The Empowerment Generation

By Katy Macek, Nikki Kallio and Hannah Wente | Photography by Hillary Schave and Bri Tolksdorf

Encouraging Girls On – and Off – the Ice

When Tara Groth was in eighth grade in Mosinee, Wisconsin, her dad created a girls-only hockey team so she and her classmates could have a league of their own. Groth loved the sport so much she played well into college on an elite intramural league.

Now, she’s doing the same for her own daughter, Sydney, to give young girls a chance to play hockey with other girls on Madison’s East Side. Groth cofounded the Madison Dragons in 2023, which recently finished its first season with one 10 and under (10U) team and two 12U teams. Next year, she says they will add two 14U teams.

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Lending Some Heart to the Field of Medicine

In 2011, as a third-year medical student, Ronak Mehta published a children’s book featuring cute characters shaped like human organs called NerdBugs. She sold a few copies — mostly to family and friends — and went back to her coursework, residency and fellowship in family medicine. But in the back of her mind, she always knew she wanted to do more with her book characters.

Fast-forward to 2018, when Dr. Mehta’s husband, Dr. Jerden Ruff, encouraged her to invest time and effort into NerdBugs. She took the concept a step further and brought her characters to life in the form of stuffed plushies.

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Piecing Together the Out-of-School Care Puzzle

When women began entering the workforce in greater numbers in the 1970s, the need for safe after-school childcare options led
to the launch of Wisconsin Youth Company in Madison. Now approaching its 50-year anniversary, Wisconsin Youth Company executive director Rebecca Carlin says the organization’s mission is just as crucial now as it was then.

“One thing that has stayed absolutely constant is that need for those after-school programs,” Carlin says. “That has not changed since 1974. We don’t anticipate that it will change in the next 50 years.”

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Fostering Next-Gen Problem-Solvers

Some people are lucky to act as a mentor or positive influence for a few people over their lifetime. But Roxie Hentz, PhD, has been uniquely positioned to influence hundreds of students, who will in turn influence thousands, by empowering youth with business skills and investing in their ideas via her nonprofit, CEOs of Tomorrow.

The organization is targeted to youth in grades four through 12 to develop business solutions for societal problems. Its first program was launched in 2016.

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