Nov. 6, 2005 A group of about 30 young women were offered a variety of information Saturday on matters they face or will face in the areas of health, finance, education, social issues, employment and technology.
The Young Women's Leadership Roundtable, which took place at the University of the Virgin Islands' Sports and Fitness Center, was sponsored by Just In Time Inc. Based in Washington, D.C., Just In Time Inc. is a nonprofit community organization that provides education, career development training, counseling and outreach services to females between the ages of 17 to 25.
Women leaders from the territory and the United States spoke to the students, giving them practical tools for living.
Sharon Simmons, UVI assistant professor of accounting, spoke to young women on financial matters. She told them they are not too young to begin making wise financial decisions.
"No matter where we are, we are in control of our financial destiny," Simmons said. She gave the attendees resources, including Web sites, they could use to make investments in stocks, certificates of deposits and other areas.
Simmonds cautioned the women on the improper use of credit cards. She said it's important to obtain credit, but said spending more than is appropriate compared to earnings can lead to financial troubles.
Simmonds asked the group, "What is the best way to accumulate wealth?"
She answered her own question, "Owning your own home." She said buying a house should be part of the women's future plans.
Gloria Callwood, UVI nursing professor, spoke about the health disparities facing women in the territory. She used graphs and charts to show the varying health problems that different ethnic groups face.
For instance, she said life expectancy for African-Caribbean women is 71.9 years, where the average in the U.S. is 74.
While accidents and homicides ran fifth and sixth for causes of death of all members of the African-Caribbean community in the territory, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes ranked higher.
Callwood said knowledge about health is the best defense against disease. "As young ladies, you want to maximize your ability to stay healthy," Callwood said.
Laverne Parks, chief executive officer of LAP and Associates, spoke to the students about making wise career choices and gave them tips on developing good resumes and dressing for interviews.
Delegate Donna M. Christensen told the group, "Find your niche. Find what you can do to make your community a better place."
The audience had the opportunity to ask questions and to participate in break-out sessions to tackle this issues in more detail.
Jahleba Benjamin, a local entrepreneur, said she was glad to participate in the program. Benjamin is the co-owner of Treasures of Zion, a store that sells natural body products that she makes herself.
"I've been through a lot and still have a lot more to go through," Benjamin said, "So I came to share my experiences and be an example to the young ladies."
Benjamin, who is a mother of two, said she experienced teen-pregnancy and homelessness, but now has her own business.
She said, "I wanted to let them know that once you keep your focus, you can make it."
Saturday's presenters were Adelle Belle-Barry, UVI professor of social work; Christensen, Callwood; Tonja McCoy, president of Millennium Enterprises; Parks, Simmons, and Cecilia Webb, president of the New Mexico chapter of the National Council of Negro Women.
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