Giving Teen Girls A Strong Start

Linda Dela Cruz
Wednesday - February 15, 2006
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Karen Elizaga workshops are designed to boost girls’ confidence
Karen Elizaga workshops are designed to
boost girls’ confidence

Karen Elizaga shares real- life practical tips with high school girls so they can succeed.

“I am talking to them as opposed to lecturing them,” says Elizaga about her company, Forward Options. “A girl really must create a strong foundation from which to leap into adulthood. A strong foundation will give her the ability to create lots of choices, allowing her to choose her ideal career and personal life. I discuss with the girls that life is so much more interesting when you have many ice cream flavors to choose from instead of just vanilla.”

At the start of the four-hour interactive rap session, the girls introduce themselves.

“Most girls say ‘Mom or Dad made me come,’” explains Elizaga, a 1988 Punahou grad. “About halfway through the session and at the end, the girls are saying how glad they are that they came.”

The clinics are kept to about 15 girls so that it’s a personal experience, says Elizaga. The conference covers physical, spoken, and written communication, in addition to goal setting, etiquette, college, internships, interview skills, and strength of character.

A graduate of Columbia University’s Barnard College, and American University’s Washington College of Law, Elizaga had access to top educational institutions.

“I know what it’s like to be a high school girl and have aspirations,” she recalls. “These are the lessons that weren’t taught in the classroom.”

The former Alewa Heights resident’s material comes from her experience as well as thatof over 200 other professionals she’s met during her years as a corporate attorney. Her views on success come from living in New York City, Paris, Washington, D.C., and London, and traveling to about 40 countries. Her research includes asking her fellow professionals about lessons they’ve learned, any regrets they’ve had, and what it’s like as a woman of color.

She’s been brewing the idea since 2001, and she started it in 2004 after she stopped working to spend more time with her daughter Sloane. With the support of her husband, Jay, and without a regular pay check and without the security of her attorney’s job, she sai that nothing was stopping her. She put together the curriculum and in January 2005, she conducted her first seminars at Maryknoll and Sacred Hearts. Students learned about the sessions from posted flyers.

Elizaga, now a New York City resident, says her biggest challenge is to be patient.

“I’ve got so much passion for

my message, I want to reach so many,” she says.

She’ll be flying into Honolulu for workshops at several public and private schools on: March 19-22, May 9-14 and June 4-8.

In addition to the group sessions, she also offers one-on-one coaching.

“They like the idea that their lives are a blank slate,” adds Elizaga. “They can go and create a life they’re proud of. And they say, ‘Now I know how to do it, and I can make that dream happen.”

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