Again this year, I had the Minerva Leaders (young women ages 16 to 22) who are chosen by various community organizations. These women are so much fun, but it's always a challenge to keep the sessions closed to everyone except the leaders and their chaperones. It definitely was easier this year -- we had a better plan for crowd control, but there were plenty of angry ladies older than 22 yrs. who thought they should be admitted!
The morning session theme was of the "you can achieve anything you want" variety.
Vanessa Williams was the moderator and the panel consisted of:
* Samantha Larson -- The youngest woman to scale the seven summits (highest peak on each continent).
* Laila Ali – Muhammed Ali’s daughter, who is also a professional boxer.
* Raven-Symone – Actress and singer. She has a TV show called “That’s So Raven”, but most of us will remember her from The Cosby Show.
* Yes, Vanessa Williams is beautiful in person and didn’t seem to have much makeup on. However, she is much shorter than I expected…somewhere around 5’3” or 4”.
* Raven-Symone elicited many squeals from the group. She was very sweet about staying after the session and signing autographs and posing for photos.
* Samantha Larson was shy and polite.
* Laila Ali mentioned repeatedly the dysfunctional family she grew up in and seemed to be intent on “proving” herself.
Considerably drier in content, the afternoon session was sponsored by Wachovia and focused on encouraging these women to save and informing them about what it takes to be an entrepreneur. I joked with the speakers before the session that they probably wouldn't hear the squeals that met Raven-Symone and they were good sports about it.
The moderator was a woman who has written guides to finance for women. She was a dynamic speaker. The panel consisted of her, a Senior Exec VP for Wachovia, and a woman who started her own music curriculum company. Many Wachovia volunteers helped with the session and it went smoothly.
As the young women entered the room, they each received a sterling silver bracelet with a Minerva (conference logo) charm. I think the Wachovia logo was on the other side of the charm, but I didn’t get within 20 feet of the bracelets, so I don’t know.
Because this session was after lunch and was a discussion about finances, many of the women were nodding off. I was convinced it was all going over their heads. However, when we opened it up for Q&A, approximately 20 of the women went to the mics and asked excellent questions. Wachovia gave each woman a certificate for a savings account set up for them at their nearest branch with $100 in it. They were very excited. When asked what they would do with the money, many of the said “shop.” (Shoes were the most popular item.) The Wachovia VP said that, if they’d leave the $100 in the savings and watch it grow, she’d put $25 in a checking account for them and they could buy something on clearance. I think she got through to many of them.
Copyright 2008 Beth Schrader