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Santa Clara County’s Office of Women’s policy and the American Association of University Women (AAUW) San Jose will host the, “Strong Girls, Strong Women” free leadership conference for middle school and high girls, mothers and other adult youth advocates Saturday, May 3 at the Mexican Heritage Plaza. “In 2012, we looked at how women and girls are doing in Santa Clara County in terms of economics, in terms of education, in terms of housing, in terms of health, in terms of crime and violence,” said SCC Office of Women’s Policy, Policy analyst Carla Collins. Collins said the 2012 report on the status of women and girls in the county highlighted achievement gaps such as reading at grade level, lack of opportunity, equity, and education. “There are also some numbers that are really disheartening. We absolutely must be strategic and support strong policy agenda for women and girls to change.”

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This year, youth participants will have access to workshops ranging from financial literacy, nutrition and cooking demonstrations taught by local chefs, body image, online safety, and teen dating awareness. Adult participants have access workshops on identifying sexual harassment, communication skills, quick nutritional meal cooking lessons, and a laughter and improv class for mothers and daughters. All participants will receive breakfast and lunch, and a private screening of the documentary, “Miss Representation.” Workshop language interpretation is also available.

The free conference started in 2000, and was held again in 2010 as just a conference focused on youth leadership. “We started off by doing a conference that was just for high school girls, because there is a real need to strengthen leadership development, certainly give information to this particular population that has so much going on, and really invest in them, because by doing that it’s investing in our future,” said Collins. Last year Collins said, for a number of reasons, a conference was not a possibility at the time for the Office of Women’s Policy alone until the AAUW San Jose approached them to work in collaboration to create a leadership conference to include girls and women.

“We saw the gap in services and education for this age range which is middle school and high school and women advocates and parents and mothers that support these young women. There was nothing that brought them together and that would teach them how to communicate better, teach them to strengthen their relationships, and also how to support each other as women,” said Commissioner on the Status of Women and Chandra Brooks.

Brooks said there were leadership conferences offered for boys only or for older women, but nothing was available for girls at the most impressionable age—transitioning from middle school to high school.

“It’s crucial because they are very impressionable. This is the age where peer pressure is setting in. A lot of the things that young people weren’t doing in elementary school or middle school they are starting to do. They become more at risk for falling into drugs, alcohol, maybe sex and different types of negative behavior that they weren’t introduced to before,” said Brooks. 

Registration for the conference is now open. Registration is free, but an RSVP is required. Participants may register at http://sgsw2014.eventbrite.com

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