Rachel Bouman, a member of Elmhurst (Ill.) Christian Reformed Church, has launched a nonprofit program geared to teaching young women in high schools across the United States the basics of leadership.
“It truly is God’s work, as I never envisioned working with teenagers or starting a nonprofit or striving to envision something as large as this could become,” Bouman said of the venture. It was sparked by her participation in an enrichment experience at Timothy Christian Schools in Elmhurst in January.
As Bouman developed a curriculum for teaching a class on leadership to young women as part of Timothy’s “Renew” (a winter-interim offering between semesters), colleagues encouraged her to take it wider.
“I prayed hard trying to figure out how to do this. I never imagined what would come out of this class,” said Bouman, who titled the class, and now the nonprofit, Lead Like a Boss.
Working for years for the federal government as an attorney, Bouman learned hard lessons of what it takes for a woman to rise in the ranks to be a leader. She now offers leadership coaching through her business, The Leadership Companion, and it’s how she had material and connections to share with the Timothy students. They took two field trips, meeting the vice president of communications at the McDonald's headquarters and touring Kolcraft Baby Products and meeting with the VP of marketing.
What especially gripped Bouman were the looks of interest, longing, and ambition on the class participants’ young faces. “I realized they wanted to know they could belong as leaders. I saw that I could help them step into leadership more confidently and sooner than might otherwise happen,” Bouman said.
Katherine Oldenburger, a Timothy parent, said, “As a result of the class, my daughter, Maggie, learned about what traits are important in order to be a strong leader, what her own personal strengths are, and to strive toward any goal she establishes for herself.”
Looking ahead, Bouman plans to offer her new program to high school girls virtually as well as in-person classes in Chicago.
“I never thought this would be a demographic I’d work with, but I wish I had something like this when I was younger to help me realize I belonged in the places I found myself,” said Bouman.