The 2nd Annual Women in Leadership Conference

On Thursday, Oct. 6, several PennWest California Students, Administration, and Staff Members attended the 2nd Annual Women in Leadership Conference which was hosted by Representative Bud Cook.


Sarah Seader

Bud Cook introducing the Keynote Speaker at the Women in Leadership Conference

Sarah Seader, Editor-in-Chief

On Thursday, Oct. 6, several PennWest California Students, Administration, and Staff Members attended the 2nd Annual Women in Leadership Conference. This conference was hosted by the Representative of the 49th Legislative District, Bud Cook. The event was held in the South Wing of the Convocation Center, where attendees had the opprounity to hear from a diverse set of speakers in various careers.

Questions were encouraged throughout the event, which was also lived streamed on Bud Cook’s page. Similar to last year’s conference, the event had a Keynote Speaker and various panelists. Each speaker brought a new and fresh perspective on their current roles, the struggles they faced, and the adversity they went through to become a woman in leadership.

Representative Bud Cook addressed attendees by explaining why he is always so upbeat. Cook said,
“every morning you wake up is the very first day of the rest of your life and you never know, but it may be your last.”

The Keynote Speaker was Staci Kmetz, who through hardships and a life-changing challenge which changed her life in an instant, was able to move through it all to stand strong. Kmetz was kicked off a truck while she was unloading her 4H Lamb and ended up being diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injury, Cortical Vision Impairment, and Functional Neurological Disorder. She had to relearn everything and decided to start Staci’s Free Spirited Media.

Keynote Speaker, Staci Kmetz (Sarah Seader)

Kmetz believed it would be the perfect way to feel “normal” and helping others, even with her disability. Her story was one of hope, strength, and encouragement, because through it all, she found creativity and the passion to help others.

The first panel of the conference featured two Pennsylvania Legislators. The first was Rep. Regina Young from the 185th District and Rep. Tracy Pennycuick from the 147th District. Young focused on ensuring the women in attendance that they are here for a purpose and where they are for a reason.

Pennycuick said, “find where you want to be. There is nothing in your life that you can’t do. Don’t let saying, I can’t do this, stop you.”

The second panel of the conference focused on Women in the Trades. This panel featured Susan Bealko who works in the mining industry as a Corporate Safety Director, Sgt. 1st Class Kimberley A. Smith who is in the U.S. Army, and Rachael Beam who is an Engineering Manager.

During her presentation, Bealko said, “don’t fake anything and don’t pass up an opportunity.”

Sgt. 1st Class Smith said, “get comfortable being uncomfortable because through every moment I am uncomfortable I am learning.”

Smith went on to say, “you don’t win or lose, you grow. If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.”

Panel 2: Women in the Trades (Sarah Seader)

While talking about Women in Leadership comes with a stigma, women will face setbacks and backlash. Each presenter made it clear that having a good support system was crucial and having genuine people in your circle who relate to you is vital. Beam said, “do not spend any time thinking why they think that,” when referring to the doubts people have thrown.

The third and final panel of the conference was Other Industries. Which featured Dr. Laura Jacob the Superintendent of California Area School District and CEO of California Academy of Learning Charter School, Michele Beener a business owner and the President of Aspire Grant and Development LLC, and Brianne Mitchel an entrepreneur, Media Strategist, Partner, Consultant and Chief Operating Officer of Mitchell Legal Services and Mitchell Law Office. Dr. Jacob kicked off the panel by encouraging others that, “the path won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.” Dr. Jacob stressed that no matter what hardships one faced, the path would lead them. Beener said, “hold onto your roots and fly.”

While wrapping up the panel and conference, Mitchell encouraged everyone to be a changemaker within their communities and themselves. Mitchell said, “give yourself permission to succeed and fail.”

Brianne Mitchell (Sarah Seader)

Ending the conference with a prompt to the audience, Mitchell, encouraged the audience to think. “What is your personal definition of success, what does it mean to you” asked Mitchell.

The overall theme of the conference was that no matter where one is currently, where they come from, what challenges they face, or what obstacles block a path, it is important to continue through it all to learn and grow into a true leadership role.