SUMMIT, NJ - “Start here and never stop.”
That was the message from Susan King, Dean of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Media and Journalism, to more than 80 women attending “Dessert and Dialogue,” an evening of discourse arranged by Y*Wild, a club at Summit High School that aims to empower high school women in Summit and surrounding areas to become leaders within their communities.
The event, sponsored by the Summit Area YMCA and the Summit High School’s PTO, brought the journalist and public servant to the Hilltop City at the invitation of Y*Wild's founder, Summit High School Senior Sterling Sidebottom.
King chronicled her tireless push to be in the center of the action, from a career in journalism that began in Buffalo and took her to D.C., where she served as White House correspondent for ABC News, to her public service in the U.S. Department of Labor as the assistant secretary for public affairs and as the executive director of the Family and Medical Leave Commission, to her philanthropic leadership as the Carnegie Corporation of New York’s vice president for external affairs, and finally her work as dean at UNC-Chapel Hill School of Media and Journalism.
King emphasized that success for women in these competitive fields requires grit and perseverance, but she book-ended her lecture with a positive message: “Most will tell you ‘no.’ Well, I’m here to say ‘yes'.”
Summit High School senior Emma Osborne, who attended the event, said, “I loved hearing about her career because everyone is so undecided now as a senior. She was truly inspiring.”
After King’s lecture, audience members were invited to ask questions. The conversations ranged from advice on building confidence to society’s role in helping women, especially women of color, reach King’s level of success.
Y*Wild’s founder, Sterling Sidebottom, said, “I’m so excited about all those who came out to hear Dean King and could not have imagined a better evening. I know that the young women in the audience felt as empowered and encouraged as I did after hearing her speak.”
Irina Itriyeva, English teacher at Summit High School and adviser to Y*Wild, shared Sidebottom’s sentiments.
“We couldn’t have asked for a more engaging speaker. King’s positivity and track record is what young women need now to push themselves to new heights. I hope her honesty about finding and pursuing a true passion will resonate with graduating seniors as they enter college.”
At the end of the night, King returned to Y*Wild’s mission of creating more female leaders and left the audience with four tips: Like the public square; be ambitious; be community-focused; and have a vision.
Y*Wild will gift funds generated from the event to five underserved young women, enabling them to attend the Women in the World Summit in New York City in the spring of 2017.