Colorado State University-Pueblo hosted the 6th Annual Young Women’s Real World Conference on Nov. 4 in the Occhiato University Center Ballroom.
The conference, which was for girls attending local high schools, helped them to find out what they wanted to do in the future and helped them forge the path to their goals.
The event, which had over 70 participants this year, also gave the girls the tools they needed to work through tough situations in their lives through working in groups. The participants also received the motivation to be triumphant over their trials through the candid stories from a panel of women.
Carol Loates, the coordinator of the conference, said she started the conference to give high school girls the chance to realize their options after high school
“It’s a day-long experience for high-school age young women to give them the opportunity to start planning their lives. So we’re especially looking for those who aren’t planning and who could use some help to get going,” she said.
Loates said she thought the conference gives the university a good reputation as well as making the young members of the community stronger.
“I think it benefits the campus. I think it benefits the community. I think this is developing strong ties between parts of the community and parts of the campus, so I feel good about that,” she said.
“I think if we succeed in building better citizens and helping people understand their lives better and make them realize their potential. I want them to plan and get control of their lives and go change the world,” Loates said.
Loates said she thought letting the university host the conference would give the participants more of a reason to set goals in their lives.
“We want them to be able to imagine themselves on a campus. We know that in many college communities there are people who live in the community and never live on campus because they think it’s not a place for them. They think it’s about other people,” she said.
“We want them to think that there are people like them right here. So from the beginning, that’s been an important thing on my mind,” Loates said.
Patricia Orman, who worked on the promotional aspect of the conference, said the university pays its dues to the community by hosting the event.
“I think that CSU-Pueblo, like any school of higher education has a commitment and a responsibility to give back to their community. We have a very significant community engagement service searching commitment to the university,” she said.
“We do a lot in the university and the community and we draw from them on a regular basis, and I think the Young Women’s conference is just an example of that,” Orman said.
Loates said they have always considered making the conference available to girls in middle school and elementary school, but thought it would be more appropriate for young women in high school.
“We’ve always talked about what we wanted to do at the middle school and elementary school levels, but for the on campus part, we thought it was already appropriate for the high school age girls and we know there was a high need,” she said.
“We thought we needed to jump right into the current high school girls,” Loates said.
Loates said some of the girls at the conference are facing many trials of their own which some adults may find too mature for the teens to have to manage.
“I can’t speak for this year, but some of them are facing too much pressure to think about their futures. They don’t have much reason and not much parental guidance because their parents are really busy or for other reasons parents aren’t giving the girls the message very often,” she said.
“But then for a few, they are already facing decisions about drugs and alcohol and decisions about sex and whether or not to finish high school. There are all kinds of things they can make choices about. We wanted to add another level of opportunity to think about,” Loates said.
Orman said this conference is what a lot of these girls need to move to the next chapter in their lives.
“We hope this is a stepping stone for one of the girls. Not every person in the world is set to go to college, but we do know there are opportunities that the girls will hear about today that will help them turn some things around and make them a little more aware of their options,” she said.
“There are a lot of young women and young men who don’t realize how much they have to give or places they can go or things they can do. They don’t have someone else to give them encouragement and that’s exactly what this is intended to do,” Orman said.
Loates said putting this conference together was a lot of work.
“It involves not only getting students here, which involves coordinating with the community. To get them registered and to get the students who really need this the most to come takes a lot of effort,” she said.
“It also takes a lot of effort to get enough coaches to get a good ratio of so we have not more than eight students for eight coaches. All the coaches went through a five or six hour training, so they give up a lot of their time,” Loates said.
Orman said she thought it made perfect sense for the conference to be sponsored by the women’s studies program.
“The program on campus is really dedicated to helping women become whatever they want to be. Women’s studies has been the primary underwriter and partner so as a result every year we feel as if women need a helping hand,” she said.
Orman said the conference has already reached their goal in their sixth year.
“We know that a dozen of our girls have gone on to college at this campus, which is a huge goal for us,” she said.
“We want to make the young women aware of their options, whether it’s college or a trade school or finding great opportunities and making a great difference in their lives,” Orman said.
Loates said the coaches have also benefited personally from this conference.
“The coaches come back to me saying the conference had changed their lives and they are going to go back and reach the dreams they once left behind. We have some coaches who are back hear for another year, some of the college students are coaching here for their third time,” she said.
“So clearly it’s very important in developing leadership and giving them a sense of what they want to do with their lives,” Loates said.
Neva Quintana, a senior mass communications major, was a coach as well as a panel member. She said she wanted the young women to realize the decisions they make can impact their lives through her own story.
“On one hand, it’s not enough time. It’s hard to summarize. You want to touch on every major point in your life that you think would impact or affect their lives or give them something to relate to you about,” she said.
“But it’s an opportunity to give back and to make amends for the mistakes I’ve made in the past,” Quintana said.
Esperanza Gutierrez, a freshman majoring in education, was also a coach and panel member. She said she wanted students to realize no matter what they have gone through, they can always succeed.
“I want them to know that no matter your background, your history or the things that you’ve been through, that no matter what, you can make it and be successful and make something of yourself. You just have to have self-motivation,” she said.