Young women’s conference serves up etiquette

Posted: Monday, March 27, 2006

Speakers, singers and instructors convened at the Solid Rock Bible Camp in Soldotna to teach self-esteem, self-presentation and etiquette to young women on Saturday.

Sarah Palin, a former Wasilla mayor now running for Alaska’s governorship on the Republican ticket, drove south from Wasilla to address the 38 teens attending the Soroptimist International-sponsored New Horizons teen event.

Palin hit what would become a popular note during her speech at the self-esteem and confidence-building clinic: you can be anything you want to be. Palin phrased the platitude in an Alaska-specific way.

“Alaska is different than any other place in the country and it takes something special to survive and thrive here,” Palin said. “Hold on to what you want and utilize what you’ve been given with your upbringing in Alaska — let that propel you to your destiny and your success.”

Laura Dagon, director of the Anchorage-based Laura Model and Talent Agency, taught many of the workshops, which followed the opening remarks from Palin and Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s Judy Downs, and music from area artists Bonnie Nichols, Sue Biggs and Vicky Tinker.

Overcoming obstacles with preparation was a major theme for the workshops, which featured sessions on table manners, gestures, posture, giving a good introduction and making a positive first impression. Dance and yoga were also featured near the end of the day.

According to Annie Berge, a Soroptimist member and the event’s chair, confidence-building measures are the bread and butter of the event, which grew in participation from 23 to 38 teens for its second year. All of the teachings espoused by speakers and presenters lead back to opening doors for young women, she explained.

“The goal is to expose the girls in different ideas in careers, social skills, image and health,” Berge said.

That goal is one aimed for by another Soroptimist International event for middle school girls. That event started about 12 years ago but didn’t happen this year due to scheduling conflicts with the Arctic Winter Games.

The event for teens offers the same ideas, but Berge felt the project was necessary for the age group.

“When my son was in high school, I went to a promenade and I saw a need for girls to know how to carry themselves — especially their posture,” Berge said. “We have the same basic information, but this one is just geared for older girls.”

Nikiski High School students Abby Harvey and Sarah Christiansen attended the event last year and brought along a friend, Chelsey Dorman, this year.

“We came last year so we thought (Chelsey) might like it,” Christiansen explained. “We got some prizes, walked around in some shoes, learned how to do nails, tried on some dresses — that was fun.”

Dorman, who said she’d never been exposed to this sort of training before, hoped mostly to have fun, but acknowledged that her etiquette could use some work.

“I’m definitely not the best girl with manners, so I thought I’d check it out,” Dorman said.

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