SMARTgirl Class of 2018 Roars at Annual Mentorship Summit and Luncheon, April 6

F_ _DSC0518-X3.jpg

SMARTgirl Class of 2018. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan 

On March 16, SRQ MEDIA hosted the second annual SMARTgirl Leadership and Mentorship Summit at the Hyatt Regency engaging over 60 girls from both Sarasota and Manatee Counties with 28 mentors representing our region’s many diverse industries from graphic design, programming and virtual reality to theatre, marine biology and medicine. The luncheon consisted of a curated mentoring program aimed to engage the young women in soft skills training, mentorship and career imaginings.

F_ _DSC8296-XL.jpg

SMARTgirl students from Girls Inc. eager for their workshops at SMARTgirl. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan

“SMARTgirl is all about the power of connection and possibility.  In connecting these young girls with mentors who can show them real-life examples of opportunities they may not have been aware of or felt were out of reach, we can help to make their dreams a viable reality and set them on a course of success and fulfillment,” Ashley Grant, Senior Vice President of Strategic Partnerships of SRQ MEDIA stated.

F_ _DSC7428-XL.jpg

SMARTgirl Mentor and Owner of Pineapple Yoga Studio, Claudia Baeza engaging with SMARTgirl student Rezlyn Krueger during Dream Career Incubator Workshop. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan 


The summit kicked off with the Dream Career Incubator workshop where girls were able to ask questions, get advice and gain real world experience about their dream career from our mentors. Hailing from organizations such as Mote Marine Laboratory, State College of Florida, Asolo Repertory Theatre, Humane Society of Manatee County, SIFT Bakehouse, Ringling College of Art and Design, the Sarasota Police Department and Pineapple Yoga, our mentors were eager to share their bank of knowledge with the next generation of women leaders. 

“This event is about helping girls achieve their dreams. Each of us determines our own happiness, and if we are able to help one girl believe in herself and understand she can conquer any challenge ahead to make her dreams reality, then we have helped her on the journey to true happiness,” explained Women In Business Leadership Circle Member and SMARTgirl Mentor, Joy Randels.


F_ _DSC8586-XL.jpg

SMARTgirls search for matching beads during Intro to Coding Workshop. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan

After a quick snack break, the girls were back in action and onto the Coding Adventure Worksop. Their mission: To plan their dream adventure based by utilizing a series of bead codes for each selection, which included a rocket ship as a mode of transportation and a unicorn as an adventure buddy. Once the girls chose a coding sequence from each category, they created their very own bracelet using the beads to reflect each coding sequence.

F_ _DSC7138-XL.jpg

Girls form a superpower group to create team logo, name and mission. 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.

F_ _DSC9195-XL.jpg

India White speaks on overcoming obsticles during 2018 SMARTgirl Luncheon. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan

Between bites of decadent alfredo chicken pasta, participants heard from 3 power house speakers, all emphasizing that we have the power to succeed through empowerment, tenacity and spitfire determination.

Our first speaker, India White, was presented with a huge semi trailer of very sour lemons at a very young age and made the choice, in spite of incredible odds, to become a super achiever. India explained how at the age of 16 she found herself homeless finding refuge at the Sarasota YMCA Homeless Shelter. Refusing to feel sorry for herself, India viewed her circumstances as an opportunity to start fresh and change her life for the better.

F_ _DSC9771-XL.jpg

Keynote Speaker, Jennifer Vigne from the Education Foundation of Sarasota County gives a powerful message to the SMARTgirl Class of 2018. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan

SMARTgirl Keynote Speaker, Jennifer Vigne from the Education Foundation of Sarasota County gave an uplifting presentation on S—M—A—R—T girl with 5 life principles everyone should live by.

  • S- Start your day with a daily affirmation.
  • M- Make good choices.
  • A- Accept yourself.
  • R- Respect yourself.
  • T- Take time to laugh.
F_ _DSC0467-XL.jpg

Careeer Ninja Speaker, Ria Persad of StatWeather reminds SMARTgirls to follow their dreams. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan 

“SMARTgirl embodies who we are as women: resilient and smart, full of hopes and aspirations.  SMARTgirl gives young women access to role models, encouragement and a blueprint for making their dreams come through. SMARTgirl teaches girls to overcome and to be successful in life,” explained CEO of StatWeather and SMARTgirl Career Ninja Speaker, Ria Persad. She went on to encourage each and every girl to follow their dreams whether it takes a few months or 20 years to achieve. She ended her speach with 3 powerful words: ” Never Give Up.”

F_ _DSC9964-XL.jpg

Coding expert, Andrea Cannistra displays Dream Adventures on the screen during the luncheon. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan  

To close things out, Andrea Cannistra from atLarge, Inc. took the stage to present the 2018 SMARTgirl Coding Adventures based off of the bracelets particpants had created earlier in the day. Girls raised their hands high in the sky for a chance to come on stage and see their adventure coded right before their eyes.

F_ _DSC7027-XL.jpg

SMARTgirl mentors and participants work together during Superhero activity. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan

We live in a society that puts pressure on girls at a very young age. 12-year-olds are already going on diets and many believe that they’re valued more for their appearance than abilities. As mentors, community leaders and most importantly, fellow women, we need to break this cycle and help these young women realize that they are more than their looks, more than what society tells them to be. We need to create the standard and guide them along so that they surpass all expectations. I’m honored to have had the opportunity to mentor at SMARTgirl. It wholly reinforced the idea that instead of competing with one another, we need to educate and empower each other. Female empowerment is a force to be reckoned with, said SMARTgirl Mentor Kristen Hogentogler when asked why she thought it was important to mentor.

F_ _DSC6872-XL.jpg

Career Ninja Speaker, Ria Persad and SMARTgirl Mentor Shana Nichols pose with students at 2018 SMARTgirl Luncheon. Photo Credit: Wyatt Kostygan 

We would like to thank the Hyatt Regency, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, New Balance of Sarasota and University Park and PSAV for investing in over 60 futures and creating a dynamic day for each of these young women.

We would also like to thank the Sarasota YMCA, Girls Inc., Boys and Girls Club of Sarasota County and Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida as our founding partner organizations for engaging many of the girls who were in the room. 

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

To view the 2017 SMARTgirl video click here.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s