Conference preps girls for college

By Rosemary Campbell, Staff Writer

Eighth-grade girls from all over the Salt Lake Valley arrived at the U for a conference Saturday morning to prepare for college with confidence.

The annual Defining Your Path conference, which costs $10 for the students, becomes stronger each year, with 40 more girls enrolled this year than last, said Claire Turner, director of the Youth Education program at the U.

Girls filled the auditorium of OSH to listen to the keynote speaker, Theresa Martinez, the assistant vice president for academic outreach and an associate professor of sociology at the U.

Martinez told the girls a story about how her father was an abusive alcoholic and her two older brothers went away to the war in Vietnam. She said some of her other siblings would go door-to-door trying to sell squash for desperately needed money.

Despite these struggles, Martinez said her mother gave her strength to achieve her goals.

She said it’s troubling for her to see young women who don’t value themselves.

“Women can be very strong, women can be very powerful and women can be very feminine,” she said.

Sometimes girls don’t think they can succeed because they are female, but if they focus on their strengths, they can, Martinez said.

The girls broke up into smaller groups and chose to attend different sessions geared toward helping them prepare for college. A few sessions showed some of the benefits of choosing specific majors, including art, chemistry, finance, engineering, law, medicine and writing.

Jade Frost, a student at Bonneville Junior High, said her mom had to nag her to sign up for the conference, but that she was glad for the push after she attended some of the sessions.

Lynette Danley, a professor in educational leadership, challenged the girls in a breakout session to ponder their own futures and what they should be doing to get where they want to go.

Danley emphasized the importance for students to decide what they want to do on their own instead of letting parents, or anyone else, make that decision for them.

“The only person you are competing with is yourself,” she said.

The conference, which is sponsored by the U, was designed specifically for eighth-grade girls to help them prepare for college, give them ideas about possible career paths and help them see the choices that are available to them.

Josie Church, a Midvale Middle School student, said she thought the conference helped give her some ideas about what she wants to do after high school.

The U plans to expand the conference by advertising to more schools and bringing in different speakers.

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