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U of U Program Empowering the Lives of Black High School Girls with Innovative Leadership Conference

Feb. 14, 2007 — “Empowering Black Girls to Live Their Legacy” is the theme of a new leadership conference for Black teenage girls. The conference will be held Friday, February 16 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the A. Ray Olpin Union, Panorama East Room, on the University of Utah campus. The conference is designed to support Black high school girls by providing positive interaction with Black women mentors in ways that promote academic, career, and physical well-being success. The conference is part of the larger project “Mentors Matter: Equipping Black High School Girls for College Success.” According to Dr. Lynette Danley Land, Mentors Matter Project Coordinator, “Black girls are greater than their circumstances, and by honoring their voice and bodies, proactive education, conscious career exploration, compassion for their communities and respect for their ancestry, they are empowered to live their legacy.”

Research has proven that if intervention byway of mentoring, job shadowing, and college or career preparation is given early on, opportunities for Black girls to achieve their goals are significantly increased. In the state of Utah the Black population is significantly smaller than other race and ethnic groups, particularly White/European Americans, making it even more critical to provide academic and social support for Black girls. The conference will provide workshops on college preparation, healthy relationships, self-esteem/body image; ways to build allies to better navigate high school and cultural activities. Conference planners believe the Mentors Matter conference will significantly impact the lives of Black high school girls because they are participating in a program that, through mentor coupling, will give them instant, and tangible involvement with accomplished Black women as role models. Black women in various leadership roles at the University of Utah, as well as business and professional women in Salt Lake County communities will participate as mentors.

Dr. Joyce M. Gray, Educational Consultant, and graduate of the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies Program at the University of Utah, will give the conference keynote address. “I believe that there is something special in every human being and that awakening that special uniqueness is a critical key to the future success of every young woman that is a part of the Mentors Matter program,” said Dr. Gray. An experienced educator and administrator, Dr. Gray taught middle school for many years and served as the principal of West High for seven years.

Miss Black Utah USA, Sara R. Hogan, will make a special appearance at the conference. Her platform is Children and Literacy. Miss Hogan is a former University of Utah undergraduate (2005) where she earned a Bachelors of Science in Health Promotion and Education, with a minor in Chemistry. Miss Hogan was also the first African-American in the history of the University of Utah to be elected as the Senior Class President of the Associated Students of the University of Utah (ASUU). She is currently a Masters of Science Health Science Candidate at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. When asked what she thought of the Mentors Matters program, she said, “I love it, and wish it existed when I was growing up.”

Young women registered to attend the conference echo the need for a place where Black high school students can gather and learn from mentors. “The Mentors Matter program helps Black girls think about college. Having Black role models makes you feel that you can do the same thing” says Zoe Johnson. Shiann T. Sanchez, agrees, “It is very important because being in a predominantly White school the few Blacks and mixed racial students sometimes can not be comfortable with some of the stuff that they are going through because they are less of the population at their school.” Karen Klc, Scholarship Coordinator at Highland High, notices the impact the program is making, “I see the change in the girls in the short time that Dr. Land has been involved with them. They are recognizing who they are and their heritage.”

Educator Myra Spencer notes, “We’ve had a seventy percent turn-around regarding their participation. The Mentors Matter program connects with them. I’m in awe.”

The R. Harold Burton Foundation is a sponsor of the Mentors Matter project. Other sponsors include: The Department of Educational Leadership & Policy, The Ethnic Studies Program, and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., at the University of Utah. For more information about the conference and the Mentors Matter program visit: