The Coast News Group

Annual summit focuses on empowering teen girls

SAN MARCOS — Two hundred girls from all walks of the San Marcos High School student body packed the school’s gym March 7 for a day of confidence-boosting and empowerment at the second annual Girls’ Empowerment Summit.
The summit was created by counselor Lisa Stout and Assistant Principal Tiffany Campbell to help girls struggling with peer pressure and self-image issues.
“We started seeing some things that were going on, issues that we thought needed to be addressed with the girls,” Stout said. “Things in the media … there are role models they’re looking up to that maybe aren’t the best. We wanted to just give them confidence and make them feel empowered.”
No two children are alike, so attendees had 12 separate workshops to choose from. Attendees could learn about everything from dating to healthier eating, self-defense strategies, and the risks of drug use and pregnancy.
All of the summit’s enrollees came together for the two keynote speakers. Plus-sized model Allison Trent told her story of body acceptance and how she parlayed it into a modeling career.
Little person Peggy O’Neill wowed the audience with her story of overcoming adversity to become successful in business and romance.
“It’s really empowering,” student Bridget Smith said. She added that it made her think about how she can use events to make her life better and not degrade herself.
“I’ve been having problems and I really needed to be inspired, and it worked!” Heather Strahamm, Bridget’s friend, said.
“I’m walking tall,” student Gloria Irving said, echoing O’Neill’s catch phrase. Gloria attended at her counselor’s suggestion. “It helped me a lot. I feel better about myself.”
The popular summit grew from 125 student attendees last year. This is, in part, thanks to Stout and Campbell’s team of 20 students who helped determine the format and the content to keenly focus on the issues uppermost in the students’ minds. Stout said she expects next year’s event to be even bigger.
“We don’t have to really promote too much because the girls remember from last year and they recruit their friends,” Stout said.
Stout said there are currently no plans for a counterpart event for males, though she is open to the idea. She worried that boys tend not to take events like the summit seriously.
“With girls you can do something like this and they’ll all come to it — general themes kind of span amongst all girls,” Stout said. “For boys, I think it’s hard.”