An unsolicited blog post from an Austin Mom

Since Girls Empowerment Network launched the Pathfinder Leadership Summit, I’ve always wondered why the program was held at the beginning of summer. Didn’t these young ladies just finish up finals? Aren’t they ready to relax? How am I going to fit this into our summer calendar when that week is already filled with other commitments my daughter really enjoys and looks forward to? Should she participate in this program or another camp, or should she have a part-time job?

I began to talk about Pathfinder with my daughter Kate* in the 2015-2016 school year. She was conflicted the summer of 2016, and later hesitantly agreed to apply for summer 2017. Kate withheld her eye rolls and was willing to see what the fuss was about. And, maybe she knew that Pathfinder was where she needed to be that week in early June after finishing her sophomore year of high school.

Both of us were in for an early-summer surprise, we just didn’t know it yet. And the benefits of Pathfinder are still being realized nearly a year later. So what is so special about this program?


Our daughter has always had quite a bit of confidence, but we saw it wane after her best friend dumped her and cut all ties without any real reason given. I think Kate walked into Pathfinder a little lonely – even though she’d never admit that to my husband and me. Months after Pathfinder ended, I learned that Kate publically shared with everyone on the first day that she wanted to make new friends. I think Pathfinder gave her the confidence to feel accepted by a group of her peers from across this area; girls she’d never met before became her friends that week. At home, her confidence blossomed throughout the summer when she made herself more vulnerable by asking friends to join her for different activities, and accepting invitations to parties or get-togethers. She became a little more extroverted and widened her circle of friends. This made for a great summer and junior year of high school, and we know she will more easily also make new friends in college too.


Finding Herself…and Imaging Her Future Self
The week kicked off with a discussion about the girls’ Meyers Briggs results. Kate was fascinated to learn more about herself and what career paths matched her interests and personality. That first night while her brother and dad were at a Scout meeting, we had the house to ourselves. I listened as she poured over the results, calling out what made her different from others, and showed me meme after meme that illustrated her personality type. Throughout the week she met mentors and listened to smart, strong women during speed networking events, and was excited to learn that women work in construction. Her hard hat from that tour holds a special place in her heart. She added to the collection in January 2018 when she toured an engineering job site as part of a different program.


Cue George Michael — #Freedom! Kate was able to learn more about Austin without her parents showing her around. It gave her a greater sense of self and you can hear pride in her voice when she says things like, “Oh, there’s the Google Fiber Office where we had our Pathfinder retreat,” as we drive by the building.


Putting in the Hard Work. Finding Your Path to Success.
Shining a light on what makes Kate unique and giving her the space to dream and think about the path needed to attain her dreams is a gift. Pathfinder echoed and supported what we’ve told our daughter all along, but because it came from community leaders, peers, and next-level peers -AKA young women in college or who are in their 20s – she listened. Really listened.


Kate attends a very competitive, large public high school in the area. She takes all pre-AP and AP classes and does very well in school. But, when rankings came out at the end of her sophomore year, she found out she was ranked in the 11th percentile of her class, missing the coveted “Top 10 Percent” by literally seven spots. This is still very outstanding, but it makes getting into one of her top college choices a little harder for her.


After Pathfinder, she set aside an entire week to study for the SAT. Then, she attended a SAT prep class in the late-summer, early-fall. She took the SAT as soon as she could and scored a 1390 out of 1600 on the exam. This was more than 250 points higher than her PSAT score. Wow!


I believe Pathfinder helped her understand that she can create her own plan, and, for her, a great score on SAT might be part of what opens doors at her preferred universities. She’s also networked and landed a paid high school summer internship at an engineering firm this summer. We couldn’t be more proud of her dedication to forging her own path to success, and feeling better about herself along the way.


The early Summer timing of the program lets our girls absorb the information and think about what work they might want to put in regarding friendships, their hobbies, future plans and more, all summer long.


Does your girl need this program? YES!


This mom says, “Make the time for Pathfinder and help your daughter find or reignite the best version of herself. You won’t regret it.”


Name changed*

Felicia Gonzalez