Leadership Summit Encourages Paterson Teen Girls to Dream Bigger


PATERSON, NJ – Oasis, A Haven for Women and Children, a non-profit social service agency in Paterson that focuses on empowering women and children to break the cycle of poverty, hosted their third annual Teen Girls Leadership and Success Summit on Saturday, October 21.

The event, attended by over 60 teenage girls from all six wards of Paterson, was first launched at the request of members of Oasis’ Teen Empowerment and Enrichment Network who, according to Jennifer Brady, executive director, had asked for opportunities to hear from highly successful women in their community. 

The event, Brady said, “has evolved into a unique opportunity for young women in Paterson to learn about various career paths as well as be inspired by women groundbreakers in their fields.”

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Following a college and career fair, with tables from William Paterson University, Berkeley College, Passaic County Community College, and Sisters in the Brotherhood (a component of United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America), attendees heard from a series of speakers working in government and politics as well as the military and law enforcement, and a number of other fields.

 Starting off the event Joanna Gagis, a board member with Oasis and television host, encouraged speakers and panelists to share their experiences of leadership and words of advice for young women starting out on their journeys.

Former New Jersey General Assembly Speaker, and current candidate for Lieutenant Governor, Sheila Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic) encouraged attendees to surround themselves with the right people and urged them not to “let anyone interfere with (their) vision of success.”

These words, according to Fatema Begum, 15, were especially meaningful allowing her to leave the conference more determined to have the “right friends for the right future.” Begum, who aspires to become a registered nurse, believes that following the encouragement of all of the speakers she is now motivated to “think more about school” and find ways to “choose the right paths.”

Other speakers throughout the day included Linda Hicks, a Paterson native whose efforts help local athletes turn professional; Haledon Councilwoman Tahsina Ahmed, the first female of Bangladeshi descent to serve in public office in the United States; and Passaic County Assistant Prosecutor Anneris Hernandez.

Attending her third summit Marzana Akhtar, 15, shared that she again was inspired and more prepared to achieve her goal of entering a career in law enforcement. Reflecting on the entirety of the program, and the success of the speakers that participated, Akhtar said simply, “if they can do it, I can do it.”

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