At age 36, Tiffany Williams became one of the youngest judges serving in the state of New Jersey and faced tough decisions from the bench.
“I had to make decisions about the very course of peoples’ lives,” she said.
Speaking to more than 200 female students attending the third annual Celebration of Womanhood: Fabulous Me Conference hosted by the Family Service Bureau of Newark, Williams urged the young women to start mapping out their futures now and prepare to face challenges.
Using the biblical illustration of Esther, Williams challenged the young women to value themselves by standing firm in their convictions, even in the face of adversity.
“Will you be ready? Will you be courageous even if it requires your life?” Williams, now 40 and an administrative law judge, said in her keynote speech titled, “Girls On Fire.”
Funded by the New Jersey Governor’s Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Committee, Fabulous Me drew students from Essex, Bergen, Hudson and Passaic counties between the ages of 12 and 17 recommended by their guidance counselors. The conference was held at Seton Hall University and SHU’s Department of Family and Marriage Therapy co-sponsored the event.
With guidance from FSB staff, student leaders called Juvenile Female Ambassadors planned the conference, which included breakout sessions on topics ranging from self-esteem and college readiness to healthy relationships—all revolving around this year’s theme of “Sisterhood.”
Hayden Smith, acting director of FSB, said the youth attending the conference are at a critical stage in life where they begin to make decisions with more lasting impact. “I think it’s a vulnerable age,” he said.
Students enjoyed a continental breakfast and lunch, attended workshops, participated in a panel discussion and learned to play the djembe during an African drumming lesson that got students and staff on their feet and moving to the beat. A djembe is a rope-tuned, skin-covered goblet drum.
“It was like so fun,” Tanysia Kitchings, a student from Paterson School 10, said. “We were dancing and everything.”
During the panel discussion, guest speaker Sai Browne reminded students that celebrities are popular because of their carefully manicured personas.
“You have to look at who you are emulating. Are you trying to be a character or a person?” Browne asked the students. In her workshop entitled “Don’t Be A Drama Queen, Build Your Self Esteem,” guest speaker Caryl Lucas had students dramatize scenarios that contrasted positive affirming behavior with bullying tactics.
“It’s time we create a healthy sisterhood,” Lucas said. “You have to have each other’s backs.”