At its core, Girl Empowerment Day is an event by girls for girls.
Organized entirely by high school student members of Jefferson City's women-oriented Z-Club, Girl Empowerment Day aims to help middle-school girls build confidence and relationships, said Ramona Huckstep, the club's adviser.
This year's event is scheduled to be held May 6 at Jefferson City's Memorial Park Pavilion, 115 Memorial Drive. It is open to girls between sixth and eighth grade. Participants can make an optional $15 donation to the nonprofit Stop Human Trafficking Coalition of Central Missouri, according to the event's flyer.
The organizer plans the event with a focus on "all the different aspects" of the participants' lives, especially "the mind, body, spirit," Huckstep said.
At the upcoming event, officers with the Cole County Sheriff's Office will teach participants self-defense.
"One of their programs is about not being a victim," Huckstep said. Participants are set to learn mainly about situational awareness, such as "learning to be aware and be prepared for different situations, how to survive and get away."
Other sessions will include nature survival skills, yoga, preparing healthy meals and ice-breaking games led by a psychiatrist.
Joy Johnson from Jefferson City is set to be a new speaker this year. She is a solar system ambassador from NASA, according to the agency's website.
"She's going to talk about her background and do some science experiment," Huckstep said. She hopes the talk is going to make the participants "feel comfortable enough to step up in a science class and answer questions" afterwards.
This is set to be the fourth time the Z-Club has organized the Girl Empowerment Day. Generally, around 30-50 girls participated each year in the past, Huckstep said. The genesis of the event came from the club members themselves.
In the past, the Z-Club would invite a speaker from the coalition to hold a community presentation about human trafficking, but members found out turnout to the talk was low, Huckstep said.
"So the girls thought instead of having a speaker come, the high-school girls would help the middle-school students get to know each other, build that confidence, build those relationships and then any funds raised can go to the coalition," she said.
The goal of the event is to create a "win-win-win" situation for everyone involved. "The high-school girls learn to lead and help (the participants); the (middle schoolers) get this fun, exciting day; and the (coalition) gets funds to help them with their mission," Huckstep said.
For the high-school students organizing the event, the Girl Empowerment Day is a way for them to "make a difference they can actually see and feel and be a part of," as well as build leadership skills and community awareness.
"Rather than just having a speaker come in and they sit on the sidelines, they can actually interact with the (participating) students, they help plan the program, they do all the work," Huckstep said.
As for the participating middle schoolers, Huckstep hopes this event can help them "get more involved in their community."
"Maybe it encourages them to join another club or be active in some other organization that volunteers, however they do it, that's our goal," she said. "We just want them to feel like they belong."
The Z-Club is the high-school program under the service organization Zonta International, which aims to advance women's rights, according to its website. Currently, the local Z-Club has around 25 members, mostly girls from Jefferson City High School, Helias Catholic High School and Capital City High School, Huckstep said.
The club aims to develop its members' leadership skills through service and provide a space for students to meet peers from other schools, according to its website. Apart from organizing the Girl Empowerment Day, members volunteer at various community events such as the Heart Ball, Huckstep said.
Several local businesses and organizations are supporting this event as well, including the local Rotary Club, Brown Printing and DeLong's. Hy-Vee and Chick-fil-A are set to provide meals, while other sponsors are set to contribute to the goodie bags.
The registration period for the event is set to close May 1.