SAN ANTONIO – Approximately 20 young women from foster care and the juvenile justice system gathered at BCFS Health and Human Services-San Antonio to learn about work-life balance, budgeting, communication and self-care at BCFS-San Antonio’s Third Annual Women’s Empowerment Seminar.
According to Verena Silva, BCFS’ Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) Aftercare Case Manager who organized the April 2 seminar, the goal was to “inspire and empower young women to make decisions about leading a healthy, informed lifestyle.”
During the first workshop of the day, Aveda’s professional hair and makeup specialists taught the girls easy up-do’s and make up tips for work. Subsequent morning workshops focused on career and work-life balance, financial literacy, work ethic, and the value of self-care during a special yoga session.
Eighteen-year-old Katherine, a recent high school graduate who dreams of owning her own makeup company, attended the seminar “hoping to be empowered,” she said. Another young woman, Lonnie, studying to take the Armed Forces entrance exam (Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery), listened intently during the workshops.
“Really, I just came to become a better woman,” Lonnie said. “I want to become the first female Navy SEAL, that’s my dream.”
During the lunch break, the youth listened to a panel of local women discuss their careers, their successes, and personal trials that helped them grow. Panelists included San Antonio-native actress and model Elisha Zuniga; writer and media expert Bekah Epstein; Nurse Practicioner Sheryd Jackson; and Wendy Lorenzi Guffey, a former foster youth who now has a successful career as a behavioral analyst.
Lorenzi Guffey discussed her time in BCFS-San Antonio’s PAL program as she aged out of foster care. She encouraged the young women to work through difficult times, learn from them and move forward. “When you learn from your past, you don’t just survive, you thrive,” Guffey said.
The afternoon workshops focused on effective communication and warning signs of human trafficking, a significant issue that disproportionately affects young women in San Antonio.
“A lightbulb went off with some of our kids during [the human trafficking workshop],” said Silva. “They learned about red flags, and how to help their friends through a potentially dangerous scenario. The biggest lesson was, if you see a red flag, don’t ignore it, speak up.”
At the close of the seminar, the young women gathered for an art project, decorating masks to symbolize the complexity of women’s roles in society.
“We are here to help these girls realize they have power, and inspire them to use it,” Silva said.
BCFS-San Antonio partnered with Aveda Institute, Superior Health Plan, National Council of Jewish Women and Turning Point for the event. BCFS-San Antonio serves youth from foster care, as well as other young adults facing challenges like homelessness, poverty, or those recovering from physical and emotional abuse. The center is a “one-stop shop” that provides counseling, case management, and assistance with education, employment, housing location and medical care. To learn more, visit DiscoverBCFS.net/SanAntonio or call (210) 733-7932
BCFS is a global system of health and human service non-profit organizations with locations and programs throughout the United States as well as Eastern Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa. The organization is a national leader in medical sheltering and emergency management and response, providing critical emergency support services to federal, state and local governments. BCFS also provides residential services and emergency shelters for children who are abused or neglected; assisted living services and vocational training for adults with intellectual disabilities; mental health services for children and families, foster care and adoption services; medical services; early education; transitional living services for youth who are at-risk and those in the juvenile justice system; residential camping and retreats for children and families; and international humanitarian aid for children living in impoverished conditions in developing countries.