United States of America’s Mrs. Arkansas, Venture Watson, first ever Girls Coordinator at Arkansas Middle School, hosted Girl Empowerment Day on Saturday, October 2nd at Arkansas Middle School, it was the first ever at the new school. With over 100 girls in attendance, and guests that included Mrs. Texas (Mrs. Ashley Beard), and Former WNBA Player Maria Ferdinand-Harris, along with fellow female officers from the PRIDE Academy, and volunteers from all over Texarkana, Girl Empowerment Day was a complete success.
Girls who attended the event were greeted with free t-shirts designed by Watson, Girl Power cinch bags designed by Pride officer Shawna, filled with donated items from local businesses around the area. They were then escorted into the gym filled with music by DJ HollyGrove, and volunteers and guests from around the Texarkana Area dancing and singing. Everything from the decorations, sponsored by Ladorish Smith, to the photo booth, to the gifts and food were set-up in style for the young ladies in attendance. “We want the girls coming here today to know that they have a future. That their future doesn’t need to be filled with aggressive behavior, or anger, or hurt. That you can work through it all, and overcome so much to be successful,” said Harris. Harris, a former WNBA player, spoke on her difficult upbringing in a large family in the roughest area of Miami, Florida. When talking to the girls, she noted that she took every opportunity she could, to try to be the first in her family to attend college. She also noted that when she first started playing basketball, it wasn’t easy, and she definitely wasn’t the best. But with hard work, dedication, and by listening to the people who believed in her, she was able to make it. She became the first Haitian American to play for the WNBA.
Throughout the event, the girls were split into several groups. Girls were able to enjoy relaxing yoga and meditation with the duo Callie and Carly, create vision boards with AMS school Counselors, Ms. Smith and Mrs. Rhone, visit a panel talk and ask questions to Ashley Beard, Maria Ferdinand-Harris, and Jordan Turner, experience a limo rides sponsored by River Rack Rentals out of Broken Bo, OK, around the campus, and speak with local entrepreneurs such as Keisha with the Keys Willingham, and her daughter Bre Block, the current Homecoming Queen from Liberty Eylau. “The power that you hold in this room is incredible. You just have to know how powerful you really are,” said Ashley Beard. Mrs. Beard, current Mrs. Texas, spoke to the girls on how growing up in the roughest part of Ventura, California, as well as medical issues that led to her being made fun of, helped build her confidence and grace as she grew into her own. “I am unapologetically myself. I think that’s why I was able to win Mrs. Texas this year. Because I’m not going to be fake with anyone. I learned a long time ago that the more you try to hide behind who you aren’t, the easier it is to become lost. I am embracing everything that I have gone through, and I am here to show these girls that you can succeed. You can do anything that you want to do. You just have to be willing to put in the hard work, the effort, and to be yourself,” said Beard.
Girls throughout the day had the opportunity to win prizes that were donated to the event by family members of Venture, as well as gift cards donated from local businesses such as Jason’s Deli, and gift cards to Little Caesars and Chick Fil A were donated by Coach Jeff Foreback. One special winner went home with a free limo ride for herself and her friends, and others went home with prizes such as AirPods, Apple watches and more. While the girls in attendance met and spoke with incredible women from around the Texarkana Area, they also had the opportunity to open up to panel speakers about issues that they feel are most important to them. Issues were discussed, and encouragement was given to reach out to staff from local districts for help, as well as positive ways to deal with conflict in and outside of schools.
Girl Empowerment Day was an incredible opportunity for the young ladies around the Texarkana Area to learn from women who have struggled through the toughest of times, but who have achieved so much because of their hard work. “Everyone has a story to tell. But I want you to be the ones telling your story in the future to other struggling girls, of just how far you made it,” said Venture to the girls in attendance. “Thanks to some of the local churches like Tower of Power, 11th Street, Radiant, Heritage, and Abundant Life for your sponsorships. Brandon Chalmers with Miracle Creation Foundation, Shawnkiwa Smith owner of Hooked on Fitness, Misty Dawsey, and Wanya Jenkins were Gold sponsors. Sara Lunsford donated hair products for all the girls. I can’t list all of my family and friends who helped make this event so special. I could not do it without you. I want to thank my principal Theresa Cowling for letting me host the event. I am grateful for teachers Mrs. Hackleman and Mrs. Weathers who helped all day,” said Watson. Nurse Collette, Mrs. Torrans, Officer Green, Coach Harris, Coach Carter all donated for the cause.