Excerpt from The Dallas Morning News article

Thursday is the Day of the Girl, established by the U.N. General Assembly last year and designated locally by Dallas County commissioners earlier this week — at the request of the girls in the group, Ignite Texas.

Women outnumber men in population and in college enrollment, but in public office, there are still few female faces.

Whether students aspire to class president, school board member, sorority chair, homeowners’ association officer or president of the United States, through these programs, they “begin to build leadership goals in their toolbox,” said Merriott Terry, executive director of Ignite Texas.

Ignite’s program goes beyond civics class. Twice a week for 90 minutes after school, discussions take place on public speaking, current events and policy issues like immigration, education funding and wage equality.

Ignite trains and hires college students to lead the program in high schools. The goal is to personalize the political, helping women understand the electoral process and how they can become a part of it. In other words, knowledge is girl power.

Getting started

Ignite started in the San Francisco area in 2009. Last year, the Boone Family Foundation brought the program to Texas.

Last fall, the group began one program at Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School, the first all-girls public school in Texas.

The school, which opened in 2004 near Fair Park, is named for the first female Texas House member of Mexican heritage.

At Rangel, the girls were already committed. Students apply to be a part of the program. At other schools, Ignite works with teachers to select students who would be the most engaged.

Four more programs were added last spring. There are now 11, mainly in Dallas, but also in Arlington, Irving, Fort Worth and Houston high schools, with close to 150 young women participating in the program.

Breaking through the “glass ceiling” requires critical thinking and engagement, said (Merriott) Terry. (Executive Director)

“We want the girls to research the issues,” said Terry. “Who’s telling the truth? What is the plan? Demand thoughtful information. We feel that when you speak, you need to have passion. And the passion builds when you’ve done the research.”

By the numbers: Women in politics

Women in the Texas congressional delegation: 11.8 percent

Women in the Texas legislature: 21 percent

Texas rank for women in the legislature: 35th

Women in Texas statewide elective office: 2

SOURCE: Center for American Women and Politics