Junior-high girls learned they can achieve anything through determination, discipline and avoiding bad choices.
Nearly 100 seventh- and eighth-graders throughout the Westside attended the "Live Your Dream, Girls' Self Esteem" workshop sponsored by Soroptimist International Los Banos. For four hours at Los Banos Junior High School, the girls listened to speakers, exercised and learned about healthy eating and appropriate makeup choices. The girls were also encouraged to pursue their goals in life.
Code Enforcement officer Tammy Allard's message was of overcoming obstacles. Allard lost most of her right arm in a lawnmower accident when she was 12, but never let that keep her from competitive waterskiing. Before she was in her current position, she worked for Los Banos as a jailer.
"I had to learn how to dress myself, I had to learn how to do everything," she said. "I found everything I had to do as a challenge, but life is going to happen with or without you. You just keep on going everytime somebody tells you no, because you can do whatever you want."
Los Banos Police Department Crime Analyst Megan Soares and high school student Shelby Delgado addressed sexting and online bullying and human trafficking.
Soroptimist President Sandy Lemas said she thought it was particularly important to have a speaker adress cyberbullying.
"That's a big issue," she said. "Words can hurt. A lot of people say things you shouldn't say in person, but you should definitely not put them in writing. We want young people to understand how dangerous that can be."
Delgado described a report she did recently on human trafficking. She warned the girls against running away to be with people they don't know. She said there are some men who pretend to be nice but their goal is to have girls do tricks and others that kidnap girls and force them to sell their bodies.
"Before I started researching this, I'd look at a girl who was a prostitute and be like, 'Ew that's kind of disgusting.' I was looking at her as a criminal when she's probably a victim," Delgado said.
Eighth-grader Christianna Chavarria said she enjoyed Allard's speech about overcoming obstacles.
Student Georgina Huerta said she enjoyed zumba. Huerta said it was her first time trying the popular exercise, but she would love to do it again.
Lemas said the event was to teach girls to be comfortable with themselves.
"We want people to take care of themselves and eat healthy and exercise, but we really want young girls to be happy with who they are," Lemas said.