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“Together We Fly!”, was one of the many motivating statements the keynote speaker had the high school girls say together, during her presentation at the 4th Annual Young Women LEAD (Leadership, Education, and Development) Conference that took place on Wednesday at Vincennes University Jasper Campus & Jasper Arts Center.

415 high school girls were registered for this free event coming from all 4 Dubois county high schools schools (NorthEast Dubois, SouthEast Dubois, Jasper High School, & Forest Park High School), Pike Central HS, Shoals HS, Heritage Hills HS, and Silver Creek High School out of Sellersburg.

The Young Women LEAD conference in Jasper, was organized by women from the Dubois area who are professionals in their own field. These local women leaders participated in the SOAR program which serves as a leadership development program that creates the conference. The Young Women LEAD Jasper committtee members were: April Gogel, Erika Buse, Gail Peckenpaugh, Kimbra Gunselman, Kristen Schwenk, Leslie Humby, Lisa Evans, Molly Wuchner, Shari Gress, and Susan Weisheit. Alongside the planning committee there were around 40 volunteers in total who helped through the conference planning and some the day of the event.

One of the conference SOAR members, project manager Gail Peckenpaugh, noted that the conference focuses on the education, development, and growth components to be a better leader and shared what it’s like to be involved.

Founder and President of SOAR, Sally Schott, elaborates on the investment local women leaders demonstrate as well as their preparation for the conference.

Schott gave credit to Tonya Heim, Vice President of Patient Services & CNO at Memorial Hospital, who suggested for Sally to do outreach towards Jasper businesses and ask them to support the SOAR program by encouraging their employees to participate. Schott added that everyone involved with the conference and its impact is created from multi-generational women helping other women.

Founder of Matrix Integration here in Jasper, Brenda Stallings, attended the event as both a gold level sponsor but also as a supporter of the overall purpose being accomplished.

One of the SOAR program mentors, Jane Chappell, touches on issues that are addressed at the conference and the profound impact the speakers can have on the students.

SOAR mentor Tonya Heim and Liberty Hill the emcee for the conference, presented guest speaker, Kelly Schaefer, and keynote speaker, Julia Garcia, throughout the 2 track conference sessions.


Kelly Schaefer shared with these young women her life-changing story after a 1999 drunken driving accident, resulted in her becoming quadriplegic. At the time, she was only 19 years old and a cheerleader for Indiana University. CAM01556

In her presentation she shines a light to her journey of becoming a leader in her own right as she is now a teacher and author to an Amazon bestseller book, Fractured not Broken.

Schaefer is currently teaching at the Holy Trinity Catholic School in Jasper and shares why this field is important to consider as a career.

Schaefer extends advice to those young women interested in the educator field by saying that it’s worth being a teacher based on the influence a person can have in the success of their students.

Keynote speaker, Julia Garcia, embraced the audience of high school girls julia2-speakers-249x300
at the conference by sharing how she came from obstacles derived from her
CAM00896upbringing and unraveled her experience through slam poetry and successfully having the high school girls interact with her presentation as well as with each other. Garcia’s presentation was both moving and filled with laughter.

Through performance art and story telling Garcia encourages others to embrace The Real U and has been a motivational speaker for 10 years nationwide.

She received her BA in Communication from New York Institute of Technology and was a scholar athlete, Her Masters Degree in Human Science with a focus in Transformative Social Change from Saybrook University and there she is currently a candidate for her PHD in Psychology.

She contributes an encouraging message for future leading women to find themselves through their aspirations.



Garcia continued by saying she was impressed with the high school girls at the conference for standing up as she prompt them with questions about their life and that their bravery of participating even when it would be hard for others is what motivates her to continue reaching young women and show them that they are not alone. In her presentation she declared, “We should walk arm & arm with each other”.

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