I’m getting ready to board that ark two by two up here in New York…
And I had my usual breakfast and haven’t worked out yet…so let’s talk about something else.
The non-fitness/weight loss topic I get the most questions about is Junior League, so I thought I’d finally write a comprehensive post about it.
What is Junior League?
According to the mission statement of the Association of Junior Leagues International (yes, we’re international!), “The Association of Junior Leagues International Inc. (AJLI) is an organization of women committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. Its purpose is exclusively educational and charitable.
The Junior League was started right here in NYC and was originally called the Junior League for the Promotion of the Settlement Movement. Started in 1901 by Mary Harriman, the League was founded at a time when many immigrants were coming to New York through Ellis Island and living in crowded tenement housing. Harriman and her friends would organize to help improve social conditions in their city. 110 years later, there are now 292 Leagues with more than 160,000 women in Canada, Mexico, the UK and the United States. The New York Junior League alone has 3,000 women that contribute 250,000 volunteer hours per year.
Why did I join the Junior League?
When I went off to college, I really wanted to join a sorority. Let’s just say my emphasis my first semester was a little bit more on my social life than on my grades, and my grades very clearly reflected that. I really wanted to be a part of a strong organization of women, but my less-than-stellar first-semester GPA meant that I didn’t get invited back to my top two choices during rush. I decided then that I’d try again the next year, but by that point, I’d made a ton of friends and felt less need for a sorority in my life.
When I graduated college, my friend MaryBeth (the one who got married in Aruba–that wedding I lost all the weight for!) had just joined the Junior League of Washington. She loved it, and since she was two years older than me, and I totally
looked up to her tried to be like her, I decided that I, too, would join. It was an organization that would help me form strong ties with other women and give back to the community. I did my “provisional year” (it’s your training year when you’re learning about the League and are not quite a full member yet. Probably like pledging but without hazing?) in D.C. 2007-2008. As you may know by now, I moved to the New York area in the spring of 2008, so I transferred my membership up here. I didn’t find a group of women I clicked with in the JLW, but after putting in a year of hard work, I thought I’d give the NYJL a try–and now I’m glad I did!
What do you do in the Junior League?
I’m currently the co-chair of the External Communications Committee, which runs all of the PR and social media for the organization of 3,000 women. This takes up a tremendous amount of my time but is incredibly rewarding. At the time I joined this committee, I was semi-considering switching from being a reporter to working in PR. I have utmost respect for those of you working in PR, but I found out through this committee that I wasn’t interested in PR as a full-time career (although I do enjoy managing it on this volunteer basis.) My committee oversees the PR efforts for our major events…
…like the Winter Ball, one of my favorite events.
We also help get the word out about the hard work our volunteers are doing in the community. We work in the areas of adult mentoring, outreach education, youth education, and youth mentoring to provide life skills in areas like nutrition and health, career, and budgeting so that families and individuals can lead healthier, more independent lives.
I’m also on our new Communications Task Force, which is examining the effectiveness of our internal and external communications and exploring new forms of media. (Clearly I’m all over that last part.)
What’s your favorite thing about Junior League?
I can’t pick just one thing, sorry.
I love my behind-the-scenes work, but I also love getting out in the community and making a difference on one of our Playground Improvement Project Days. I love that our volunteering opportunities are so well-organized.
I love the leadership skills I’ve learned both through taking on a leadership position and our leadership trainings.
I love that we get amazing speakers like Gretchen Rubin.
I love that there are so many talented, amazing women to network with. (I mean, my amazing Junior League “boss” is a senior beauty editor at Women’s Wear Daily and someone I completely look up to professionally.)
But, of course, most of all I love the lifelong friendships I’ve made.
How old are members? I thought it was only women my mom’s age.
It depends on the league, but in my experience in Washington, D.C. and New York, there are plenty of young working professional women. I’d guess that leagues in cities skew younger than suburban leagues.
How can I join?
Oh, I thought you’d never ask. There are a few new member orientations (required as part of the application process) coming up. If you’re outside of the NYC area, check out this map of other leagues in the U.S.
Please let me know in the comments or by email if you have any further questions–this is one of my favorite topics!
Questions: Were you in a sorority in college? Which one? Are you a member of the Junior League or a similar organization?