Summit helps girls find their voice

Students try new subjects during YWCA program at South Puget Sound Community College

lpemberton@theolympian.comJanuary 6, 2014 

Rachel Ramsey, right, watches Monica Gockel make bath salt at South Puget Sound Community College on Friday. Ramsey and Gockel engaged middle school-aged girls in hands-on workshops in a variety of subjects. Each workshop paired a group of 10-15 girls with a female mentor from the community who encouraged participants to explore their interests and consider diverse career paths.

LUI KIT WONG/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

School was out for winter break, but that didn’t stop about 50 middle school-age girls from attending classes Friday at South Puget Sound Community College in Olympia.

The YWCA of Olympia’s Girls Winter Summit offered 17 workshops ranging from microorganisms and film editing to do-it-yourself bike mechanics, creative writing and playback theater. It’s the first time the event has been offered in winter.

The daylong event was meant to encourage girls to explore subjects they are interested in, while also giving them a chance to try something new, said Makenzie DeVries, an AmeriCorps volunteer who helped organize the event.

“It’s cool,” said Miriam Bashungwa, 12, a seventh-grader at Jefferson Middle School in Olympia. “You get to do a lot of stuff.”

The summit’s keynote speaker was Khurshida Begum, an SPSCC graduate who is a survivor of human trafficking.

Originally from Bangladesh, Begum ended up, along with her family, at a ranch in Oakville, where they were forced to work and were sexually abused.

“She talked about girls finding their own voice, so they can write their own story,” said Lanessa Inman, Girls Advancement director with the YWCA.

Inman said she hopes that the event can be offered again because middle school girls need more opportunities to learn about science, technology, math and engineering, often referred to as STEM topics.

“This is just a big step in really empowering them,” she said.

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433 lpemberton@theolympian.com @Lisa_Pemberton

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