More than 160 DPS high school students gathered at George Washington High School for the first-ever African-American Young Ladies’ Summit Friday, May 18. The inaugural event was created as a way of connecting young ladies with African-American female leaders in the community to provide them with career advice and guidance during a key decision-making time for them: college and career planning.
The event’s organizers recognized a need for social and emotional supports designed specifically for young African-American women in the DPS community, so they wanted to develop a space to discuss issues and challenges young African-American ladies face today and along their journeys to college and career.
“Rather than being pursued as two separate bodies of work, the education field needs to identify ways in which equity and social, emotional and academic development can be mutually reinforcing. To accomplish this requires examining issues of race directly; this can be difficult and uncomfortable, but we cannot avoid race and let the challenges go unacknowledged and, therefore, inadequately addressed,” said Dr. Plashan McCune, Associate Director of Student Equity and Opportunity for Denver Public Schools and one of the Summit’s organizers. “We want the ladies attending to see women– young and older– who look like them, who have had similar experiences and who care about them now and in their future,” she continued.
More than 60 African-American professional women met with attendees in small groups to discuss their professions and how they got where they are in their careers; listen to students’ career aspirations and offer support and guidance. Students indicated the types of careers they’re interested in pursuing, and the event’s organizers worked to connect them with a professional in a similar career field.
“I am so honored to be here, to be a black woman and to support the development of young black women. Our kind is beautiful and unique. It’s so important that DPS honors and is committed to this work. I want other communities to determine what this equity work looks like for them,” said Jennifer Bacon, DPS School Board Member.
The students also had the opportunity to interact with a panel of professionals, a keynote address by State Senator Fields, and meet representatives from businesses at a career fair.
“Never, ever underestimate your importance. Just know that you can be anything that you want to be,” said Senator Fields.
The senator continued, with: “When we go into our schools, there is always someone who is going to make you feel doubt. You need to understand who you are. And you can’t leave that up to others’ interpretations of who you are. You need to start defining who you are before you let other people define you.”
McCune says that the goal is to continue the event in the future, as well as to expand targeted support for African-American young ladies. “I’d like this event to become a space where annually young ladies can come together, support one another and put together plans for their futures. My hope is that we create and build upon a number of programs, activities and events that are responsive to the young ladies’ expressed and known needs.”
Thank you to the incredible women across the city, district and school staff for the support in developing this event by donating both time and resources. Support from the community is critical to the health, wellness and success of our wonderful young ladies.
“To me, blackness is beautiful. Blackness is smart. Blackness is to be funny. Blackness is to be kind. Blackness is precious. Not everyone can have it. Blackness is worth more than you can imagine. Your blackness is worth more than the shoes that you are wearing and the products in your hair. It does not have a price tag on it. It is not defined by being the most popular person in the room. It is rooted in women who have changed our world forever, said Senator Fields.
For information on future events and to participate, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on college and career readiness programs and services, visit collegeandcareer.dpsk12.org.