Young women of color “Converge” for leadership conference

HAMDEN, Conn. (WTNH) – On the Quinnipiac University campus today, a group of young women is meeting, talking about how to be the leaders of tomorrow. It’s called “Converge 2016,” and it is a student leadership conference for young women of color.

It started out with fun and music, but this conference is designed to tackle the serious issues of what might be holding back young women of color.

“We’re going to be asking those questions about those challenges,” explained Dave Maloney, the Assistant Executive Director of the Connecticut Association of Schools, the group in charge of the conference. “About the issues they’re facing, how we can best wrap resources around them, support them and help them on this journey.”

Among those challenges, are things we all see in the news.

“Innocent killings of mostly black men,” said Bulkely High School Senior Grace Graham. “Even though we’re black women, we do have a voice in this and we can make a change in the communities.”

The Association of Schools held a similar conference for young men of color last year. Farmington High School took part in that, too. Open Choice Coordinator Lauren Allen-Jones was there for that, and is back again with the girls.

“Hearing from other people that looked like them was really inspirational to them,” said Allen-Jones. “They felt very motivated when they left.”

Young women face difference challenges than young men. Keynote speaker Janice Castle addressed that. She is the newly-appointed Director of Community Outreach for the City of Hartford. She recalled what it was like for her, coming to Connecticut as a young girl from Grenada.

“I questioned how I looked, the color of my skin, was I smart enough? Was I pretty enough?” Castle remembered.

According to a recent White House forum, young women of color are more likely than white students to: get suspended, get arrested. get pregnant, have financial troubles at home, go into a field other than science, technology, engineering and math. The women at the Converge conference hope to be the exceptions. Women such as Weaver High School senior Tonya Gray.

“I’m planning on going to a 4 year college to study biology, and I think in such a competitive field, leadership skills are very important,” Gray explained.

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