Self-empowered and confident is how 17-year-old Storme Adkins describes herself after attending a female leadership conference at Converse College in July.

“It was a really good experience for me,” Adkins told The McDowell News recently. “I had a lot of fun and made a lot of friends.”

From July 23-26, Adkins joined 54 other girls from North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, New York, Florida, California and Virginia for the free conference offered to rising juniors and seniors. Through various activities and workshops, the young female leaders learned a lot about serving their communities, having self confidence and becoming a leader.

“We went to Brown Roof, a non-profit thrift store where I helped sort books. Then we went to the Hope Center for Children and colored mandalas for their trees,” said Adkins.

The theme of this year’s conference was Be The Change, which really stuck with her she said.

“I was really drawn in by that. I really don’t like stereotypes people place on each other because we are all human. You have to accept people’s opinions even if you don’t agree with it. But you at least need to hear it because it can affect how you think about things,” said Adkins.

During their stay, Adkins was grouped with other girls to complete an action project by coming up with a non-profit.

“We created a non-profit called Chances After Chains for families of people who have been incarcerated. We felt that was a group of people that most don’t think about in their daily lives,” Adkins said. “It is creating a support group for children and parents to get them back on the right track. One thing we learned when we presented our action projects is that even if you don’t see yourself as a leader, women still have the tools for leadership, but they don’t know how to use them.”

Adkins also talked about the interesting trust exercises they partook in. The girls were partnered up with one person blindfolded and had to be guided around obstacles to reach a mouse trap, put their hand on it and remove it before it snapped.

“That was definitely a trust exercise since we had known our partners for probably about two hours,” said Adkins laughing.

Another thing that stood out for Adkins was the emphasis on leadership and self-empowerment.

“There are a lot of different ways to lead. People may think simply because someone is given the title, that they are the boss,” she said. “But leadership is not a title; it’s an action. You may not be the person in charge, but you can still be a leader and make a change.”

Staying at Converse, Adkins said, was also a great college experience to get her prepared for after high school.

“We stayed in the dorms and had a roommate. The communal bathroom was an interesting experience,” said Adkins. “Often times our workshops weren’t back to back so we had some free time where we took campus tours. Everyone was really nice and helpful. I really liked Converse. If I get in, I will probably go there.”

Adkins said she has made friends for life by attending the conference, and hopes more girls from McDowell High School will be interested in the future.

“It’s completely free. It pushes you out of your comfort zone and gives you a whole new group of people that you can consider your family,” she said. “You find out a lot of things that you wouldn’t think you had in common with people. I would definitely say go for it.”

Adkins is looking forward to bringing what she learned into her senior year at McDowell High School. She is involved in yearbook, AVID, Titan Trees and a volunteer at MACA. She hopes to major in political science and possibly philosophy after high school.

For more information on the leadership conference at Converse, contact Pat Gross at McDowell High School.