During the Mountain Area’s first “Dream It - Be It” conference last Saturday, it was all about positive affirmations, gratitude lists, recognizing important values, identifying stressors, keeping your eye on the prize (attainable goals), persistence, and following your passion.
The conference, held at the Oakhurst Community Center, targeted high school girls, and was geared to help prepare them to face and rise above life’s obstacles.
Sponsored by Soroptimist International of the Sierras, about 33 freshman-through-senior Yosemite High School students had the opportunity to learn life skills and hear from successful professional Mountain Area women.
Susan Nobles, educator, professional speaker and small business owner, opened the morning with “Discovering Your Dreams and Exploring Careers.” Wife of Rob, physics teacher at Yosemite High, one of her main teaching methods was through the creation of vision boards, which help clarify and concentrate focus on specified life goals.
“Okay, close your eyes, and image 10 years have passed,” Nobles told the young audience. “What will you look like? Where are you living? Have you completed college? Worked different jobs? Who are you living with? If you could be ... or do anything ... what would it be?”
The girls were given a moment to gather their thoughts, before looking through magazines, selecting colorful papers, stickers, and drawing pens to begin creating their vision boards.
For YHS sophomores, dreams ran the gamut. Lauren Schaeffer wants to attend a four-year college to study chemistry, which she said comes easily to her, and is a way to make a good income. Regina Outerbridge dreams of becoming a sheriff’s deputy, saying she knows guest speaker Kaci Lutz (CHP Public Information Officer), and has participated in CHP ride-alongs. Breezy Benally said she wants to get a masters in business and a cosmetology degree, with the goal of opening her own cosmetology business one day. Victoria Ginn hopes to become a Registered Nurse, to travel, and to open a coffee shop, while Caitlyn Burns plans on attending Cal Poly, in San Luis Obispo, to study journalism. Burns said she is currently working on a book on life as a teenager.
“Seek what fits you,” Nobles continued, “and listen to the wise counsel around you to get where you want to be. There are those who say high school is the best years of your life, but that’s not true. High school is just the beginning. It can get so much better from there. Your future holds seasons that will be crummy and seasons that will be beyond your wildest dreams.”
Linda Newton, an empowerment educator, was the keynote speaker for the day. The associate pastor at Sierra Pines Church, she spoke on Rising above Obstacles.
“Did your mom ever tell you that attitude was everything?,” she asked. “My mother-in-law told me that attitude was mind over matter - ‘if you don’t mind, it don’t matter.’ But the truth is our mind wraps around our worries, our insecurities and gets stuck in stinking thinking. Without meaning to, we can become our own worst enemy. By the same token, we can also be our own BFF. It just depends on where we put our perspective.”
She emphasized that to overcome obstacles to reach goals, we have to focus on what’s right about ourselves, our families, our schools and our environment - not what’s wrong. She encouraged attendees to write in a journal, and to create a gratitude list.
“It starts with gratitude,” Newton continued. “Research now shows that living in gratitude can actually create healthier brain chemistry. And if you’re not naturally positive, there are things you can do.”
One tool is to place a large, thick rubber band on your wrist, and when you find your mind wandering to those negative self-destructive thoughts, snap the rubber band. By doing so, you begin to associate pain with negativity; then replace that thought with something from your gratitude list.
Finding your passion is equally important. Newton recalled her first day in psychology class, where she stumbled onto what “floats” her boat.
“When I read the text on the page, it felt like a harp string had been strummed inside me and my entire body resonated,” Newton said. “Find your harp string, and look for ways to earn a living pursuing it. Find support. Talk to a guidance counselor. Surround yourself with people who believe in you.”
* California Highway Patrol Public Information Officer Kaci Lutz talked about her personal journey, the trials and tribulations that come along with being in a male-dominated field, from the military to law enforcement.
“I think it’s so important for young women who want to explore those types of careers to stay focused and determined,” Lutz said. “Twenty years ago, I never would have believed I would be where I am today - at 35 - or that I would have accomplished what I’ve accomplished. It hasn’t always been easy, but I’ve had fantastic support from my family, and all I’ve gone through to get here has made me a better person, a better wife, a better mom, and a better officer.”
Lutz emphasized the importance of early guidance, staying focused, and not getting sidetracked from achieving what you truly want to do.
* Other area business women speaking before the group included Heather Sconce, Sierra Pines Church performing arts director and actress; Candice McAleavey, Sr., a Kaiser health educator; Laura Zabicki , award-winning baker and owner of Sweet Dreams Cakery; and Vikki Piper, college economics professor.
Calling it a day
Soroptimist members Michele Shockley (Kaiser Permanente physical therapy assistant), and Nikki Van Velson (franchise development, Pizza Factory Inc.) co-chaired the event.
“We believe this is the first girls conference that has taken place in the mountains,” Van Velson said. “The girls enjoyed the speakers, the topics, the games, dream boards, decorating cupcakes, and the food. We hope to make this a yearly event since it was so well-received. This would not have been possible without the women who spoke, and the several teachers who gave up their Saturday to mentor the girls. We are so proud that Soroptimist International of The Sierras was able to bring the Dream It - Be It Career Support for Girls to our mountain community, and are grateful to the many people who were involved to make it happen.”
Once the conference came to an end, the high schoolers received a resource guide for continued guidance and mentorship to help them achieve their goals - to help them reach their dreams.
“Like what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life,” Newton reminded the group. “Out of one class of 1,200 graduates, many selected career fields for the money ... only 109 pursued their passions ... 20 years later, those 109 were millionaires, while none of the rest of that group were ... so, if you love what you do, you will give it all you’ve got ... and you will be successful. Make a decision to pursue your goals and let your passion fuel your persistence, no matter what obstacles come your way.”