Empowered Girls become Empowered Women 

Empowered Girls become Empowered Women 


A group of students standing outside on the grass while waving at the camera.

Tuesday marked the 10th anniversary of the International Day of the Girl, an observance day declared by the United Nations to address the challenges girls face and to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfilment of their human rights. St. Petersburg College celebrated the occasion by hosting the third annual Pearls & Portfolio Symposium on Friday, Oct. 7 at the Seminole Campus, in partnership with Pinellas County Schools, Girl Scouts of West Central Florida and Pace Center for Girls. 

SPC President taking a group picture with girls standing on the stairs.

SPC President Dr. Tonjua Williams kicked off the morning by taking selfies with the girls and welcoming them to the campus.  

“SPC is proud to host the Pearls & Portfolios Symposium and we appreciate our partners, sponsors and volunteers who are committed to helping girls succeed,” Williams said. “Our girls are our future; therefore, career development is essential and builds a path to more productive lives for everyone.”  

This year’s theme, Empowered Girls become Empowered Women, was a huge success, and Women on the Way Coordinator Shirley Crumbley said students shared that the symposium was inspirational, informative and encouraged them to become stronger women. 

“The Pearls and Portfolios Symposium is important because we’re planting the seeds for future leaders and empowering our girls to know their worth and value,” Crumbley said. “I am thankful to SPC, Pinellas County Schools, Girl Scouts of West Central Florida, the volunteers, the presenters, and all who made this event a huge success.”   

A group of students sitting in the auditorium while Marilyn Shaw stood on the stage speaking.

Nearly 100 middle-school girls filled the Digitorum and shouted, “I am not ashamed to be myself!” during SPC Communications/PR Coordinator Marilyn Shaw’s keynote presentation, “Unashamed Confidence.” She motivated them to embrace their unique qualities – and perceived flaws – with love and grace, instead of criticism and judgment. 

“Middle school can be a tough time for young girls, and I remember it being challenging for me,” Shaw said. “My goal was to encourage them to invest in their mental health and self-esteem now, so they can have the tools to be successful later.” 

From financial literacy to coding, the girls participated in a variety of workshops, including: 

  •  Frame Your Future, hosted by the Women on the Way Team (Tara Allen, Bianca Cage and Pepper Harth) 
  •  STEM Lab, hosted by SPC STEM Faculty (Dr. Erica Moulton, Chad Mairn and Sid Martin) 
  •  Kidzonomics Budgeting Session, hosted by Sheena Qualles 
A student sitting at a desk writing.

Eight Grader Makala Adams said after this event she felt empowered to tell her friends to not be judgmental about themselves.

“This event was good and I enjoyed all the speakers,” Adams said. “My favorite part was the LED STEM session and Frame Your Future.”

To learn more about the Pearls & Portfolio Symposium, contact Shirley Crumbley at crumbley.shirley@spcollege.edu.  


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