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Authored by: Debbie Kruger,  Assistant Manager, Charitable Initiatives ANN INC. | ANN TAYLOR | LOFT | LOU & GREY

I joined the Charitable Initiatives Team at ANN INC. in December, and from my very first day I heard about the HERlead Fellowship – “a Fellowship for young women on their way.”  Previously, I worked at a company where the focus of the philanthropic initiatives hit less close to home, so learning about ANN’s commitment and dedication to young women and their leadership journeys attracted me to the Company and its mission immediately. I thought, “What an amazing way for a company to engage with its clients – not only will they find the clothing that elevates them to be their best selves every day, but also through a holistic program that elevates young women, invests in their future and encourages them to be catalysts of change in our society.” At ANN, I have participated in countless planning sessions about this forum and have seen this mission come to life.

Fast forward a few months to last Monday, June 19th. Thirty young women flooded into the Spectrum at Times Square Tower for what I knew would be an amazing week. All of the details were in place: inspiring speakers, dedicated mentors, well thought-out programs and of course, the awesome HERlead swag. I was certain that that the girls would leave feeling empowered, inspired, and engaged with the program. What I did not realize on that Monday –as our team laid the finishing touches on the event – was how inspired I and the other associates who had the privilege of meeting with the girls would be as well. That inspiration did not come from any one engaging speaker or thought-provoking conversation, but from the energetic and hopeful essence buzzing around the room and from the contagious passion of the participants. This was never more apparent than during the final working group presentations on the last day of the forum, when each fellow got to present her project.  Overcoming anxiety of public speaking, shyness, and other fears, each fellow presented her project to a room filled with ANN INC. associates and executives both confidently and eloquently. I can say confidently that the associates and the executives were moved and inspired by the breadth of insight, passion, and commitment these young women brought to their presentations and they bring daily to these specific cause areas. It made me think of the issues affecting my community and prompted me to explore ways to give back further and get more involved. Their perseverance and passion were contagious.

I look forward to seeing how each one of the 2017 HERlead Fellows stays connected to the HERlead network in her own way and how we, the HERlead team, can continue to support her well beyond last week’s inspiring Forum.

Debbie Kruger