Posted by: lcowie | December 3, 2008

Allison Deiboldt

Elon alumna Allison Deiboldt works with Step Up Women’s Network to empower women

by Lesley Cowie

Allison Deiboldt is not the type of person who takes other people or circumstances for granted. Her family has always instilled in her the importance of giving back to the community.

This is why Deiboldt, an Elon alumna of 2002, organizes fundraisers to raise money to buy pens, folders and cameras. She needs these materials when she works part-time with the Step Up Women’s Network in New York.

The nonprofit organization empowers women and girls, aged 13 to 45.

Step Up works with women and girls, aged 13 to 45. Logo courtesy of http://www.suwn.org.

Step Up is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening community resources for women and girls. Based in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, Step Up aims to strengthen its members through four key programs: teen empowerment, women’s health, professional mentorship and development and social networking.

“When working for a large corporation, you take things for granted, something as simple as making copies,” Deiboldt says. “In New York, it’s so easy to get lost in the shuffle, so many things going on….I realized the balance that I needed because you can get so consumed by your job. I think that you need that balance, especially living in New York, because it’s very easy to get carried away.”

After Deiboldt graduated from Elon with a degree in broadcasting, she moved to New York to work with Petry Media as a research analyst. There she got to know the ropes of real-world communications and shortly thereafter received a call from a Disney executive.

Five years later, the Lancaster, Penn., native works as a research manager for Disney Media Sales and Marketing. She helps with the ad sales division, fostering and selling sponsorship opportunities for the Disney Channel, Toon Disney, ABC Kids, Disney Online, Radio Disney and Disney’s two parenting magazines – Wondertime and FamilyFun.

Putting in the time

Deiboldt views Step Up as her second job because she serves on the board of directors and is the membership chair.

Allison Deibolt graduated from Elon University in 2002. Photo courtesy of Elon.

Allison Deiboldt graduated from Elon University in 2002. Photo courtesy of Elon.

“I started as a volunteer with Step Up about five years ago, and I just started by helping out at events, checking people in, different things like that,” she says. “After my work over three years, they asked me if I’d be interested in serving on the board of directors. We’re very hands-on, meeting once a month, discussing the overall strategy for the organization, working on fundraising and obtaining different partnerships through personal and professional connections.”

Deiboldt works with a committee of about 15 women to recruit and retain members. Acting as the lifeline to the organization, Deiboldt talks about Step Up to her colleagues, personal contacts and peers.

“I put a lot of time into it, but I love putting a lot of time into it because I’m getting so much out of it,” she says. “I see different people at different stages in their careers. Everyone is getting something different out of it, but everyone is benefitting from it. I’m seeing that people are getting so much out of it in so many ways.”

Understanding the programs

For teens, Step Up mostly focuses on self-esteem and empowerment. These programs teach girls about career opportunities and mentoring, as well as health and well-being.

“We had a goddess day that was focused around self-esteem and self-empowerment for our teen girls,” Deiboldt says. “We were all together, and we’re together for the whole day. The girls are all in high school, so they’re all running around together all excited, but also nervous.”

Deiboldt and the other volunteers spend goddess day sitting down and talking to the teenage girls, making self-esteem folders and putting on outfits that represent good self-esteem.

“The studio in New York is divided into three separate rooms, each room with a different activity: feel good folders, role playing and how to express feelings and another kind of acting out emotions,” she says. “It’s really showing girls that it’s okay to be sad sometimes and okay to be excited about things, be proud of the work you do, celebrate who you are….Girls are sometimes in these experiences, not supported, not told that they can do so much, and they’re not told that it’s okay to celebrate when they did well on a test.”

For Deiboldt, the best part of the day is getting to know the girls.

“I was once a 13-year-old girl,” she says. “Looking at these girls, they have their whole lives ahead of them. They are turning out to be amazing women, and I can’t wait to see them in 20 years.”

Singer JoJo and designer Nicole Miller arrive at the Step Up Women's Network's 10th annual Inspiration Awards on May 29, 2008, in New York City. Photo courtesy of USA Today.

Singer JoJo and designer Nicole Miller arrive at the Step Up Women's Network's 10th annual Inspiration Awards on May 29, 2008, in New York City. Photo courtesy of USA Today.

For women’s health, Step Up works with female cancer patients and the National Cervical Awareness Program. The organization helps educate its members and promote healthy lifestyles by means of walking events, yoga events and self-defense courses.

According to Deiboldt, mentorship is an important part of professional development. Members at a certain level in the Step Up organization are eligible to become mentors or mentees. They undergo a personal matching program and then go through a six-month mentorship program.

“We also have the social networking aspect, which is really the fun stuff about it,” Deiboldt says. “It’s really how we get our members to connect personally and professionally.”

High-profile fundraisers, inspiration awards, wine tastings and book signings are some of the social activities that Deiboldt helps plan.

“We believe we’re developing the next generation of female philanthropists,” Deiboldt says. “It’s our hope that they grow up and that they want to be Step Up members and they want to help as well…people getting things out of it and putting back into it.”

Looking at the achievements

Step Up Women’s Network currently has more than 4,000 members nationwide and approximately 50,000 supporters.

“There’s been so many members of Disney overall who are members of Step Up and kind of get the benefits on their own,” Deiboldt says. “Disney is supportive of Step Up. We’ve been very fortunate, and hopefully we’ll continue to be fortunate…not even monetary support, just emotional support and that you’re doing a good thing and that they appreciate that. They want you to have a balance and need you to have a balance to be a good employee.”

Deiboldt, who actively volunteered with the Special Olympics during her time at Elon, recognizes this balance as a healthy part of her lifestyle. She notes that her experiences at Disney have helped her foster and promote Step Up. Likewise, Deiboldt’s experiences at Step Up have helped improve her professional career with Disney.

“Disney taught me that I needed balance, and Step Up has helped me in my career,” she says.

Many of Step Up’s female members come from professional backgrounds. Deiboldt has encountered women from a whole span of industries, from entertainment and media to finance and law.

“They are an amazing group of women,” she says. “Sitting around the table with them, and I’m wowed. People who are entrepreneurs, senior VPs of large corporations, at the same time are wives and mothers. There’s really everything, not just businesswomen.”

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According to Deiboldt, an important mission for Step Up is to do a variety of activities that break down peoples’ differences and make everyone feel comfortable together.

“Because we have so many events with these girls, there are opportunities to really get to know them through the year,” she says. “There’s really long-lasting relationships, not like you meet somebody one time and never see them again. We want to make sure the girls feel that we’re people they can go to. As we go along in time, we’re learning even better ways to make sure the girls are comfortable. Everybody’s getting out of it what they need.”

To learn more about the Step Up Women’s Network, visit the website at www.suwn.org.

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