Learning & Leadership in Chicago

By Amanda Mouait

The Association of Junior League’s International holds several conferences each year in order to connect, inspire and empower members. The 2016 Fall Leadership Conference took place in Chicago, Illinois.

The Junior League of Edmonton sent our two presidents; Hannah Barrington, President and Amanda Mouait, President-Elect. Here’s Amanda’s take on the knowledge and content of the conference.

Amanda & Hannah

The first time my fellow Junior League member had a divide and conquer approach with a focus on the membership stream. At this year’s conference, Hannah and I decided to attend many of the sessions together to maximize on key learning. With us being at the start of our leadership terms, our League’s new focus area, we favoured a bull’s eye approach over a shotgun approach to information. Our goal was to gain as much perspective as possible and learn whatever we could in the areas of girls’ self-esteem and creating a member centric League.

This year’s conference focused on girls’ self-esteem and member focused leagues. The conference opened with a panel of four leaders from different organizations. Their mandates were all focused on girls’ self esteem and unsurprisingly, most had a strong mentorship factor.

  • Kelly Fair, Polished Pebbles: Mentoring is at the core of their program. They work with girls ages 7 – 17 and support them in becoming effective communicators.
  • Cassandra Gaddo, Step Up: They use after school programming to inspire teen girls to become confident, college-bound and career focused. Mentoring is also a big part of their mission.
  • Ashley Marine, GirlForward: Through mentorship, GirlForward focuses on young female refugees, helping them gain confidence and place in their communities.
  • Michelle Sperzel, Girls in the Game: They build leaders around four main pillars: sports, leadership, health and life.

Each organization brought something different to the table and ranged slightly in age groups. It was encouraging to hear about successful grassroots programs in various communities. All the programs have seen expansion in their programs since their creation. The Junior League has great impact developing successful programs and handing them over to community. Seeing organization’s success with similar programs was nothing short of inspiring. There is no doubt Junior League of Edmonton is ready for such a project. I believe our current membership would gain not only valuable skills and leadership training; but also enormous pride and ownership.

The Association of Junior Leagues International reinforced the changing membership model throughout the conference and while the Junior League of Edmonton has not formally adopted the new model , many board discussions revolve around the principles within this model. We are a new and thriving League with varying demographics and make every effort to accommodate different needs while still maintaining the structure of the League. This needs of our members are ever changing and we are always a work in progress. This fall conference reinforced that we are on the right track.

During the conference we had the opportunity to connect with the Canadian Federation of Junior Leagues. Junior Leagues from Halifax, Calgary and Edmonton were represented in Chicago and both get-togethers were extremely worthwhile and added value to our monthly calls. The Junior League of Halifax has just launched their own new program focused on girls’ self-esteem and at the time had just run a trial session. We look forward to learning from their program specifics when they share with us in the near future.

The fall leadership conference strengthened the vision that has been cast for the Junior League of Edmonton. It was also a great reminder that although we are one of only five leagues in Canada, we have a larger connection to the the organization as a whole. I am constantly reminded that what we do on a daily basis in our committees provides invaluable training opportunities for all members. The work we do also contributes significantly to the greater goal and vision we have set to improve girls’ self-esteem and mental health.