Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Conference Empowers, Lets Girls Focus on Themselves

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Conference Empowers, Lets Girls Focus on Themselves

Article excerpt

Byline: Amelia A. Hart, Nassau Neighbors staff writer

It was all about girls Monday at Florida Community College at Jacksonville's Betty P. Cook Nassau Center as 54 middle school girls from around the county gathered for the second annual Girl Power conference.

From handling stress to dealing with difficult people to managing money, girls ages 11 to 14 got a chance to talk with each other and a slew of adult women about the challenges and changes the girls are facing in adolescence.

Stevie Gregory, 12, gave up her Presidents Day holiday to serve as a hostess at the event, sponsored by the Nassau County Health Department's Tobacco Partnership.

"It was extremely fun," Gregory said. "We got to work together with other people instead of them just telling us."

Girl Power is a national education campaign sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to help encourage and motivate 9- to 14- year-old girls to make the most of their lives.

The campaign was developed in response to studies showing girls tend to lose self-confidence during early adolescence. As a result, they frequently become less physically active, perform less well in school and neglect their own aspirations.

Kim Ojeda, who heads up the Students Working Against Tobacco initiative in Nassau County schools, said the goal of Girl Power is to give the girls the tools they need to make good decisions today and to think about the future.

"We want them to go for their dreams," Ojeda said.

The day presented girls with practical ideas about how to take charge of their lives and to avoid risky behaviors, like smoking, said event organizer Susan Holden-Dodge.

It also presented the girls with a roster of role models.

Bridget Morgan, 12, said she was glad all the sessions at Girl Power were led by women.

"I can understand women better then men," Morgan said. …

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