In Partnership with 74

LAUSD’s GALA school celebrates its 6th annual Young Women’s Conference

Sara Balanta | August 29, 2023

Your donation will help us produce journalism like this. Please give today.

The Forensic Science panel at the 6th Annual Young Women’s Conference (Sara Balanta/LA School Report)

When Samantha Alvarado spoke to a group of Los Angeles elementary school students about her career as an Adidas assistant color designer, she was thrilled when a young female student approached her.

“Are you Latina?” the student asked.

Alvarado was part of a panel at the Girls Academic Leadership Academy (GALA), in Mid City Los Angeles earlier this year for its sixth annual Young Women’s Career Conference. With a diverse array of speakers, female students of color at GALA had the chance to meet with successful professional women in STEM fields who look just like them. 

The yearly event is hosted by “Friends of GALA,” a parent-led organization that begins preparing for the event at the beginning of the school year. This year’s panelists included keynote speaker, Kiesha Nix, the first Black woman Vice president of Charitable Affairs for the Los Angeles Lakers. 

“Just understanding that there are so many successful people sitting in front of us that had to overcome things, like it’s ok to fail, it’s ok to leave college for a year,” said Leila Adams Taylor, an 11th grader at GALA.

“It’s just so many things that we get told on a day-to-day basis that aren’t ok, and these people (experienced it and still came back and became successful.”) 

120 professional women attended the conference, in careers ranging from aerospace engineering to forensic science. 80% of the speakers were women of color, much like the GALA student population which serves 78% girls of color. 

As an aspiring travel nurse, Taylor admired meeting women on a pediatrics panel. 

Being able to see yourselves in these positions and see the people who relate to you makes it more comfortable,” said Taylor. “They tell you their life story so you know it is not far-fetched from what you are going through.”

Working as the design director for apparel and accessories for Global Golf at Adidas, panelist Jennie Ko liked the idea of connecting with students. 

“For me, coming here and speaking to girls, at an age where I remember questioning ‘Could I actually do that?’ It felt really important to show my face and be like ‘Ya it happens and it is awesome!’ ”

Monica Henderson, president of the parent-led “Friends of GALA” took pride in the conference. 

I love how engaged and active the girls are, and just the spark of joy when they’re like ‘Wait I can do that! I can be kind of anything I want to be!’ ” said Henderson. “I really wish this was something that all girls got to experience.”

This article is part of a collaboration between The 74 and the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

Sara Balanta is an undergraduate student at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Public Relations.

Read Next