By Joyce LEE
een girls in the Crescenta Valley community had the opportunity of being the attendees of the first ever Teen Girl Empowerment Day, which was held on May 10 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Fire House youth center on the property of St. Luke’s of the Mountains. The event, aimed to mentor young women, was hosted by Brandi Milloy, a philanthropist and host of “Pop Sugar.” There were also guest speakers and volunteers to help and sponsors included Prom Plus, Crescenta Valley Weekly, Sheer Cover, Atta Girl, Kim&Zozi and OPI.
“I credit who I am today to the women I surrounded myself with: the coaches, teachers, and mentors. I wanted to give back the same experience for teen girls because everyone needs a strong support system,” Milloy said.
The event was scheduled as a day full of workshops for the girls to interact with experienced women from diverse careers and backgrounds. The day started off with a self-defense session by Jennifer Cassetta, the founder of the Stilettos and Self Defense Workshop, dedicated to teach girls how to protect themselves by bringing out the “inner feline beasts.” After practicing a few tricks of self-defense, such as yelling, kicking and clawing, the girls learned three valuable lessons: awareness, boundaries and communication.
“My experience of being attacked on the sidewalk one night and defeating my attacker with my pair of stilettos, voice and body language inspired me to teach women how to stand up for themselves. We all have the ability to defend ourselves and become powerful women in the world. My motto is: strong, safe and sexy,” Cassetta said.
Meryl Pritchard, a holistic nutritionist and wellness expert, shared her story on how to live a healthy and happy lifestyle. She explained to the teens the importance of loving themselves, accepting their flaws and uniqueness, learning how to forgive, and defeating obstacles. After talking about her own experiences, she demonstrated how to create a green (and delicious) fruit and vegetable blended juice.
“I had a phase in my life where I struggled with my own body image and weight,” Pritchard said. “After healing myself, I decided to spread the message of hope so fellow women can feel as comfortable with themselves as I do today. We are gifted with only one body and we need to know how to love and nourish it. If you’re healthy, then you can achieve anything.”
Kasia Bohos, a make up artist from Atta Girl Inc., held a beauty session, teaching girls both the technical skills and deeper meaning of make up. After encouraging the girls to embrace their face and features, Bohos shared her theme of learning to accept yourself for who you are.
“I consider make up as a form of self-expression. I want the girls to know how to utilize this freedom of self-expression to make themselves look and feel pretty, both on the outside and inside,” Bohos said.
Perhaps the time of the most self-reflection was the session in which the attendees created their own inspirational boards. Led by volunteers Rachel Irig and Erica Mesirov, the girls flipped through a vast array of magazines and cut out words and images that reflected their goals. By expressing their individual interests, the girls created creative pieces of art to inspire themselves.
“I volunteered to help lead the inspirational board workshop because I want to change the world for women,” Irig said. “We have the tools to create an equal society, but we need to first understand how to best use them. This process starts from being able to figure out our true identities.”
Other workshops included fashion, nail art DIY and yoga. The common thread among the various workshops was the emphasis on women supporting each other. The teen girls who attended expressed their contentment with the day.
“I was able to better understand the importance of staying close with fellow women in my life to attain my goals and happiness,” Elizabeth Szulc said.
“I want to remind women to not let your past determine your future. Many of us think that because we look a certain way, or because our family only works in this field, we are limited in what we can achieve in our lives, but these are all lies,” Milloy said. “Women can achieve anything with the support of one another.”