Manatee Technical Colleges hosts the third annual Girls for Girls Summit Oct. 20.
Cate Mulqueen, a junior at St. Stephen’s High School, learned early it was important to have a voice.
“It was in middle school, and I was doing gymnastics when I hurt my back,” Mulqueen said. “The coaches told me I didn’t need to go to a doctor, but I knew something was wrong. I actually had squished a vertebra in my back and messed up my discs. In the end, I’m glad I spoke up about it.”
Mulqueen, who lives in Lakewood Ranch, is one of six St. Stephen’s athletes organizing the third annual Girls For Girls Summit at Manatee Technical College on Saturday, Oct. 20. The event is free and open to the first 150 girls ages 9 through 12 to sign up. The event promotes sisterhood, leadership, self-esteem and healthy choices. It includes motivational speakers, music, dancing and an opportunity to make new friends.
Mulqueen and her fellow organizers will be giving talks about times they have had to stand up for themselves. The theme for this year’s conference is “Speak Up ... Speak Out” to inspire young woman to be more confident.
The Girls for Girls summit runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and includes an hour-long presentation by the parents of the organizers.
Ashleigh Rodhouse, a senior who has served on the planning committee for the past three years, said she can see those who attend grow in confidence during the event.
“They come in and they’re very shy in the beginning because they don’t know anyone and they don’t really know what’s going on,” said Rodhouse, who lives in Lakewood Ranch. “When they leave, the girls are so confident. They’re almost overconfident.
“I remember a little girl came up and started speaking to me at the end of the conference,” Rodhouse said. “She was so shy at the beginning of the conference, but at the end, she was telling me how she’s going to stand up to people who were bullying her at school.”
Rodhouse said that girl told her she wanted to quit her track program before the conference but had decided to give it another try after attending their event.
Senior Kendall Miller said in the new age of social media, girls don’t always feel they need to gain confidence.
“Now, with the social media aspect, you can hide behind a screen,” Miller said.
Miller said the event tries to persuade girls to put the computer aside and get out into public to deal with their issues.
The event isn’t just speeches prompting girls to be more confident in everything they do.
“We have two dance parties during the day, and at the first dance party, there’s always girls who don’t want to join in,” Rodhouse said. “By the second dance party, everyone dances. It’s so much fun.”
Teena Hiebner, an adult volunteer and a former St. Stephens parent, loves watching the girls accomplish their goals.
“The girls walk away from Girls for Girls feeling great about themselves,” she said.
Besides Mulqueen, Rodhouse and Miller, the other organizers are junior Siddie Pennewell, and sophomores Janie Chatham and Carly Lansberg.