For several years, Soroptimist International of Greater Santa Clarita Valley has hosted a girls’ empowerment program called “Dream It, Be It.”
The international program offers professional role models, career education and resources to high schools girls so they can grow up to strong, successful, happy adults, according to Soroptimist. Dream It, Be It also helps girls explore career opportunities, set and achieve goals, overcome obstacles to success and more forward after setbacks.
“The mission for Soroptimist internationally is empowerment for women and girls and education being the No.1 vehicle to empower women worldwide,” said Sue Reynolds Buckley, a past president of Soroptimist International and a career development coordinator for the William S. Hart Union High School District. “If we educate women we are empowering women.”
In the past, the Santa Clarita Valley program consisted of a one-day conference held at College of the Canyons during the weekend.
But this year, Maggie-Mae Laufman, chair of the conference, decided to do something different and bring the program directly to students at five Hart district high schools: Bowman, Golden Valley, Hart, Valencia and Saugus.
“I was the contact for Hart High School to get the word out and recruit but because it was on a Saturday and at the college, it was difficulty for girls to get there,” said Dr. Karla Arriaran, guidance counselor at Hart High School. “When Maggie reached out to Hart this school year and said we want to bring it to the schools, I was 100 percent in.”
On Friday, the all-day conference came to Hart High School where 80 students of all grade levels participated in the program.
“Last year, I probably had four or five girls that attended this conference and this year we have 80 girls, it’s an amazing turnout,” Arriaran said.
Using counselor recommendations, the high school invited 80 students of all grade levels and from all student groups to attend the conference.
“I was excited. There aren’t many opportunities to connect women,” said junior Sydney Illum who was chosen to participate in the conference. “There are amazing people speaking and being mentors for us.”
During Dream It, Be It, girls worked in small groups with mentors from Soroptimist International Greater Santa Clarita Valley who led them through the program’s curriculum. They also heard from keynote speakers like Mia Francovich who owns Modeling Perfectly Imperfect and participated in activities to build resiliency and confidence.
“I think the main thing is teaching them about leaning on each other for support as women… that’s one of our main focuses is finding support in their lives whether it’s through us or friends sitting at the table or mentors or guidance counselors,” Laufman said. “The empowerment for the girls is the best and teaching (resilience) because everyone’s going to hit an obstacle and they need to know how they can get over it.”
The students also learned how to unite together and relate to one another about the hardships they face.
“I’ve learned so much and it feels great to be talked to individually as a women because a lot of times our issues are not acknowledged or treated as valid,” Illum said. “I think the biggest thing that I learned is everyone has experienced hard things and a lot of us can relate to each other. We don’t normally see that side of each other so it’s cool to relate this people that I don’t even know and to know that we have something in common.”
Altogether, the Dream It, Be It program at various Hart district high school is expected to touch the lives of nearly 500 high school girls. The Soroptimist International Greater Santa Clarita Valley plans to continue the site-based conferences in the future to reach even more students in the area.
“During the sessions girls are engaged, connecting with each other and connecting with the speakers,” Arriaran said. “It’s just amazing.”
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