Finding Your Path: Pathfinder 2016


Contributed by: Kate Heetland


We cannot fully express what an amazing week we had at our second annual Pathfinder Leadership Summit! Twenty-nine amazing young women joined us for future planning, networking, relationship building, and more. The participants spent time in the GEN office and also engaged in professional site visits around the city.


My favorite day was Friday. After hearing from a panel of women entrepreneurs, we sat down for a networking luncheon. So much support was flowing from mentors and the Pathfinders – it was inspiring to watch and listen. When I asked the staff and other interns what they took away from the summit, these were the responses:


“Pathfinder was an incredible opportunity for these young women. I am so proud to have been a part of this program! I truly believe we formed meaningful relationships, provided relatable role models, enhanced their lives overall, and will ultimately have a hand in positively shaping their futures!” Hannah, Pathfinder intern


“I was very happy to see that they were being encouraged to dream big in high school and other experiences that helped them get an idea of what they wanted to do.” Ava, Pathfinder intern


“In my mind, to be a good leader, you need to first have confidence in who you are and your abilities. Without this, its nearly impossible to take charge of a room or sell yourself to others in a job interview situations. So while I hope the girls left with a greater understanding of resume building and networking, I would find the program to be a larger success if the girls left the program with greater understanding of themselves. Feeling the support and confidence to chase after and achieve their goals.” JJ, Project Management Intern


“I’ve worked with girls for 10 years, and I have never seen such concentration of knowledge, support, and process. I witnessed these girls gain life skills, confidence, and self-love in six short days. This program is the real deal!” Caroline Crawford, Program Director


Through comparing pre- and post-surveys, we saw growth in each students confidence, networking skills, and future planning. Additionally, post-surveys revealed the following outcomes:


                                100% said ‘Because of this program…’

  • ‘I feel more confident in my ability to be a leader’

  • ‘I know more ways to manage my stress’

  • ‘I felt bonded with the other girls in Pathfinder’


100% reported 


  • the summit exceeded their expectations

  • ‘I feel comfortable working with people who are different than me’

  • ‘I would recommend this program to a friend’                                                                           

95% reported

  • ‘I feel confident about interviewing for a job’

  • ‘I feel comfortable with public speaking’

  • ‘I am confident in my ability to sell who I am to others’


These insightful responses were also shared with us at the completion of the summit:


“I was so impressed and inspired by everything and everyone this week! I don’t want to leave.” Arlette, 12th grade


“Talking to random people and engaging in a full conversation is hard, but without Pathfinder, I would have never done it.” Kaitlyn, 11th grade


“It’s great learning life skills and preparing for college…But the most helpful was the vibe – I really stepped out of my comfort zone” Annie, 11th grade


The most helpful? “Learning how to network and being comfortable with being uncomfortable…we then made connections from their (mentors) life experiences to our own, easing the discomfort and establishing a relationship” Taylor, 12th grade


Overheard at Speed Mentoring and Networking:


“It’s so important to be open to women of different backgrounds and different races” Chanel Geter, Motivation for Hire 


“Make sure that the people you hang out with are kind to others.” -MariBen Ramsey, Nonprofit Consultant


“Your dreams don’t have an expiration date!” -Leticia Mendoza, HEB


Thank you to all participants! The students were nothing short of a joy to see every day, and the support we experienced throughout the community and at our events was truly amazing. If you donated a scholarship, attended a mentoring session, presented at the summit, or sent your daughter to Pathfinder, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. It goes without saying that we could not have had a successful event without you! We would like to extend a special thanks to our Giving Circle members: 


Christine Cox Reinauer (Co-chair), Myndi Garrett (Co-Chair), Rebecca Austen, Bonnie Bain, Linda Benge, Yvette Boatwright, Kathy Burrell, Rhonda & John Dirvin, Loretta Fellers, Susan Gallagher, Horace Green, Melissa Greenwell, Christine Horne, Celia Israel, Susan Jones, Dana Marruffo, Leslie Martinich, Emily Moreland, Dave & Margee Shearer, The Smalling Family, Maura Thomas, Kay Wilemon, Lisa Wilson Graham, Bob Wynn

And many thanks to the following sites for hosting us:

Whole Foods Domain, Google Fiber, The Microsoft Domain Store, HomeAway, Austin City Hall


About Pathfinder:

Pathfinder is a summit by Girls Empowerment Network designed to give girls grades 9-12 a head start on their road to college, career, and independence. With the support of like-minded peers, these high schoolers uncover their strengths, develop interviewing and public speaking skills, explore different professions and industries, and gain access to women leaders in the community.


Join our Pathfinder 2017 Giving Circle:

The Pathfinder Giving Circle is a sustaining donor circle designed to support scholarships for Pathfinder. Membership offers professional women a place to connect meaningfully with high school girls who are learning how to navigate the road to college, career and independence. We invite you to join the Pathfinder Circle. Your membership fee of $500 makes the Pathfinder Program accessible to one ambitious girl who cannot afford it.


Photos by: Monica Richardson and Brooke Zywick

Felicia Gonzalez