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Mom, like almost every woman I encounter, tends to deflect praise. I speak to women at networking events and for interviews for stories and they shrug off accomplishments. Many are uncomfortable even talking about their achievements and act like building a company or reaching the apex of their field is akin to taking the trash to the curb.

In late March I went to the King of Prussia Mall after work to relax and maybe get a few things for my spring/summer wardrobe. A salesperson tried to sell me a winter coat and…a bathing suit. The juxtaposition was not lost on me. When women shop, we often end up in the dreaded fitting room. Nothing offers more coverage than a winter coat and few things are more revealing than a bathing suit.

I tried on a few of both and a familiar chorus played in my head. The negative self-talk. But there was something louder than that. At each fitting room that night, I overhead women making comments about their bodies. “I disgust myself.” “My stomach is gross.” “I need to hide my arms.” “Life was so much better when I was a size six.” “I’m not going to try that on because I’ll just hate myself.” “I put on so much weight this winter I need to find something to make me feel sexy.” “I can’t wear shorts this summer.” “My arms so saggy.” “Look how big my hips are. I’m going to cry.” “I have thunder thighs.”

The Women’s Empowerment Summit was part career fair with about 15 women representing fields from law, environmental field services, human resources interior design, nonprofits and others. Students circulated to learn more about the various professions and the Young Scholars compiled a list of questions for the panel. The afternoon concluded with a balloon launch, which was meant to symbolize the breaking of the glass ceiling.

“I credit the students for their creativity and drive in making the event so meaningful. And I also credit the women who donated their time to act as role models showing the students that they can accomplish their goals and dreams, too, no matter what obstacles arise,” said Myers

Returning to my alma mater also stirred up memories. The impact of my mother, who always stressed the importance of education, the guidance of newspaper advisor and teacher John Doyle, and many other the lessons I learned, and still carry with me.

Not only did I get a dose of nostalgia, Norristown High School still makes me think. I’m still processing Keynote Speaker and History teacher Krista Bolinsky’s words: “When we think of leaders we need to think of our mothers, our grandmothers, our friends, and people who have done things for us that maybe we have never thanked. Maybe we should start thanking them. If this whole event is about empowerment, empowerment starts at home.

The Young Scholars need your help – Due to federal budget cuts, their transportation funding has been terminated. Off-campus trips are essential for students to be exposed to environments that allow them to dream big. Their current campaign is attempting to raise funds for a trip to Princeton University and its Summer Institute. If you have questions or wish to be involved with the Young Scholars Mentor Program, contact Jill Myers jmyers@nasd.k12.pa.us.