The 11th annual Young Women's Conference My Journey, My Voice: Empowering Young Women took place December 4, 2014 at the St. John Neumann Pastoral & Conference Center at The Diocese of Metuchen headquarters located in Piscataway.
The conference, targeted towards Middlesex County high school female students, is sponsored by the NCADD of Middlesex County, Inc. and the Coalition for Healthy Communities with funding for provided by: Drug-Free Communities Support Program grant of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in collaboration with the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Additional funding was provided by the Middlesex County Office of Human Services - Municipal Alliance Program and the Governor's Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.
A total of 14 Middlesex County high schools and 125 young women and educators participated at this year's event. The Conference hosted six diverse workshops where girls were able to interactively participate with workshop presenters and peers, thus impacting knowledge in the school environments as well.
Student workshops included:
- Understanding Development, Boundaries, & Self-Care – Presented by Veronica R. Barrios, MA, Doctoral Research Assistant and Fellow from Family and Child Studies Department at Montclair State University. This workshop focused on how individual development and boundaries are tied together as well as how each person plays a role in her own life's optimization, and why self-care is essential to success in life. (delete space)
- Act Like A Lady...Questioning Media - Presented by Jennifer Kurdyla, Prevention Coordinator at Middlesex County Center for Empowerment. Ms. Kurdyla's presentation provided a review of some media examples where women are stereotyped, an activity that incorporated a "gender box" enabling students to focus on focusing on femininity, and a discussion on what can be done to challenge society's expectations and pressures of women.
- Girls Against Drugs – Presented by Tzivia Cooper and Alina Simanovskaya, School Psychology Doctoral Students/clinicians at Women Helping Women in Piscataway. Their presentation focused on the addictive nature of drugs, the dangers of substance abuse, and the importance of refusal skills
- My Voice in Relationships – Presented by Laura Fenster-Rothschild, Director of Education and Training at Rutgers Center of Alcohol Studies.
- Know Your Leadership Style – Presented by Amanda Whelan, Program Coordinator at Rutgers University's New Jersey Health Care Talent Network. Her presentation focused on enabling students to learn about leadership style and how one's leadership style affects relationships in teams, systems and communities. The presentation also taught students how to use this knowledge to benefit personal and professional lives.
- Effective Ways to Manage Stress – Presented by Dr. Angelle E. Richardson, LPC, Couple and Family Therapist at Extended Hearts Family Therapy in Philadelphia. The workshop provided students with an opportunity to learn the difference between good and bad stress, how to use mindfulness techniques to combat stress, and how to develop a stress management plan
Steve Liga, Executive Director and CEO at NCADD-Middlesex delivered an interactive workshop for school faculty attending the conference. Information covered included national substance use trends, including tobacco, alcohol, marijuana and prescription. He covered additional synthetic substances being abused as well as new ways of using substances including e-cigarettes and vaporizing alcohol. He also comparison of Middlesex County observed trends with national data and stressed the importance of protective factors, including school participation and academic success.
As in all previous Young Women Conferences, NCADD's own Acts of Prevention TM troupe presented a moving performance of "Cool Kids". This presentation addressed the timely topic of bullying from the perspectives of the bully, the students being bullied and the bystanders. Through an engaging combination of spoken word, music and dance students received important messages that left a lasting impact.
At the end of each year's conference, students are asked to go back to their schools and use what they learned at the conference to make a difference in their schools. This year students were asked to implement "Mean Stinks". "Mean Stinks" is a campaign developed by Procter & Gamble's Secret Deodorant and Antiperspirant to end girl-to girl-bullying. Attending students were given an outline that enables them to choose different pieces of the campaign which they can then implement in their own schools, or they can go to the "Mean Stinks" web site and their Facebook page to download tips and tools meant to help stop girl-to-girl bullying or just bullying in general. The program provides fun challenges, tips and tools to help young women learn ways to prevent bullying
As in previous years, the event featured several exhibitors who shared information with attendees. These exhibitors included: Central Jersey Family Health Consortium, County of Middlesex Office of Health Services, Middlesex County Center for Empowerment, NCADD of Middlesex County, Inc. NJ Healthcare Talent Network, Rutgers University SNAP-Ed/EFNEP/Nutrition , St. Peter's University Hospital Community Mobile Health, and Summit Oaks Hospital.
Pictured are some of the over 125 young women who attended the 11th Annual Young Women's Conference held December 4, 2014 at the St. John Neumann Pastoral & Conference Center at The Diocese of Metuchen headquarters located in Piscataway.