Young ladies get tips on college, leadership at success seminar

By Aimee Breaux

February 12, 2017

YSS Library Group Photo              

Young Ladies Success Seminar attendees gather for a photo outside the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum


Aimee Breaux / The Eagle


Keynote speaker Jamilla Thomas, an assistant principal in the Grand Prairie Independent School District, talks to the Young Ladies Success Seminar’s student attendees about leadership


Aimee Breaux / The Eagle



When Haily Brown entered high school, everything suddenly became about preparing for college.

"It's really mind-blowing and terrifying at first," Brown said. "Because adults are telling me you need to know what you are doing in the next four years and that those four years will affect you for the rest of your life."

With this on her mind and a "why not?" attitude, the A&M Consolidated High School sophomore was one of about 40 girls in the area to attend the Fifth Annual Young Ladies Success Seminar on Saturday in hopes of learning more about preparing for post-high school life and becoming a leader.

The event, held at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, was open to area girls in grades 6-12. After a keynote speech from Jamilla Thomas, an assistant principal in the Grand Prairie Independent School District, the students broke into groups. Middle schoolers discussed bullying and leadership, while high schoolers sat in on a presentation about creating a portfolio.

Event organizer Essie Childers, a humanities professor at Blinn College, said she started the seminar as a way to give back to the community and pay homage to all the women who have helped her over the years.

"The goal is to empower students to create a college-going culture or to concentrate and focus on a career that will lead them on a pathway to success," said Childers, who also has written a book on the topic titled Packing Tools for Success Beyond Middle School.

Amaka Okonkwo, who won first place in the high school essay contest associated with the seminar, has attended the event every year since it began.

"It's a really nice way for me to learn about leadership and success and all the things I need to do in high school to achieve my goal of going to college and having a successful career," she said. "I definitely want to go to A&M -- Aggies all the way."

Her friend Myra Dharani has attended the event for the past four years. For her it's a chance to meet new people and learn new skills. While Dharani said her favorite part of the seminar this year was the section devoted to creating a résumé, Okonkwo said she liked the keynote speaker's metaphor relating leadership to planting a plant.

"Being a leader means you have to kind of dig into the ground, and you kind of have to unearth the ground, which might be uncomfortable at first," Okonkwo said. "But you have to work with what you have."

aFor insight on the college application process and basic scholarship advice, some parents attended a presentation put on by an adviser and students affiliated with the Texas A&M Memorial Student Center.

Monique Cyprien said the parent portion of the seminar last year was so informational she decided to come back this year with her A&M Consolidated ninth-grader daughter, Karter Cyprien.

"It was so much good information, I wanted to make sure I came back again," she said.

The seminar was only a few hours long, but Childers hopes it serves as a sort of catalyst for the attending girls and their network of support.

"I'm planting the seed," she said. "It's up to other women in their lives to water it."

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