Future female leaders gather for professional development

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Local girls plan their business pitch presentation as part of Michigan Women Forward’s Next Gen Leaders in Grand Rapids. Courtesy Michigan Women Forward

A summer camp aimed at fostering business acumen and potential for high school girls was held last month at Calvin University.

Michigan Women Forward late in July partnered with SuitUp, an organization that educates students on career readiness, to plan Next Gen Leaders, a two-day event where participants experienced what it would be like to solve a realistic corporate challenge, such as creating a new product.

The seminar gave future businesswomen the opportunity to interact with corporate professionals who coached them on marketing, design and financing strategy, as well as professional soft skills.

According to event organizers, the participants worked on team building in a fun, ice-breaker atmosphere with the purpose of fostering friendship, loyalty and teamwork. Part of the skill building involved a collaborative project in which students worked together to create a pitch in the style of the popular TV show, “Shark Tank,” to present to judges for a cash prize.

Attendees also participated in a financial literacy class where they were given tips and strategies to manifest their best financial future.

Participants worked in large groups at first and then were separated into smaller group settings where a “boss babe” panelist guided them through open and honest conversations about life after high school and setting up their future for success.

Healthy relationships, walking boldly in your purpose, living a courageous life and understanding your impact were among the topics discussed. Participants wrapped up the second day with a Q&A discussion.

SuitUp is an international organization “created to equip students for life beyond the classroom by implementing engaging educational competitions in communities across the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.,” according to its website. The organization encourages active learning in career awareness, “not passively listening to professionals at a career day.”

Michigan Women Forward was founded in 1986, at a time when only 3% of philanthropic dollars in the U.S. went to programs for women and girls. Founder Mary Jo Pulte enlisted the help of 30 other women, and together they founded an organization with the purpose of improving the economic and personal well-being of Michigan women and girls.

The 2022 Grand Rapids Next Gen Leaders camp was sponsored by AT&T.

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