“You have to see it to be it.” These words have been spoken over the years by trailblazers who have used their achievements as a platform to inspire other women and young girls. In that spirit, DevMar Products, LLC teamed up with Enterprising Women Magazine to present Nashville’s first Young Enterprising Women Mentoring Forum. This national program, sponsored by the Enterprising Women Foundation, provides high school girls with the opportunity to connect with outstanding women in business in their local community.
Held at Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School on Thursday, November 29th, sixty high school girls filled the first few rows of the school auditorium and eagerly waited to hear from the panel of dynamic women seated before them. After brief remarks from the school’s Academy Coach, Brittany Edmondson, and the honorable Judge Sheila Calloway, DevMar Products President/CEO, Sharon Reynolds, addressed the students from a place of sincerity. “I would like to share with you that I, too, am a product of Metro Public Schools and a proud graduate of Maplewood High School. I am a five-generation native Nashvillian and faced many adversities growing up but always knew that I would do something to leave a lasting legacy. I founded my company, DevMar Products, on a dream and a mission to help preserve our planet for generations to come. Becoming an entrepreneur has been the most exciting journey and continued to evolve each day. I encourage each of you to think about what your lasting impact will be in the community and the world. Get to know these outstanding role models and mentors to learn how they shaped their own career journey.”
Panel Discussion & Mentoring Roundtables
Following the remarks, the panel discussion began. Moderated by Julie Lilliston of Julie Lilliston Communications, the panelists spoke passionately about their experiences and their hopes for this chosen generation.
One by one, these accomplished ladies shared their story – seasoned with both triumph and trial. Then, the conversation broadened to include perspective on common social issues that threaten to unravel the delicate seams of self-esteem and determination. “When you know who you are and what your strengths are, you can be your best self,” remarked LoLita Toney (National Museum of African American Music). Charlene Bryant with Sony/RCA Inspiration encouraged students to “Chase what’s in your heart and what you’re passionate about. Push against the haters and naysayers.” On STEAM, students were told to not be intimidated by it, but to prepare to use it to change the world.
The breakout session partnered groups of students with individual mentors for mentoring roundtables. This gave students an opportunity to gain a better understanding of the mentors’ profession and to get tips on topics like goal setting.
- Charlene Bryant, Sony/RCA Inspiration
- Dr. Gretchen Campbell, KCA Neurology
- LaTonya Gordon, U.S. Department of the Interior
- Lucia Mar, Bank of America Merrill Lynch
- LaKisha Simmons, PhD, Belmont University
- LoLita Toney, National Museum of African American Music
- Domonique Townsend, Speaker/Author/Engineer
Of the experience, Lucia Mar (Bank of America Merrill Lynch) remarked, “What a great experience to be of help to these great young girls. Hopefully, we inspired at least one of them to give a STEAM career a fighting chance.” LaTonya Gordon (U.S. Department of the Interior) had this to share, “The invaluable information we provided pushes them one step closer to the reality that they, too, can be leaders right where they are and in the future. “
Awards & Recognition
The conclusion of the program brought everyone back together in the auditorium for awards and recognition. Each student received a Certificate of Completion signed by Enterprising Women President and Founder, Monica Smiley and DevMar President/CEO and Enterprising Women Advisory Board Member, Sharon Reynolds.
One Pearl-Cohn student, Ronae Briley, was awarded a scholarship to attend the Enterprising Women National Conference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on March 24-26, 2019 for networking, workshops and leadership training with women entrepreneurs.
Pearl-Cohn Academy Coach Brittany Edmondson says of the event, “I do not have the words to describe the enthusiasm from the young women after participating in the Mentor Forum. I hope to build on the momentum and interests of our young women in the STEM/STEAM career fields.”
Road To Next Year
“We’re committed to shaping the next generation of women leaders in STEAM fields and are delighted to bring this program to Nashville…” says Reynolds. The YEW Mentoring Forum is designed to recognize and encourage leadership potential in high school girls and inspire them to dream big and focus on the next steps to realize their potential as entrepreneurs or leaders in STEAM-based fields and other industries. Planning for the 2019 Nashville Young Enterprising Women Mentoring Forum event begins in the Spring. Sharon Reynolds and the DevMar Products team invite the business community to partner with them to help create a clear path for young girls to be successful in STEAM.