Mid-Peninsula High School in Menlo Park was rocking with teen girls today, participants in the day long “Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken!” conference sponsored by Girls Lead Now, a Bay Area organization created to inspire independence, confidence, and responsibility in teen girls through education in life skills and leadership opportunities. Planned and executed by teen girls for teen girls – the event’s unique trademark – the conference is in its sixth year and includes workshops focused on college preparation, getting a first job, health and nutrition, budgeting and more. Adult subject-matter-expert mentors assist with the workshops.
The day got started with with a series of ice breaker games and exercises led by “play activist” Jenny Ward (top photo, left) who acted as head cheerleader for the 100 or so teens in attendance. “Let’s get loose…Pick a partner and look her in the eye…It’s time to dance,” she exclaimed with great enthusiasm in rapid fire succession.
Leigh Mason, now a student at UC San Diego, attended the event in its inaugural year and was back for this year’s conference as part of the leadership team. “I was just a freshman in high school when I took part in a budgeting workshop,” she said. “Through that initial experience and successive events, I got the tools to succeed in all aspects of my life.”
Girls Lead Now is an outgrowth of an idea by then 15-year-old Sarah Hedayati who was inspired to create an event for teen girls after attending the Women’s Economic Power Day. Hedayati approached Ann Tardy, the creator of Women’s Economic Power Day, for support and guidance. With Tardy’s help, Hedayati formed a team of teenage girls to plan and lead a Girls’ Economic Power Day in 2005.
“We created the Girls Lead Now program so that young women will literally wake up to their own power,” said Tardy, founder of the organization as well as The LifeMoxie Company. “This day of empowerment has been designed to allow them to acquire the tools they need to break through ceilings they’ll experience in life – their own as well as society’s.”
Photos by Chris Gulker