The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Mini-Grants Recap: Link Up's Sister to Sister 2015 Conference

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Students reflect on the opportunities provided to them by the Rockefeller Center's Mini-Grants program through this ongoing series. The Mini-Grants program funds registration fees for students attending conferences relevant to the Rockefeller Center's mission as well as the costs of bringing speakers to the Dartmouth campus.

Link Up's Sister to Sister conference is a day-long retreat for seventh grade girls to discuss the many issues confronting young women such as health and fitness, self-confidence, and relationships with friends and family. This year’s conference focused on the theme of "Standing up and Speaking Out." 2015's conference included 122 girls from six middle schools in the Upper Valley, which was a large increase from the 2014 conference, which had only four middle schools. We included new activities including interactive skits for the girls to present a right and wrong response to different situations of bullying.

Sister to Sister 2015 conference participants gather for a group photograph.

I learned so much through planning Sister to Sister 2015, and it was an invaluable experience for all involved. First, I learned about the various logistics involved with planning a conference of this size and magnitude. The key to the success of the conference was starting to prepare very early on by noting what was and was not successful from Sister to Sister 2014. Link Up has already began to talk about Sister to Sister 2016, and I know that this will be essential to making next year's conference even more successful than this year’s. Further, it was so important that we were able to receive input from so many different people involved with the conference. We sent out surveys to the facilitators asking for feedback and we used the 2014 feedback to improve this year’s conference. Additionally, all of the Link Up executives reviewed and edited the schedule for the conference. All of this collaboration ensured that the program for the day was looked at from a variety of perspectives and therefore we could try to cover all important topics for middle school girls.

Facilitator Anne Smith '16 leads her group of girls in an interactive anti-bullying skit.

The conference itself was incredibly invaluable, and the benefits were huge for all involved in Sister to Sister. Middle school is a period charged with emotion, confusion, and feelings of loneliness, and our conference attempts to inspire confidence and empower the individual students. This year, we focused the conference around "Standing Up and Speaking Out," and had the program of the day centered around empowering these seventh grade girls. Moreover, we were hoping to create something sustainable. We hope to create a network of hundreds of young women all across the Upper Valley from six different schools that will feel connected and supported by their peers and want to provide that same support in return. In order to do that, we encouraged the girls to sign one another's provided t-shirts and write letters of self-reflection about the conference, letters they will receive next year as eighth graders. We’re creating a community that will hopefully follow them well past their eighth grade graduation.

WISE's Kate Rohdenburg leads a talk on positive body image.

In addition, we invited a multitude of Dartmouth students to participate and give back to the Upper Valley community. Prior to the event, students participated by crafting inspirational quote books that were distributed to the girls in their goodie bags. Students also helped to assemble goodie bags that consisted of a t-shirt, an inspirational quote book, a bracelet, a pin, and candy. At the actual event, we had several Dartmouth students dressed in flair greet the girls and guide them to Alumni Hall, where the conference took place. We also invited 20 female Dartmouth students to lead the event as facilitators, and their role was to guide discussion at their tables of seven seventh grade girls throughout the day. We had four female Dartmouth students share their experiences through a panel that was followed by a highly interactive question and answer period.

Link Up is so grateful to the Rockefeller Center for providing us with a mini-grant that allowed us to expand our programming. It is so important to us that Sister to Sister comes at no cost to the girls and the schools involved. Thank you Rocky!

-Written by Sarah Han '17

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