Young Women of Color Symposium Helps Young Leaders Find Their Path

By Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Erika Prahl
On Saturday, March 2, Parker, in partnership with Loyola Academy, hosted the fourth annual Young Women of Color Symposium. The theme for this year’s symposium was “Find Your Path.”

More than 200 young women of color from middle and high schools across the state gathered for a day featuring keynote speaker, Loyola Academy alum and The.BlkRoom Founder and CFO Senite, workshops, affinity group sessions and activities geared toward providing brave and necessary spaces for participants to explore and celebrate their identities, develop skills for self-advocacy and form lifelong connections and community. The goal was to provide a collaborative environment and experience that promotes opportunities to learn, inspire and empower participants. There are far too many spaces where women of color are not as celebrated or respected as they deserve. To protect, support and empower young women of color, we created a space for conversation, connection and community.

This symposium is one step on the path to changing the narrative and encouraging the resilience of our voices.

When asked about this event, sophomore and student organizer Coco De Leon shard, “All of the planning for the symposium really paid off. I look forward to the YWOC Symposium every year and was grateful for the opportunity to help out. The symposium provides a safe space for young women of color across Chicago to connect through our identities, struggles, and goals. This year’s symposium was focused on career paths and navigating the workplace, and we had amazing workshops that gave us the opportunity to speak with and seek advice from adult women across different industries and occupations. I found this year’s panel to be particularly inspiring, as well as the keynote speaker Senite. The atmosphere was amazing, I made many friends with girls from schools across Chicago and received a lot of amazing advice from very devoted and inspiring women.”

Junior and student organizer Spencer Dunbar expressed, “I'm incredibly happy that everything came together how we imagined for the symposium this year. The theme this year was ‘Find Your Path,’ and all these incredible women came in to talk to us about their careers and how they navigate through them as women of color. It's always great to unite women of color to celebrate being who we are because we are the essence of excellence. This event was a powerful moment for me and made me proud to be who I am.”

Senior and student organizer Audrey Hunter shared, “Having the YWOCS gave me a space to connect with young women of my race and other women of color who are experiencing the same things as me but differently. Sometimes, I feel as though I am alone in my feelings, but going to the YWOCS gives me a chance to open up, connect with other young women and network with adults who could be mentors for me moving forward. I was blessed to have a chance to talk to Andrea Smith, who was one of the adult panelists. She lives in DC, and I hope to continue my education there; she gave me her contact information in case I go. This symposium is truly powerful, and I am truly thankful for it.”

Junior and student organizer Madelyn Young also said, “This year’s Young Women of Color Symposium was an extremely eye-opening event, and I am so grateful to have been a part of it. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the workshops, affinity groups and the guest speaker. At the symposium I was able to connect with women of color from across the city, and we were able to connect through our shared experiences. I have been attending the symposium since my freshman year and I am now a junior—the symposium is something I look forward to every year! It is extremely gratifying to be in a space with so many unique perspectives. I look forward to next year’s symposium!”

Click here for photos from our friends at Loyola Academy!

Special thanks and congratulations to all student organizers of this event:
Coco De Leon, sophomore
Spencer Dunbar, junior
Dallyce Harrell, sophomore
Audrey Hunter, senior
Ewuraesi Korankye, sophomore
Simone Sonuga, junior
Naia Trukenbrod, sophomore
Madelyn Young, junior
Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.