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Gridiron Girls and the Kern High School District Girl's Leadership Summit

By Javier Valdes, Public Information Specialist, Kern High School District

Empowerment and inspiration filled the Golden Valley High School Performing Arts Center during the 2017 Kern High School District Girl’s Leadership Summit last Friday, October 6. With stories of struggle, determination and perseverance echoing through the walls, girls from all across the KHSD were able to take home the wisdom imparted onto them by the speakers.

Three strong and powerful women, from all walks of life, took the stage to talk to around 300 girls about their personal experiences throughout their journey toward success.

Emceeing the event was 23 ABC News’ Anchor Jessica Harrington and speakers were KHSD Associate Superintendent of Instruction Brenda Lewis, Foothill High School Activities Director Raelyn Ruffus, and the keynote for the event was Dr. Jen Welter who was the first female coach in the NFL, first female to play running back in a men's professional league, and inspirational author. 

Students received a free shirt with the events logo and a copy of Dr. Welter’s new book Play Big: Lessons in Being Limitless from the First Woman to Coach in the NFL where she writes about pushing past her limits and succeeding despite the odds.

Following the event, Welter took photos, signed each participants book, and gave each girl a little bit of her time.

For South High School student Chloe Smith, this event was more than a leadership summit, it was an opportunity to meet someone she really admires.

“She (Welter) is one of my idols and it was really amazing to hear her speak about her past and her troubles getting to where she is now,” said Smith. “I relate to her so much because of where I was to where I am now.”

Smith felt that she related to Welter and her obstacles in feeling hesitant to try out for something she really wanted.

“I tried out for Rebelettes (dance and color guard team) in my school and I almost didn’t go, but I pushed myself and I went and I made it,” said Smith. “She has given me so much confidence in what I can do, just with her little speech.”

Giving these girls the confidence and inspiration is what the KHSD aimed for in putting this event together.

“It’s all about improving our female students to be engaged, empowered and participate,” said Golden Valley High School Principal Paul Helman. “We know that in terms of sports, females don’t have the number that males do. Our goal is to equalize that.”

East Bakersfield High School student and basketball player Nana Jones thought the event was a great and motivational, and inspired her to keep working hard.

 “These women were held down and the odds were against them, multiple times, yet they still pushed through and succeeded,” said Jones.

Ruffus, who was one of the speakers of the day said she is used to telling her story at churches, but this was the first time she told her story in such a public setting.

“This was probably the first big group in a public setting, which was really awesome,” said Ruffus. “I loved sharing my story, it makes the stuff that I went through so worth it when I get to share with other people.”

Ruffus believes that the summit should be an annual event and hopes future leadership summits can host more than 300 girls.

Many students shared Ruffus’ thoughts of bringing the event back next year, while others were just happy to be surrounded by like-minded girls.

“It was interesting getting together with other girls,” said Independence High School cross country, basketball, and track athlete Haley Julius, “It’s good to have someone in common with other girls in sports.”

As for the future of the event, the KHSD is hoping to bring it back again next year.