“Change the world by being yourself…” That’s one of the key messages for Smart-Girls, a non-profit program that teaches leadership and self-awareness for pre-teen and teen girls. This year’s Smart-Girl annual luncheon was held at the Inverness Hotel and Conference Center, Friday, April 22, with more than 250 guests attending.

Founded in 1998, SmartGirl is a nonprofit organization that empowers pre-teen and teen girls to make smart choices. Smart-Girl is a program of the AllHealth Network, formerly called the Arapahoe/Douglas Mental Health Network.

With school bullying in the classroom and online a problem for youngsters, the Smart-Girl organization was founded to help young people “make smart choices and become confident, capable, self-reliant young women.”

The organization helps shield teens against various types of harrasment, including verbal and emotional bullying. According to data from Family First Aid, about 30 percent of teenagers in the U.S. have been involved in bullying, either as a bully or as a victim of teenage bullying. Generally speaking, female students are significantly more likely than male students to be made fun of, called names or insulted in school or online. And more than 80% of teens use a cell phone regularly, making it very easy for cyber bullying to occur.

The Smart-Girl program measurably enhances critical thinking skills, social-emotional intelligence, optimism and resilience in adolescents. Through games, art, discussions, projects and interactive exercises, adolescents learn how to discover, strive for and reach their highest potential.

Luncheon Committee Chairs Rosalina Diecidue and Deborah Donovan introduced guests to AllHealth Network CEO Joan DiMaria who thanked guests and donors for their continued support.

Keynote Speaker Meredith Walker, a close friend of comedian/actress Amy Poehler, entertained guests with personal stories, anecdotes of her own teenage years, and a message to parents and their teen children to embrace their own unique personalities and interests.

“When a young person feels empowered with the strength to be themselves,” Walker said, “they will experience a more fulfilling and rewarding life, establish their own identity, build courage and reach their full potential.”

As a Co-Founder and Executive Director of Amy Poehler’s Smart-Girls, Walker leads workshops, service days, and volunteer teams and promotes the mission year-round. Smart-Girl Past Board Chair Shawn Turner was recognized for his leadership, dedication, enthusiasm and long-term commitment. Turner, a partner in Holland & Knight’s Denver office, currently serves as Vice President of the AllHealth Network Board.

Among key sponsors this year were: Citywide Banks, Holland & Knight, Teal Pond Foundation, Alma Lantz, the Diecidue Family Foundation, Moms Fight Back, and Chuck and Debra McKenney.

For more information visit www.smart-girl.org