Reflections on the First Oregon Girl Up Leadership Summit

Events , Leadership , Supporters in Action

It was the morning of Jan. 24, and I was full of anticipation. I had been working since November to organize the first Girl Up Oregon Leadership Summit, a first-ever coalition meeting of Oregon Girl Up clubs. I had spent the past two months creating a schedule, sending out emails to educators, clubs, and PTAs around Portland, calling media outlets, contacting government representatives, coordinating panelists and speakers, and asking businesses to donate food for the event.

The day had arrived and it was half an hour before attendees would arrive.  I had no idea what to expect.

Ever since I started the first Girl Up club in Oregon in 2013, I focused on starting more clubs in the area. In the two years since then, six clubs have been started in the Portland area. As a Teen Advisor, my goal is to bring these clubs together and make us a powerful coalition for Girl Up.

To date, only three Oregonians beside myself have attended the annual Girl Up Leadership Summit in Washington, DC. I felt so inspired after going to the 2013 and 2014 summits, so I thought to myself, why not bring a mini-summit to Oregon? I organized the day into workshops on advocacy, fundraising and using social media for social good, and put together panels about working ‘on the ground’, issues that girls in America face, and a showcase of other organizations such as CARE, Every Mother Counts, and Girls Inc.

I ended up recruiting eight speakers from different parts of Oregon and Washington to speak at the event.  My club members worked tirelessly to coordinate with local vendors to provide breakfast and lunch for attendees. I sent out a total of 736 emails to teachers to promote the event to their students, and worked with PR representatives to write a press release. By Jan. 24, I felt I had done all that I could, and yet I still didn’t know how the event would turn out.  As the clock ticked closer to 10 a.m. I anxiously awaited arrivals that I feared wouldn’t come.

People slowly started to trickle into the room. Before I knew it, all of the seats were full and there were close to 60 attendees in the room, double what I had expected. We even had a delegation of 10 Brazilians in Portland on an exchange program who were able to attend and lend an international perspective to the event. I was so excited when our State Representative, Ann Lininger, came with her daughter to support the cause and speak about what lobbying really means and the impact that it can have on legislation.

There was one moment of the day that stands out to me. During the lunch hour, we had interactive activities set up for attendees to understand the unique challenges girls around the world face. One of the activities was carrying heavy buckets of water down the hallway. At one point, I saw a small 6th grade American girl carrying a bucket with a tall 12th grade boy from Brazil, working together to learn about the struggles of girls around the world. At that moment, I saw the power that coming together and collaborating can have: it can truly change the world.