Steamboat Springs For more than 100 local eighth-grade girls, the prospect of growing up is a daunting one. Not only is there college, jobs and bills out there in the “real world,” there’s another major hurdle to overcome before they’re out on their own: high school.
The annual Girls to Women conference Tuesday at The Steamboat Grand introduced eighth-graders to several women who offered advice for navigating the paths that lay ahead.
“You learn life strategies and you learn what life is like when you’re older,” Rangely Middle School student Jessica Folley said.
It was a day that the girls didn’t have to worry about their peers of the opposite sex, which set the stage for lessons of independence and self-reliance.
“It doesn’t take a guy to be happy in your life,” Jessica’s friend Simone Heinle said.
Heidi Berend, co-chairwoman of the event, said the steering committee worked hard to secure a diverse group of presenters including local professionals from a variety of fields and a panel of high school students.
“It opens them up to different opportunities,” Berend said. “I think that any possibility can lead you somewhere.”
From learning about careers in sales and nutrition to positive self-image and volunteering, the workshops allowed the students to delve deeper into their own interests as well as explore new ones.
The conference opened with keynote speaker Loryn Kasten, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.’s spokeswoman, after which the group split into workshops.
One session featured a panel of four ninth-graders who talked to the eighth-graders about what to expect in the coming years and to dispel common rumors about high school life.
They answered questions ranging from the workload to how to ask a boy to the Snowcoming Dance.
“I would advise you to have good friends with the same morals as you,” Steamboat Springs High School ninth-grader Aramis Duryea told a group of about 15 eighth-graders in that session. “Stay strong to your beliefs and people will respect you for it.”
High school counselor Kelle Schmidt said teenage girls face struggles with self-image, identity and life choices. Schmidt said giving the girls a day to interact and start thinking about their futures is an important step.
“It’s knowing themselves and making choices around knowing themselves,” Schmidt said. “That’s the hardest thing.”
At the high school “we try to help them find their identity in something other than the way they look.”
She said as they get older, the girls will find their identity in their skills, abilities and relationships with others, and they’ll find their own way to making a difference.
“That’s my hope for these girls and their futures.”
All of the girls also participated in a Reality Bytes worksheet that asked them to budget a month’s worth of expenses with their chosen career. Many of the students found that they couldn’t afford the lifestyle they thought they could.
Steamboat Springs Middle School student Cassie Wilhelm said the day had her thinking about her future as much as she could “for being 14.”
“You can’t hide from the future anymore,” she said. “It’s real.”
Girls to Women is put on by New Frontiers, a local organization that works to improve the self-sufficiency and self-esteem of girls. It’s an all-volunteer organization under the fiscal sponsorship of the Yampa Valley Community Foundation.