Oct. 12 marked the 10th anniversary of the International Day of the Girl, an observance day declared by the United Nations to address the challenges girls face and to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfilment of their human rights. Florida’s St. Petersburg College (SPC) celebrated the occasion by hosting the third annual Pearls & Portfolio Symposium on Oct. 7, in partnership with Pinellas County Schools, Girl Scouts of West Central Florida and Pace Center for Girls.
This year’s theme was “Empowered Girls Become Empowered Women.”
SPC President Dr. Tonjua Williams kicked off the morning by taking selfies with the girls and welcoming them to the campus.
“Our girls are our future; therefore, career development is essential and builds a path to more productive lives for everyone,” Williams said.
Women on the Way Coordinator Shirley Crumbley said students shared that the symposium was inspirational, informative and encouraged them to become stronger women.
Women on the Way is an SPC initiative that empowers and inspires students to be resilient in achieving success. Program participants have access to academic advising, a clothing boutique, conferences and more.
“The Pearls and Portfolios Symposium is important because we’re planting the seeds for future leaders and empowering our girls to know their worth and value,” Crumbley said.
Nearly 100 middle-school girls filled the Digitorum and shouted, “I am not ashamed to be myself!” during SPC Communications/PR Coordinator Marilyn Shaw’s keynote presentation, “Unashamed Confidence.” She motivated them to embrace their unique qualities – and perceived flaws – with love and grace, instead of criticism and judgment.
“Middle school can be a tough time for young girls, and I remember it being challenging for me,” Shaw said. “My goal was to encourage them to invest in their mental health and self-esteem now, so they can have the tools to be successful later.”
From financial literacy to coding, the girls participated in a variety of workshops, including Frame Your Future, STEM Lab and Kidzonomics Budgeting Session.
Eight Grader Makala Adams said after this event she felt empowered to tell her friends to not be judgmental about themselves.
“This event was good and I enjoyed all the speakers,” Adams said. “My favorite part was the LED STEM session and Frame Your Future.”
This article originally appeared here.