Apr 16, 2008 Ami Olson Uncategorized
Nearly one hundred girls from seven area high schools gathered at Bryant and Stratton College in Syracuse for the fourth annual Young Women’s Symposium. The career guidance and self-discovery workshop joined ninth and tenth graders with local professional women to help students learn about a variety of career paths.
The symposium was coordinated by Junior Achievement of Central New York, the local chapter of a national not-for-profit organization geared toward preparing young adults for the global economy and society.
Ninth and tenth grade students in the “academic middle” of their classes were invited to participate in the symposium, which includes workshops, career exploration and a keynote speaker.
Leslie Rose McDonald, chair of the symposium and member of Junior Achievement Board of Directors, said the event is meant to showcase girls neither at the top or bottom of their academic classes, because they tend to receive less attention and are more likely to get “lost in the shuffle.”
“That’s the group we want to influence,” said McDonald. She said the main goals of the event are to get students out of their comfort zone, meet new people, build self esteem and explore careers through exposure to professional and business women.
The workshops each year focus on different life skills, this year’s highlighted communicating effectively and building rapport. Students were given exercises in communication such as verbally explaining each step involved in making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or describing a picture well enough for a partner to recreate it without having seen it.
“People miscommunicate every day,” volunteer Alyssa Coville told a group of students.
To emphasize the importance, Hospital Coreman Ramona Tyler-Jackson, representing the U.S. Navy, gave a group of students a real-life example.
“How about this one: we carry guns,” Tyler-Jackson said. She related her experiences in a desert hospital in Kuwait, and how important it was for her and her colleagues to be able to communicate effectively.
In another workshop, students from different schools were realizing how similar their experiences were, and putting stereotypes to rest.
“We all probably judged each other when we walked in the door,” said one student, who went on to point out how comfortable they had become talking to each other in a short time.
Cathy Gaynor, who volunteered on the Steering Committee, saw many benefits of the event, for every woman involved.
“I like the interaction with other local business women,” said Gaynor. “And I have a passion for ‘not stellar’ students, because that’s what I was.”
McDonald said that is another purpose of the symposium — to be a gift to the students as well as the volunteers.
“They get a chance to make a difference, to make connections both ways and to get to understand the up-and-coming workforce,” she said.
She added that participation has continued to grow, and JA receives great feedback from students, volunteers, and everyone else involved.
“We just can’t wait to do the next one,” said McDonald.
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