Ottawa County Freshmen Attend Inaugural Women’s Conference

Posted on: March 28, 2024

March celebrates Women’s History Month and what better way to celebrate than a Young Women conference. Ottawa County’s freshmen girls spent the day at Ohio’s Inaugural Young Women Lead Conference on Thursday, March 21 held at the Liberty Aviation Museum. Young Women Lead is the nation’s leading trusted provider of life-changing and experiential leadership events for high school young women. It is an established nonprofit with a proven track record of success in partnering with extraordinary women role models.

Julie Carrier speaking to Ottawa County’s freshmen girls.

Julie Carrier, CEO of Girls Lead Worldwide, spoke to this years’ group of young women, empowering them to empower girls to empower each other. She is recognized as the “#1 Coach for Young Women” by Leading Global Coaches/Thinkers 50 and is a trusted authority on leadership development and confidence for girls and young women. Julie is also a bestselling author, award-winning speaker and consultant for leading girls schools, colleges and organizations.

Carrier energizing and engaging the girls in a YWL activity.

“The most important person you need is who? Who is the most important person that you need? Go ahead and point to yourself,” stated Carrier. “Today is about leading yourself to lead and live your best life.”

Just before the event kick-off, Congresswomen Marcy Kaptur had a message for the young women in Ottawa County via video call.

 “I am so proud to address you today, to be a part of this vision and mission that will help to create a future generation of leaders here in Ottawa County, across our Buckeye State and throughout our nation.”

After working for 15 years as an Urban Planner, primarily in Toledo and Chicago, she was appointed as a domestic policy advisor for the Carter Administration. Today she serves as the first women to serve as Ranking Member of the influential House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development and is the longest serving woman in the history of congress.

“As someone who was the first in my family to go to college and graduate school, it opened doors that I would have never know were even possible.”

The Second Lady of Ohio, Tina Husted made a special appearance during the event and provided the young girls with some of her best practices and leadership advice.

Second Lady of Ohio, Tina Husted, was a guest speaker at Ottawa County’s YWL Conference.

“I think that its critical more than ever for us to speak out and share hope and optimism with our youth, especially with our young ladies.”

Ms. Husted explained how engagement is key for growth and development. Whether it’s with your community, volunteering, your school, sports, or church, getting out there and doing something is critical. It’s hard when you don’t have any type of role model, however.

“I think one thing that people don’t really want to talk about today is the absence of fathers in children’s lives; the statistics are there,” stated Husted. “If a father is absent, the child has a much higher chance of being in poverty and living below their potential.”

What catapulted Husted, from an educational standpoint, was a teacher who believed in her.

“I was seen in my family hierarchy as the ‘least smart’ child,” laughed Husted. “I had a teacher in sixth grade who said, ‘you’re capable, you can do this, you need to focus and believe in yourself’ and he made me want to learn. That impact is priceless.”

This event was the culmination of over 9 months of planning to bring the first ever Young Women LEAD conference to Ohio and the freshman girls in Ottawa County. The conference brought nearly 200 girls in attendance along with school representatives, almost 20 volunteers from the community and over 20 local business sponsors, for a day of encouragement, leadership, and confidence.

Ottawa County’s freshmen girls of nearly 200 in attendance.

Emily Rockwell, Human Resources Director for Materion, proposed the idea of hosting a YWL Conference in Ottawa County to the Ottawa County Business Advisory Council, as she had participated in one a few years back. With the support of the BAC and having an active committee, Ottawa County’s first YWL Conference was soon underway.

Emily Rockwell poses with Second Lady of Ohio Tina Husted.

“Our speakers (Carrier and Husted) were very well received by the group and they gave us a lot of positive feedback about the messaging,” commented Rockwell. “Many of them said that the focus of the event being on confidence and self-esteem was very impactful and, in many instances, life changing. I am very excited for the future opportunities the partnership with OCIC BAC and Young Women LEAD will bring to our community.”

Carrier spoke on the importance of life-changing experiences to inspire and empower others, as well as to never give up on your dreams. She filled the entire room with energy, enthusiasm, and drive. She engaged the young women in several activities throughout the day. One specifically touched on goals and empowerment. Carrier brought two young ladies to the stage for a demonstration, with large golden balloons in their hands, they balanced their goal. Carrier tossed in multiple balloons that represented unhealthy relationships and pressure decisions.

“Look at the successes in their hands, look at what could have been a broken dream in her mind. The truth is, that choice is up to you, and you have access to that choice every single day,” shouted Carrier. “Regardless of the past, you can have a bright and bold future through standing up for yourself and making the best choices.”

One of those young ladies was Jillian Widmer of Oak Harbor High School and shared her thoughts on the conference.

Jillian Widmer and Judith Herold join Carrier on stage for a goal-setting activity.

“I love it so much, it is amazing, and I’ve taken away that respect in relationships is very, very important,” stated Widmer. Widmer also had a special message to any young woman who is going through life changes or struggles. “You are stunning, you are gorgeous; you have so much more confidence than you realize. You are so much more important than you think you are.”

Several Genoa High School students chimed in on their takeaway from the conference as well.

“I really liked the activity that we did that touched on how we’re all valuable, and that we didn’t just sit and listen to her, but that we all got to interact with one another,” stated Judith Harold.

“I liked the interaction a lot,” stated Malani Smith. “When she (Carrier) was talking about confidence, I know a lot of people struggle with confidence, so I thought the (activities) ABCs, having good posture, and the song made it all really fun.”

“I liked how she danced the ABC thing, I’m glad she shared that with us. I think I’m going to keep that in mind,” laughed Paigelyn McWatters.

Miss Kitty and The Litter’s own front woman, Jaclyn Favro Zajac, was the Emcee for the event. At the end of the conference, one of the girls ran up to Jaclyn as she too wants to be a musician.

Favro Zajac talks to students about being a woman in the music industry.

Every day is a new day and Carrier reminded the young women that they can put the past behind them and go after their original goals, to never give up on yourself. After the conference, Carrier signed her book “Girls Lead” for the girls to take home with them.

Carrier signing her autograph for Ottawa County’s freshmen girls.

The conference was put on by the Ottawa County Business Advisory Council. The council hopes to establish this as a regional conference next year. Learn more about the BAC at