It’s not often that middle school girls have the opportunity to hear about their value and leadership potential.

According to Amy Dillenberg, a social worker at Parkview Middle School in Ashwaubenon, middle school students aren’t recognized enough for the positive change they can have on their communities. Yet when more than 100 Brown County female middle school students gathered on Friday, Jan. 23, at Lambeau Field for the Green Bay Packers Empower event, they had the chance to build their strength and confidence.

“We were very excited about it because there aren’t enough leadership opportunities for middle schoolers, and it’s not fair because they have great ideas and a lot of great things to say and do,” said Dillenberg following the conference, gesturing toward several Parkview Middle School students attending the event. Dillenberg chaperoned the students from Parkview Middle School, who were chosen for participation in the event because of their leadership skills and their potential to affect positive change in their communities.

Organized by the Packers, Empower was the first event of its kind hosted by the organization, aimed to encourage middle school girls to take action and be leaders in their homes and schools. Community outreach coordinator Jessica Micke said they hope to hold the conference for years to come. 

“In searching for more ways to give back to the community, we found that young female students don’t always have the chance to recognize and develop their leadership skills,” said Micke. “For this event, we wanted to create an environment where the girls could feel empowered and learn from women who are well known in the community and can help the girls realize their strength, value and potential.”

Micke said she hopes the girls use what they learned to spread a message of confidence and strength to their fellow students and motivate each other to make a difference in their communities.

Gail McNutt, CEO of the Girl Scouts of the Northwestern Great Lakes, Inc. gave the opening presentation, in which she talked about the critical aspects of leadership, and focused especially on how young girls can be leaders among their peers as they grow up.

“Think about how much your thoughts drive your words, your words drive your actions and your actions drive your beliefs. Set a goal and achieve it every day,” said McNutt. “Every individual has within her the capacity to lead and make a difference.”

Several female leaders from within the Packers organization also gave presentations, including Gabrielle Dow, vice president of marketing and fan engagement, as well as vice president of human resources Nicole Ledvina and director of community outreach & player/alumni relations Cathy Dworak.

Laurie Murphy, the wife of Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy, also led an activity for the girls in which they wrote gratitude letters to their role models. The students also had opportunities to hear from local female news anchors, who spoke about true beauty, the fight against bullying and gossip, social media responsibility and advice for success in middle school and beyond.

The day ended with each student writing out an “I will” statement, symbolizing their commitments to create positive changes in their homes, schools and communities. This spring, the girls also are invited back to the Lambeau Field Atrium for a gathering to share the experiences they’ve had so far as leaders.

Three students from Lombardi Middle School worked together on their “I will” statements, planning a food drive and a campaign aimed at encouraging their classmates and giving positive feedback. “Most people these days get negative comments toward themselves,” said Haley Dyer, a student at Lombardi Middle School. “If they had something positive, it would brighten their day a lot.”

Many of the girls at the event wrote their “I will” statements about making a difference in their communities and recognizing their own value as leaders and role models among their peers. The Packers staff who organized the event and the school counselors who attended with their students said they were pleased with how the attendees responded to the messages of confidence and self-worth.

“It was a great day and it really hit home for what these students are exploring within themselves and within their community,” said Dillenberg. “They’re serious about taking their leadership to the next level.”

By Katie Hermsen, Packers.com