Mothers and daughters converged on Charleston County School of the Arts en masse on Saturday aimed at arming themselves with the necessary tools to raise successful girls.

Charleston County School District's Parent University hosted the Girls Summit, which is in its third year.

Nearly 500 people attended the event, "Raising successful daughters in the 21st century," making this year's summit the largest to date, the event's coordinator Brenda Nelson said.

Attendees benefitted from interactive parent workshops and a resource fair that provided information on regional colleges and universities.

"We're going to help parents understand all of the challenges that are facing 21st century girls and young women that have not been there before," Nelson said of the event's purpose. "We'll show them how to help young girls overcome those barriers and remove those obstacles."

According to Nelson, the Girls Summit grew from a similar Boys Summit that was created five years ago to positively impact young men of color.

"A lot of parents said, 'You're talking about the boys, but what about the girls?'

People felt we needed to bring attention and focus to issues pertaining to girls as well," Nelson said.

The event addressed key issues including academic performance, physical health and leadership skills both inside and outside of the classroom.

"We want these young girls to leave with knowledge, leave with skills, and hopefully they'll leave with information that they can share with their friends and their peers," Nelson said.

Demetria Wright, 27, attended Saturday's summit with her daughter Julisa, a second grader at Memminger Elementary School. She said she hoped the experience would help keep the girl on the path toward becoming a respectable young woman.

"As parents, we teach them these things but sometimes it helps to have another adult's point of view," Wright said. "Sometimes it helps to have another person encourage them to make responsible choices."

A panel that addressed parents' concerns included such community leaders as Circuit Judge Stephanie McDonald, pediatric physician Sharvette Jennings Slaughter and College of Charleston professor Angela Cozart. Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter served as keynote speaker.

Saturday's event was free and open to any Charleston County School District parent.

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