Sixty rising high school juniors and seniors from eight states learned this week about how Spartanburg gives back through a leadership conference at Converse College.
Led by Converse staff and students, the girls visited the Bethlehem Center, SAFE Homes-Rape Crisis Coalition, St. Luke’s Free Medical Clinic, Carolina Pregnancy Center, Family Resource Center and Westgate Family Therapy in Spartanburg Tuesday.
“It’s exciting to be around these women who are leaders.”
The Bethlehem Center’s Denise Taylor gave conference participants a history of the center and talked about how the center serves the community through activities for seniors, after school programs for children and food assistance. The group brought canned food donations, and Taylor showed them how to check the expiration dates and stock the food pantry’s shelves. She encouraged them to go back to their own communities and find ways to help, or, if they decide to attend Converse, volunteer at the Bethlehem Center.
“We can always use students to assist with the after-school programs,” Taylor said. “You can never have too many eyes, ears or hands.”
Conference participants attended a workshop led by Converse President Betsy Fleming. They also heard from Mary Thomas, COO of Spartanburg County Foundation; Joanie Williams, Spartanburg School District 2 social worker and former mental health counselor/hospice counselor; Abby Minihan, the University of South Carolina Upstate women’s soccer coach; Prema Samhat, wife of Wofford College President Nayef H. Samhat; Eboni Nelson, USC law school professor; and Jennifer Evins, Chapman Cultural Center President and CEO.
The conference is free, and the girls stay on campus at Converse. Of the 140 girls who applied, 60 were accepted into the program this year, including Stephanie Sanchez, of Eatonton, Ga.
Sanchez said she’s enjoyed the team-building exercises and was inspired by both the women and other students she met at the conference. She recommends the program to other female students, and hopes to use some of the skills she’s learned at the conference to step up into leadership roles in the JROTC at her high school.
“There’s the misconception that males are born to lead,” Sanchez said. “We’re here to prove that wrong. It’s exciting to be around these women who are leaders.”
This article was written by Jenny Arnold of the Spartanburg Herald-Journal.