Going back to school with a positive attitude and an open mind

With school just around the corner, we begin to bubble with anxiety and maybe even some excitement. You get your new schedule and check Instagram to see which friends will be in your classes. You run to the store to get new pencils and notebooks. But it’s so important to also think about the attitude that you're going to bring into the new school year. 

Whether you're bumping up to an advanced class or picking up a new instrument, we all need to have faith in ourselves and our own potential. Each and everyone of us has limitless potential if we full-heartedly believe in it. Do not let anyone tell you that it's “too late to pick up a new activity” or that something is “not worth trying”. Be open to new activities. Be curious of all the programs that your school offers. At Camp LiveGirl, many of you tried new sports and musical theatre for the first time! Now is the time to pursue your new interests at your school.

A new school year is the perfect opportunity to show off your radiant self-confidence. Let your smile and your passions be contagious. By pursuing your interests and taking chances you can actually inspire your peers too!

One thing that I always worried about when I was starting a new school year was whether or not I would have friends in my classes. It is great to see old friends and rekindle those relationships, but don't turn a blind eye to the possibility of making new friends too! New classes and new activities are great places to meet people that you haven't had the chance to previously meet. 

My best advice as you start a new school year? SMILE! Those first few weeks of school are so important when trying to make a good impression on teachers and your new classmates. Smile, be confident and friendly to others. You never know who you'll meet, and a new friend could become a lifelong friend! 

If you can remember those few bits of advice, I assure you that you'll be starting your year on the right foot. By pushing yourself to be open, brave and confident, you'll be able to develop and grow so much by the end of the year, which is ultimately the goal! Good luck and best wishes to you all as school comes back into session

PLEASE NOTE: This is Emilia’s last post. She is starting Santa Clara University this fall. We wish her well and look forward to her returning as a LiveGirl alumni blogger!

Camp LiveGirl Empowers and Inspires Fairfield County Middle School Girls by Emilia Savini

“I am smart. I am strong. I am special.” chanted more than 100 passionate girls at Camp LiveGirl, which recently concluded its second summer camp session at New Canaan High School. Camp LiveGirl brought together a diverse group of middle school girls from all over Fairfield County for a week of leadership development and empowerment.

I had the opportunity to attend Camp LiveGirl and was amazed by the impact that a week of leadership development and empowerment had on the girls. I witnessed transformations from shy, hesitant girls to bubbly, confident girls. I believe the magic ingredient is how LiveGirl facilitates team bonding through hands-on leadership activities, sports, and musical theatre games. Thinking back upon my own middle school experience, I can attest that LiveGirl is delivering a critical boost of positive self-confidence during what can be a very tough time for many girls.

Founder and director of LiveGirl, Sheri West of New Canaan, explained, “LiveGirl provides year-round leadership development for our girls. We provide after school mentoring, a leadership series and a summer camp,” West said. “Our goal is to foster deep connections and a broader network of friends (beyond a girl’s home school) that provides many positive benefits - a safe, empowering community.

LiveGirl’s mission is to "empower extraordinary”. This empowerment comes from the mentors, counselors and activities, all carefully designed by Sheri West. This year, Camp LiveGirl featured four keynote speakers that all motivated the girls to live fully and passionately. One of the keynote speakers was New York Times bestselling author, Lauren Oliver. Speakers also included New Canaan residents Heidi Sandreuter, Wendy Sloane, and Lori Tauber Marcus. These mentors provide a rich learning experience for LiveGirls like Ahhsha Crooks, a rising eighth grader from Stamford. “The LiveGirl experience gave me a lot more confidence than I used to have because it helped me to believe in myself,” she said. “And, they have given us role models that encourage us to achieve greatness.”

In addition to motivational presentations, LiveGirl provides the option for campers to participate in multi-sports or musical theatre. Thanks to a new collaboration with the Summer Theatre of New Canaan, the LiveGirl campers explored the performing arts, with the guidance from the nonprofit organization’s professional staff.

West said she was especially excited to offer the new theater program and career opportunities such as the Explore Fair, which brought in 25+ diverse career mentors, including many STEM-related careers because, “girls especially at this age benefit from trying new things in a safe environment. In addition, many of our campers are underserved youth (attending on full scholarship) and they don’t typically have access to these type of enrichment activities.” she said.

The final key piece to Camp LiveGirl’s success is Meg Domino, the executive director of New Canaan Cares. Throughout the week at Camp LiveGirl, Meg taught a course called Leaders-in-Action, which taught girls about decision-making, body image, communication and teamwork.

For Claire Brunner, a rising ninth grader from New Canaan, her experience with Leaders-in-Action was a critical part of her development throughout the week at Camp LiveGirl. “Meg is an awesome person to talk to and she will help you with your problems. She helped all of us to come together and communicate,” she said.

This is a historic time in American history with the nomination of the first female President. With leadership programs like LiveGirl preparing the next generation of female leaders, I believe our future is in good hands!

Emilia is a recent New Canaan High School graduate, where she was the Editor-in-Chief of The Courant. She will attend Santa Clara University in the fall. 
For more information on LiveGirl, visit www.goLiveGirl.com or connect on social media @goLiveGirl.

Camp LiveGirl Day 5 Blog Post

A Jam-Packed and Inspiring Day to Wrap Up Camp LiveGirl 2016

The final day of Camp LiveGirl 2016 started off on such a motivational note thanks to this morning’s keynote speaker, Lori Tauber Marcus. Not only is Lori a mother, a cancer survivor, a philanthropist and a wife, but also she is currently the Global Chief Marketing Officer at Peloton Cycle. Lori has worked in the corporate world for 32 years in marketing, and she held her job at Pepsi for 24 years! Just hearing Lori’s journey and career path was so inspiring.

Not only was her story astonishing, but also her words of wisdom to our LiveGirls. Lori told the girls that being a mother of two daughters, it is so important for her to set a positive example for them. “Everything in my life is about being a strong role model for women,” Lori said. Lori brought such a warm energy to Camp LiveGirl, and she lives as a wonderful example of hard work, determination and service to others.

Lori shared a handful of important lessons with the girls that she encouraged them to start focusing on now and throughout the rest of your life. Here are her four essential tips for the girls:

“Bring your best self everyday to the work you do. How you show up and the attitude you have is important your entire life”

“Be a life-long learner. Read as much as you can and retain that information you learn in school, don’t just throw it away”

“Learn how to write and how to write well. I am amazed at how few adults can write coherently. There is nothing that says more about you than the way you communicate”

“Always wear sunscreen”

After Lori’s motivational presentation, the LiveGirls were brought back into the NCHS Gym for the Explore Fair. The Explore Fair brought together local professionals in a variety of industries, to educate the girls about potential career paths and job opportunities that are out in the world. There were four stations set up, each station with 4-6 professionals for the girls to talk to and answer their questions. The stations included business, STEM, mentoring and human services/creative arts.

Founder and director, Sheri West, created this Explore Fair to inspire the LiveGirls to explore their interests. “We want to expose the girls to as many career possibilities as possible because girls need to see to know what they really want to be,” she said. “We want this to be a launching point for the girls to pursue their interests.”

After the Explore Fair, the LiveGirls had their last lunch from Simply Delicious which was followed by a self defense class with Maurice Johnson, a fitness instructor and personal trainer from Oxygen Fitness. Maurice taught the girls to find the strength in themselves and know that they can be self-reliant when they need to be.

The day closed up with a talent show featuring dances, poems, songs, gymnastics and all the rest. We certainly have a group of energetic and talented girls here at LiveGirl and we cannot wait to see the amazing places they go. The girls celebrated with an ice cream party featuring DJ Jovan who brought out those last bits of energy that the girls kept in store.

See you next year Camp LiveGirl! It was a privilege being able to witness all the amazing things that happen here. Thank you Sheri for making this all possible!

Click on pictures above to view slideshow

Camp LiveGirl Day 4 Blog Post

An Inspiring Morning with Wendy Sloane and A Heartfelt Goodbye to Meg Domino

This morning LiveGirl met Wendy Sloane, a single mother from New Canaan and a radio host of her own show called “What’s Up With Wendy” which has been on the air for almost seven years. Wendy told the campers that her passion for communications and television has been a driving force in her career. Wendy has worked with and interviewed tons of celebrities, authors and athletes like John Stamos from “Full House” and Hope Solo who is a professional soccer goalie.

Wendy explained that she had to be extremely persistent and determined when she was first trying to get jobs after she graduated from college. Wendy graduated from Florida State University with a double major in Journalism and Communications, with a minor in Theatre. Wendy found that her voice and her ability to persuade people with words was a gift when it came to pursuing her passions. Wendy urged the girls to dream big and to never doubt themselves.

Wendy is currently in the process of launching a TV show, while also raising two children and running her radio show. What a rockstar! She truly can do it all. Wendy told the girls about her vision for her TV show, “I want it to be fun and happy, every show has a purpose and a cause attached to it,” she said.

As Wendy wrapped up her inspiring presentation, it was time for the LiveGirls to get into their final session of Leaders-in-Action, which is led by Meg Domino. The topic of her final session was decision making, specifically the temptation of drugs and alcohol. “It is so essential in seventh and eighth grade for our girls to make a personal decision about temptation,” Meg said. “It is so helpful for their parents to support and discuss that decision with them because it is then, when we are not even looking, when our girls get tempted by all kinds of different things. If those girls are not equipped with the skills to act on it correctly, then they can make a poor decision.”

Although these LiveGirls are young, Meg stresses the importance of educating kids before they are faced with the temptation, so that they can make well-informed decisions. “The biggest thing that a lot of kids don’t understand is the reason we have a drinking age is that the liver, which is responsible for detoxifying the body, is not fully grown yet,” Meg said. “The biggest gift that we can give our kids is supporting their drug-free choice into their twenties.”

Meg Domino also informed the girls about the negative effects of marijuana on young people who are experimenting with it. “Another thing that we are seeing a lot of challenges with is marijuana because we are seeing kids with lower rates of concentration, clarity and written acuity when they have had experimentation followed by use,” she said. “Right now, because marijuana is so strong, most experimentation is followed regular use. We need to stand strong as families, parents and as LiveGirl and really be certain that our kids have positive role models.”

Thanks to Meg Domino, our LiveGirls are well-equipped to handle any social situation! Sadly, today was Meg’s last session of the week with the girls, so, a handful of girls gave their words of thanks to her. Here are a handful of kind quotes from our amazing LiveGirls:

“We wanted to thank you and tell you that we appreciate your energy. You continued to inspire us all week”
“Meg is an awesome person to talk to and she will help you with your problems. She helped all of us to come together and communicate”
“We want to thank you for bringing so much positive energy and sharing your gift of brightness with us”
“We would like to thank you for giving us really good advice about our future”
“Thank you for teaching us to love ourselves and valuable lessons for our future”
“Thank you for helping us build self confidence and helping us come together as a team”

We love you Meg! Hope to see you soon!


Click on pictures above to view slideshow

Camp LiveGirl Day 3 Blog Post

LiveGirls learn how to persevere from Heidi Sandreuter and how to love their bodies from Meg Domino

This morning, the LiveGirls were introduced to Heidi Sandreuter, a successful businesswoman who has exemplified a strong sense of leadership, morality and courage throughout her career in advertising and marketing.

Heidi was not here to teach the girls about sales tactics, but rather, her goal was to share her story with the girls so that they could learn from her trials and errors as a woman in a corporate world.

Heidi previously worked at Under Armour as the VP of Women’s Marketing from January 2014 to March 2015. According to Heidi, one of the most fulfilling moments with Under Armour was working with Misty Copeland, an African American ballerina who became the first female principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre. Under Armour made a commercial about Misty in order to launch their “I Will What I Want” campaign, which Heidi loved being apart of.  

Heidi inspired all of the campers to take after Misty Copeland; to persevere and to always believe in your dream. “They don’t know what you’re made of or how hard you can work,” Heidi said. “If it is important to you, you will make it happen.”

Another interesting aspect of Heidi’s presentation was her explanation of why she quit two of her amazing jobs along the way. One example she gave was why she quit her job at Under Armour after about a year and a half. “I didn’t like how people treated each other at the company and I didn’t feel like myself at the company,” she said. Heidi took a brave step by quitting her well-paying job for reasons of immorality. She told the girls that no matter how successful you are, you cannot forget the golden rule that you learn way back in elementary school: treat others the way you want to be treated

As Heidi’s presentation came to a close, it was Meg Domino’s turn to transition into her theme for today’s Leaders-in-Action program - body image. Meg utilized Colbie Caillat’s music video for her song called “Try”, to show the girls that you need to love your body in its truest form. In the video, Colbie takes off her makeup and her hair extensions, to show the world that she will not succumb to the pressure that is constantly put on women to be dolled up 24/7.

With those positive ideas fresh in the LiveGirl’s minds, Meg introduced the next activity which was to create necklaces with charms that represent the girl’s keys to happiness. Each LiveGirl chose four charms and constructed a necklace that would remind them of the love and happiness they should have for themselves everyday. This necklace will be a special way for the girls to remember all the amazing skills that Meg taught them in their Leaders-in-Action programs throughout the week at Camp LiveGirl.

Click on pictures above to view slideshow

Camp LiveGirl Day 2 Blog Post

Camp LiveGirl Meets Bestselling Author Lauren Oliver

The second day of Camp LiveGirl’s 2016 summer session was graced with the presence of New York Times bestselling author, Lauren Oliver. Lauren gave a presentation in the NCHS Auditorium to 100 enthusiastic LiveGirls who were bursting with questions for Lauren by the end of her presentation.   

Lauren dove right into her backstory, explaining to the girls that she grew up in a house full of books which fostered her love of reading as a child. This took Lauren to her first tip of advice to the LiveGirls: read as much as humanly possible! Lauren was also kind enough to give every single camper a copy of her book Curiousity House, to encourage them to fill their free time with books instead of logging onto Instagram.

It was truly inspiring that Lauren was so honest about all of the ‘failed novels’ that she wrote before she published her first book, Before I Fall. However, Lauren emphasized that failure is an essential part of achieving success. This led perfectly into her second tip: do not fear failure! Failure is human, it is essential, Lauren said.

Lauren’s third and final lesson was to write everyday. Create stories, tap into your imagination. She urged the girls to get the ball rolling and to never give up on writing. As an author herself, she explained to the girls that she writes everyday; some is good material, some is not so great. But it is all apart of a larger process that comes with being a novelist.

After Lauren wrapped up her presentation, 20 LiveGirls were able to attend an intimate writing workshop taught by Lauren herself! In the next 45 minutes Lauren taught the girls the basic skills needed to write a novel. Creating a solid plotline was the main focus of this workshop, and this lesson was anchored by Lauren’s ‘golden rule’. The golden rule is a sentence in which the girls were able to fill in the blanks with their story’s main goal, the time frame and the consequence that comes if the goal is not achieved.

Lauren Oliver’s Golden Rule: The Main Character must (Goal or Desire) before (Time Limit or Ticking Clock) or else (Bad Consequence/ ‘Big Bad’)

To make this concept more understandable for the girls, Lauren used plotlines of Disney movies to demonstrate how that golden rule applies to all great stories.

The girls were eager to get their ideas down on paper and when they were asked to share their personalized plots, the LiveGirls’ hands shot up with excitement. Even Lauren was pleasantly surprised by the camper’s overwhelming participation in her workshop.The workshop finished off with Lauren signing the girl’s notebooks and taking photos with her gracious LiveGirl fans.

I was fortunate enough to talk to Lauren one-on-one and I was amazed to hear how much fulfillment Lauren gets from writing for young girls. “One of the greatest pleasures of my job is getting to connect with young people, young girls especially. It is very meaningful to me and I think that all books are a way of trying to communicate and in my case trying to inspire and to give hope to people who sometimes feel like they don’t have a lot of it.

Click on pictures above to view slideshow

Camp LiveGirl Day 1 Blog Post

by Emilia Savini (see bio under girls blog)

After weeks of preparation and training, the first day of Camp LiveGirl’s second summer camp has finally arrived. Fresh-faced campers from all over Fairfield County poured out of cars and busses and scampered into the NCHS Gym. Campers were given their LiveGirl t-shirts and team assignments, both of which were carefully customized by the LiveGirl staff, with Sheri West at the helm.

Founder Sheri West began by introducing the LiveGirl motto, "I am smart. I am strong. I am special." She then welcomed Lytasha Marie Blackwell, who read her amazing poem “Girl Magic” to inspire the campers and set a positive tone for the week.

Next up was the Executive Director of New Canaan CARES, Meg Domino, who immediately engaged the girls in a conversation about what makes a good team. Meg followed up the discussion with three team building activities that touched upon each learning preference -  auditory, kinesthetic and visual.

For Brianna Lizano Quesada, a rising seventh grader from Norwalk, the “Human Knot” game was her favorite of the morning. This game required the girls to tangle up their arms and then use their communication skills to facilitate the untangling process. “I found it really satisfying to work together to achieve something that seemed impossible at first,” Brianna said.

After multiple team-based activities, the girls took a break for lunch, which was catered by Simply Delicious.

With their batteries recharged, the girls were then introduced to the LiveGirl Olympics. Each team created posters and team names earlier in the day, and now it was time to for each team to parade with their poster during the opening ceremonies.

The LiveGirl Olympics consisted of six activities; three indoor and three outdoor. The games ranged from handball to an architectural game in which the girls built the tallest possible structure they could with recyclable materials. Thanks to Mike Patrona, a beloved fifth grade teacher and assistant coach for New Canaan Girls Basketball, the games ran smoothly.

After the LiveGirls enjoyed some well-deserved popsicles, Kari Johns from Oxygen Fitness and DJ Jovan led a dance party to finish off the day on a high note.

Looking back on how day one went, Meg Domino praised Sheri West’s effort to focus on unity from the very start of camp. “I think something that we did a little bit differently year two compared to year one, was focusing on unity from the very start and I hear the girls talking about it too, which is great,” Meg Domino said.  

Click pictures above to view slideshow