Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

July 10, 2013

Conference to offer high school girls leadership guidance

Mike James
The Independent

ASHLAND — High-school junior girls have the opportunity to take part in a first-ever — for eastern Kentucky — conference for young women focusing on leadership, education and development.

The Young Women Lead conference, to be at Ashland Community and Technical College, will bring together students from all the high schools in Boyd, Carter, Elliott, Greenup and Lawrence counties for two days in October for sessions on leadership, financial literacy, careers, social media, fitness and health issues, said Norma Meek, one of the conference’s organizers.

The keynote speaker will be 1996 Olympic gold medalist Dominique Dawes, the only American gymnast to medal at three different Olympic Games in team competitions and the first African-American gymnast to win Olympic gold. She will speak on themes of success, leadership, self esteem and others.

The conference will be Oct. 15 and 16 at ACTC’s EastPark campus with about 400 students attending.

Besides Dawes, local women business, academic and community leaders will lead interactive sessions on topics including social media, leadership, health, fitness, body image and others.

It is the first time any such conference will have been in the region, said organizing committee member Mary Crowley, an independent etiquette consultant. “This is new and different for us in this area,” she said.

Bringing the conference to eastern Kentucky brings an unprecedented opportunity to area high-school girls, Meek said. Sponsored primarily by Toyota, the conference typically is in metropolitan locales including Cincinnati, Louisville and Lexington and usually through the women’s professional development organization SOAR.

However, conference officials approached Meek and an ad hoc committee of community and academic leaders to organize a conference in the Ashland area.

Committee members besides Meek and Crowley include ACTC dean of student affairs Willie McCullough, Kentucky Farmers Bank president and CEO April Perry, United Way director Jerri Compton, Safe Harbor executive director Ann Perkins, Big Sandy chief operating officer Laura Timberlake and ACTC coordinator of community education Karen Coburn.

Organizers believe students attending the conference will leave with a new sense of confidence. “When they come away from these conferences they feel they can do anything,” Crowley said.

The conference also will connect girls from disparate school districts, who will be able to parlay their conference acquaintanceships into valuable networking opportunities, committee members said.

Registration will be online and will begin when school starts this fall. Interested girls who will be juniors at any of the area schools may contact their school counselors for information or email Coburn at karen.coburn@kctcs.edu.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2652.