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Lakeville South seniors organize ‘Breaking Barriers: EmpowHERing Futures’ career event for 8th-12th grade girls

February 2, 2024

On Monday, Jan. 12, Lakeville Area Schools 8th-12th grade female students attended ‘Breaking Barriers: EmpowHERing Futures’– a career event organized by a group of Lakeville South High School seniors. The main idea behind the event was to inspire the next generation of girls to explore job opportunities in fields where women are the minority.

Throughout the event, students traveled around to stations hosted by women from underrepresented fields. At each station, students learned about a different career field and participated in an activity related to that field. 

Lakeville South seniors Halle Eastling, Anna Goodman, Ashley Sutton, and Tori Tschida put this event together for their STEM senior capstone project. Their event was inspired by the ‘Grit to Great’ career exposure event that was hosted at Apple Valley High School a few years ago. 

“As a group of young females, we felt the desire to inspire the younger generation of girls to explore some career paths they may have not already considered,” said Sutton. “Even though we have come a long way, there is still a stigma surrounding women in some professions, whether intentional or not.”

The student organizers started planning this event in the fall of 2023 with support from Lakeville South STEM teacher Dan Rawley and Century Middle School STEM teacher Jodie Bray. Their organization process included: searching for a venue; communicating and coordinating with event speakers and volunteers; reaching out to local companies for sponsorship and food donations; attending other STEM nights throughout the district; and advertising for the event.

One of their biggest takeaways from organizing and hosting this event was how important it is to keep moving forward despite setbacks. 

“Planning this event taught us the importance of working through failures and how to keep moving forward when things don’t go as planned,” said Sutton. “We had problems such as communication failures, venue changes, and time constraints, but we kept moving forward and worked out conflicts that arose.”

The student organizers also mentioned how planning this event gave them confidence in their ability to bring people together and create change, even on a small scale.

“So often ‘change’ is seen as something that has to be miraculous and on a massive scale,” said Sutton. “This event showed us that by bringing even a small group of people together we could instigate change and inspire others even if it wasn’t the biggest event in the world.” 

The students noted one of the most rewarding aspects of this event was meeting a group of positive, strong, and amazing women. 

“We would love to give our gratitude to all of our amazing speakers,” said Eastling, Goodman, Sutton, and Tschida. ”It was a gift meeting them all and we are so grateful for their time spent dedicated to our event, goals, and vision.”

Eastling, Goodman, Sutton, and Tschida would like to extend their thanks to the following organizations and individuals who helped make this event possible:

  • Dan Rawley - Lakeville South STEM teacher (capstone teacher, mentor)

  • Jackie Fleischhacker - Lakeville South STEM teacher (“Wingwoman”, mentor)

  • Krista Jech - Lakeville Chamber of Commerce President (supported event coordination, provided resources and guidance)

  • Jodie Bray - Century Middle School STEM teacher (helped inspire the event, mentor)

  • Tracy Pleschourt - Self-Made U Founder (keynote speaker, exhibitor)

  • Amy Cernava & Krista Meereen - POST Consumer brands (exhibitors)

  • Sydney Blaeser & David Crowe - Army National Guard (exhibitors)

  • Monica Fondie & Dawn McCarter - Allina Health & Hennepin Healthcare (exhibitors)

  • Laura Groen - Board and Brush (exhibitor)

  • Linda Ball & Maddie Jensen - PawPADS (exhibitors)

  • James Lynch & Theresa Kuhn - ISD196 staff members and ‘Grit to Great’ event coordinators (supplied resources from their ‘Grit to Great’ event)

  • Lakeville Cub Foods & Lakeville Subway (donated sandwiches for lunch)

  • Cream of the Cakes (donated a gift card as a raffle prize)

  • Students, friends and teachers for participating in the event