Woodland group changes name, not mission

Woodland Worldwide recently awarded its annual leadership scholarships to Woodland Regional High School juniors Kayla Rafferty and Nikki Cina. Pictured, from left, are Woodland Worldwide co-advisor Lisa Olivere, Rafferty, Cina and Woodland Worldwide co-advisor Meghan Hatch. –KYLE BRENNAN

Woodland Worldwide recently awarded its annual leadership scholarships to Woodland Regional High School juniors Kayla Rafferty and Nikki Cina. Pictured, from left, are Woodland Worldwide co-advisor Lisa Olivere, Rafferty, Cina and Woodland Worldwide co-advisor Meghan Hatch. –KYLE BRENNAN

BEACON FALLS — The women at Woodland are dropping the “women” from Woodland’s activist group — only in name, of course.

The group formerly known as Woodland for Women Worldwide has decided to rebrand itself as Woodland Worldwide, owing to the number of men at the school who enjoy helping the organization’s causes.

“We want to send a message of inclusion for all the men who are involved in our group,” Woodland Worldwide co-advisor Lisa Olivere said.

One of the newly branded group’s first actions was to awards its annual leadership scholarships. For the first time, Woodland Worldwide gave two awards to two juniors: Kayla Rafferty and Nikki Cina.

Olivere said the organization gives scholarships as an extension of its overall purpose: to develop leadership skills among its students.

“Our intent is to grow leaders organically,” Olivere said. “We have no elections or official titles. It’s a place to meet and exchange ideas, and we’ve found that the leaders will rise to the top. These girls took the initiative and rose to the top — but they’re not the only two.”

The pair attended the Girls Leadership Conference as Vassar College in Hyde Park, N.Y., over the summer. They applied to attend and were among 75 girls selected. Woodland was the only school represented by more than one attendee, and 36 of the attendees were from outside the United States.

Rafferty and Cina attended workshops on topics such as human rights, socialization and hunger awareness. The latter workshop was “eye opening,” Rafferty said.

“I didn’t really understand it until then,” she said. “It’s hard to put myself in their shoes because I get food every day.”

In the workshop, the girls split into groups that reflected different levels of poverty and privilege. Rafferty was in the group that had to sit on the floor and eat a “watery oatmeal,” while Cina was in the group that sat at a table and enjoyed fine food served by a wait staff.

“I didn’t want to eat because I was uncomfortable,” Cina said. “It’s hard to think about issues when you don’t actually see them.”

Other events included a dinner with female leaders — where Rafferty and Cina were especially impressed by meeting CNN’s Mary Snow — a visit to the United Nations and a career day.

The girls said they think the skills they honed at the conference will help them in the careers they hope to pursue. Rafferty wants to become a physician’s assistant in an emergency department.

“If someone comes in, I have to be able to lead people and be calm under chaos,” Rafferty said. “I have to be able to think about decisions in certain situations.”

Cina hopes to become a district attorney or a private investigator.

“A lot of investigation is about listening, which I can do better now,” Cina said. “I will have to stand up to defend a point I believe in, and I think this helped.”

Woodland Worldwide co-advisor Meghan Hatch said the girls went to the conference strong in opposite areas, and she thinks the experience helped each hone her weaker spots.

“We’ve got a talker (Cina) and a listener (Rafferty) here,” Hatch said. “They came back with more balanced skills. We hope they use those skills to make our organization stronger and get more people to care.”

Next for Woodland Worldwide is its annual Run for a Revolution. The group decided to delay this year’s event until the fall, and the run will take place Oct. 12 at 10 a.m. Registration is available online at www.woodlandforwomenworldwide.org. Over the last four years, the event has helped raise more than $45,000, which goes toward the group’s scholarships and its charitable causes.