“Be Empowered by Those Who Have Been Empowered.”

Hershey All Things Diversity opened the 2018-2019 series to a full house with a message from Sharice Johnson, Senior Division, Student Programs Leader, Milton Hershey School.

Johnson defined what being an empowered woman means to her. She said, “An empowered woman is someone who knows her strengths and isn’t afraid to embrace them. To be empowered means to be in control of your life and aware of your capabilities to take on your biggest dreams.”

She presented four methods for women to become empowered. The first method is Purpose. She discussed the importance of developing skills and obtaining an education. She encourages women to “Find your spark.” She explained, “It is a process and takes time, but what you are passionate about is your spark. Your spark gives you energy, joy, and purpose.” Johnson’s spark is mentoring. She said, “I love the vision and the purpose of Milton Hershey School.”

Modeling plays a major role in helping girls to grow to become empowered women. “Youth are always watching. Be a positive role model. People learn by watching others and they imitate what they see. Empower others by showing them how to do things the right way,” she encourages.

Johnson urged the audience to use your Voice. She told them, “You are an equal.” She believes that we should use our voice to express our opinions. She said, “Using your voice can affect change and eliminate barriers.”

We can empower by serving as a Mentor. “Teach, inspire, motivate. Mentoring promotes positive social relationships,” Johnson explained. A mentor can serve as a support system, a role that the Young Women’s Alliance Club, that was created by Johnson, fills for female students at Milton Hershey School. The club meets once a week for two hours to provide a place where the students can feel safe and share their feelings and talk about their challenges. She said, “The girls look forward to it and they develop into strong young ladies.”

This year, October will mark the third year of Girls Grace, an overnight conference for 200 Milton Hershey School female students, which was a dream that became a reality for Johnson. Attendees are provided with the opportunity to attend four of 16 workshops offered at the conference.

Milton Hershey School students I’yonna Jones, Nashaya Goodman, Diana Creech, and Najiyyah Pendleton, shared their experiences participating in the Young Women’s Alliance Club and Girls Grace and what it has meant to them.

I’yonna said, “Girls Grace taught me I am and will be something.”  I’ve seen my friends grow and they have seen me grow and that’s how we empower one another,” added Nashaya”

“Young Women’s Alliance Club taught me to embrace who I am and to become more confident,” said Diana. Najiyyah said, “Young Women’s Alliance Club taught me I mattered and to keep your standards high.”

When Johnson opened the floor to questions from the audience, Rebecca Thatcher-Murcia introduced herself and then introduce Rebecca McCarty, a Milton Hershey School student who was sitting beside her to talk about Girls Grace. Leading up to the audience’s questions, student Rebecca was so excited about Girls Grace that she had to share how she felt about it with Rebecca.

The students who have had the fortune to participate in the Young Women’s Alliance Club and Girls Grace who were in attendance brought an energy to the room and exuded confidence, happiness, and an appreciation for what Johnson’s leadership and mentoring programs have given to them.

Johnson closed with, “Be empowered by those who have been empowered. Empowerment programs empower girls. Pass it on! I challenge you all to empower others.”

The Hershey All Things Diversity session are a collaborative effort by the Township of Derry, Downtown Hershey Association, Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, The Hershey Company, Hershey Entertainment & Resorts, and The Derry Township School District. The events are free to the public and include a light dinner. Registration is required.

The next session will feature Dr. Paul Haidet who will present on the topic of unconscious bias on November 14. Unconscious biases are social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside of their own conscious awareness.

Click here for more information on the event, and to register.