Contributed by: Hayley Sureck, GEN Communications Intern
This month I was lucky enough to serve as a Pathfinder Leadership Summit Intern. I found this opportunity through a job portal offered by my school, The University of Texas at Austin. I’m going to be honest with you all, I had only a little understanding of what the Girls Empowerment Network does and even less information about the purpose of this summit when I applied. I had never heard about Pathfinder before, but from being a mentor at it this year, I wish I had something like it when I was in high school.
The Pathfinder Leadership Summit is a week long summit for girls entering ninth through twelfth grade. In this program, girls are taught extremely valuable skills that will help them in their future endeavors. Some of these skills consist of public speaking, networking, how to navigate relationships, college admissions processes, and much more. Throughout the week I saw girls become leaders. I saw deep friendships arise. I saw confidence in the eyes of even the shyest girl there. I was absolutely amazed by how big of an impact one amazing non-profit could make on the lives of teenage girls.
I remember working with one girl in particular, an incoming sophomore in the Austin Independent School District (AISD). During the first couple of days of Pathfinder, she typically sat off to the side and had little interaction with the other girls. During lunch, she would sit in the corner and watch Netflix while the girls around her all mingled with one another. I had engaged her in several conversations during those first couple of days and quickly realized how intelligent this girl is. Gradually, she became more social with the other girls and would actually volunteer to get up and speak in front of all of the girls. My favorite memory would have to be when we were at a power chat (speed mentoring), and I saw this girl at a table with a lawyer and I was delighted to see that the girl was the one leading the conversation. This summit genuinely helped this particular girl break out of her shell.
High school can often be a challenging time for girls. Pathfinder is a way in which high school can be made less stressful. From witnessing the lessons taught during this week-long summit, and the skills that were demonstrated, I realized how badly I wish to have been given this opportunity as a high school student. I would’ve learned at a much more crucial time how to be assertive in almost any type of situation. I would’ve learned that mistakes are an essential part of discovery. I would’ve learned how to confidently look powerful adults in the eye and have a conversation with them without the pit of my stomach dropping to the floor. I would’ve learned how to make friends with girls who are exceptionally different from me. I would’ve learned that it is 100% okay if I don’t follow a path that I had previously set for myself. If I had this opportunity in high school, I wouldn’t have been as fearful to enter the real world.
The Pathfinder Leadership Summit is an incredible opportunity for high school girls in search of finding themselves. Here, they will become more confident in their leadership abilities and acquire skills and friendships that will last a lifetime. Along with this, they are able to network with successful working women in the Austin area. These networks can ensure a bright and promising future for each and every girl.