Thanks to Soroptimist International of Modesto, whose mission is “improving the lives of women and girls through programs leading to social and economic empowerment,” more and more young women are being positively influenced and gaining valuable leadership skills.
One way the service group puts its mission into action was the recent Live Your Dream girls conference, which gathered at Johansen High girls from four junior high schools.
The girls’ day started with a welcoming ceremony by Soroptimist board member Lynne Meredith in the cafeteria. This year’s theme was to “Live Your Dream Through Sports.” Meredith explained how by joining sports, “high school girls will be more likely to graduate and go to college,” and also that it can “raise self-esteem and create more positive body images.”
Three remarkable athletes shared stories of their experience in participating in sports. Giovana Treyes, a California State University, Stanislaus, student who has played soccer for 15 years, shared her story of being on a soccer team. “Soccer has made me a better person, and I never knew I would play college soccer, but I never gave up and that leads to success,” she said.
Sabrina Williamson, also from CSUS, challenged the girls to “not take the easy route” and instead “take the harder route because it is so much more rewarding.” She also talked about her experience learning Japanese and how her experience with sports taught her a work ethic and to go against her doubts.
Finally, a senior from Gregori High School told her story. Waverly Green explained how playing volleyball got her through high school and how the people she met in volleyball became some of her best friends.
All the women emphasized how they were bullied and shunned and how that caused them to train even harder. They also emphasized how sports led them to find a “sisterhood” and create new bonds and ignore the bullies.
“Those who discourage you just don’t matter anymore,” Sabrina said.
After the three women’s inspirational stories, the girls went to different educational workshops throughout the school. There were three 30-minute sessions and a total of 10 different workshops. The self-defense class demonstrated how to escape from someone and where to hit if caught.
The “How to Grow Money” workshop introduced budgeting. The girls were given an envelope of starting money. Then they got to choose a “dream” item they wanted to save up to buy. However, they had to first buy food and clothing before they could purchase their “dream item.”
Another inspiring workshop, “Mean Girls: Bullying,” explained the importance of loving oneself and others. Vicki Bauman of the Stanislaus County Children and Families Commission explained that “by loving yourself, you can take control away from bullies and prevent yourself from being a bully.” The girls had to say one quality they appreciated about themselves and discuss it with the group.
A popular workshop was “Emerging Fashionistas,” where girls got hands-on experience designing their own dresses on mini-mannequins, which they accessorized with ribbons and sparkly necklaces.
After attending the workshops, the girls were provided lunch and then went to visit different informational booths. They made their own corsages and boutonnieres, and created their own bookmarks in the Stamping Up booth. In the PHAST (Protecting Health and Slamming Tobacco) booth, they won prizes as well. The girls had to answer questions about the use of tobacco; if they answered correctly, they were given a prize.
After visiting the informational booths, the girls returned to the cafeteria for an introduction to Zumba dance. Instructor Melissa Guinivan shared her personal story and how she found Zumba.
“I used to be overweight and had poor eating habits. My grandmother was the same and she died of heart disease, and at the time, I already had my child. I realized I wanted to make sure that I would be able to see my grandchildren.”
This led her to change her eating habits and find Zumba, which helped her become healthy again. She told the girls, “Never give up your dream and don’t let anyone stand in your way or knock you down.”
The girls ended their day with a closing evaluation. When reviewing what she learned that day, Kate Rodriguez, a seventh-grader from La Loma, said Fashionista was her favorite workshop. “In the Fashionista class, I got to express myself in my designs and work.”
She also explained what she learned from the conference as a whole. “I learned that I should never give up on my goals and keep moving forward,” she said.
Maria Moreno, an eighth-grader from La Loma, learned that “to live up to my dreams, there is a process and I won’t just obtain it overnight.” Her favorite workshop was the self-defense class. “I really enjoyed the class and I actually got to practice the moves with my friends.”
A Soroptimist administrator, Charmaine Monte, talked about her favorite quality of the Soroptimist group as a whole. “I love seeing the friendships and relationships developed between the women and the good they do in the community.”
Ellen Zheng is a freshman at Modesto High School and a member of The Bee’s Teens in the Newsroom program.