One hundred girls, all attending Jennings County High School in grades 9-12, gathered at The Barn venue at Willow Lake Event Center for the ninth annual REACH conference on Wednesday, November 10. The event is coordinated by the Women’s Giving Circle in association with the Jennings County Community Foundation.

The two keynote speakers were former news anchor for CBS4 This Morning and CEO of Pence Media Group Nicole Pence Becker and former KDH Nutrition Services Director and NAACP Achievement Award winner Sue Livers.

Nicole drove home the importance of being confident in yourself and offered two components to help the girls achieve that: 1. Identify your rare and valuable skill sets and 2. Practice self-love and self-care. She said that personality traits such as kindness and thoughtfulness can be considered rare and valuable skill sets, in addition to more conventional skill sets such as being a good writer or a fast runner. Nicole also said that her favorite form of self-care is utilizing skincare.

Sue emphasized the necessity of being kind to oneself and speaking inward positive affirmations during her presentation.

“The mouth is the pen, and your heart is the paper,” Sue told the young ladies. “Get up in the morning and say to yourself, ‘I am beautiful. I am going to go out and do great things.’ ”

Nicole was the first to present at 9 a.m. when the girls arrived at the venue. Afterwards, they all broke up into four small groups and each went to a different workshop.

Nicole herself conducted a workshop on developing one’s own personal branding and how to present oneself.

Sue’s workshop had the girls crafting their own event boards of goals they want to accomplish in the next year using magazine clippings.

Local Brandy Zamora spoke to the girls about “putting your best foot forward” and how to dress for success.

The final workshop included a panel of JCHS alumnae who gave advice on how to be successful in the workforce. The panel was made up of Paige Axsom, Matzine Sanchez Gutierrez, Laura Wilson Mull and Rachael Schroeder Watts. Paige is a 2011 JCHS grad and works as a Human Resource Associate. Matzine was born in Mexico and heads strategic efforts at Rockfarm Supply Chain Solutions. Laura is a 2013 JCHS grad and is a pediatric therapist at King’s Daughters’ Health in Madison. Rachael is a 2011 JCHS grad and founder of Little Rascals Childcare.

The high schoolers seemed to really enjoy themselves during the conference.

Freshman Hannah Webster loved hearing Nicole speak, saying she learned new things, learned more about herself, and wants to go to college, but doesn’t yet know what she wants to study.

Fellow freshman Jocelyn Villovinos was excited to attend her first REACH conference because she’d heard so many wonderful things.

“It did not disappoint,” she said.

“[Sue and Nicole] really inspire me and opened my eyes,” said junior Zannie Ferguson. “They showed me that I can achieve what I want when I get older and you make life as easy or as hard as you want.”

Senior Emily Lane came to this year’s REACH conference for the first time to get empowered, which perfectly goes with the event’s message of R-respect E- empower A- Achieve C- Challenge H- Happiness.

“It’s important to learn how to care for yourself and not care about what society says,” said Emily. The JCHS senior will be attending Hanover College to study elementary education.