Close to 100 high school girls from the surrounding Trenton and Ewing area gathered in the Brower Student Center Saturday for the Women in Learning and Leadership event “How YOU are a Phenomenal Woman,” which was a day full of mentoring, workshops and campus tours meant to empower the young women.
The co-chairs of Community Service for WILL, Katrina Blaise, senior women’s and gender studies major, Angelika Gutierrez, senior biology and international studies major, and Carolina Chica, junior women’s and gender studies and communication studies major, organized the event.
After each high school student was matched with a WILL member, who was to be their “mentor” for the day, Gutierrez welcomed the girls to the event and said, “The mission of today is to connect with the Trenton, Ewing and West Windsor communities and give back to the beautiful young women who are here today and empower you through various workshops.”
Blaise, who had been planning and organizing the event since January, said, “It’s been a journey to get here. There’s always been an obstacle,” but what kept them going was “our determination to put on this event and really give back and empower women the way WILL has empowered us.”
“The reality they face now does not have to be the reality they’ve always known,” Blaise continued. “I want to stop the cycle and let these girls know they can become what they’ve always wanted to be.”
The workshops WILL offered were carefully selected as workshops WILL members wished they were given the opportunity to have when they were in high school, and included “Loving Yourself, A Woman’s Worth” by 2008 WILL alumna Eliana Reyes, “A Woman’s World: Deconstructing Women in Music Videos” by 2008 WILL alumna Ashley Reichelmann, and “Body Image Workshop” by current WILL president Katie Tedesco and vice president Julie Anne Garretson.
These workshops were all about teaching the high school students how to love themselves in order to become powerful, successful women.
“We want them to know you’re beautiful. You’re loved. That’s what it’s all about,” Blaise said.
During her workshop, Reyes told the students, “You are somebody. You are a human. You are a woman. You are a gift. You have a purpose.”
She went on to talk about the importance of knowing who you are, self-love, self-worth and the power of being a woman and said, “We can’t go out there and be powerful women and leaders in the community unless we know ourselves, understand ourselves and love ourselves.”
Reyes was proud to be able to give back again, not only to WILL but also to the high school students.
“I think its important for them to know that they can make it,” Reyes said. “Beyond being empowered as women, that they can leave with faith in themselves and faith to know that they can make it, despite their circumstances, if they believe.”
High school sophomore Georgelene Askie from Trenton Central West High School said, “I learned my values, how to love myself before I love anyone else, and how to share love. Nowadays, there’s a lot of tragedy going on, so it’s good to have someone talk about how beautiful you are and how you deserve love to encourage you so you can be self-motivated.”
Briahna Thompson, a Trenton Central West senior, agreed by saying, “It’s important to let us know that we matter to everyone else and matter to ourselves.”
“I have learned to accept myself for who I am, no matter what other people think,” Jameka Allen, also a senior at Trenton Central West, said.