Event inspires young women to follow their dreams

Photos by Kayla Renie/The Herald
Claire Eckert, 15, of Schnellville, right, and Payton Dilger, 16, of Ferdinand, watch instructor Andrea Potter of Jasper during a Zumba class breakout session at the eighth annual Young Women Lead conference at Vincennes University Jasper on Wednesday.


JASPER — Motivational speaker Adrienne Bulinski proudly held up a wad of gum constructed from individual pieces she’d chewed more than 15 years ago.

Bulinski displayed the wad to the roughly 500 teenage girls from Dubois and surrounding counties gathered in the auditorium at the Jasper Arts Center for this year’s Young Women Lead Conference. The wad, she said, represented a year’s worth of work on her dream. She’d chewed each piece at age 22 during the 5 minutes a day minimum she dedicated to her dream of being a dancer.

Bulinski delivered the keynote address for the conference. Her speech focused on the four choices each person makes every day that determine their success: speaking dreams and goals aloud; how much effort to put in; what kind of attitude to have; and whether or not to persevere through the struggle.

The wad of gum represented effort.

Beyond the wad of gum, Bulinski used her life experience of working toward and achieving her dream of acting and dancing in musicals, having that dream shattered by a horse-riding accident that severed her foot, struggling through the ensuing years of medical treatment and intense pain, and eventually building a new dream. The story hit home with Forest Park Junior-Senior High School students Olivia Englert, Ava Evans and Madi Fleck.

“I liked her story,” Madi said, adding that the message she took from it is to follow your dreams.

Kelsey Mehling, 17, practices a punching maneuver with her partner Averie Welp, 17, both of Ferdinand, during a self-defense breakout session at the eighth annual Young Women Lead Conference at Vincennes University Jasper on Wednesday.

Olivia said the idea of choosing to have a good day stuck with her, and Ava said the theme of never giving up stood out to her.

Each year, Young Women Lead brings a nationally known motivational speaker to Jasper to speak to high school girls from Dubois, Spencer, Crawford, Daviess, Martin, Orange, Perry and Pike counties. The conference is organized by the previous year’s SOAR class, and this year was the eighth conference.

SOAR is a nine-month leadership development class for professional women. Each year, a new class of women starts in January and meets once a month until October. The capstone project for the class is the Young Women Lead Conference every March.

Following Bulinski’s keynote speech, the girls adjourned to a series of breakout sessions led by local women that continue to teach the young women the skills they’ll need to be successful, such as wellness, responsible social media use, financial management and goal setting.

Local Zumba instructor and officer with the Indiana Gaming Commission Andrea Potter led one of the sessions on wellness. Prior to leading the girls through several Zumba dances, Potter shared her story of pursuing a degree in criminal justice and using Latin dance classes in college as a way to de-stress and maintain mental and physical wellness. After graduation, she missed the stress release dancing offered, so she found Zumba. Zumba, she found, offered her balance between the stress and regulation of her job and her need to let loose.

“As you go forward, find your own balance,” she told the girls.

By lunchtime, Jasper High School freshmen Vanessa Mejia and Brailyn Whaley were feeling empowered.

“It’s pretty awesome,” Brailyn said. “The speakers are really inspirational.”

Vanessa agreed.

“They’re really confident in themselves,” she said. “It makes it fun.”

High school girls enrolled in Crawford, Daviess, Dubois, Martin, Orange, Perry, Pike and Spencer counties participate in a yoga and mediation breakout session at the eighth annual Young Women Lead Conference at Vincennes University Jasper on Wednesday.

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