Coast-to-Coast Action: Highlights from the Inaugural #STFRetreat in California

Coast-to-Coast Action: Highlights from the Inaugural #STFRetreat in California

We just settled back in at STF headquarters in New York after a quick trip to Los Angeles, where we hosted our first-ever West Coast Retreat for local campus chapters, young professionals, and supporters. Designed to be a smaller-scale version of our annual Leadership Summit, the Retreat’s day-long programming included inspiring speakers, actionable workshops, and productive conversation about advocacy for girls and women in 2017 and beyond.



Couldn’t make it, or want to re-live the best parts of the day? Here are our top five takeaways that will stick with us as we resolve to take action this year.

Turn self-doubt into self-love. Rachel McGowan, who heads up local chapters for fellow nonprofit I AM THAT GIRL, kicked off the Retreat with a talk about leading with vulnerability. We looked inward, reflecting on what we love about ourselves and experiences that have made us particularly incredible individuals. We talked about the importance of self-care and the need to be gentle with ourselves. And we even got to hear Rachel’s personal leadership mantra: “Everything is progress. I have all that I need in the here and the now.”

Channel your passions to change the world. Our good friend Emily Cook Harris of EMPOWERED NYC (and now LA, too!) led a workshop to help us identify our skill sets and define our passions – and then discuss how the combination can be a force for change. She’s a shining example: her fitness coaching business donates 10% of net proceeds to our scholarship fund! Emily reminded us that we all have the power within us to give back and do good, as long as we follow our passion relentlessly.

Build a community to make an even larger impact. We spent a large chunk of time talking about what it means to be an activist today and the most effective ways to take action. Our very own Chief Programs Officer Christen Brandt noted, “Taking on huge world issues can be quite isolating if you don’t have people to fight alongside you.” Engaging in a dialogue and building a tribe are two key ways to be better, stronger advocates for causes we care about.

Use your voice purposefully. Rachel Fong, the YouTuber behind Kawaii Sweet World and our 2016 Bake A Change campaign ambassador, hosted a tactical workshop about using social media for social good. With outlets like Facebook and Twitter, we all have our own personal platforms to reach hundreds, even thousands of people with our message. Our words can make a real impact with our social networks if leveraged correctly.

It’s perfectly OK to say ‘no’ sometimes. Keynote speaker Jess Weiner, social entrepreneur and CEO of Talk to Jess, gave us permission to turn down opportunities, ideas, and even people who might steer us away from our goals and push us off track. Create boundaries, learn your limits, and take care of yourself first. “The road to progress is full of twists and turns,” Jess said. “Get it out of your mind that everything will be exactly as you have imagined. Here’s the beauty of life: it won’t be.”

Want even more advice from our powerhouse line-up of speakers? Jess’ keynote was livestreamed and still accessible on our Facebook page, and the #STFRetreat hashtag on Twitter is full of great sound bites and photos.


Of course, this event would never have been possible without our gracious sponsors and volunteers. Huge thanks to Tumblr for hosting us at their Playa Vista campus and the Michael Stars Foundation for helping everything run smoothly on-site!

Pssst… the fun doesn’t have to end here. For the first time in STF history, we’re opening the doors of our annual Leadership Summit in New York City to the public. That’s right – you no longer have to be a campus chapter member to take part in what previous attendees have declared the most inspiring and empowering weekend of their lives! Stay tuned for more details in the spring!