GOALS summit: a demand for women in leadership

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Drawings from one of the workshops at the GOALS summit. Ellena Rosenthal/PSU Vanguard

Portland State had a new type of student on campus last Tuesday.

Around 275 high school girls from around the state of Oregon convened in the Smith Memorial Student Union Ballroom to participate in the Girls: Oregon, Action, Leadership, Service summit. GOALS is a girl-led, girl-focused summit featuring workshops aimed at fostering teens into leadership roles. Themes at this year’s workshop focused on media, entrepreneurship, activism and self-empowerment. The summit also featured an internship fair offering summer opportunities.

The GOALS summit focused heavily on self-empowerment and what it takes to be a leader. The panelists, a total of 22 women, had occupations from across the spectrum—some were student leaders or held positions in state and federal politics. The panels also featured business owners, journalists, activists and educators.

The GOALS Summit was planned by a teen council of 20 students from high schools throughout the Portland area, with the help of Mariana Lindsay and Sunny Peti from PSU’s Center for Women’s Leadership.

Members of the teen council were responsible for developing workshops, planning break-out sessions, deciding who would speak at the multiple panels and assisting in conversation facilitation on the day of the summit.

Hannah Ginsberg, a junior at St. Mary’s Academy, was one of the teen council members. To prepare for the summit, she attended regular meetings throughout the year to discuss ideas and questions, and prepared workshops and agendas.

Ginsberg planned a workshop based off a sexual assault consent workshop that happened at St. Mary’s prior to the GOALS summit. Ginsberg altered the consent workshop to focus more on career and self-empowerment, in order to connect it with the summit’s main themes, like saying yes to oneself.

“It was a say yes to yourself workshop focusing on destigmatizing saying no,” Ginsberg said. “And encouraging people to take charge of decisions, making sure to create a community in which people feel comfortable in saying no and creating a community where people have choices.”

Students came from Woodburn, Albany, Salem and Portland to attend the summit. Organizers sent invitations to schools across the state that stated the message, “If girls who are leaders want to be leaders, come!”

There was such a strong turnout that Lindsay and Peti had to cap off registration and turn people away.

“We ran out of space and because of the teachers, volunteers and council members, we had to limit the group of participants to 300 to stay within fire code,” Peti said. “We had about 275 students come—which is a great rate and was pretty amazing considering AP testing was happening that morning.”

Ginsberg’s biggest take away from the summit was accentuating the importance of taking a second to listen to attendees’ stories, their perspectives and different backgrounds across leadership roles.

“There are so many people who have so many awesome perspectives that I wouldn’t suspect,” Ginsberg said.

At the end of the summit, an Opportunity Fair was set up outside of the ballroom. Multiple organizations and nonprofits were set up along tables, with an abundant amount of material about their particular organization and advice on how a person can get involved.

Students spoke with representatives about internship opportunities and possible ways they could become involved. Some of the organizations included Women’s Foundation of Oregon, Hands On Greater Portland and Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp For Girls.

“We got so many people registered from all over the state, it was sad that we had to turn people away,” Ginsberg said. “There’s a demand for things like this. People want it. People are like, ‘We want women in leadership,’ so clearly this is something that people want. This call should be answered.”

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