lives.

From the angst, vision and drive of Milwaukee mother Virginia Cassel, comes an exciting school brimming with promise and the potential to take our young girls into a new era of empowerment. TYWIGS will open in August 2007.


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