Strength. Diversity. Passion. 130 girls attend the Young Women’s Leadership Conference, leaving them with unified hope.


Kaitlyn Valenzuela

The agricultural department hand-crafted the centerpieces that were used for the Young Women’s Leadership Conference.

Kaitlyn Valenzuela, Features Editor

The warmth of the sun, the smell of the flowers, the verdant scenery of the farms, and the empowering words of “The Future is Female” hung up for many young girls to see — a welcoming setting for 130 girls who attended yesterday’s amazing Young Women’s Leadership Conference at Cal Poly Pomona. California state Senator Connie M. Leyva organized the fifth annual conference for high school girls to attend and listen to inspirational women who have shaped our local region and state into a land of change and opportunity. With over 10 guest speakers, every single one of us had the honor to learn the importance of pushing forward and understanding that our passion is what will pave the path to success and endless possibilities.

To accommodate that, this year’s theme was “Grow Your Passion” and since the early days of springs have arrived upon us, a strawberry was used as the significant symbol to represent our young, growing passions.  The beautiful day began with a continental breakfast outside near the green grass where the sun shined on us, ready to bond with the strong minds surrounding us. As we all checked in and greeted each other, resource booths were available for our consideration and even consisted of voter registration tables.

As we all settled in the conference room, tables were gorgeously decorated with floral centerpieces that were hand-crafted by the staff and students from the agriculture department. The mistress of ceremonies, Dr. Terri Gomez, welcomed us in and introduced us to our very own district’s state senator, Connie M. Leyva. Senator Leyva gave us a warm welcome and immediately showed her gratitude as she said the words: “You being here today shows me that you are passionate and for that I thank you.”

To serve her duty as Senator, Leyva went further on to inform us about a new legislation that she had proposed that not only affects us women but everyone in the workplace. Senate Bill 820, also known as STAND (Stand Together Against Non-Disclosures) Act, withholds the purpose to ban secret settlements in cases of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and gender discrimination. Because us young girls are soon taking on jobs in tough industries whether it be agricultural careers, the medical field, corporations, or the film industry, we must all be aware of our rights and equality within the workplace.

Senator Leyva’s introduction of the bill was the entryway for the many hopeful stories and advice that addressed important topics. Among those stories, Mily Trevino-Sauceda, who works with Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, discussed how we can organize for action and civic engagements within our community. “Taking action to help prevent a problem with your community is a big step toward change and I encourage you all to do it porque si se puede,” she enthusiastically added to her speech.

On a broader scale, diversity was immediately noticeable in the room and it was even heard. Mariachi Los Broncos de Pomona gave an outstanding show for us as they played colorful sounds of traditional but light mariachi songs during the beginning of the conference. With that being said, a majority of the speakers and special guests were of Hispanic descent and easily created a bond in the conference room in which we all shared banter and related to their stories. The amount of appreciation and love that filled the place was truly inspiring within itself.

The environment felt great because it was women of all ages but the commonality of it all was inspirational to me. Especially because there was a strong focus on Latina women and how successful we can be.”

— Senior Ashley Solito

Jessica Resendiz, owner and founder of the clothing company Raggedy Tiff, came in and shared her story on how she decided to pursue a career in fashion design and do what she was most passionate about, not what her family was. She advised that “you have to do what you are passionate about. Don’t let anyone decide for you or tell you what you have to do in life. It’s your life and you are the only person that can control it.” She was honored to share one of her latest designs which was a bright, yellow plaid shirt and included a white patch with black lettering that read “¡VIVA LAS MUJERES!,” a phrase in Spanish that expresses the power of women.

To close the speeches, special guest Assemblywoman Eloise Gomez Reyes told us one of the most valuable pieces of advice that we could receive: “It’s the women in your life that make the most impact. You must stick with each other and help each other grow.” She further went on to explain how Senator Leyva was the only one who supported her during her campaign when she ran for Congress. “She was the only one who vouched for me in the State Senate. When she was going to pass her bill at the time, the majority had informed her that she had to remove her name from the bill due to her contrary decision to support me. And she did. Because she believed in me.”

The two exchanged a big, genuine embrace as we all applauded for their incredible friendship and support they had for one another. It was amazing to see two women fight for each other even if it meant to give something up that was important to them. It taught us, the young women in the world, that nothing is best done alone; it is done with love and encouragement from your peers.

As we finished up and took our group picture, the agriculture department was kind enough to take us on a tour guide on the farm and show us how they manage their many gardens. It was a beautiful day and the sight of the colorful fruits and vegetables that we passed as we walked alongside each other was a warm, unified feeling. After what we had just endured in the conference room, we couldn’t help but take in the moment and exchange the positivity.

Leaving the event was quite difficult as most of us wanted to continue to explore and share stories that continue to inspire us all. However, not only did we leave with the motivation to become the best versions of ourselves, but we left with the willpower and strength to be the girls who take the lead. Whether or not the world is ready, young women are the cycling hope that change will happen and that it will succeed.