The annual Marin Teen Girl Conference (MTGC) was held at the Embassy Suites Hotel in San Rafael on March 7. The conference, which has taken place each year since March 2011, seeks to provide learning and guidance opportunities for Marin County girls in 8th through 12th grade through a series of workshops, presentations, and interactive lectures. These activities cover a wide range of relevant topics including mental and physical health, relationships with friends and family, body image, sex, and even self defense.
The MTGC is headed by the Marin Women’s Commission, which after a series of focus groups and surveys, saw a need for an event where teen girls could come together to learn, grow, and share their feelings in a safe environment. Each year, the conference is planned by 25-30 student ambassadors from schools throughout Marin County in addition to members of the Commission. These ambassadors are selected from the conference’s pool of previous attendees, and are an integral part of selecting keynote speakers, planning the event, and more.
Tam senior Linh Huynh, who has been an ambassador for the MTGC for four years, believes the conference can be a strong force for positive change.
“Over the years, I have seen girls who, before the conference, looked very insecure and did not feel they have a place in life,” Huynh said. “But after the conference, I noticed they got something out of the event and started to gain a lot more confidence in themselves. The conference …[is] a stepping stone to hopefully guide girls into a better path in life.”
This year’s conference included a presentation from Alexis Jones, founder of the “I Am That Girl” campaign, as well as a workshop titled “#GirlsCode” focusing on women in the technology industry. These experiences offer life skills that the conference attendees may not get as often, if at all, within a classroom environment.
“We offer workshop topics that go beyond what the girls learn in school,” said Kris Cirby, a member of the 2015 Marin Teen Girl Steering Committee. “If we have presenters that often speak at the local schools, we ask them to make the presentation different. The girls are very vocal in the evaluations if the workshop is similar to what they heard in school. Also, [the attendees] are in a safe ‘all girl’ environment. No boys and no parents, so they are more open to sharing their feelings.”
The MTGC has garnered an average of 200-250 attendees from schools across the county. “Our dream would be to have 300 girls,” Cirby said. “That would be a sell out.”
The Marin Women’s Committee offers scholarships so that girls who are interested, no matter what their socioeconomic background, can attend the conference. The conference, which ran from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., provided attendees with breakfast and lunch, as well as a complimentary goodie bag.
“I believe that the most vulnerable years in a girl’s life are their teenage years,” Huynh said. “From trying to fit in, knowing what you want to do in college, finding out who your friends are, being introduced to sex, drugs, and alcohol, dealing with family, romantic relationships. These things are a lot to take in all at the same time, and I feel that the Marin Teen Girl Conference is a great way to help with that.”