Mitchell Community College hosted the Abby Winthrop SMART Girls Program during its first Inspiring Women Leader’s Conference in partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of the Piedmont. The Abby Winthrop SMART Girls Program serves girls ages 8 to 17 throughout Iredell County with the goal of providing participants with a place to learn, grow and develop while building peer relationships and learning from adult professional mentors. During this weeklong conference, participants heard from local woman who currently hold leadership roles in the community. “Anytime I get a chance to speak to young women, I take the opportunity,” said NC Senator Vickie Sawyer, who led a breakout session about navigating a leadership role. “I want to let them know that there is a path forward as long as you work hard and persevere.” Each presenter shared personal stories about triumphs and failures, and offered life advice and encouragement for personal and professional success for the present and future. “I want to inspire these young ladies to believe in themselves,” commented Melissa Neader, Iredell County Commissioner, Vice-Chair, who led her breakout session with Tracy Alston, founder and CEO of Mental Edge Fitness Solutions and New Mentality. The pair spoke to program participants about life strategies. “We wanted to share tips and strategies to help navigate their future.” Other speakers included: Dr. Angel Dalton, Principle, WIMS; Shannon Viera, President & CEO, Statesville Chamber of Commerce; Marlene Scott, Director of Community Engagement, Recruitment & Hiring, Iredell - Statesville Schools; Julia Wilson, Vice President, GL Wilson Construction Company, Inc.; Dr. Alvera Lesane, Assistant Superintendent Durham Public Schools; Nickey Mott, Regional Senior Director of Member Experience, YMCA; Yvette Smith, Director of Social Services, Iredell County; Vicki Winthrop, Abby’s Mom and Founder of the Abby Winthrop SMART Girls. In a presentation led by Tamara Watkins, Director of Strategic Enrollment Management at Mitchell Community College, program participants were encouraged to think about college readiness. Other community-based agencies also provided breakout sessions to focus on the program’s three priority outcomes: Academic Success, Healthy Lifestyle Choices, and Character/Leadership Development. The leadership conference culminated with the program participants meeting their new adult mentors with plans to maintain ongoing networking sessions throughout the year. About Abby Winthrop SMART Girls Program: The program is a legacy to the late Abby Winthrop who passed away on July 1, 2019. Born in 1994, Abby was born with a rare heart disease, Heterotaxy, and complete heart blockage; she was also diagnosed with a lung disease, Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia. Abby endured 20 surgeries and procedures including having a pacemaker and a defibrillator implanted to help sustain her life. Despite the challenges, Abby grew to become an amazing young lady and outstanding student with the love and support of her parents, Russ and Vicki, and younger siblings, Walker and Gracie. During her college years, Abby pursued a degree in Human Development and Family Studies – a pursuit led by a passion for helping others. Abby passed away shortly before her college graduation. To continue her legacy, Abby’s family chose the Boys & Girls Club of the Piedmont to found the Abby Winthrop SMART Girls Program with the goal of impacting the lives of girls and young women in the community, helping them reach their full potential and become productive, caring and responsible citizens.