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The Origins of Power Lunch:
Our founder, Emma Williams, a local marketing and sustainability professional, started Power Lunch in January of 2013. After completing Leadership Chattanooga, Emma had the opportunity to learn about the state of education in our community. During a visit to Orchard Knob Middle School, she encountered two eighth grade girls with medical and legal aspirations. Struck by their ambition, Emma saw an opportunity to connect these girls with professional women in our community. Thus, Power Lunch was born. Emma took her concept from idea to implementation with the help of Causeway, the UNFoundation, and the Community Foundation. Her hard work paid off when a group of eighth grade girls at Orchard Knob Middle School had their first Power Lunch. The program is in its third academic year and is growing to include other schools.
Our mission is to connect eighth grade girls at Title 1 schools with local professional women, and give them insight about achieving their own career goals. Monthly lunches with successful women help set them up for success at a critical point in their lives, while providing a safe space for discussion and exploration.
About Power Lunch:
Designed to fuel inspiration and ambition in eighth grade girls in Title 1 Chattanooga middle schools, Power Lunch provides young women real-world examples of the careers in which they are interested. Power Lunch reaches girls at a critical juncture in their lives, encouraging them to think about the choices they will make in high school and higher education. The goal of the program is to help girls–who may not otherwise be exposed to a diverse array of career choices–envision and plan their own bright futures.
How Power Lunch Works:
Power Lunch draws on research that suggests that middle school students benefit most from building broad opportunity and career awareness. Each month, a local professional woman is invited to have lunch with the girls, and the eighth graders are given an opportunity to ask her questions in a small group setting. The same group of girls meets each month throughout the school year, and the roundtable format gives the young women a safe space in which they can satisfy their curiosity about the opportunities and challenges of different career paths. Often, knowledge about the steps that lead to a career in medicine or education may be even more valuable than details about the day-to-day life of a pediatrician or professor. Along the way, the students also learn about the basics of professional etiquette, interpersonal communication, and business attire.
Since our start in 2013, Power Lunch is continuing to evolve. Last year, we added mid-year and end of year luncheons to which each girl could invite her mother or a special guest. Giving the girls a chance to share Power Lunch with their mothers gave families a chance to be involved, as well as to meet some of the women with whom their daughters have been sharing lunch. These inclusions encourage conversation about the future, while also forming a network of people invested in helping each of the girls become bright, successful contributors to our community—and beyond.
As Power Lunch expands, we are working to include more schools and girls in the Chattanooga area and region. We will also be connecting middle school students at different schools to one another, with the goal of creating community and collegiality between those young women. As we grow, we look forward to exciting new projects and possibilities. Stay tuned!