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LeaderU girls spent 3 days in Washington, DC learning from a panel of esteemed women about leadership.

We are two friends Cate Dymowski (15) and Grace Williams (16), who had the fantastic opportunity to experience The LeaderU Girl Talk Summit at American University in Washington, D.C. If you don't know what Girl Talk is, let us enlighten you.

Girl Talk is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping high school girls develop leadership skills through a peer-to-peer mentoring program with middle school girls. Founded by Haley Kilpatrick, Girl Talk strives to help all girls embrace their uniqueness and become confident leaders ready to serve in their community. High school girls learn to be the role models that middle school girls need to make it through this time in their lives.

CEO and Founder of Girl Talk Haley Kilpatrick with girls from LeaderU

Created to support the Girl Talk mission, The LeaderU Summit provided an opportunity for these high school mentors to learn tips and lessons to take home to the middle school girls that they guide. There were many things we learned at the conference but this quote sums it up for us:

"As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others." --Audrey Hepburn

In particular during the conference, we participated in seminars about time management, following your passion, and business etiquette. But it was the guest speakers who shared their experiences that made LeaderU so special.  All of these women were really inspiring and had put in so much hard work to get where they are today. They really showed us that being a leader means you have to create your own opportunities and, sometimes, you have to step out of your comfort zone to be really successful.

Cate's experience: "I identified most with Jenna Golden, a woman who works for Twitter and a total food junkie like me. In my opinion, Ms. Golden has the best of both worlds. During the day, she's busy working as part of a political sales team that sponsors non-profit organizations in Twitter's Washington, D.C. office. At night, Ms. Golden runs a highly recommended food blog called EatMore DrinkMore. Before she entered the world of Twitter, Ms.Golden worked as a journalist for The New Republic and National Journal, which is part of the reason why I related to her so much. I love to write, and it was so interesting to see the many ways that Ms.Golden could use her talents. Her story inspired me to see the power in my own words and taught me what becoming a confident, successful woman could do for me."

Grace's experience: "I identified the most with Lisa Camooso Miller who owns her own public relations firm. She manages politicians planning to run for office and guides them in their public appearances.  In the future, I really want to go into PR so being able to listen to this woman's story was really eye opening. I learned from her that the field is tough and competitive so you have to work hard and persevere in order to be successful. She clued me in on the difficulties of a PR career, yet really inspired me to pursue that path. She was a great example of how to balance family and career."

Girls participated in a scavenger hunt during the leadership summit to form relationships with other attendees.

The best part of the conference was forming relationships with girls from all over the country. Most of the girls were from Georgia and Ohio with a few of the girls being from Texas, Colorado, North Carolina, and New Jersey. We happened to be the only two girls from Maryland, but really, state lines didn't matter. We all had something to share and to learn from each other. We all had talents ranging from singing to dancing, from American Sign Language to poetry, from sports to community leadership. All of us were leaders in our own way. All of us supported each other in what we were doing and all of us empowered each other to pursue our passions.

Girls spent the day on Capitol Hill hearing from influencial women leaders.

Girls have the power to change lives, their own and others, and Girl Talk is one way they can do that.  The LeaderU Summit delivered this message and also provided a chance to learn lessons from women who have had success and are continuing to impact their communities in positive ways.

Grace's experience: "Through this conference, I have learned that you are never ever trapped in one place. The women who spoke to us had gone through so many career changes because they just didn't like where they were and they were brave enough to pursue different goals. One breakout session called "Pursuing Your Passions" really impacted me because it highlighted that women can't be afraid to say no just because it might hurt someone's feelings and you need to ask for what you want. However, leaders are not just tough and strong, they need to be compassionate and empathetic too. I learned that a good leader draws strength from the people working around them. You lift each other up, instead of bringing others down."

Cate's experience: "LeaderU taught me that confidence provides opportunities. It also showed me that confidence starts with recognizing my own talents. In one of our exercises, the leader asked us to write down ten things that we loved about ourselves and then read them aloud in front of the whole group. I was very nervous because I tend to be a little shy when public speaking. However, this exercise turned out to be a highlight for me. It made me consider my great qualities and how I could use them to serve my community and reach my own goals. So often, girls focus on the bad things about themselves, barely noticing the very traits that make them special, unique, and therefore invaluable. In this simple exercise, I recognized not just my gifts, but appreciated those in the girls around me."

Through The LeaderU Summit, we learned a new twist on the definition of leadership and had a great time doing it. The LeaderU Summit is an experience that has impacted how we look at success and leadership as young women. We took away from the conference this message:

"All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them." --Walt Disney

We are grateful to Responsibility.org for providing us with the opportunity to attend The LeaderU Girl Talk Summit. The experiences and knowledge we gained were priceless. All opinions are our own.

*The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility or any Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility member.*