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Mayor meets with K.E.Y. Zone girls’ group

Homecroft Elementary's K.E.Y. Zone's Girl Club members pose with Mayor Emily Larson on Wednesday. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)1 / 3
Fifth grader Ola Okoro raises her hand to ask Mayor Emily Larson a question during the mayor's visit to K.E.Y. Zone's Girl Club on Wednesday. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)2 / 3
Mayor Emily Larson sits down with girls in K.E.Y. Zone's Girl Club on Wednesday to answer questions about her job and how to be a leader. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)3 / 3

Mayor Emily Larson visited the K.E.Y. Zone afterschool program at Homecroft Elementary School on Wednesday March 1 to speak with members of the Girl’s Club about women in leadership.

“For the past several weeks we’ve been talking to the girls about what it means to be to be a leader and how you can become a leader for something that you’re passionate about,” said Girl’s Club leader and Homecroft youth specialist Shelby Chmielecki. “I think it’s really important for the girls to see a woman leader who works at the local level and to see that it’s an attainable goal.”

K.E.Y. Zone is a collaboration program between Duluth Public Schools and the Duluth Y which students from the nine Duluth Public School Elementary schools, grades K-5, can attend after school, on breaks, and during the summer. K.E.Y. stands for knowledge, enrichment, and youth development.

Girl’s Club is a weekly group that meets at Homecroft to encourage and build confidence of girls in grades K-5.

“We’re all about instilling confidence in girls and teaching them leadership skills. We do a lot of activities to help them build a strong foundation of self-confidence,” Chmielecki said.

Larson spent an hour with the girls, explaining her job and answering their prepared questions. She started the session by comparing her job as mayor to the school’s principal.

“Your principal doesn’t teach every single one of your classes or make your lunch every day or drive your school buses. But she does make sure that you have lunch every day, that your buses know where to park and how to be safe and that your teachers feel supported and have everything they need,” Larson said. “That’s a lot like my job with the city. I’m not the person to fix every problem. But my job is to hire really smart people who are smarter than me to be the ones who do and help them when they ask.”

She also spoke about being the first, “but not the last,” female mayor in Duluth.

“It’s very cool and I’m very proud to do it. But I’m not going to be the last one. And I’m only going to have this job for a little while. Sometime in the future, it’s going to be on you guys to be the leaders and mayors and principals and coaches and doctors,” Larson said.

Most of the girls had a question they had written down and prepared ahead of time to ask the mayor. Some questions were lighthearted such as, favorite ice cream flavor?

“Peppermint bon bon, I could eat it every day,” Larson said.

Other questions pertained to her work life balance.

“How do you handle being the mayor and a mother?” asked fifth grader Ola Okoro.

“That’s a good question. It’s hard. But I do find that being a mother is helpful because I know that I can’t do everything all the time. Everyday I have a long list of things to do and at the end of the day, I have to stop working on that list even if it’s not, ever, totally done. Because my kids need me too,” Larson said.

After the question and answer session, Larson took photos with the group and received a large bundle of thank you cards from the girls.

“Thank you so much for having me. This is the best part of getting out of my office, getting to talk with you guys!” Larson said.

After, the girls reflected on the meeting.

“It was pretty cool, but it was also just like meeting any other person,” Okoro said.

“It was fun being able to talk to her in person,” said Homecroft student Brooke Kester.

Teri Cadeau

Teri Cadeau is a reporter for the Budgeteer.

(218) 720-4176