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JA Miss Business connects high schoolers with professional women

Dozens of high school students learned more about themselves and how best to design their life path at the second annual JA Miss Business, a workshop hosted by Junior Achievement of the Bluegrass. This daylong event encourages young women to seek meaningful and dynamic leadership careers and to embrace mentorships and professional development activities.

“We really want them to know that no matter their background or parents’ education levels or the circumstances they’re given, they have opportunities to meet professional women and network and build confidence. If you work hard and take opportunities such as this, you can go far,” said Callie Miracle, JA’s program manager.

The 2019 workshop featured life coach Colene Elridge, a Transylvania University graduate and owner of Be More Consulting, who urged the students to live with more intention. “You are responsible for your experience. It starts with purpose. What drives you?” she said. “Secondly, know your principles. What are your values? These will guide every decision you make.”

Sprinkling in humor and personal stories, Elridge challenged the girls to learn responsibility, stop complaining, and start doing. “Writing down your goals every single day will change your life,” she said, noting, “Your legacy is not the things you thought about doing but the actions you did take.” Elridge also reminded the students to exercise their power no matter the size of the stage, saying, “You can change the world or you can change a world – both are equally important.”

The March 20 program included multiple breakouts covering personal finance, branding, interview skills, social media pitfalls, dressing for success, entrepreneurship, and more. The presenters and other guests also served as small-group resources for the girls. “They wanted to hear from women of a diverse background and workforce, so we spanned from photographers to boutique owners to lawyers to all types – a vast variety,” Miracle said.

JA, which modeled its workshop after a similar effort seen in East Tennessee, had selected 70 students after receiving applications from several counties across Central Kentucky. Each school could nominate up to 10 girls. Upperclassmen received priority, but the group was a mix of high schoolers – largely from Fayette County. “We felt like it was a need here,” Miracle said. “Young women need professional women to look up to, and they need mentors to reach out to as a sounding board.”

The students spent the workshop within a cohesive group, gathered at round tables in the center of JA BizTown/JA Finance Park. Among the table hosts was Hannah Sloan, a marketing specialist with the University of Kentucky Federal Credit Union, the main sponsor. “You get to talk and find out who they are and what they want to do,” Sloan said during a break. “This is such a great event to empower girls going into the business field.”

At Sloan’s table was Daikerra Sweat, a senior at Frederick Douglass High School who served as the student representative on the 2019 planning committee. “I learned it takes a team (to pull this off). I hope one day it can be expanded so we can have tons of girls,” Daikerra said. Reflecting on the impact, she said she valued meeting peers from outside Lexington, making professional connections, and hearing others’ perspectives. “The business women are great role models and inspirations,” Daikerra said. “They might have taken detours, but they made it to where they are now and are very successful. It was not easy, but they’ve accomplished their dreams.”

To get involved in JA Miss Business 2020 please contact Callie Miracle.

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