Featured Alumna: Lauren Manning '09

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Lauren poses with the family of a former child soldier at their reunion, 20 years after his kidnapping. Courtesy of Lauren Manning '09

Convent of the Sacred Heart alumna Lauren Manning ‘09 fights for the rights of girls all over the world. She is currently the Campaign Manager for Girl Rising, and, most recently, she has worked on the film campaign We Will Rise: Michelle Obama’s Mission to Educate Girls Around the World, which premiered on CNN October 12. 

Convent of the Sacred Heart alumna Lauren Manning '09 attends an event at the White House for the film campaign We Will Rise: Michelle Obama's Mission to Educate Girls Around the World. Courtesy of Lauren Manning '09
Convent of the Sacred Heart alumna Lauren Manning ’09 attends an event at the White House for the film campaign We Will Rise: Michelle Obama’s Mission to Educate Girls Around the World.
Courtesy of Lauren Manning ’09

At Sacred Heart, Lauren discovered her interests in journalism, communications, international development, and foreign affairs. She was involved in the Barat Foundation, the King Street Chronicle, Perspectives, and the Community Service Club. In addition, Lauren participated in a Network Summer Service Project in New Orleans and also traveled to Lourdes, France with fellow classmates.
During the college process, she was drawn to Northwestern University due to its renowned journalism program, mid-sized campus, proximity to both a college town and a major city, and a motivated student body. Lauren majored in journalism with a concentration in magazine writing. Within reporting, she focused on international affairs and human rights. She also received a minor in sociology and a certificate in civic engagement.
“I appreciated the opportunity to surround myself with so many like-minded people, equally motivated to think about how they can create impact both in our campus community and in our world,” Lauren said.
At Northwestern, her activities included co-founding a student leadership workshop for students at Evanston Township High School in Evanston, Illinois, involvement in the the new student orientation program Wildcat Welcome, peer advising, and participation in the Refugee Lives project, where she traveled abroad to report from refugee camps in Jordan and Malawi.
For her Northwestern Journalism Residency, Lauren spent the spring of her junior year in Cape Town, South Africa, and worked for a daily newspaper called the Cape Argus.
“One day I was reporting on penguin conservation, the next on poverty tourism, the next on new restaurants and following on sport for development programs,” Lauren said. 
Following her graduation from Northwestern, Lauren participated in Princeton in Africa, a yearlong fellowship program for young professionals interested in a career in international development and with a lifelong commitment to the advancement of the African continent. She worked as a full time staff member of Invisible Children and lived in northern Uganda. Her initiatives comprised of working with a team of Ugandans on human rights and advocacy projects which were focused on education, livelihoods, and the rehabilitation of former child soldiers.
Lauren poses with the family of a former child soldier at their reunion, 20 years after his kidnapping. Courtesy of Lauren Manning '09
Lauren poses with the family of a former child soldier at their reunion, 20 years after his kidnapping.
Courtesy of Lauren Manning ’09

“My favorite professional memory was when I had the opportunity to travel home with a former child soldier who had returned home to Uganda for the first time after 20 years of forced conscription,” Lauren said. “He was abducted from his home as a child and brainwashed, for lack of a better word. I was lucky enough to travel with a team from my organization and this man to witness his reunion with his family for the first time.”
After her experience in Uganda, Lauren realized that she wanted to work in behavior change communications and combine her interests in storytelling, media for social change, and girls’ education and empowerment. In Girl Rising, she found a perfect match.
“It’s been the ultimate privilege to grow up hearing that I can achieve whatever I put my mind to. It’s painful to admit, but it took me years to realize that so many others – both girls and boys – have never heard this before,” Lauren said. “Their expectations for themselves are dismally low. How could I not take action on this issue when I’m living proof of the benefits of education and empowerment?”
Within her day-to-day schedule, she runs websites for global and domestic campaigns, implements social media initiatives, oversees grassroots community management, works closely with the 400-person Regional Ambassador program of core advocates around the world, and partners the organization’s engagement with others in the girls’ education space. 
“In the United States, for example, more girls are attending and graduating from university than boys. Knowing this, but then being told that millions upon millions of girls have never had the chance to complete, or even begin, their education feels conflicting,” Lauren said. “It can be difficult to grapple with if you have never struggled to access education yourself – or do not see girls out of school in your community. This is where storytelling comes in.”
This year, Lauren presented to over 200 high school students at the EF Global Student Leaders Summit in the Netherlands. Youth are the most powerful demographic for the Girl Rising campaign, so Lauren utilized the opportunity to help the audience think about its role in taking action in these pressing global issues. 
Lauren interviews students at a school in Gulu, Uganda. Courtesy of Lauren Manning '09
Lauren interviews students at a school in Gulu, Uganda.
Courtesy of Lauren Manning ’09

In the next few years, Lauren hopes to attend graduate school. She encourages Sacred Heart students to never be afraid to work for small organizations, look for mentors, and be patient.
Be the change agents who effectively question gender stereotypes and enable future generations of girls to feel hopeful that a new reality is possible,” Lauren said. “Empower the people around you to understand the challenges facing girls at home and abroad. Refuse to be silent. If someone says something degrading towards girls and women: Speak up and demand better.”
– Arielle Kirven, Co-Editor-in-Chief