Third Annual Women in Leadership Breakfast Continues to Inspire

Third Annual Women in Leadership Breakfast Continues to Inspire
Shawnee Mission School District

More than 160 women attended the annual Women in Leadership breakfast at Shawnee Mission West on Thursday, March 9. 

The program is in its third year and has grown exponentially since Assistant Principal Kelley Capper brought her idea to life. 

“It’s an idea that came because I am one of six girls and we had a single mom. We had ‘Women in Leadership’ right in our house. And, I just want to make sure that every young lady gets that opportunity,” said Capper. 

Capper defines “that opportunity” as building self-confidence, “that grace within oneself. It’s beating the norm that society has put out there for our young ladies. It’s not ‘you against me.’ It’s ‘we.’ It’s both of us and how we can change that narrative in the minds of our young ladies.”

About 75 students participated in this year’s program that began months before the actual event when students (mentees) were connected with their personal mentor: a woman in the community serving in a leadership role. 

Mentors provided guidance, advice and shared first-hand experience about their industry. From education and communications to healthcare and engineering there was representation from across careers and backgrounds, all with the common goal of supporting the next generation of women.

"The mentorship that I’m getting from this program will definitely encourage me to reach out for help from women,” said West senior Daniela Marroquin. “I like that we’re all getting together as a group, as women, making sure we’re all uplifting each other.”

And there was no shortage of uplifting content from this year’s keynote speakers. 

Flower Cantu-Kelly, the Senior Manager of Diversity and Inclusion for T-Mobile, shared her story of perseverance and resilience as a single mom breaking the generational cycle of working multiple jobs to provide for her family. 

“The best gift you can give to someone is to elevate them and inspire them,” said Cantu-Kelly. “You have to find that resilience and that drive within you. Have a dream. My dream was to break the cycle.”

Dani Welniak, the Vice President of Communications for the Kansas City Current, former Sports Director at KCTV, and a trailblazer for women in sports journalism, had a similar message of perseverance based on her journey in a male-dominated industry. 

“Do not ever back down from the hopes and dreams that you have for yourself because, gosh darn it, we deserve the same as the men do,” said Welniak. 

After the speeches, students were invited to visit with other mentors in the room to learn about different industries and areas of interest in an effort to encourage exploration and curiosity. 

“It's just getting them involved so much earlier in that exploration of who they’re going to be,” said Capper.  

And for Capper, helping these women figure out “who they’re going to be” is the ultimate goal. 

This is “a school that wants to build the child, not just teach them the content, but build them into the person they’re going to be for the rest of their life- build their strengths, all around, and really help them grow as individuals who will impact society. It does ‘take a village…’ and this event shows that our school district, our schools are working in partnership with our families and community.”

Anyone can participate in Women in Leadership and beginning in the 23-24 school year, each of the five high schools in the Shawnee Mission School District will offer the program to students.