March 23, 2010
10-051

Kate Elliot
Communications Specialist

A Summit For and About Girls

VALDOSTA -- More than 100 area middle school girls are expected attend the 13th annual American Association of University Women (AAUW) Sister-to-Sister Summit from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 27, at the VSU University Center. Workshops, plays and featured speakers throughout the day will address topics such as Internet safety, body image, violence and healthy choices.

Dr. Martha Leake, AAUW Valdosta branch president, said the region adopted the Sister-to-Sister initiative 13 years ago to address the negative images and pressures young girls face both in and out of the classroom. Small group workshops will identify ways for girls to “strengthen their voices” and cope with negative self image. Tours of campus are meant to excite the impressionable teenagers about higher education, particularly math and the sciences. Featured speaker Nikki Forman, media coordinator for the city of Valdosta, will celebrate womanhood and encourage the girls to strive for greatness.

“We feel is it imperative to listen to girls in middle school,” said Leake, a professor in the Department of Physics, Astronomy and Geosciences. “It is at this point that their self-esteem is being challenged, they are faced with stresses that we may not have dealt with, and they need first a sounding board and secondly guidance for action from an adult; we hope that they take away from this day fond memories of fun and fellowship, and some successful, positive strategies for coping with the stresses they face.”

The event will begin with an opening session that features a performance by To Be Named Later, VSU's improvisational troupe. Girls will then break into small sessions to hear the “I am Beautiful” presentation, based on the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. Only 2 percent of women define themselves as beautiful -- a truth Leake and other AAUW members hope to combat. After a complimentary lunch, girls will engage in sessions about Internet safety social networking smarts. VSU tours of the planetarium and other VSU buildings will follow a keynote speech by Forman, a 2008 VSU graduate, who previously worked as an anchor and producer for the Columbus Consolidated Government Access Channel. Participants will receive free T-shirts and other gifts to remember the weekend’s messages.

Since 1881, the AAUW has been the nation's leading voice promoting education and equity for women and girls. The nationwide network of nearly 100,000 members and 500 college/university institution partners lobbies for critical social issues that involve education, sex discrimination, civil rights, affirmative action, Title IX, family and medical leave, and health care reform.

For more information about the Sister-to-Sister summit, call Leake at 229-333-5756 or event chair Rozelle Slaymon, director of the College of Business Student Advising Center, at 229-249-2623 or e-mail her at rslaymon@valdosta.edu.