“It’s Go Time” SMARTgirl Class of 2017, April 14


SMARTgirl Class of 2017. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan

On April 14, SRQ Media hosted its inaugural SMARTgirl Leadership and Mentorship Summit at the Hyatt Regency engaging 84 girls from the Boys and Girls Club of Sarasota County, Girls Inc., Girl Scouts of Gulf Coast Florida and the Sarasota YMCA with 23 mentors representing our region’s many diverse industries such as engineering and software development to law enforcement, photography and medicine. The luncheon consisted of a curated mentoring program aimed to engage the young women in soft skills training, mentorship and career imaginings.


Students from Girl Scouts Gulfcoast Florida participate in coding activity. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan

The summit kicked off with interactive workshops including Brand You, highlighting personal branding and goal marketing,  SMART Inc. Pitch Workshop for budding entrepreneurs, Bright Side Communications Workshop for positive and effective communication in challenging situations and Reverse Interview Workshop designed to provide insight about each mentor’s career path. 


Mentor, Joy Randels listens to girls proposing a business idea at the SMART Inc. Pitch workshop. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan

In between workshops and the luncheon, participants formed teams based on their chosen superpower preferences and collaborated with girls from other groups to develop a name, logo and mission as a team.  The result?  Strategic teamwork, analysis and amazing artwork.  The girls also participated in a Coding Workshop in which they chose the look, name and slogan for the 2017 SMARTgirl Superhero presented at the end of the luncheon. The girls fittingly chose the charge “Its GO Time!


Girls form a superpower group to create team logo, name and mission. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan

Between bites of decadent mac n cheese, participants heard from keynote speaker, Sandra Stone from USF Sarasota-Manatee as well as 4 alumni speakers representing each of the participating organizations; all emphasizing that we have the power to thrive in any industry through empowerment, tenacity and spitfire determination.


Dr. Sandra Stone gives a powerful and inspirational message to SMARTgirl class of 2017. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan

“As an educator, it always brings me great pleasure to see students who are dedicated to learning, who are willing to challenge themselves to maximize their potential, and who are committed to successfully achieving their goals. As I have learned more about each of you during the morning and your plans for continued education and careers, I am confident our future is in good hands!” said Dr. Sandra Stone


SMARTgirl students from Girl Scouts Gulfcoast Florida eager for their workshops. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan

“The SMARTgirl Summit surpassed our wildest hopes and expectations”, said Ashley Grant, SRQ Media’s Vice President Strategic Partnerships. The event was designed to show the girls the amazing array of possibilities and avenues open to them, some of which they had not considered before, and let them know that there are people around ready and willing to help guide and nurture them on their individual paths. The positive energy in the room was so powerful it was infectious – everyone was smiling, enthusiastic and eager to learn.  It was incredibly gratifying to see the connections the girls made with their mentors and each other as they navigated through the workshops and the team building exercises. The experience touched everyone from participants to mentors and sponsors and our staff.  It was a powerful day full of possibility and aha moments that will stay with each of us for a long time.”


Representatives from the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Seaside Bank, Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida and the Sarasota YMCA at the 2017 SMARTgirl Summit. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan

The impact of the 2017 SMARTgirl Summit has resonated well beyond the few hours spent a the Hyatt Regency. Organization representatives, students and even parents have kept the conversation going.

“On behalf of Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida, we give the 2017 SMARTgirl Summit two thumbs up! The impact of this program goes well beyond just a day and aligns with our mission perfectly – building girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place,” said Girl Scout of Gulfcoast Florida’s Director of Corporate Communications, Patricia Ramthun.

Girl Scout troop leader and parent Lynn H expressed her gratitude by saying: “Thanks for treating my girls to such a fantastic afternoon! Lily Gwendolyn, Natasha and Sophia LOVED the SMARTgirl event and talked the entire way home!!! They are all 6th graders and as you know, this is such a special age and it’s so important to keep them engaged in positive events such as this! Thank you, thank you, thank you!”


From left to right: SMARTgirl Mentors Betsey Penewill, Jennifer Vigne, Sarrah Vesselov, Kameron Hodgens, Lee-En Chung, Sherri Sanders, Shana Nichols, Cynthia Holliday, Dr. Sandra Stone, Gabrielle Vest, Laurie Pike, Stefanie Overturf, Minna Traugott, Joy Randels, Cora Imboden, Tammy Kovar and Brenda Janowski. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan 

We would like to thank the Hyatt Regency, Seaside Bank, USF Sarasota-Manatee, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and PSAV for investing in 84 futures and creating a dynamic day for each of these young women.

A special thank you to Everett Dennison for capturing the SMARTgil Summit on video. To view a video recap of SMARTgirl click here.

For a full gallery of photos from the SMARTgirl Luncheon click here.

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