Marin Teen Girl Conference aims to empower

Keely Jenkins

On Saturday, 195 female teens from Marin shuffled into Bernard Hoffman Elementary school auditorium to listen to keynote speaker Cammy Nelson explain the importance of incorporating small acts of bravery into daily life.

“I always like to say that bravery can be big or small, and that just thinking that bravery is about doing something huge in your first try,” Nelson said.

The speech was the beginning of the 6 ½ hour Marin Teen Girl Conference dedicated to empowering teenage girls in Marin to “be their own superhero.”

The program consisted of a keynote speaker and a variety of workshops, all of which were selected and planned by teen girls from the organization.

The event involved teens from grade eight through grade 12, and the goal of the event was to create a community of teenage girls who are knowledgeable about themselves and their potential.

POSING WITH THEIR keynote speaker, ambassadors from the Marin Teen Girl Conference prepare for a day of empowering other girls to “be their own superhero.”
Posing with their keynote speaker, ambassadors from the Marin Teen Girl Conference prepare for a day of empowering other girls to “be their own superhero.”

Aside from the keynote speaker, girls attended three workshops titled “Fight Back: Preventing Sexual Assault with Self Defense” to “Credit or Debit? Money Smarts for the Real World” to “Easier Said Than Done: Self Advocacy & Healthy Relationships.”

“It’s a place to realize that you’re not alone,” said Kris Cirby, a cofounder of the event who serves on the Marin Women’s Commission. “Girls can see that they’re not by themselves in the issues they are facing and know that and get tools to help them in their community and help them to be more confident as they go out in the world.”

Sophomore Natalie Zachariou attended the program in eighth grade and returned this year as an ambassador to help design the conference.

“I went to something about building confidence, and in middle school I was kind of shy––I still kind of am––but I know that it really helped me build confidence and get more comfortable with who I am,” Zachariou said. “It’s about being who you are and not really caring about what other people think.”

Zachariou is one of 35 ambassadors who had input in designing the conference. Although presented by the Marin Women’s Commission, the speaker and workshops were chosen by teen girls who live in Marin.

Cirby said that attendees are able to control their experience since they have the ability to swap in and out of workshops once they are at the conference.

“If their parent registers them, they register for specific workshops, and when they come [to the conference] they [can] swap-out their tickets for the workshops they really want to go to,” Cirby said.

The event was created six years ago when the founders realized there was a lack of programs available to female teenagers, according to Cirby. During a focus group that questioned teen girls about the issues they were facing, it was revealed that a girl’s friends had called her a slut, according to Cirby.   

“That started a dialogue about how even someone who is supposed to be your best friend may not always treat you with the respect that you deserve,” Cirby said. “That was one of the instigators for the conference.”

Nelson, who travels the country to speak about bravery, was impressed with the conference and recognized the importance of the message.

“We’re taught to think about ourselves in very limited ways––about our appearance, about our presence with other people and how we look,” Nelson said.

“If we change that thinking to, ‘How are you challenging yourself? What are you doing to step outside your comfort zone? What dream are you following?’—it changes everything. Your self esteem is suddenly yours. It’s what you can do, not what everyone else thinks.”