Olympic gold medalist Christie Rampone was one of several to speak at the district’s conference on Oct. 31
The Burlington Township School District held a Young Men and Young Women’s conference for sophomores on Monday, Oct. 31. The theme of the conference was “212 Degrees — One Extra Degree Makes All the Difference.”
The conference was meant to teach students about self-respect, positivity and responsibility. The young men and women were separated for the day, and each group heard various speakers and did team building exercises.
When the district started holding the conference a few years back, it was only for the sophomore boys. This year, the sophomore girls were included as well.
The district felt it would be appropriate to hold the conference for sophomores as opposed to students from other grade levels because of the transitional period sophomores are experiencing.
“They’re not kids anymore, they’re not adults, but they’re right there at a pivotal point where they’re going to have to start making a lot of life choices,” Director of Human Resources and Community Relations Liz Scott said.
Among the noteworthy keynote speakers was professional women’s soccer player Christie Rampone, a three-time Olympic gold medalist who has been playing professionally for 19 years. She was a long-time captain of the U.S. Women’s National Team and played alongside Hope Solo and Abby Wambach.
Rampone spoke to the young women about everything from fueling up for a game to her life as a mother of two.
Rampone covered what it’s like to be a female athlete as opposed to a male athlete, saying she started her career making only $4,000 per year.
“There are so many things that we have to tackle as females. You can see in sports like the NFL what they’re getting compared to what females are getting,” Rampone said.
She went on to explain that while she believes women’s soccer is a great product, it’s all about convincing the sponsors to get on board so female players can make enough money to pursue their passion and continue to play for as long as they want.
Rampone also spoke on #SheBelieves, the campaign created by the U.S. Women’s National Team just weeks before the 2015 Women’s World Cup.
“Females have to believe in themselves first,” Rampone said on where the slogan came from.
Most of Rampone’s presentation was responding to questions from the students. When one student asked Rampone how she achieved her goals, Rampone had a long list of answers.
She first encouraged the girls to write down their goals, and look at them every day. She also urged them to start with smaller goals that will ultimately lead to their huge, seemingly unattainable goal.
“It’s something I never, ever expected I was capable of doing,” Rampone said on being named captain. “That’s the message I want you guys to hear. You don’t know what you’re capable of until you try.”
Other speakers at the Young Women’s Conference included Michele Fesler from Providence House and Joy Morgan, author of “Roadmap to Destiny.”
Providence House is a domestic violence charity that provides services to victims of domestic abuse. Fesler spoke on red flags that indicate a potentially abusive relationship, such as excessive texting and intentional isolation. She also encouraged students to help friends who may be in abusive relationships by sticking with them.
The young men also learned about dating violence.
Inspirational speaker Gian Paul Gonzalez was the first to speak at the Young Men’s Conference. Gonzalez is credited with motivating the New York Giants to their 2011 Super Bowl victory and now travels the country to educate youth on hope and striving for excellence.
Gonzalez turned down multiple professional basketball contracts to continue his work with at-risk youth. He speaks on anti-bullying, drug and alcohol prevention and peer leadership and has been featured on ESPN, CNN and Fox News.
The boys also heard from motivational speaker Jamal Fletcher and “attorney who cares” Dorion Morgan.
“The purpose of the Young Men and Young Women’s conference is to teach students to respect each other and themselves. We need students to understand that they are valued and should expect others to treat them with respect,” Burlington Township High School Principal Phil Brownridge said. “They need to present themselves as young men and women who are going to succeed.”