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Unexpected Opportunities

By: James Ziemba

By Camille

As I’m journeying through my gap year, I’m realizing that in life, opportunities have a strange way of showing up when you least expect them. In March of last year, I remember closing my computer and being hit with the realization that this was my last ever meeting with Marin Teen Girl, an organization that I had volunteered with throughout high school. I had grown to love the group of girls I worked with and the perfect balance of business and fun we achieved at each meeting. Little did I know that I’d soon make the decision to take a year off from school, and the opportunity for me to take on a leadership role within the organization would arise.
Marin Teen Girl was formed a couple years ago, when the Marin Women’s Commission (a body of my county’s local government) began to envision a women’s empowerment conference, created by girls, for girls. The overarching goal was to connect girls from all over the county, while presenting them with informative workshops and providing powerful examples of successful women. Since its inception, the annual conference has grown in both scope and popularity, with women such as Pamela Hamamoto, former ambassador to the UN in Geneva, serving as speakers.Attendees gathered for the keynote address in March 2019.
In past years, I’ve served on the committee of ambassadors who are responsible for organizing the event for around three hundred teen girls. The group of ambassadors handles everything from brainstorming workshop topics and contacting potential speakers to advertising and recruiting donations from local businesses. This is done with the support of the Marin Women’s Commission, but ultimately it is up to the ambassadors to successfully execute the event.
While serving on this group for multiple years, I’ve learned the ins and outs of what goes into planning the conference. With the new found time and flexibility my gap year has provided, I have been able to step up as co-leader of the ambassador committee and help guide the ambassadors through the planning stages.
When I accepted the role, I knew that this year was going to look unlike any other in the history of the conference. The pandemic has not only caused us to shift our planning meetings completely online but has also forced us to completely rethink the structure of the conference. Many key conference day experiences-such as goody bags and group lunch hour-are simply not feasible this year.
However, in the face of these challenges there has also been an overwhelming number of positive results coming from our need to adapt. Because a zoom event requires much less logistical planning, we made the decision to create a monthly speaker series leading up to the conference, allowing girls to attend more workshops than they would have in just one weekend. This began in November, and so far, we’ve been able to offer a female empowerment themed yoga class, a body positivity workshop, and a workshop centered around mindset and goal setting for the new year. Because of the online format for these workshops, we’ve reached a much more diverse population of girls than ever before.
Working with a small group of our ambassadors at a planning meeting


A promotional flyer for one of our workshops
Looking forward to the conference in March, we are currently in the final stages of selecting and reaching out to speakers. While the event will certainly look and feel much different, I think that many of the adaptations we’ve made this year will be carried over into future years. Even when an in-person event becomes feasible, the monthly zoom speaker series has proved to be a fun way to engage prospective attendees leading up to the event. While I am disappointed that we won’t be able to offer the conference experience I am used to, it feels good to know that working through the challenges we were faced with has led to some unexpected positivity.