Girl-Wise Yearly Symposium

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The 19th Judicial Circuit and the Lake County Juvenile Justice Council continue to partner with agencies in the community to present the annual Girl-Wise Conference. The planning committee of this conference includes representatives from Juvenile Probation/Detention Services, the State’s Attorney’s Office, Nicasa, Omni Youth Services, the Regional Office of Education, the College of Lake County, and females in the community. All funding used for this conference is acquired through donations from various agencies in the community, as well as personal donations from representatives of the committee. The conference offers junior high and high school females an opportunity to attend workshops that promote creativity, healthy bodies, healthy minds, and taking charge of their lives.
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Mission Statement: The annual Girl-Wise Conference is dedicated to supporting junior high and high school girls to develop into healthy, resilient, productive women who realize their full potential.

Program Purpose: The conference provides girls resources and new skills to help enhance motivation, promote community ties and direction in an effort to ensure a healthy, positive future. It is an opportunity for the girls to come together, and receive information regarding issues they may be currently facing. Topics covered include healthily relationships, decision making, personal safety, and life skills.

Program Description: The first conference was held on May 22, 2004 and was planned by the girl’s network team, which consists of representatives including
Juvenile Court Judges, Juvenile Probation/Detention Services, Omni Youth Services, the Regional Office of Education, Warren Township, the State’s Attorney’s Office, Nicasa, Lake County Juvenile Officers Association, the College of Lake County, Zacharias Center, and females in the community. All funding used for this conference was acquired through donations from various agencies in the community, as well as personal donations from representatives of the committee along with members of the community. The conference is sponsored by the 19th Judicial Circuit, the Lake County Juvenile Justice Council, and the College of Lake County. The conference also receives a great deal of support from the judiciary and local legislators.

“Girl-Wise” is now held annually at the College of Lake County. The conference provides free information geared for teen and pre-teen girls living in the area, in the form of workshops, team building activities, resource booths, and guest speakers. The day begins with the girls having an opportunity to visit different resource booths to gather information about available programming in the community. To keep the girls motivated and interested, they are given a scavenger hunt checklist, which is signed by each resources booth they visit. Additionally, staff from the 19th Judicial Circuit present the Jr’s Challenge Course and have the girls participate in activities that promote teamwork, self-esteem, leadership, and “thinking outside the box.”

The girls are then formally welcomed to the conference and introduced to the activities for the day by a member of the judiciary, followed by a keynote speaker who addresses the group. Keynote speakers have included representatives from the Illinois Attorney General’s Office who discussed internet safety and cyber bullying, and a local television personality, and the Zacharias Center. The girls are separated by grade, to attend workshops that promote creativity, healthy bodies, healthy minds, relationships, education and substance abuse awareness. The Regional Office of Education provides lunch for all of the girls. Following lunch, the girls watch a play performed by OMNI Youth Services Reality Troupe, who present a performance highlighting adolescent struggles. An additional workshop is provided for the group and finally, the day concludes door prizes and a raffle. Every girl is a winner because they leave the conference with a “goodie bag” and a tote bag donated by the College of Lake County.

In addition to providing resources and programming for the girls, the Girl-Wise Conference recently added a parental component in the form of a workshop. Parents are brought together and presented with information which may be helpful in addressing issues with their girls, such as substance abuse, body image and internet safety.

Conclusion: The program has been greatly received for the experience it offers to junior high and high school girls in the community. Girl-Wise provides the
girls exposure to services and support in the area in which they live, that they may be otherwise unaware. Supporters of the program have not only donated
their time to the conference, but monetary donations have been made over the years which allow the conference to be held, since there are not funds
allotted to the program.