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Female panelists speak on success, mistakes


What would you do if you knew you would succeed? Would you become a doctor? Write a book? Run for office? Run a marathon?

That was the question put to middle and high school girls at a recent event at Caledonia High School aimed at inspiring them to dream big, believe in themselves and support one another on their journeys.

Students, many who are involved in the district’s girls mentoring program, “A More Beautiful You,” asked local female panelists what paved their way toward achieving their dreams. A question-and-answer session followed a screening of the documentary, “The Empowerment Project,” and an expo with booths tailored to and run by women representing various careers and programs.

Sixth-grader Jazlynn Dana asked the panelists a question

A More Beautiful You pairs high-school girls as mentors with middle-school girls, with the older students serving as role models and spending time with their younger peers.

“Will you raise your hands if you’ve made a mistake in your career?” sophomore Allie Hamilton asked panelists during the question-and-answer session.

In true role-model fashion, Allie said she wanted the girls around her to realize successful women have made their share of mistakes.

Every women on the panel raised a hand.

“I know a lot of girls who get down when they make mistakes,” Addie said, “and in reality, everyone makes them and it’s so cool to me that you learn from them.”

Kraft Meadows Middle School counselor Kelly Green encouraged girls to network. “These are women in our community who have already made that journey,” she told them. “Use them, and become that passion you have.”

“It hits home for our girls that they can aspire to their passions,” Green said. “Don’t just find a job, find something you’re passionate about.”

The empowerment panel included women representing various fields and backgrounds

Local Female Role Models

Panelists represented traditionally male-dominated career fields and spanned the spectrum of business owners, public servants and law enforcement. They included:

  • Lisa McKenzie, creator of You Night Events
  • Christy Buck, founder of the Be Nice and member of the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan
  • Jen Schottke, vice president of workforce development for ABC Construction
  • Dr. Jessica Keto, comprehensive breast cancer surgeon for Mercy Health Lacks Cancer Center
  • India Manns, community volunteer and advocate for equity
  • Kent County Clerk Lisa Posthumus Lyons
  • Denise Bentley, Michigan State Police detective sergeant

For achieving their goals and finding passions, the women credited strong role models, friendships, not giving up and believing in yourself.

Advice to girls included:

Posthumus Lyons: “I think I’m still on my journey. I think we all are. I don’t think we every arrive at success, the end of that road. My journey has been one that actually is not entirely made up of successes and that’s OK because that’s how you grow; that’s how you learn. That’s how doors you are truly meant to go through are opened for you.”

McKenzie: “I notice this with girls: they allow boys to control them based on the attention you think you’re getting from them, if they think you’re pretty or if they are going to invited to a dance … Don’t give over the power of what you think of yourself based on what you think a boy thinks of you.”

Danelle Scott, Caledonia High School counselor, said she liked the emphasis that strong character is what being a leader is all about.

“That’s what I want our girls to know,” she said, “that service, having positive role models in your life  and then becoming one is really important.”

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

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