PATERSON, NJ – At about 8 am on a warm Saturday morning, dozens of city students filed into International High School. All of them were young women from grades five through 12 who were attending the Valerie M Dade “Girl’s Leadership Summit” sponsored by Paterson Public Schools and Commissioner Kenneth Simmons.
“We need someone to influence us in a good way, so that we could do good things,” said 15-year old Ieasha Brown. “The Summit shows how much other people care about what our future is like.”
The event, on October 8, was named in honor of Dade, a Paterson teacher for 38 years who also had been active in the community.
In the auditorium, the young and women and parents listen to some opening remarks by Mayor Jeffrey Jones and School Board President Willa Mae Taylor. Also, author and motivational speaker Yvonne Harvey Williams, who was raised in Paterson, spoke about overcoming obstacles and hardship and how important it is for young women to set goals and become leaders.
“The Girl’s Leadership Summit shows girls like us that we have opportunities to succeed in life,” said Nyasia Warren, 15. “The speeches touched me, I almost cried.”
After the greetings, the girls were split into groups; elementary and high school. They then attended various workshops conducted people from different career backgrounds. There were judges, police woman, insurance agents, attorneys, and teachers.
When the workshops were completed, the girls gathered back into the auditorium to listen to the closing remarks.
“Events like this help young people come together and learn about hardships and themselves. It makes them look forward to becoming a leader,” said Taylor.
As the girls left the building, the inspiration from the morning’s event seemed to shine from their faces.
“I took away that we shouldn’t let anything distract us from our goals in life, whether it’s what’s surrounding us, our own self doubt, or any kind of negativity,” said Pricilla Cordero, 17.