Virginia Girls Summit

Illustration by Laura Baker

Illustration by Laura Baker

Tatyana White-Jenkins, Staff Writer

Mason will host a summit to encourage girls in grades 7-12 to follow their dreams and to motivate and connect with one another.

The Virginia Girls Summit will be held on Mason’s campus in November.

“We want to reach out, teach and inspire them to be passionate about who they are, what they want, how they are going to get it and know that they are enough right now,” Project Director Patsy Mangas said. “We want them to know that they don’t have a certain GPA, a certain wardrobe or drive a certain car. They are enough just the way they are.”

Inspired by her own dreams and aspirations, Mangas created the Virginia Girls Summit in order to encourage others to follow their own dreams and see their worth.

“It started because it actually is what I always dreamed about,” Mangas said. “I have always thought that girls are worth more than a number of likes on Instagram, and I felt that no one was spreading that message.”

Mason’s Women and Gender Studies Program is the min sponsor of the summit, and professors, sororities and other groups on campus will help with the girl empowerment event.

“We are going to have different groups of girls there to say how the girls can get involved,” Mangas said. “More than anything we want these girls to connect with each other.”

The daylong event will feature inspirational speakers and empowering activities for the attendees. The first speaker will be “The Voice” season 5 contestant Matthew Schueler, who will share his moving story, perform a few songs and hold a question and answer session. Misty Copeland, a ballet dancer at the American Ballet Theatre in New York City and the third African American female soloist, will share her story and hold a short performance.

After recently helping girls in the area, Mangas was inspired to encourage girls to follow their dreams.

“I helped some focus groups around our area and one thing I walked away with is how much pressure these girls are feeling to be perfect, to get the perfect grades and to get into the right school,” Mangas said. “There is so much pressure to be perfect and girls end up not following their dreams. They are following other people’s dreams.”

Mason students Rodrigo Velasquez and Laura Freeman are helping out with the summit to help promote girl empowerment.

“It seemed like a great event that could reach a lot of young girls, so I was more than happy to get involved,” Freeman said. “Any event that promotes girls to be driven, hardworking and proud of who they are is important to me.”

Velasquez  believes empowering girls will positively impact the world as a whole.

“This summit is so important because empowering young girls is a powerful way to make a positive change in this world,” Velasquez said. “I see it through my friends, family and peers: empowering females is empowering the world to be a better place.”