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Black women and girls learn the power of leadership through sports at annual conference in Philadelphia

Girls hear from mentors, try new sports at Black Women in Sports conference in Philadelphia
Girls hear from mentors, try new sports at Black Women in Sports conference in Philadelphia 02:09

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Nearly 100 young Black women and girls came together Wednesday at Simon Gratz High School to learn about how participating in sports can help them navigate life. 

The second annual Lady Bulldog Leadership and Athletics Conference gave students the opportunity to hear from high school athletes, professional athletes and coaches. Girls also tried out new sports.

Naijhay Dejesus, who is in eighth grade, described herself as competitive. She said she really enjoyed hearing high school athletes speak about how they gained leadership skills through participation in sports.

"So that when I go to high school, I can think about doing the exact same thing and not being involved in other drama and stuff," Dejesus said.

Maureen Quiles, who coaches girls flag football, said sports provide an essential outlet for her student-athletes to process other things they might be going through.

"So many of my female athletes are overcoming crazy personal struggles at home," Quiles said. "I really see them using sports as a way to cope with the personal challenges that they're dealing with."

Quiles worked with the Black Women in Sport Foundation, a nonprofit that helped fund the event, to organize the day-long conference aimed at keeping Black girls involved in sports.

"They need to see and hear from people who look like them and come from similar backgrounds," Quiles said.

One of the student ambassadors, high school senior Dakeira Golden, shared how her experience in track and cross country helped her gain confidence and friendships.

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"Sports can help you expand your social life and create bonds by meeting new people you never knew existed," Golden said to a room full of her peers at the conference. 

While Golden said public speaking put her a bit out of her comfort zone, she was happy to do it if it meant inspiring girls a few grades below her.

"It made me feel like a leader," Golden said. "And I want to be a leader."

In addition to helping facilitate conferences like the one held Wednesday, the Black Women in Sport Foundation hosts after-school programs and summer camps that provide young students of color with opportunities to play unconventional sports for the first time, such as pickleball or lacrosse. They also help connect young athletes with mentors. 

To learn how to get involved, visit the Black Women in Sport website.

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