Pathfinder 2016 Award Winners

Contributed by: Emily Alonzo


The Girls Empowerment Network’s Pathfinder Program is a personal and professional leadership development program aimed at giving high school girls a head start on their road to college, career, and independence. This summer program helps young women uncover their strengths, develop skills like interviewing and public speaking, explore different industries and professions, and gain access to women leaders – all with the support of like-minded peers.


At Pathfinder 2016, five brilliant young women were recognized for their growth throughout the program and unique strengths. GEN had the opportunity to follow up with each one of these women to discuss their award, Pathfinder and their takeaways.  



Team Player Award


What was your favorite part about the Pathfinder Leadership Summit?
My favorite part of Pathfinder was getting to meet so many amazing women with a huge range of careers, and learning that I had something in common with each and every incredible woman I met. Having the opportunity to hear these women’s stories about how they got where they are today was really inspiring!


What was the biggest takeaway during the week?
Like many other girls in high school, I have a lot of anxiety going into college and starting my working life. Pathfinder made me realize that I just have to kind of let go and that where I want to be now is probably not where I will be in the future.


What did it mean to you to win the Team Player award?
Winning the Team Player award was an honor. When I walked into Pathfinder on the first day, I knew I was out of my comfort zone, but I really wanted to push myself to see who I could become at the end of the week. The award showed me that anything is possible if you try hard enough!



Boldest Spirit Award


What was your favorite part about the Pathfinder Leadership Summit?
My favorite part was the speed mentoring and networking luncheon when we got to talk to professionals from various industries. As someone who’s very introverted, it can be mentally exhausting to spend a whole day putting yourself out there and talking to people, so I wasn’t looking forward to it at all – but it turned out to be tons of fun! I loved having a chance to talk to successful women and see what their job was like (I met one lady who had my dream job!).


What was the biggest takeaway during the week?
I learned a lot about having a presence and advocating for yourself. To me, those have always been important qualities of a leader, but the concept had never been fully explained to me until Pathfinder.


What did it mean to you to receive the Boldest Spirit award?
I was surprised – I was half-hoping I wouldn’t win any Pathfinder awards because there were so many other girls who I felt deserved them more! (I actually tried to give the award to someone else after the ceremony, but she wouldn’t take it.) The award serves as a bit of a motivator for me now; if I’m not advocating for myself I remind myself to be a bold spirit and push for what I need/want.



Emerging Leader Award


What was your favorite part about the Pathfinder Leadership Summit?
My favorite part would most definitely be going on our field trip to HomeAway, a company based here in Austin. We had the opportunity to talk to some incredible ladies who work there and they shared their experience there and just gave many of us inspiration to pursue a career in STEM! We couldn’t stop talking about our experience there for the entire week, it definitely inspired all of us to work in a collaborative environment with incredible colleagues, like at HomeAway, when we grow older. Also, being able to meet the Council women members on Austin’s City Council was an amazing experience and one I would not have had the opportunity of doing without GEN’s extensive connections.


What was the biggest takeaway during the week?
I would say I grew so much in my self confidence. Last summer I would’ve never imagined myself actively participating and asking questions to our City Council members or even having the confidence to speed mentor with ladies in our community. I think what really helped me grow was truly being aware of my leadership presence and the energy I bring into a room for a presentation or a casual conversation by using the 3 P’s (polish, presence and professionalism).


What did it mean to you to receive the Emerging Leader award?
In all honesty I think each and every one of the campers turned out to be an emerging leader by the end of the week. We all improved in our leadership abilities tremendously from that first day of camp. Though, it is a great honor to know that I have formed close friendships from Pathfinder and that they recognized my progress during the week. And I really hope this trend of increasing self confidence and leadership award will continue to shine when the school year starts due to the impactful skills I gained at Pathfinder!



The Includer Award


What was your favorite part about the Pathfinder Leadership Summit?
My favorite part about the Pathfinder Leadership Summit was the connections and relationships I built. The speed mentoring portion of the program was truly amazing because it allowed me to speak with a variety of wonderful women and learn from their vast experiences and advice. The young women who attended the summit with me were inspiring individuals and I’m so glad I got to spend a week making unforgettable memories with them.

What was the biggest takeaway during the week?
My biggest takeaway from the week was the idea that everything is connected. Most of the women I spoke with weren’t in the career path I have planned for myself, but each of them had a unique perspective to offer that directly applied to me. When I spoke with each of them I found a link between the two of us, no matter how different our paths and experiences.


What did it mean to you to receive The Includer award?
I was overjoyed that I not only found a place to belong, but I helped others feel like they belonged too. The experiences I gained from being a leader on my high school drill team shaped me to be the outgoing, inclusive person I am today. The Includer award acknowledged my strength in this area and I greatly appreciate it.



Risk-Taker Award


What was your favorite part about the Pathfinder Leadership Summit?
Wow, where do I begin? From the moments where we spent our time discussing leadership to all of the informational lectures and activities, it is hard to pinpoint my favorite part because they were all so good. If I had to choose one, it was the field trip to HomeAway. At HomeAway, a group of women, from various backgrounds, discussed their rolls in their jobs. It was neat to hear how they overcame adversity, and how they pushed through and didn’t stop until they succeeded. In short, it was very inspiring


What was the biggest takeaway during the week?
The biggest takeaway during the week for me, was confidence – confidence in my abilities, confidence in my decision-making, and just confidence in myself. It was a nice precursor to my coding camp.


What did it mean to you to receive the Risk-Taker award?
From the beginning, my mom always told me to “be a leader and not a follower”. Well, I guess it showed during this camp. Receiving the award meant a great deal to me, because it showed me that what my mom instilled in me, is manifesting itself today. I’m humbled to be chosen for this award. I would really like to thank GEN for this incredible opportunity.



Ms.Congeniality Award


What was your favorite part about the Pathfinder Leadership Summit?
There are so many opportunities and paths to peruse in Austin, but after looking into a few, the Pathfinder Leader Summit stood out. It’s for girls who want to craft their own future, it felt like it was meant for girls like me. Of course once I got there I wasn’t sure what all I’d be experiencing, but what became my favorite part was being surrounded by other girls sharing the mutual desire to grow and become leaders. Despite being surrounded by strong women growing up, I didn’t realize there were so many kind girls, some who didn’t know where they would end up in life, (including me,) but wanted the tools to get there. I really appreciated getting to be with all the girls at the second annual Pathfinder Leadership summit.


What was the biggest takeaway during the week? 
I learned a lot and met many people it’s kind of hard to remember it all or to even put everything I learned in practice. We did a lot, us girls had no time to waste. On the last day, I was a bit overwhelmed from the week and sad to be leaving but something Caroline said really made me feel strong. She told us that we as individuals would be our true best friend. This really resonated with because all week we were being taught how to be leaders and I was worried that when I was by myself I wouldn’t be able to do any of it. But hearing that I was my best friend reminded me that I’m the only person who is going to be at my every mistake and at my every success. I am the only person who knows my whole story and is going to keep writing it, so I will because I’m my best friend. Plus I will have a lot of support from my other friends too. At the end of the week my biggest takeaway was that: I can!


What did it mean to you to receive the Ms. Congeniality award? 
I tend to smile a lot, but I never realized how much it made me stand out. I never gave myself credit for smiling; it was just something I enjoyed, unless someone didn’t smile back. Even as I look back on my experiences to write these responses I’m smiling. When I received the Ms. Congeniality award it felt like everyone was smiling back; it meant they saw me and appreciated my presence.

Felicia Gonzalez