In celebration of female empowerment and Women’s History Month, Montclair State University’s Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) Program hosted its eighth annual Young Women’s Empowerment Conference for female high school students on Friday, March 24.
Female students from 18 area high schools gathered at the University Hall Conference Center to learn about the college experience and what Montclair has to offer. The primary goal of the annual event is to increase the number of women of color applying to and attending colleges and universities.
The event was hosted and coordinated by EOF Counselor and Academic Advisor Tatia Haywood, who said: “I hope students take away a sense of confidence, being inspired and motivated to pursue higher education but also to see if Montclair State is the place for them.” Ultimately, Haywood shared that she hopes “they’re inspired to be the change that they need for their communities and be empowered to do well academically.”
The event featured a dynamic lineup of speakers, panelists and activities designed to inspire, educate and empower young women from all walks of life, including a fashion showcase and a talent show. The fashion showcase was intended to provide students with ideas of what to wear on campus, as well as some business casual outfits for professional settings.
The talent show featured female attendees – with gifts for singing, dancing, playing instruments and more – who felt confident sharing their talent with the kind and supportive audience.
Conference discussion topics included the importance of attending college, healthy relationships, mentorship, womanhood, effective leadership and more. Keynote speaker Maryann Diaz, a licensed social worker, spoke passionately about “The Power of Words.”
Diaz began her speech with a story about a difficult circumstance she once faced in an effort to engage the audience in a conversation about how she should have reacted to the situation. Her goal was to remind them about the power of words – and she explained that reacting and responding to a situation are entirely different.
Diaz hoped students took away a key message from her speech: “There will be times of loneliness, times of despair, but knowing you are not alone and connecting to another [person] makes you more mindful of your own contributions.”
Deja Peterson is an EOF alumna and poet who attended the event to inspire and encourage female high school students. She recited words of encouragement in a poem she wrote. “I was super excited to come back as an alum and continue to help them serve the community and continue to encourage young women,” Peterson said.
Panelist Trenyce Hinds, a junior Economics major, shared her experience of applying to and enrolling in Montclair and answered questions that students had about the University.
“What I hope the students could take from me is that college is easier to get into than you think and that you could do anything you want,” Hinds said, adding, “it’s not always going to be perfect.”
Students left feeling inspired and empowered to pursue their goals and dreams.
“When I was invited by one of my teachers, I was really interested in coming because Montclair is one of the potential colleges that I’m interested in going to,” said Amina Pleasant from Paterson P-TECH. She attended “to learn more about Montclair and the kind of events that they do here, I think it’s really helpful to get a look at the type of culture that Montclair State University has to offer.”
Rosemary, a sophomore from Middlesex County, says what attracted her to the event was the discussion on women’s empowerment: “When I saw that it was a women’s convention, I really got excited and I wanted to know what would be discussed about empowerment. [The day’s activities] helped me learn about new opportunities that can help me in the future.”
Annalisa, a junior from Paterson, explained how important it is to host events such as these for other high school students like herself. “I think it’s a really good event that can help students really hone in on their decision for what college they want to go to and learn about what to expect in their college experience.”
Montclair’s co-host for the event, Dual Enrollment Coordinator and Success Coach Jazmene Mosley said she hoped attendees found the conference useful.
“The goal was that students have fun and engage,” she said. “I want to make sure that the students take away everything that they learned today, and that they apply it, no matter what school they go to.”
To learn more about this program, visit Montclair State University EOF.
Story by Rosaria Lo Presti. Photos by John J. LaRosa.