Girls Summit, Thrive

Intrigue Ink owner, Tatum Johnson, helps Chief Joseph student Ashley McEwen, 14, screen print a design onto a t-shirt during a workshop at the 12th annual Girls Summit hosted by Thrive on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018 at Montana State University.

More than 100 young women packed the rooms of Montana State University’s Strand Union Building on Saturday. Some were meditating, others were practicing self-defense and still others were learning how to write a resume. All were there as part of the 12th Annual Girls Summit, an event hosted by local youth-based nonprofit Thrive aimed at empowering and educating women.

The daylong event, which attracted mostly middle school-age girls from across the state, included four sessions of more than 30 different structured events that participants could choose from — ranging from aerial dance to screen printing to a class about “becoming a global citizen.”

The summit is part of Thrive’s Girls for a Change Program, which includes weekly after-school sessions with high school girls.

The focus of Girls for a Change is to empower women through exposing them to new experiences, building leadership skills and civic engagement, said Girls for a Change Program Coordinator Greta Moore.

“The day is really about getting girls together to try things they might not have before and be inspired by these amazing female leaders,” Moore said.

“It’s important for girls to be exposed to a lot of different things. What’s offered in high school is then how you perceive the world, so it’s important to offer different perspectives.”

In one of the SUB rooms, Chloe McDonald, 13, and A.C. Holznagel, 14, were part of a group learning complex hair braids from Theory Hair Salon stylists.

Earlier that day, McDonald had learned to make vegetarian dumplings, and later she was signed up for a session on computer programming and another on how to prepare for college.

“It’s so cool,” she said of the event. “I’m really learning a lot.”

Ellie Garcia, the stylist overseeing McDonald and Holznagel, said that even a skill like braiding can be formative for young women.

“Confidence itself is really hard and when you have a lot of girls together, it makes it easier to lower the volume on that negative self-talk,” Garcia said. “Especially for girls this age, that’s really important.”

The day’s keynote speakers were Courtney Klein, CEO of Seed Spot, a business incubator for social entrepreneurs, and Samantha Ramirez-Herrera, activist and founder of a national marketing agency.

Ramirez-Herrera, who immigrated to the U.S. when she was young and became a citizen through DACA, stressed the importance of the immigration program for giving people like her a chance, while at the same time challenging the women in the audience to push through their fears.

“You will face moments in you life when you will be afraid,” Ramirez-Herrera said. “But in those moments, you will also realize you have courage. If there is no fear in our lives, we cannot prove our courage.”

Kendall can be reached at 406-582-2651 or He is on Twitter at @lewdak

Lewis Kendall covers business and the economy for the Chronicle.

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