Girl power took over the Hyatt Regency Sarasota this past Friday, March 15, as SRQ Media Group hosted its annual SMARTgirl Luncheon, inviting students from area schools and young women from local organizations like Girls Inc., the Girl Scouts, the YMCA and the Boys & Girls Clubs to meet and engage with volunteer mentors from organizations and businesses all across the region, for a day of women empowering women.
The half-day program began with attendees choosing which three mentors they would be spending the first part of the day with in the Dream Career Incubator. Nearly 30 volunteer mentors came from a wide range of professions, including Leymis Bolanos Wilmott of Sarasota Contemporary Dance and The Players’ Morgan Gerhart, Paige LeMay of Coastal Orthopedics and Jeannie Perales from Selby Gardens, entrepreneurs like Lee-En Chung of Ivy Ventures and nonprofit leaders like Kameron Hodgens of the Glasser/Schoenbaum Human Services Center. “They are here today because they believe in the power of girls working together,” said SRQ Media CEO Lisl Liang. “They believe in you and in your dreams.”
And after a pair of workshops to flex attendees’ creative muscles and break the ice at the same time, the SMARTgirls entered the next room for a set of rotating mini-workshops, spending the next hour hopping from table to table to meet with their mentors and learn about the possibilities ahead of them.
It wouldn’t be a luncheon with lunch, and it wouldn’t be a SMARTgirl luncheon without inspiring speakers. While the mentors and mentees recharged and refilled, they heard from supporting sponsors like Mark Smith of The Ringling Museum and Roxie Jerde of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. “I’m looking at a room of young leaders,” said Jerde. “Everyone in this room has the potential to impact a cause, another person and our community.” Britney Guertin of Visit Sarasota County took the podium next, further encouraging the young women of the audience to take their futures into their hands. “It’s not just about finding your career,” she said, “it’s about finding your passion.”
The luncheon ended with a special presentation from Bradenton’s own Blair Bloomston of Game On Nation, where she is considered a leading expert on the use of Game Dynamics and Game Theory to improve communications and team-building. With a focus on anti-bullying, she led the assembly through an interactive workshop, before reminding each in attendance of their own power, and responsibility, to be a leader in their community. “If you can see one,” Bloomston said, “you can be one.”