Photo courtesy of Natalie Miller.
By Vivian Ealy and Alice Gaalswyk
On Friday, March 22nd, the Marybelle Johns Nissly Club hosted the first ever Women’s Leadership Forum. Around 130 people attended this event, most of whom were girls, however, there were a few boys scattered among the crowd. A group of five panelists answered questions about their experiences working as women in leadership positions. These panelists consisted of Dr. Nichols, Mrs. Blanco, Dr. Horenkamp, Mrs. Cassidy, and Mrs. Lynch.
“The Women’s Leadership Conference was meant to inspire and educate young women in leadership,” said senior Natalie Miller, the head of the Marybelle Johns Nissly Club.
Upon arrival, t-shirts and pins were available for purchase, the profits benefiting the Marybelle Johns Nissly Scholarship. When commenting on the money raised, Miller said, “It’s a little hard to say because we haven’t subtracted out our costs, but my guess is that we raised around $700, maybe a little less.” Miller noted that the main purpose of the event was to educate and empower young women and raise awareness about women in leadership positions.
A new tradition at Manheim Township, The Marybelle Johns Nissly Scholarship is a scholarship given to one senior girl who fulfills the requirements. This scholarship was inspired by Marybelle Johns Nissly, who was an influential individual in the marching band at Manheim Township, and helped to found the first Women’s Air Force Band. The club has two fundamental elements: the educational component, which was the Women’s Leadership Conference, and then the scholarship itself. The ideal values of the recipient are excellence, leadership, initiative, teamwork, and enjoyment. “The five main core values of the scholarship are the same as the marching band because Marybelle Johns Nissly was a huge influence on [it]” said Miller. It is required that applicants write about how they exemplify each trait. They also have to discuss a specific leadership role that they have held, and how that activity relates to the core qualities. Applicants can also list any other extracurricular activities that they participated in, however, this is not mandatory. The advisors of the Marybelle Johns Nissly Club, Mrs. Kennedy and Mrs. Sweeney, are in charge of selecting the recipient of the scholarship.
The idea for a scholarship began when Natalie Miller needed to come up with a service project for marching band during her sophomore year of high school. She was scanning the marching band website looking for ideas, when she came across the name Marybelle Johns Nissly. Miller saw the extensive list of things that she had been able to accomplish in the marching band and in the military and was immediately inspired. “It got me thinking about all of the women in history and their accomplishments that we don’t know about, just because they are women,” said Miller. She wanted to do something to inspire young girls and encourage them to become leaders. She also noted that “when you don’t have these role models to look at, it’s a lot harder to be leaders because you don’t have examples.”
After deciding to embark on creating a scholarship based on the values of Marybelle Nissly, Miller’s first goal was to raise enough money for there to be a scholarship. She decided that $250 was the minimum that they should give out. For the first year, Miller asked her family and friends to donate to the cause, in which she raised around $1,000. Some people heard about the scholarship from the marching band website, and they donated as well. Then, Miller received an email from Dr. Nichols, who was the keynote speaker at the leadership conference. Dr. Nichols asked Miller if she would want to attend the last Women’s Air Force Band reunion concert at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. This was the band that Marybelle Nissly founded and led. At the concert, Dr. Nichols gave Miller a check for $2,000 to help fund the scholarship. All together, Miller estimates they have around $3,000, which is enough to start the scholarship.
In the future, Miller is confident that the Marybelle Johns Nissly Club will remain active and the Women’s Leadership Conference will continue every year. Miller wants to continue to encourage women to become leaders in their communities, workplaces, and lives, and she hopes that the scholarship and conference will be able to inspire the young women at Manheim Township.