Conference gets eighth-graders thinking
about the future
|Lacey Meador, Aline Tissonnier and
Sarah Robinson, eighth-graders at Escalante Middle
School examine artist Tracey Belt’s jewelry
at the conference./Photo by Jen Reeder
We’ve all heard or uttered the lament, “Kids
grow up so fast these days.” But instead of blaming
Britney Spears, the Women’s Resource Center hosts
a conference devoted to eighth-grade girls called “Girls
to Women, Women to Girls.”
The fourth annual conference took place May 10 at Bayfield
Elementary, and 269 female students from Durango, Bayfield
and Ignacio middle schools, and even one home-schooled
“The purpose of the conference is to honor the
girls with their transition into high school and becoming
women,” said Beth Christie, a WRC Program Manager.
“It inspires them to explore their futures.”
The conference begins with a choice of workshops with
subjects ranging from Pilates and meditation to laughter
with Durango Dot Comedy. This year, there were also seven
healthy lifestyle and stress management workshops, the
result of feedback from last year’s event.
“How to manage stress – they actually requested
that,” Christie said. “Think about it: They’ve
had homework since second grade, they have extracurricular
sports, it’s a busy social time with friends, some
are babysitting or looking at part-time work, and they’re
thinking about college. To acknowledge that these girls
have a lot on their plate is important.”
Another key element of the conference was a career fair
at which female professionals from the local community
sit behind desks and answer questions about their fields.
The woman behind the placard “Journalist”
(who also had a number of Durango Telegraphs prominently
displayed) lured girls to her table by interviewing them
about the conference. Reactions were mixed.
“Missing school is the good part,” said Escalante
Middle School student LuLu Clair.
Fellow Escalante student Amber Wojcik had more enthusiastic
praise, saying, “There’s so many different
schools together (at the conference) and we’ll be
together in high school next year 85 it’s kind of
like a beginning place for us to meet.”
Brittany Maxon, a Miller Middle School student, said
some parts of the conference seemed like a waste of time
because “we already know it,” like a workshop
on relationships. But she enjoyed the self-esteem workshop,
“It’s how to respect yourself and not compare
yourself to other people 85 to have a healthy role model,
not too skinny,” she explained.
Several students thought the career fair was particularly
“It does really make you think about your future,”
said Leia Evers, of Bayfield Elementary School. “I
always wanted to go to college but didn’t know what
I wanted to do. I’m getting a lot of ideas.”
Erica Johnson, from Escalante, concurred.
“It helps a lot of girls out in knowing what they
want to do – we don’t have that many years
left to decide.”
Tracey Belt, a local jewelry artist who makes glass beads,
said the girls seemed very interested in her work and
asked a lot of questions, which she found “refreshing.”
“It’s good to expose them to a lot of different
things,” she said. “You never know what’s
going to spark someone. Even if you just reach one girl,
it’s worth it.”
Jules Masterjohn, exhibits and program director for the
Durango Arts Center, agreed that the career fair is valuable
because finding an interest early on can help lead to
a career path.
“It’s all about finding what makes your heart
sing and pursuing it,” she said.
Masterjohn had large boards on an easel with the header
“Art is about expressing yourself” and paintbrushes
for the girls to do just that. She tried to encourage
all girls, particularly the ones who said, “I can’t
“Let’s get rid of that,” she declared
to them. “It’s all about expressing yourself!”
She said expectations placed on eighth-graders are much
heavier than when she was in eighth grade.
“I feel like these kids have all these pressures.
It’s a different world than it was 20, 30, 35 years
ago,” she laughed.
Peer pressure is another major concern the girls have
as they face high school (fear of getting lost on the
high school campus was a distant second), so many of the
students said they looked forward to the question-and-answer
session with the panel of high school girls.
“It’s kind of hard when you’re having
an adult tell you about peer pressure,” student
Maxon said. “You need someone closer to your age
to tell you about it.”
So the girls submitted anonymous questions on a sheet
of paper to the high school girls. No adults were allowed
in the room so that the answers could be uninhibited.
Mary Jane Carroll, Durango High School panelist, said
the girls asked the usual questions about sex, drugs,
alcohol and homework.
“I think it was good to just get the truth out,”
Carroll said. “It’s a source (of information)
that you’re not going to see again – it’s
All in all, more than 100 volunteers made the Girls to
Women conference a success, Christie said gratefully.
But the highest praise came from an eighth-grader from
Bayfield Elementary named Elizabeth Gray.
“I’m just glad that everybody got together
to help us,” she said. “You guys are, like,
our role models.”