Embrace Your Story
Teen Summit Challenges Girls to Explore their Future
By Molly Cech, Former GFAC Core Committee Member
A participant and presenter collaborate on a piece of jewelry during a 2014 GFAC Workshop.
Each year the conference draws hundreds of girls from across the West to participate in a day of fun, learning, and personal development.
What is ‘real beauty’? Why do men get paid more than women who do the same work? How can you land your dream career? What does it mean to be an activist? Each year, hundreds of girls from around the state gather to answer these questions and more at the annual Girls for a Change Summit, hosted at Montana State University.
Ten years ago when I was just fourteen, I had the opportunity to serve on the GFAC Core Committee—and for me, then a shy eighth grader, the experience was, for the sake of brevity, incredibly inspiring. Through the friendships I made and the experiences I had at the five Summits I attended, I felt that I truly grew as a person and as a member of society. That’s why I am so excited to tell you about the small but mighty program that had such a profound impact on my life and the lives of hundreds of Montana girls.
Girls for a Change (GFAC) began as a local grassroots initiative in Bozeman with the goal of increasing awareness, opportunity, and leadership skills of local teen girls. Based at the nonprofit Thrive, these 8-12th grade “Core Committee” girls meet weekly to discuss goals and dreams, face their challenges, and grow through community service and connection to female leaders in the community. The model was so successful, GFAC leaders sought a way to ‘bottle’ the signature positive energy of the program into an immersive experience that girls across the state could get a taste of– and the idea of a Summit was born.
Fast forward twelve years, and the Summit has grown into the premiere girls empowerment event in the state, each year attracting hundreds of girls from communities as far away as Sunburst, MT, on the Canadian border, to participate in this all-day adventure that combines over 40 hand-picked workshops and think-tanks with inspiring stories from role models.
“Embrace Your Story”, the theme this year, challenges girls to imagine new possibilities for their future. According to GFAC Program Coordinator, Jasara Rosendahl, “Girls from across the state come together [at the Summit] to share their passions and make change happen- for many girls who attend the Summit, this is their first time they have been to a university campus and gotten to see the things they dream about first hand. It’s incredible the difference we see in these young women from when they walk in the door to the final keynote presentation—you can almost sense their excitement for their future.”
Girls choose four different workshops to attend, each led by inspiring local leaders. Some options this year include Bollywood dancing, self-defense, interview tactics and 3D animation coding. Attendees will network with professionals while also stepping out of their comfort zones to learn new skills.
The opening keynote presentation will be led by Mandy Smoker Broaddus, who was named Educator of the Year by the National Indian Association in 2015 and was recently appointed to the President’s Advisory Council on Indian Education. Broaddus, who currently serves as Director at the Montana Office of Public Instruction, grew up on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation.
The lunchtime keynote will be presented by Daisy Gumin, who has made appearances on the CBS Early Show and is a contributing writer for bestselling author Susan Cain’s website, Quiet Revolution. Daisy’s first essay, “Meet Daisy Gumin” went viral, with thousands of readers of all ages from around the world sharing it and identifying with her story.
All girls in grades 8-12 are invited to attend. “It made me feel special – I now know to keep persevering and never give up”, said a participant from last year’s Summit.