Kelly Latterman: Next generation of leaders |

Kelly Latterman: Next generation of leaders

The May 8 Girls to Women conference brought together 166 eighth-graders from Steamboat Springs, Emerald Mountain, Hayden, North Routt Charter and Soroco schools. The volunteer organizers of the event recruited 27 community women to speak about career development and choices as well as opportunities for building awareness and self-confidence. I left the Girls To Women event inspired by this generation of Northwest Colorado young women.

My co-presenter and I had the pleasure of leading the session, “Ready for Political Change? Empowerment Starts with You.” Prior to the event, the girls had the opportunity to select the sessions they were most interested in and were then assigned their topics, so our presentation naturally attracted the young women who had interests in politics and public policy. We were expecting the girls to be engaged, but their passion, knowledge and interest in running for office blew us away.

To begin our session, we asked the girls to turn to their neighbor and talk about what they wanted to change in the world and what their platform would be if they were running for office. They spoke about four policy areas — gender equality, gun control, environmental stewardship and immigration reform.

Next, we divided the classroom into two groups and provided a prompt — “The state had passed another round of budget cuts and the local school board was considering moving to a four-day school week as a cost savings measure.” The students were community activists either for or against the four-day school week and had 15 minutes to work as a group and develop a campaign slogan, logo, “chairlift pitch,” facts and figures and community endorsements.

The adults in the room served as mock school board members, asking the groups questions and then voting. The students made the decision hard with impressive pitches touching on the economic impact to communities, the lack of affordable child care, the role of local nonprofits, summer learning loss, the necessity of summer jobs to pay for college, missing school for sporting events, the value add of more time for teachers to collaborate and plan lessons and the differences in out-of-school time for children raised in high and low-income families.

Over lunch, I had the opportunity to sit with a group of girls who asked about my session and then immediately began talking about the national level policies they were upset by. They mentioned the overturning of the ivory import ban and the deportation of Dreamers.

One young lady spoke about her love of hunting and how it was a family affair. She had grown up around guns and anticipated always owning them but expressed dismay over the national debate surrounding the AR-15. She said she saw no reason for this model of gun to be accessible as it was designed for warfare and is not used for hunting or self-defense purposes.

Currently, 20 percent of seats in Congress are held by women along with 25 percent of state legislators and 22 percent of statewide elective executive offices around the country. Colorado has never elected a female governor, but there are three women running this year. In 2018, more women are running for office than ever before and you better believe that these 13- and 14-year-olds will be on the ballot soon.

These young women are intelligent, capable, articulate, mentally and physically strong and active citizens. I am so proud to be a part of a community committed to empowering and supporting our young people.

Ladies, I will be watching and waiting to see what you do next. Whatever that ends up being, I know it will be impressive.

Kelly Latterman

Steamboat Springs

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