11 years ago Gina Ponce had the idea to sit down with community members with the goal of providing resources and opportunities for women in their professional careers and personal lives. Advocacy, education and inclusivity for all women were to become the bedrock of whatever solution or concept they came up with. Through this brainstorming session the Women on a Mission Conference (WMC) was born. Fast forward to 10 years later after the first WMC was held in 2011 and the momentum the conference has built some could say has become unstoppable.
“We are really excited to be celebrating 10 years. Can you believe it,” Gina Ponce says. “It has been amazing to see the growth of this conference but most importantly the impact it has had on the women who attend.
This year’s 10th Anniversary WMC conference will be held at Bellevue University’s administration building on March 20, 2020 and will host a number of different community leaders who will aim to inspire, motivate and entertain conference attendees. “The WMC is truly blessed to have such a great space at Bellevue University,” Ponce says. “They are so accommodating.”
The 2020 conference is open to women of all walks of life who are ready to set goals but might need help organizing and or networking with others. Ponce stresses that inclusivity of all women no matter your background and or race was key when creating the conference. “I feel all women in all races face challenges and should have access to opportunities,” Ponce says.
The WMC prides itself on being a non-profit organization that allows women to have a deep educational experience but on a local and more economical level for conference goers. “Looking back when we first had initial talks about having a conference, we wanted to provide women with information that was going to help them succeed in their professional and personal lives,” Ponce says. Pillars or themes of how the conference is organized are elemental of what the attendees can take away. They are: careers, health, applied life skills, nutrition, growing your spirituality and education.
“We incorporated the spiritual component because I think for women we wanted them to ask themselves, who or what is that higher power in your life?” Ponce asks. “It is essential no matter who or what you look up to or believe in, how can that entity help you achieve your goals in life. I truly believe it’s an important aspect in a woman’s life.”
Besides the conference curtailing its advice and information to mostly women, Ponce knew it was fundamental to reach out and start offering a mentoring program to young women and girls in high school. Thus in 2014 the Women Influencing Girls component was added to the conference. Initially girls and women were separated at the conference, with different speakers for both groups.
A free group mentoring program which meets on Saturday mornings for 10 months throughout the year became an extension out of the girls component from the conference which Ponce says has a developed curriculum. “We work with girls and their families to make sure they have top grades, are able to attend a conference and are coming to the Saturday morning sessions,” Ponce says. “It’s a higher end mentoring program with a lot of benefits for young girls.”
Girls who have completed the mentoring program and have met all the requirements are eligible to apply for the $500 Academic Mejias Scholarship. Abrianna Franklin who completed the mentoring program and was awarded the scholarship says, “it got me out of my comfort zone and it also introduced and opened new doors for me.” Franklin was invited last year to speak at the 2019 conference about her experience and journey with the WMC. “One of the biggest life lessons I learned was that in order to lead others you first must be willing to lead for yourself,” Franklin says. “I would like other young women to know that one of the biggest things in life is growth. You should constantly be working on growing yourself and becoming the woman you want to be and want to embody.” Franklin is now in her 2nd year of college and is on track to graduate with her associate’s degree in a year.
In the past the WMC provided a vision board exercise which allowed conference attendees to create a collage of images, pictures, and affirmations of their dreams and desires which Ponce says has become popular over the years. This year to commemorate the WMC’s 10th year anniversary the conference itself will be introducing the passion planner which is designed to be a personal organizer to help you simplify a person’s life and people focus on their goals. “I’m really excited to share this with these women and young girls,” Ponce says. “Besides the passion planner being something different, it will hopefully allow them to physically write down their goals, and later look back at what they hopefully achieved.”
The WMC will also be combining both women and girls groups allowing more room to share life lessons, experiences and open the doors for mentoring opportunities. Tickets for the conference are still available for purchase at womenonamissionomaha.org “I want women to walk always knowing that they have the power to make change happen in their lives for the better.” Ponce says “I hope women and young girls walk away knowing they can be unstoppable!”