None of the 125 teen girls raised her hand when keynote speaker Erin Brennen asked questions about improving self-esteem at the start of the annual Dream It Be It Conference on Saturday.
“None of you are ready to make a mistake,” said Brennen, a motivational speaker from Los Banos who told the seventh and eighth-grade girls it has taken her 10 years to “start to like myself.”
But at the conference, many girls, including 14-year-old Michelle Lopez, used the morale-boosting activities and the chance at introspection to change their attitude, becoming more vocal as the day went on.
“It’s about confidence and knowing yourself,” said Michelle, an eighth-grader at Creekside Junior High School. “I learned I’m not as shy. I have more confidence.”
The conference at Los Banos Junior High School was the fifth annual Dream It Be It event held by Soroptimist International of Los Banos. While Dream It Be It is a pillar of the global organization, Los Banos puts on its own unique event every year, local President Susan Young said.
“It’s traditionally done at the high school level,” Young said. “But we did some research and we found that if it’s done at the junior high level, it has a greater impact on the girls.”
Saturday’s conference featured Brennen as a keynote speaker. The girls were put in four groups, rotating at different workshops across the campus teaching them different life and confidence-boosting skills.
Brennen told the girls that as they figure out who they are, they should tune out the voices of their classmates, teachers and even parents.
“Listen to yourself,” she said, explaining that it was each girl’s individual perception of herself that mattered most.
After Brennen’s address, the girls broke into four groups and alternated between the workshops: self defense and health, creating story boards, writing down and discussing their own traits, and cyber-bullying and social media.
Jill Posey helped the girls make story boards in which they decorated and posted aspects of their lives.
Brennen talked with the girls about how they view themselves, encouraging them to “be the author of your own life,” and write down how they view their own personality and traits.
Los Banos school district trustee and former cyber analyst Megan Goin-Soares talked to the girls about the importance of not giving out passwords and important information, the impact of social media on college and job prospects, and how to block bullies from social media.
At the self-defense and health workshop, personal trainer and Marine Corps combat veteran Roxana Contreras taught the girls about nutrition, exercise and self-defense techniques, such as punching, wrist sweeps and deflections.
Kayla Velazquez, a 12-year-old seventh-grader from Los Banos Junior High, said her favorite part of the self-defense class was learning about water intake and nutrition.
“We’re young, so it’s important for us to stay healthy and keep our weight down,” she said.
Velasquez said that while she hopes she doesn’t need to use the self-defense techniques, it was good to know them just in case something happens.
The girls took a break between the first and second workshop, eating lunch and playing with a “photo fun” area.
After the workshops, they completed evaluations of the event and were awarded certificates and raffle prizes.
Young said the conference is one of the most important events for the Los Banos Soroptimists.
“We just want them to live by their own dreams,” she said.
Vikaas Shanker: 209-826-3831, ext. 6562