By Paula Vasquez
Advertising and Marketing Director
Room B149 at Mountain View College looked like the set of “Oprah,” a duo of enthusiastic women said. They, along with about 100 others, were there for the five women on stage. The open discussion during the luncheon at the Women’s Empowerment Leadership Conference March 7 served as a midday entertainment session. Two of the five women on the stage were Brookhaven College students Lilly Munene and Tiffany Chubb, who brought tough opinions to comment on topics such as hip-hop singer Beyoncé’s approach to the media.
Cathy Edwards, director of student programs and resources at Mountain View, said this year’s conference ended up with 137 registered guests. “We would have had more, but I had to close registration down,” Edwards said.
The annual conference has grown, Edwards said. This year’s conference was born out of the partnership between college directors Dominica McCarthy, student programs development specialist at Brookhaven; Shanee Moore, director of student life at El Centro College; and Toni Holloway, student services coordinator at El Centro; along with Edwards.
McCarthy said she thinks it is great to partner up with the colleges to create the conference because women have the chance to use the conference’s message to improve their lives and education. Accompanied by seven Brookhaven students, McCarthy said she hopes people “had an opportunity to meet some people that they didn’t know prior to the conference, that they learned what I called little gold nuggets, different things that they can take with them and continue to build and work on.” The conference included sessions that encouraged women to lead stress-free lives, commit to themselves, budget, save and invest.
Laura Morlando, a speaker and stress coach who goes by the nickname “The Stress Commando,” was at the conference to provide advice to women and leaders suffering from stress. “If stress is the leading cause for heart disease and you can manage stress, heart disease doesn’t need a cure because you can actually stop it,” Morlando said. Edwards said everyone in a leadership position can get stressed and should take Morlando’s advice.
Munene was among the Brookhaven students and was one of the five women onstage during the luncheon. She said she liked the opportunity to be a part of the panel and said: “I thought it was really great. I even felt special.” Munene said the biggest advice she took from the conference was, “You have to fill your cup before you go helping other people because there’s no way you can help people and not have helped yourself first.” She said, “You can’t inspire others with- out being inspired yourself.”
Munene said she enjoyed Morlando’s advice and would try to stay connected with her. “Right now I’m getting to a point when I’m transferring schools, and it’s getting really stressful because I’m in SLI [Student Leadership Institute] and I’m taking five classes, so I think what she teaches about stress is pretty cool,” Munene said.
Keynote speaker Dr. Allatia Harris, San Jacinto College vice chancellor and president of the American Association for Women in Community Colleges, shared her thoughts on managing her familial duties with her career.
Harris said she considers the Dallas County Community College District family, and leaving it was really hard for her. She said, “I am who I am because of the people in my life, and community college … has brought the best people in the world into my life, and you all changed me.” Harris said fate has kept landing her job openings that pushed her to make changes in her life, such as moving to Houston. Harris said, “I have an opportunity to make an impact, and for me, that’s enough of a reason.”
Harris said she encourages all women to make changes and reach for opportunities like she has because there is a need for female leaders.
Edwards said the conference has always featured great speakers, but Harris’ presence set this year apart. Edwards said she knew Harris from the first speech class she took. Over the years, Edwards said she developed a more personal relationship with Harris and said, “She really was my motivator to stay in school and to do well in school … She helped to really empower me.” Edwards said Harris sparked inspiration within her and said, “Everyone inspires each other, and this is what this conference is about.”