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2020 Many Shades of Colour Young Women's Conference Video

2019 Many Shades of Colour Young Women's Conference Video

2018 Many Shades of Colour Young Women's Conference Video

Many Shades of Colour Young Women's Conference

Article by Inclusion Council Members Brad Titus and Janice Lintz (In Wellmark Employee Publication)

Inclusion is spreading and Diversity is growing amongst the next generation of Wellmark members in central Iowa!

After conducting two “Young Men of Color” conferences, Hip-Hope Inc. partnered with Drake University to host the 1st Annual “Many Shades of Colour Young Women’s Conference,” Saturday, March 3, 2018 at Drake University’s Olmsted Building. With a theme of “Know Your Worth,” the conference was an invitation to young women, their mentors, and support community to fellowship, celebrate, self-assess, and goal set, as well as a challenge to depart with a plan in hand to empower young women of all shades.

If it takes a village to raise a child,the guest speakers, workshops, and support from an array of community stakeholders proved the village is still here, ready, and willing to invest in our young women.This event was sponsored by many organizations and companies in the Des Moines area, including Wellmark.

Included amongst additional supporters were:

  • Des Moines, Iowa Mayor - Frank Cownie

  • Iowa State Representative from the 35th District - Ako Abduhl-Samad

  • Former Iowa State Representative, Wayne Ford

  • Iowa State Representative - Ruthanne Gaines

  • NAACP Regional President - Betty Andrews

  • West Des Moines City Council - Renee Hardman

  • Secretary of State Candidate - Deidre DeJear

  • Des Moines Public School (DMPS) Board Chair - Teree Caldwell-Johnson

  • Des Moines Police Department Lieutenant - Lillie Sams

  • Erin Lain, Associate Provost for Equity & Inclusion


The day-long conference was the vision of Wellmark employee Valora James and her sister Valerie Jones, daughters of recently retired Wellmark employee Val James. Valora explained that the “Many Shades of Colour” theme was meant to invite young women from 6th to 12th grade and of all shades to explore and grow their self-worth. The goal was to intentionally address issues that may be hindering young women's academic, social, psychological and economical success.


Keynote Speaker:  15 year old Essynce Moore.

A lot of inspirational messages were shared during the day.The first Keynote Speaker, Essynce Moore, a 15 year old, outgoing and ambitious young lady; was able to resonate with the 6th -12th grade young women because of her experiences as a high school and previous middle school student.  Essynce , an accomplished entrepreneur, supported by her mother,  launched her Couture fashion line in 2013, including “Wynk” natural fragrance and lip gloss products. She discussed how her mother told her, if she wanted to do this, she would have to be serious and put in a lot of work. Ready to take the challenge head-on, this Hillside, New Jersey native, even went on to write three books (as part of a series called The Middle School Chronicles). One of her books was an Amazon best seller and the three have become mandatory readings for several east coast school district curriculums, including Hillside, NJ School District; Brooklyn, NY Charter School(s); and Orange, NJ.


Annissa Roland is an educator, community leader, and entrepreneur and is currently employed as a national education consultant with the Schlechty Center, a nonprofit organization.Her interactive message challenged the attendees to embrace their uniqueness by proudly and loudly repeating both a professional mantra (to be spoken to others) and an internal mantra (to repeat to themselves). 


There were interactive breakout sessions for young women and their mentors to help the young women set and achieve realistic goals. Workshop presenters were a mix of educators, corporate professionals, and community leaders focusing on topics such as leadership, team building, academic achievement, self-worth, financial responsibility, goal setting, cultural competency/awareness, emotional intelligence and obligations of citizenship. Sessions were as follows:

  • The Freshman Fit – Teen - College search mentoring

  • The Value of Happiness – How making little changes can have a big impact on your life and career

  • Mentors Mentoring (Each Other) – Interactively exploring ways to provide young women the tools they need to successfully navigate multiple environments.

  • Discover the Secrets of Successful Community Engagement – Panelists shared their experiences in developing reciprocal community partnerships.

  • Drake University Crew Scholars Program – College readiness, struggles, best practices for success.

  • The Real Game of Life – Role-playing scenarios in managing real-life financial obstacles and challenges.

  • Social Snapchat – Understand who you are and the brand that you want to portray.

  • The Cards YOU Were Dealt – Recognizing that while some of the “cards you were dealt” may be tough challenges, but you also have “cards” that can provide healing, opportunity, and growth.

  • Don’t let others Define YOU – Managing your own Personal Brand.

  • Dream Big and Be Your Own Boss! – What it takes to become an entrepreneur – personally, financially, and operationally.

  • You Make Me a Wonderful We – How to come together to realize the power of knowing your worth as an individual, a sister, and a collective.


At the end of the day, a group panel responded to—and engaged in conversation—about varied topics that included what they had learned during the day. Among the questions asked was, “What did you learn today?”

Panel Responses:

  • “Know YOUR worth, be honest, get real”

  • “Work hard, own YOUR life, respect others.”

  • “Do what makes YOU happy” 

  • “Don’t compare yourself. Encourage others.”


Upon arriving at the event in the morning, participants were asked to write down what they expected to get out of the day. As the event began to conclude, participants were asked to write down what they got out of the event. Here are just a few of the almost 100 responses received:

I learned…

  1. To build up my self-confidence, learned how to get closer to friends and strangers.

  2. Confidence.

  3. To be yourself, help other friends/girls out, help stand up and speak up, help build each other up, make relationship stronger, make a difference

  4. How to find self-worth and how to help others find self-worth: I learned everything I asked for

  5. How to become a better leader as a young woman and to be able to share my experiences.

  6. Don’t be worried what people think of you. Be you.

  7. Stories have power. The story you tell about yourself impacts the way others see you.

  8. Self Confidence.

  9. How to choose my path and know my opportunities and grow them. I learned about college and brands.

  10.  I learned that I’m beautiful and unique and the perfect me.

  11. Today I learned that I’m worth everything I believe I am and that I can be anything I want starting today.

  12.  I am awesome. I got everythingI need.

  13.  I got inspired to not compare myself to others.

  14. Tap into your purpose. You are worth it, even if no one else thinks so!!!

  15. I learned how to be successful in life as a colored woman.

  16. I got so much from this conference. I’m glad that I woke up early and decided to come today.

  17. I learned how to look at myself and say you look good.

  18. How to interact with other people. Get to know new people and other things.

  19. I learned that I don’t have to fake who I am. I can be myself and live life to the fullest. My brand is to be true to be myself and respect others.

  20. [It] really showed me how everyone matters and that us girls should stand together rather than to drag each other down.

  21. I learn about college applications, school selection, personal brands, and that yall can cook! That food was bomb as ever!

  22. Be yourself. You’re always gonna have haters, no one can put me down unless I let them.

  23. I felt empowered and just eager to share what I learn with the girls I come in contact with each day.

  24. Always love myself no matter my imperfections.

  25. To be honest, all I want is to be happy and it’s hard doing that when you’re alone. I learned how to love myself-worth and yeah. Thank you! (Hoyt Middle School)

  26. Confidence I felt like I’m worthy!!!! A woman of WOW!!!!


Many Shades of Colour


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