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Atlanta Professionals Inspire the Next Generation of Powerful Women

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The Center for Civil and Human Rights held “Exploring your Passion, Creating Your Career” on March 19. The event, sponsored by The Atlanta Tribune, allowed middle and high school girls an opportunity to gain information about different careers and fields from women in various professions such as medicine, tourism, media, and music.

The participants were first given a quiz that asked what careers they were interested in. Then they travelled to different stations around the room where career professionals shared basic information about their jobs and spoke on their own personal experiences and challenges. The girls were allowed to ask the ladies questions at the end of each station.

Miracle Woodard, a student at Heritage High School, said she came to the event to find her pathway for the future.

“[I spoke to] Dr. Pietta [who’s] in the music industry as well as acting, and I want to be in those fields as well,” Woodard said. “She told me to start out with internships.”

Her friend, 16-year-old Asia Hollinger from Martin Luther King, Jr. High School came to the event to discover her career path as well. Hollinger said she received valuable advice from Joy Jackson, regional manager for Medical Science Liaisons and a Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University graduate.

“I met Joy Jackson who gave a different look on medical fields and HBCUs,” Hollinger said.  

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The adults at the event said they were empowered to speak to the girls about what they can achieve for themselves and set an example to them.

Rhonda Brown, a businesswoman who owns a furniture store in Atlanta, said she wants young women to realize their value.

“We are here to support, motivate, and give an example,” Brown said.

Myrna White, Director of Public Affairs for Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, said she is committed to giving that example.

“Once a young woman sees an accomplished woman in a career she’s interested in, it helps her see what she can accomplish,” White said.

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Many of the career professionals at the event, as women of color themselves, were especially motivated to bring this example to the young women of color in Atlanta.

“In spite of the media, our youth can meet women of color with dignity, grace, and purpose, who are comfortable enough to be real with the youth,” said Antoinette Dunstan, from the girls leadership program “First Ladies.”

Zamari Bussey, 14, agreed with those statements adding, “Nobody should be discriminated against because of their color,” she said. “I can go outside, get a tan, and still be the same person.”

While the event was largely for teens, there was a small showing for elementary-aged students as well.

“I don’t think it’s ever too early or late to try what you’re interested in,” Breseis Watson, 10, Anderson Elementary School said.  “You can always find someone to help you achieve your goals.”

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Seeing women represented in various careers can especially be beneficial in STEM fields, in which women are still very underrepresented.  According to a 2014 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics study on women in the workforce, only 39 percent of them are chemists and material scientists. Nearly 28 percent are environmental scientists and geoscientists and 15. Percent are chemical engineers.

Elisa Buckner, virtual college advisor, was the only black female in her computer science major in college, and wants to give other girls opportunities. “I want to inspire young girls to succeed,” she said.

Berniece Bridgeforth, a 14 year old who is interested in being a scientist, said she needs that inspiration.  

“Men don’t do everything,” Bridgeforth said. “Women can do things to. Women have discovered things that men didn’t.”

The participants were also allowed to write a letter to themselves and give it to a trusted adult in order to receive it five years later.

“If you can touch the hand of a woman who is doing what you dream of doing in your nearby future, you can practically believe that your dream is possible,” Dunston said.

Story and photos by Miranda Mullins, 16, a sophomore at Duluth High School. 

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