It all started in 2014 when I was approached by my theater teacher about directing Evan Placey’s Girls Like That, a play that explores the pressures on young girls in the wake of our ever-changing society and our fast paced, technology driven world. As a new assistant principal and activities director at a relatively conservative, large high school outside of Denver, Colorado I was terrified to say yes to her request. The first five lines of the play are:
Girl 1: Slut
It didn’t get any prettier from there…But by the time I finished reading the script, I knew what I had to do. I had to convince my principal to let her direct the play, and I decided to host a female empowerment conference for high school girls at my school to coincide with the play’s opening. Those two decisions, which at the time felt pretty risky, have shaped not only my professional path but my personal mission in life as well.
Working with teenagers, especially teenage girls, has always been the most rewarding part of my job as an educator. I have witnessed some of the most beautiful transformations of young women over the years as they gain confidence, grow into their own skin, and are able to speak their truth. I have seen first hand the devastating heartbreak that girls inflict on each other through their unkind words, actions, and judgement of one another. I also know that this doesn’t end once high school is over. Unfortunately, we live in a society where it is all too easy to belittle one another behind the mask of a computer screen and often times that cruelty spills over into the real world. Again, I have learned that this doesn’t go away after high school. I have said far too many times in my career as an educator, “Wow, I work at a high school. Why does it feel like I am still in high school?”
Asking that question over and over again finally became too much for me, so I decided to do something about it. After hosting my first female empowerment conference in 2014, Shine Summit was born. This year we are hosting our fourth annual summit and have grown from 200 attendees to 800 high school and middle school aged girls attending. I am not stopping there though.
Shine Girl, which has been in the works for a few years now has finally come to fruition. Along with a powerful group of women, we hope to share our message with millions of girls all over the world. I truly believe that when females work together to champion one another, we all rise. Not just women, but men as well. It is imperative to our world that we are teaching this message to young girls. Maya Angelo says “When you learn, teach. When you get, give.” As an educator, women’s activist, and eternal optimist, I have learned so much over the last four years since Shine Summit began and it is now time to start teaching. Shine Girl has many exciting things on the horizon and we can’t wait to start giving back. We have been given so much and we want the next generation of girls to have the opportunities to do the same, and so much more.