The hopes and dreams of young women from across the Mountain Area became further realized last weekend during the second annual “Dream It - Be It” conference inside Oakhurst Community Center.
From creating dream boards to female speakers sharing stories about how girls could find their inner strength, the conference, hosted by Soroptimist International of the Sierras, was heralded as a success by attendees and organizers alike.
“We want to help girls set their goals and know what options are out there for them,” said Michelle Shockley, co-chair of the event and Soroptimist president. “We want them to be able to overcome any obstacles to those goals as well. We want them to know they can be resilient, and that no matter their background, they can achieve their dreams.”
Alaura Ferris, a junior at Yosemite High School taking part in the conference for the first time, said she felt safe gathering with her friends to share ideas.
“I like the point of what they’re trying to do here,” Ferris said. “It lets us get together, share ideas, share time together, and help us learn and achieve our goals and dreams. It’s really great that this is here.”
The dream boards reflected each girl’s interests and goals.
Ferris, a fan of photography, adventure, and aquatic life, decorated her board with pictures of various aquariums and travel destinations. Katie Thompson, a senior Badger softball player, loaded hers with references to the sport as she plans to pitch at Reedley College after graduation. Bailey Hollander, a sophomore, included pictures showcasing her goal of becoming a nurse and playing in sports such as soccer and volleyball.
Along with fun activities like dream boards and decorating cupcakes, the conference also welcomed several professional speakers who talked about everything from overcoming obstacles to exploring career options.
Baily Van Tassel, president and founder of philanthropic consulting firm Abel Impact, told the girls that the way to reach their goals was by embracing their failures as much as their successes.
“You’re not always going to get the job you want,” Van Tassel said. “You’re not always going to make as much money as you want. You might not always meet the boy you want, or live in the city where you want to live. But it’s about embracing the path that you’re on, and not comparing yourself to other people or what society says who you should be or what you should do.”
At times, the speakers provided stark reminders to attendees from 8th-12th grade about how to remain strong through any of life’s harsh realities.
Kaci Lutz, public information officer for the California Highway Patrol’s Oakhurst office, had girls repeat the laws behind getting a permit or driver’s license, as well as the importance of staying off their cell phones. Then, Lutz told the girls, they needed to be smart and make the right decisions.
“Marijuana, sex, alcohol, the whole thing is part of high school,” Lutz said as she strode through the audience. “But we’re going to talk about it, and the responsibility that you have as part of the community to be a leader.”
One way to be a leader, Lutz said, was to avoid sending a dangerous photo or text message, as the rise of smartphone use has lead to many destroyed lives.
“What you choose to text, what you choose to do and who you choose to be, is life changing,” Lutz said. “You have to know how to make a better decision. You can call me your friend, an officer, whatever you want. But I have seen this too many times ... it’s crushing. It’s devastating. It’s embarrassing. Think twice before you text things that you know you probably shouldn’t.”
Speakers other than Soroptimist members during “Dream It - Be It,” which started before 9 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 21 and ended around 3 p.m., also included: Wendy Burke, regional director of human resources at Tenaya Lodge; Melanie Barker, 2017 president-elect of the Oakhurst Area Chamber of Commerce and a Mountain Area realtor; and Dr. Amanda Reeve of Kaiser Permanente and St. Agnes medical centers in Fresno.
Details: dreamitbeitgirls.com, or event co-chair Nikki Van Velson at (559) 683-6630.