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Karen Harper, keynote speaker for the Youth Leadership Summit aboard Quantico June 1, talked to students attending the event about the importance of mentorship and believing in oneself.

Photo by Valerie O'Berry

First Youth Leadership Summit message was to ‘Believe in You’

13 Jun 2017 | Valerie O'Berry/Editor Marine Corps Base Quantico

Marine Corps Base Quantico held its first Youth Leadership Summit June 1 to inspire young students to be leaders and learn some valuable life skills.

The idea for the summit was fostered by several MCBQ civilian employees who attended a similar event at the beginning of 2017 at a local high school.

“We came back very excited and decided that we had to do a similar event here,” said Demetria Thomas, transition assistance manager at MCBQ. With the help of the school liaisons a plan was developed and the result was a complete success, according to Thomas.

“We have students here from Prince William, Stafford and even Faquier County here, it is a good turnout” she said.

Subjects included in the summit were the Mean Green Financial Machine, in which students were taught how they can control money and not let it control them. There was also a resume writing seminar, a panel on networking and communication, Rip the Runway, in which the students modeled clothes worn in a professional setting as well as casual clothes (clothes were provided by the Marine Corps Exchange), and properly setting and achieving goals.

The keynote speaker was Karen Harper, vice president of building engineering and science talent in Washington, D.C., who also is a mentor to middle, high school and even professionals who are in mid-career status.

Harper couldn’t stress enough how much having a mentor can mean to a young person. She was so inspired by the concept of mentoring, how she herself was mentored by professional women who helped her navigate a path to success and by those she had mentored herself and helped guide, that she started a mentoring project called Pearls of Wisdom: Our Braided Lives. This is a mentoring workshop that Harper conducts throughout the country.

On her website she describes the Pearls of Wisdom as being an initiative to foster strong mentoring relationships between middle and high school girls and experienced professional women. The most powerful part of the program is where the participants make a braid using yarn, ribbon and cording, each of them representing different aspects of mentoring. The young woman is symbolized by the yarn; the seasoned woman by ribbon and cording, which represents the wisdom that the experienced woman brings to the table.

“This, and a lifetime of mentoring, has taught me that wisdom earned by me should be the gift that I give to the women who are aspiring to move forward,” said Harper.

She also told the crowd of students at the summit about a devastating bullying experience she had in high school, which instead of letting it deter her, as she thought was the intention of the act, it made her even more determined to succeed in life.

“They weren’t going to bring me down and deter my dreams and my going to college,” Harper said. “Who gives them that right?” she asked the summit participants. Her final message was to “believe in yourself and others will believe in you too.”

The young men and women who attended the summit said that they participated because they wanted to learn how to be leaders.

Marine Corps Base Quantico