Sitting at a table, girls raise their hands and wait to be called on.

'We're all writing our story': Sixth annual Girls of Color Summit kicks off Women's History Month at GVSU

Almost 270 middle and high school students from 22 schools across Michigan attended the Sixth Annual Girls of Color Summit on March 1. 

The Girls of Color Summit is a program put on by the GVSU Gayle R. Davis Center for Women and Gender Equity, designed to bring 6-12 graders together for a day of education and hands-on social justice workshops. Students traveled as far as Detroit, and Kirkhof Center was full of energy as groups checked in.

“The biggest goal is not only for the students to see other people that look and think and act like them, but also to get them to see themselves,” said ChaVon McMurry, project coordinator for Grand Rapids Public Schools, and the emcee for the event. “We want them to leave motivated to do better, be better, work better, and invite more self care into their lives.” 

A group of girls clap and cheer after their school was shouted out.
Two girls in purple shirts chat while sitting at a table.

The theme for this year’s summit was "Young, Gifted & Me." 

“We really wanted to focus on talents, on tapping into parts of ourselves that maybe we don’t give enough time to, or the gifts we don’t recognize within ourselves,” said Kendra Ollis, assistant director for Admissions and Recruitment at GVSU.

Keynote speaker Erica Robertson spoke about knowing yourself and finding your own narrative, sharing her story and inviting students to think about how they would write the story of their own life. 

“Part of when we talk about writing our own story, it’s about accepting those pieces of you that you might feel ashamed of. I was able to really accept who I was, accept my past, and make that a part of my identity; a part of my strength, my power, and my story,” said Robertson. “As you think about writing your own personal narrative, make sure you’re the one defining who you are. That’s the most important part of writing your story, because you can write anything you want.”

Erica Robertson stands next to a student as she answers a question into a microphone.
Keynote speaker Erica Robertson invited students up to the microphone to answer questions at the Girls of Color Summit on March 1.

Robinson said that she hopes the talk inspired her audience, and potentially planted a seed to build their confidence in themselves. 

“One thing she said that resonated with me was: 'You go through things to grow from things,'” said Erielle, a high student at University Prep Art & Design in Detroit. She was attending the summit for the first time, and said she appreciated that it touched on a lot of topics, “especially things that aren't talked about in the mental health field for young ladies.”

Ollis said that, “at its core, the Girls of Color Summit is all about women empowerment. It’s all about allowing young women to find a space where they can come into their own, and feel comfortable being themselves in whatever capacity that means for them. And I think this event celebrates that. It celebrates our differences, celebrates the fact that, you know, we all may have different backgrounds, but in this moment we can all be a unit.”

The Girls of Color Summit marked the beginning of Women’s History Month at GVSU. Other events throughout the month include: 

A group of girls pose for a photo in front of a Girls of Color background. The girl in the middle has pink braids and a Goosebumps shirt.


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