A journey has a beginning and an end, but Victoria Mahand wants to talk about everything that happens in between.
Mahand, a National Training Specialist at the One Circle Foundation, served as the keynote speaker at the fifth annual Fabulous Me Celebration of Womanhood Conference, which is organized by the Family Service Bureau of Newark, an affiliate of the nonprofit New Community Corporation.
More than 120 young women from across northern New Jersey attended the daylong event organized by the Family Service Bureau, which included breakout sessions on topics ranging from healthy relationships to cyberbullying, a resource fair, improvisational performance by the Rutgers SCREAM Theater and a rousing session of African drumming.
A dynamic and energetic presenter, Mahand focused on each young woman’s “Journey to the Top,” the theme of the daylong empowerment conference hosted at Seton Hall University.
“It’s important to give girls a voice, and when they do have a voice, to share their ideas and opinions in a safe environment,” said Mahand, who spoke about topics such as self-esteem and goals.
The participants, ages 12 to 17, include a diverse group of students who are referred by their school social workers and community leaders. Some participants are identified as at-risk while others have excelled in school, according to Dr. Sam Pirozzi, executive director of the Family Service Bureau of Newark. “The conference is designed to educate and empower young women,” he said.
During the lunch break, 14-year-old Rashidah Babb noted that discussing tough topics such as bullying and self-image in the era of social media with peers helped her feel united with the young women at the empowerment event.
“Normally I am the shy girl that doesn’t want to talk,” Babb, a resident of Hillside, said. “We all bring out the best in each other.”
For Kinsey Thorpe, 15, one highlight of the Fabulous Me conference was meeting and hearing from speakers representing careers such as medicine, social work, academia and the nonprofit sector.
“You get to meet people from different professions,” said Thorpe, a resident of Morristown.
Dr. Grace May, dean of the College of Education and Human Services at Seton Hall University, encouraged the young women to see life as a series of learning lessons.
“Everything can benefit and teach us something,” she said. “Keep your mind open to these life experiences.”
Organized by the Family Service Bureau, the event is funded by a grant from the New Jersey Governor’s Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Committee, administered by the New Jersey Juvenile Justice Commission under the state Attorney General’s Office. The conference is co-sponsored by the Department of Family and Marriage Therapy at Seton Hall University.
Thank You To Our Sponsors and Donors
- New Jersey Governor’s Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Committee
- New Jersey Juvenile Justice Commission
- Seton Hall University
- The Bookworm Box
- Ocean Avenue Silks
- Muse Monthly
- Nicole Larue and Naomi Davis Lee (Small Made Goods)
- New Jersey Performing Arts Center
- Noah Scalin (Make Something 365 and Get Unstuck)
- Sticker You
- Art with Heart
- New Community Harmony House