Dream It, Be It: Career Support for Girls®
A Success Story
One girl says Dream It, Be It taught her to hope. Another says she loved relating to adults who wanted to listen and help plan for her future. Soroptimists are now having a life-changing impact on girls across the globe. Just six years ago, girls told us they hear they can do anything, but instead of seeing their power, they saw many obstacles in their way. They wanted someone to help guide them and show them the way. Soroptimist clubs across 14 countries are now doing just that—they are hosting more than 500 Dream It, Be It projects a year, and they have reached over 35,000 girls since the program launched in 2014. We interviewed SI/The Sierras, CA (Sierra Pacific Region), which has seen firsthand the impact of Dream It, Be It on girls and their club. Thank you to Club President Michele Shockley for sharing their secrets of success, lessons learned and helpful advice for other clubs.
Your club recently held its 4th annual Dream It, Be It conference. What has been the key to your success?
Our relationship with local teachers and parents, and the support of the community. This program has been very well-received from the beginning. We have a small club, and without community involvement, this event would not be possible for us. This year, we had about a dozen non-Soroptimist volunteers who filled roles as table mentors and speakers, along with our Soroptimist members.
Your club has had more than 150 participants over the years. What is one thing that surprised you about working with girls?
I have been very impressed by how many girls will voluntarily give up a Saturday to come to our event. Granted, we do promise them fun and free stuff, but we also deal with serious topics. Knowing that there are many ways that they could spend their day off of school, this speaks to their maturity and dedication to their futures.
What lessons have you learned?
Plan early, communicate very clearly with the many volunteers, table mentors and speakers. Do your best to stay on schedule during the event, but be flexible when some sessions take a little longer.
Have you kept in touch with any girls to gauge their progress?
Several of the girls from the first couple conferences are now in college, and we have talked about having them come back once they graduate to share their stories.
What’s the most rewarding part for the club and/or members?
This event has done an amazing job of promoting Soroptimist and our mission in our local community. Our club was founded 50 years ago, but many people had never heard of us or only knew us for our fundraisers. They had no idea what we did with the money we raised. Now the word is out and the name Soroptimist is becoming more relevant to younger generations.
We are very proud of our Dream It, Be It event and the recognition that it has received.
Has it helped your club in member recruitment and if so, how?
Yes, two very active members joined in 2016 and then in 2018 because of this event. This past year, we had two of our speakers express interest in joining the club.
For several girls, this was their second or third time attending. Can you share a story of a girl that particularly touched you or another member?
One of our girls, Emma, has attended 3 years now. She brought her younger sister this year. She looks forward to this event and uses it as a way to check in with herself and set new goals for the coming year. At first, she made goals that were not very measurable and attainable, but has really developed the skills to create achievable short-term goals.
Every year the event gets bigger and better. What advice do you have for other clubs for executing a successful Dream It, Be It event?
Start with what you know and what you feel comfortable with when planning your first event, and then build on it each year. We always summarize the evaluation sheets and hold a wrap-up meeting immediately after the event, and it’s then that we start planning for next year. We highlight successful practices, and then talk about what could have been better. And, it is very important to have a teen advisory group in the planning stages. They will really help to make sure you’re headed in the right direction.
Some keys to our success:
- Feed the girls some good food! We serve continental breakfast and lunch.
- Make an appropriate music play list for your event. This sets the tone for a fun day and can be played while the girls are arriving, while they make Dream Boards, at lunch, etc.
- Decorate your venue with the bright colors from the DIBI logo. The atmosphere should be fun!
- The girls LOVE making the Dream Boards, and they always want more time for this. Get scrapbook supply donations from women in your area.
- Goodie bags—every girl gets of bag with the Dream It, Be It logo on it, filled with donated snacks and gifts, and their beautiful Dream It, Be It folder filled with the conference worksheets and program. We also have a Dream It, Be It logo item created each year to put in the bags, including pop sockets and lanyards.
- Ice breaker activities are a fun way to interact, get to know each other, and get up out of the chair. We ensure that the girls are standing up and doing something after every speaker.
- Prizes! The girls win raffle tickets during ice breakers, games, and for participation during the day, and they use them to win fun prize baskets at the end of the day.
- Activities—we plan one fun activity to do before or after lunch, and have previously done cupcake decorating, learning a dance, and a yoga session. This is a great thing to put on the flyer to encourage sign-ups.
- Involve the teen advisers in the planning, set-up day, and the event itself (helping with registration table). One of our teen advisors has used the volunteer hours for her required senior project this year.
- Have great speakers
- Document your event with photos and video, if at all possible. This is a great way to showcase your event and promote it next year.
The SIA website has a wealth of information, tools and resources to help club’s participate in Dream It, Be It. What resources and tools have you found most helpful?
We, of course, love the curriculum and the handouts that go along with that. We do have to shorten some of the sessions to fit into a one day conference. We also use the inspirational quotes for our Dream Boards, and use many of the ice breaker activity ideas. And the folders are really great.
Click here to access Dream It, Be It resources.
Can you share your favorite moment (from any of the years)?
We had California Highway Patrol Officer Kaci Lutz speak at our first three conferences, and she was so wonderful! She is the only speaker we have had more than once, because she is such a favorite. She has great energy and enthusiasm and really relates to these young girls. One year, she found a girl who was very much an introvert, and she brought her out of her shell by asking her to operate the PowerPoint remote for her. Another year she turned her presentation into a type of game show, engaging the attendees as she talked with them about the dangers of texting and driving. She is really a great role model for a young girl, and her stories have become legendary.
What did you find the most challenging aspect of planning and executing your events?
The first challenge is to find the perfect speakers to present each session. The personal stories and experiences shared by the speakers are what make each conference unique, and it’s what the girls remember and love about the event. We meet as a committee, with our teen advisers, and brainstorm a list of women we admire in the community, preferably who are dynamic and relatable to the girls. We also come up with a few careers that are different from previous years and that the girls might want to know more about. And once we have our confirmed presenters, it’s very important to pair them with a session/topic that they can really relate to and share personal experiences about.
How did you get the word out and promote the event?
We are still working on ways to better promote the event, as many girls still register within days of the event, which makes planning a challenge. We do have a dedicated website for our conference, which is www.DreamItBeItGirls.com, and we handle all of our registrations on that site. In the past, we have promoted by posting flyers around town and in the schools. We email flyers to all of our personal contacts, school counselors and teachers, and past attendees. All girls who attended the previous year receive their “Letter to Self” the month before the event, with a sticker on the envelope advertising that it’s time to register again. And, we have a very large social media presence, with boosted posts, an event page, and our local Facebook news page that promotes our events. Next year, we plan to advertise on sandwich boards and yard signs around the downtown area as well.
How did you implement a budget and necessary fundraising?
With Dream It, Be It being one of our primary service projects, we do dedicate a generous budget to this event, and when we need assistance, we have been able to find local sponsors who are happy to help.
Your club had a number of community sponsors. How did you initiate those relationships?
We are part of a small community, which may make it easier to establish personal relationships with local business owners. In any event, we have found that employers of club members, female businesswomen, and past speakers who are familiar with this event have been happy to donate gifts for the girls, sponsorship money, and even pizza for lunch.
Speakers and mentors included business executives, a surgeon, a social worker and high school counselor. How did their stories influence the participants?
Highlights from this year: We had a female surgeon from Kaiser Permanente who talked about resilience and the struggles that she faced as a woman in medical school and surgical residency. She also combined our Session 4 PowerPoint with one that she had used when speaking at the Central California Women’s Conference this year about resilience. It highlighted the story of one of our female surgeons general.
We also had a social worker who was a past recipient of our club’s Live Your Dream Award (when it was called Women’s Opportunity Awards). She had a past history of drug use and prison time and now holds a master’s degree in social work. She, appropriately, talked about turning failure into success.
The girls responded very well to the openness of both of these women and were without a doubt inspired by their stories.