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SLAM’s mixed-methods research includes interviews, direct observation, artifact collection, and quantitative measures collected from the experiences of both the middle school “Littles” and their collegiate mentor “Bigs.” We work in partnership with Seminole and Orange County Public Schools.


Our research at UCF SLAM indicates that importance of the combination of group meetings and mentor-mentee relationships. Group settings allow Littles  to discover connections with other Littles that reveal commonalities that people can face in life transitions. The one-on-one relationships developed between mentors and mentees can benefit both Littles and Bigs, as it creates a safe space for asking questions that contribute to the process of decision-making.

Why Girls?

Most people agree that middle school girls and college women are both going through important life transitions, entering into young adulthood and gaining independence as they are developing their own life goals. Currently, much research supports that young women experience a decrease in self-esteem and confidence starting in their middle school years. Also, while girls often suggest their interest in a wide variety of career goals and enter college with these goals, college women are still more likely to enter gender-specific career paths. Research is needed to understand what influences these changes and how we can better support young women’s identity formation. This helps us not only better understand and support young women’s perspectives, but also address ongoing gender differences later on in life.

Grants and Funding

Wells Fargo Community Grant

Wells Fargo of Orlando generously donated $5000 to help transform YWLP into SLAM in 2019. This donation allows for a transformation to SLAM which includes the core curriculum from YWLP and a STEM focused girls’ mentoring program. SLAM empowers girls to be assertive, brave, confident, independent, inquisitive and proud leaders in STEM!

Wells Fargo of Orlando awarded a $5000 Community Grant to YWLP in 2018 to provide the necessary resources to effectively run YWLP for one year. In addition to needed supplies, food and programming materials, the Wells Fargo Community Grant also allows for additional workshops in STEM with MadScience, financial literacy with Wells Fargo, and career exploration with local women.

AAUW Community Action Grant

UCF’s YWLP was awarded a Community Action Grant (CAG) from the American Association of University Women for the 2016-2107 program year. AAUW CAG was awarded for a YWLP sub-program, “SLAM: Science Leadership and Mentoring.” YWLP-SLAM included multiple STEM focused events including “Engineering Day” with guest speaker Dr. Pamela McCauley, UCF Professor of Engineering; “Starry-Night” at the UCF Robinson Observatory and guest speaker  Dr. Adrienne Dove, UCF Assistant Professor of Physics; field trips to see the film “Hidden Figures” and visit the Orlando Science Museum and UCF Arboretum. Preliminary research results from YWLP-SLAM suggest significant attitude changes in girls’ positive associations with the physical sciences and seeing themselves in physical science careers in their futures.

AAUW Campus Action Grant

Mentors pose with program director
UCF’s YWLP was awarded a Campus Action Grant from the American Association of University Women for our girl-led anti-bullying and harassment campaign “Leading Out Loud.” The girl-led school campaigns reached 1,000 students in three Central Florida middle schools. The YWLP Little Sisters also hosted their own ant-bullying and harassment workshop for several 5th grade leadership teams from across Seminole County. The campaign also included interviews with girls and their parents/guardians on their views and experiences with bullying and harassment at school.

The research from the project resulted in a UCF undergraduate researchers presenting at the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders.

Grant write-up and reports can be seen at the AAUW CAP website

UCF Student Mentor Academic Research Team Grant

In Spring 2011 Caroline McFadden and faculty mentor Meredith Tweed were awarded a SMART grant for McFadden’s project “Invisible Ink: Whiteness, Young Women Leaders, and Bridging Difference to Build Community.” The project included content analysis of YWLP participant artifacts and lesson planning on racial identity to study how girls perceive and experience privilege in their lives and in the lives of others in their communities.

You can read more about the project in the CFF article “SMART Grant team studies race, privilege” Page A4.

CAH Research and Incentive Program Grant

In the fall of 2014, Meredith Tweed (WGST) and Dr. Amanda Anthony (Sociology) were awarded a Competitive Research Incentive Seed Funding grant for their project titled “Understanding how cultural gender beliefs affect young women’s core leadership identity development.” Their research project, a partnership between the Women’s Studies Program’s Young Women Leaders Program and Seminole County Public Schools, will run through the 2015 school year.

In 2011, Dr. Maria Santana and Meredith Tweed were awarded internal UCF funding. Their CAH Research and Incentive Program Grant for their project “Taking Up Space: Middle School Girls’ Responses to (Cyber) Bullying” looked at the Florida Youth Substance Abuse Surveys in combination with YWLP interviews and program data, investigating female perceptions of the prevalence of bullying, with particular interest to location of incident. They found that the more places girls report being bullied on school property the more likely they are to experience bullying at all; thus showing that on school campus bullying incidents occur more frequently than off campus. Specifically, girls who report “cyber” as the location of bullying are almost seven times more likely to be bullied than those who do not report cyber locations. Cyber bullying was the highest incidence location reported by the students, pointing toward relational aggression as the most prevalent type of bullying behavior reported by girls.


Staff and mentors pose together
In 2015, Meredith Tweed, The Program Coordinator and a member of the YWLP Research team, was one of four given the LIFE@UCF Award by the Center for the Success of Women Faculty for her work with YWLP in striving to meet the President’s goals of making UCF more inclusive and diverse.

In 2011, The University of Central Florida’s Young Women Leaders Program received the Donna Allen Award for Feminist Advocacy. The award was presented by the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the Association of Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. Read more at UCFToday.

Future Research

We are planning:

  • A one year study that explores how mentoring affects both mentors and mentees. More specifically, the purpose of this research is to better understand young women’s development of leader identities and life planning, as also related to mentor relationships.
  • The study will include surveys and interviews with both Little and Big Sisters. Surveys will be distributed at the beginning and end of the semester, while interviews will take place at the end of the semester.
  • Participant observation and short lesson-specific follow-ups will help us improve lesson plans, while the surveys and interviews will help us better understand mentors’ and mentees’ perspectives and experiences with the program more in-depth.


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Deutsch, N.L., Williams, J.L., Henneberger A., Reitz-Krueger, C., Futch, V., & Lawrence, E.C. (2012, March). Young women leaders: Outcomes of a group and one-to-one mentoring intervention for girls. Paper presented at the 14th Biennial meeting for the Society for Research on Adolescence, Vancouver, BC.

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Lee, J. M., Germain, L. J., Marshall, J., & Lawrence, E. (2010). “It opened my mind, my eyes. It was good.”: How college students navigate boundaries of difference in a volunteer mentoring program.Educational Horizons, 89(1), 33-46.

Levy, M., Deutsch, N., Henneberger, A. & Lawrence, E. (2011). The Young Women Leaders Program Final Report. U.S. Department of Education Grant Q184B070479.

Leyton, J., Lawrence, E., Deutsch, N.L. & Henneberger, A. (in press) The relationship between initial characteristics of college women mentors and mentee satisfaction and functioning. Journal of Community Psychology.

Marshall, J.H., Peugh, J., Lawrence, E.C., Williams, J.L., (2012). Mentoring as service-learning: The relationship between perceived peer support and outcomes for college women mentors. Manuscript submitted for publication. University of Virginia, VA.

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Williams J.L., Henneberger, A., Lawrence, E.C., & Deutsch, N.L. (2012). The Young Women Leaders Program: Examining the Impact of a Mentoring Program for Middle School Girls on Academic and Psychosocial Outcomes. Manuscript submitted for publication. University of Virginia, VA.