http://danvillesanramon.com/print/story/print/2009/01/16/shes-all-that


DanvilleSanRamon.com

Living - January 16, 2009

'She's All That'

Annual conference offers workshops to help girls and parents navigate middle school

by Geoff Gillette

Middle school can hit a girl like a bomb: Friends become enemies overnight. Fashion, makeup, body image all come under a microscope of harsh, hateful criticism.

How can a young woman cope?

One way is by attending the annual "She's All That" conference. Sponsored by Soroptimist International of San Ramon Valley and the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, the one-day event gives girls an opportunity to hear speakers on a variety of relevant topics.

"Our club was looking for an identifying project five years ago," Soroptimist spokeswoman April Rovero said. "We decided we wanted to go towards middle school girls."

The first conference was held at Iron Horse Middle School where Rovero said they held a round table session with some students. "They gave us a really good feel of what sort of workshops they want to see," Rovero explained.

Workshop leaders were found throughout the area and the school district was quick to sign on as a co-sponsor. Other sponsors include the San Ramon Insurance Agency, the Toth-Sheridan fund and San Ramon Regional Medical Center.

Rovero said the first year went very well and has become a springboard for the following years. "We got a lot of great feedback, both from the girls and from the parents."

For one thing, parents requested that the conference offer classes for them in dealing with a middle school girl. Rovero said they listened to that feedback and last year added parent classes. "In 2008 we had our first parent classes. Seventy-five parents were invited, and they ended up with several parents on the wait list."

The same thing happened to the girls, with each year filling up quickly and new limits being set. Rovero said this year they are going to allow 350 students and 125 adults at the new venue at Gale Ranch Middle School.

As the event has evolved over the years, so have the issues, including some that are becoming more prevalent, such as cyber bullying. "That's a new one this year," Rovero said, "all about the things that are happening online, to understand the dangers, and learn how to cope with them. What to do if someone approaches you online."

The 17 classes include:

* Wanna Dance: to teach dance steps and build confidence

* Dressing brilliantly: choosing clothes that have style, and are tasteful

* What's on the menu: understanding the pitfalls of fast food and encouraging healthy choices

* My body speaks: dealing with body changes and physiological development

* How to win the money game: about saving money and managing finances

* Mean girls: how to deal with gossip, bullying and drama

* Straight talk on boys: how to value yourself in relationships and deal with peer pressure

Parent workshops address how to parent children through these issues. The classes include:

* Teen talk: how to keep them talking to you through these emotional years

* The power within: empowering children to take responsibility for themselves

* Your child online: learning about cyber bullying, the forms it can take, how to recognize it, and the effect it can have

Rovero said that each girl can choose three workshops, and parents will be allowed two. She added that in order for the students to feel more comfortable, the parent workshops will be held in a separate area.

"We try to keep them separate so the girls don't feel the parents are being shoved in on them since this is supposed to be a day for the girls," she explained.

The conference's keynote speaker this year is Sejal Hathi, 17, a senior at Notre Dame High School in San Jose. Hathi is the founder of Girls Helping Girls, a nonprofit organization designed to empower girls to better their communities.

In between the morning and afternoon sessions, participants will have a chance to visit the "Live Your Dream" fair, which will feature information tables staffed by local female community leaders and dignitaries.

Charlotte Wood Middle School seventh-grader Miranda Rebholz attended her first conference last year and said she definitely plans to be back this year. "It was a great experience. It totally boosted my self confidence. I made a ton of friends and it was just a lot of fun," she said. She said she is pleased they have added parent classes and hopes her mom joins her this year.

Rovero said the purpose of the event is to teach girls that middle school can be a time of challenges but also a time of growth and personal expansion.

"We want them to have a positive experience," Rovero said. "What we would want these girls to understand is that one single person can make a difference. To show them that even though they are just one girl they can do amazing things."

Empowering girls

What: "She's All That" conference

Who: Soroptimist International of San Ramon Valley and the San Ramon Valley Unified School District

When: 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 7

Where: Gale Ranch Middle School, San Ramon

Sign up: Students and parents can sign up at www.soroptomist-sr.org or call 355-2442

Cost: $25 before Jan. 15; $30 after Jan. 15

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