Wauwatosa West High School female students had an opportunity to connect with peers and professional black businesswomen during the half-day Girls Summit, A Healthy You: Inside and Out.
The event was held Tuesday, Dec. 13 at West and was hosted by the Black Student Union (BSU). The summit featured three hours of sessions with speakers who talked about everything from what it means to be in a healthy relationship, to preparing for success in college and life beyond high school.
“As we continue to address our district-wide work towards creating an equitable experience for all students, our goal is to provide opportunities for our students to connect with black women who are mentors and change agents,” said Rebecca Kirchman, event organizer and teacher at Wauwatosa West. “These women are role models in their career fields and community and our young ladies can benefit from having a space to focus on themselves through this event.”
The BSU mission statement says that as a student organization, their mission is to provide a fertile environment for academic success and social growth among African-American students and their peers at Wauwatosa West High School. The statement adds that with an increasingly diverse population, the group finds it necessary for them to become a part of the fabric of the school and the well-being of its students.
"We are a group of African-American women getting together to share ideas and go through some sessions and talk some problems out," senior Tamara Townsend said.
Twenty-five girls participated in the summit, which opened with a game of rock-paper-scissors that the organizers said was an exercise to demonstrate confidence in self and the ability to encourage others to be successful.
The female speakers for the summit are from the Milwaukee area and were chosen through their participation in previous workshops or speaking events about careers and topics related to the summit theme.
The students chose to attend one of the following sessions:
- Radical Softness as a Weapon: Teaching young girls that emotions are not a sign of weakness, that one can be whole without someone else and that dispelling the myth of strong female women being abrasively feminine.
- Branding YOU: This workshop will highlight critical themes for young ladies to consider when branding themselves for purpose-filled opportunities.
- Healthy Relationships: The specific emphasis of this workshop is to lessen the stigma of teen dating violence and open up conversations with youth about the signs of abuse and healthy relationships.
- Taking a Breath: This sessions teaches the basics of simple meditation. It includes learning to listen to one’s inner voice and trusting within oneself. Taking a Breath teaches us how to self-regulate, self-trust, and build self-esteem
- Envisioning YOU: This session will combine hands-on activities such as making collages and dancing as well as intellectual stimulation through semi-structured writing of journals.
- Go On Girl: This session will discuss tips and strategies for success in college and life beyond.
“We hope that this experience provides our students with an opportunity to see themselves as leaders, change agents and community members who have the power to make the world a better place,” Kirchman said.
After the summit the students were asked to fill out an "event reflection" that gave the organizers some feedback. The survey showed that the sessions were given an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 and that each student said they would they would like to attend an event like this again in the future.
When asked what their favorite part of the summit was, responses included:
- I liked all of them because they were beneficial to my future, especially college.
- Making a vision board and actually facing what I need to work on as a person.
- Talking in a non-judgmental space with people like me.
- Getting introduced to new people and getting to know them.