DENVER — The Broncos took a new step forward in their outreach initiatives on Friday, as the organization hosted its inaugural Empowerment Summit at Broncos Stadium at Mile High for female high-school student-athletes from Denver Public Schools. The summit aimed to teach them some foundational lessons that can bridge the gap between the academic and professional times in their lives.
"We at the Broncos have a ton of co-ed programming, but this is a really neat opportunity for us to find something that's strictly for female student-athletes in Denver Public Schools," Senior Manager of Community Development Liz Mannis said. "They'll be exposed to female employees from the Broncos throughout the day, but also female leaders from across different industries in Colorado. So it's a unique opportunity for them to see role models, ask questions and just learn to be themselves."
The young women in attendance, who represented 15 different teams from five local high schools (Denver School of Science and Technology, Stapleton High School, East High School, North High School and West High School), kicked off the day with a conversation between Lauren Y. Casteel, president and CEO of the Women's Foundation of Colorado and Kami Carmann Snyder, a former University of Colorado basketball player who has held professional careers as a sports reporter and as a sales representative for Aytu BioScience.
"For you," Casteel said, speaking to the 85 student-athletes, "your work right now is simply knowing who you are and to find healthy, positive ways to navigate relationships and school."
With that, the high-schoolers split up into five groups to begin a rotation of breakout sessions. The Rocky Mountain branch of Junior Achievement led fiscal fitness and personal branding seminars to help the students learn how to be financially responsible and learn some basics of the professional world. The Denver Scholarship Foundation had a session on networking for a lesson in how to make strong first impressions. And there were two extra breakouts that focused on team-building and meditation, for breaks between the more business-oriented sessions.
Then, to cap the day, the student-athletes had a networking luncheon that gave them the chance to meet more than two dozen female leaders from a variety of Colorado industries.
"We're hopeful that every girl here today takes one thing with them, whether it's the meditation session on how to center themselves and stay positive when facing adversity or in the financial literacy session about what it means to build up a good credit score," Mannis said. "These are all tools and skills that they'll take with them [for] a long time through life, whether it's college, a post-college career or anything else they may do."
In the NFL world, it may be hard for young women to find role models on the business side, so the Broncos also made sure to have some of their female leaders on hand at Friday's event to introduce them to women who work behind the scenes for their favorite team. All women who are full-time Broncos employees were invited to participate in the event as volunteers, group captains and in the networking luncheon.
"I think it's so huge just to send that message of inclusiveness and empowerment for everybody," Snyder said. "And while this might be in the NFL, traditionally a man's game and a man's world, there's a bigger community outreach and bigger community power. An NFL team can have such reach and such power in the community, so to draw in women and young women specifically, they are also included: 'This is how our strengths can help you, and this is how you can gain some of that knowledge from us.'"