Girls to Women Conference offers advice to 8th-graders

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— After lunch at the annual Girls to Woman Conference, Routt County eighth-graders participate in an exercise called "Reality Bytes."

Girls preparing to make the transition to high school fill out a financial survey that asks what career they want to have and what kind of lifestyle they'd like to lead. They then review the costs of those choices.

"Every year, the girls are fairly shocked," said Melissa Calhoon, event co-chair for this year's event. The exercise also covers costs such as health insurance and college loan payments.

The 11th annual Girls to Women Conference is from 8:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel. The conference - titled "Shine '09: Sisters Helping to Influence a New Era" - offers workshops in career choices, personal growth and financial independence for eighth-grade girls from all Routt County schools.

Girls to Women is the signature event for New Frontiers for Girls & Women, a local nonprofit group. Participating girls sign up for three workshops throughout the day. The first workshop group is focused on subjects such as self-esteem, exercise and nutrition. The second and third groups offer girls a chance to explore various career paths in workshops taught by local women who have been successful in those fields.

"I just think it's an amazing opportunity for the girls to take a look at different aspects of different careers," Calhoon said.

Gannet Hallar, a climate scientist who has taught workshops at the event for the past two years and will be the keynote speaker Tuesday, said the workshop offers eighth-grade girls a new kind of experience by requiring them to dress in professional clothing. Hallar, who is director of Storm Peak Laboratory and has a doctoral degree in atmospheric science from the University of Colorado at Boulder, said she plans to focus on the need for professionalism in her keynote speech.

"I'm going to talk about life planning : for the girls to be thinking about where do they want to be in the next five years and what do they need to do to get there," she said. Highlighted topics will include taking classes in high school that fit a girl's desired career path and putting forward a professional front by taking steps such as cleaning up a Facebook or MySpace page.

"Make sure that your outward appearance fits with your career goals and make sure that you always represent yourself in a way that won't hurt you in your future," Hallar said.

The conference program is guided each year by a steering committee that includes eighth-grade girls. As of Thursday afternoon, 109 girls were registered for the Tuesday event. For more information, eighth-grade girls or their parents should contact their school or event organizer Brooke Lightner at 879-4300, ext. 355.

- To reach Margaret Hair, call 871-4204 or e-mail mhair@steamboatpilot.com

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