Forty-five professional women will serve as mentors Saturday for approximately 100 middle school girls enrolled in I-Tri, an East Hampton program that promotes leadership and life skills through encouragement and athletics. It is the third annual Empowering and Mentoring Day organized by Theresa Roden, the founder and executive director of I-Tri, and will be held at the East Hampton Middle School from 1 to 4 p.m.
According to Ms. Roden, the goal of the event is to introduce the girls to East End women who have overcome challenges to achieve success as adults. Previously, the event was for eighth graders about to graduate from the I-Tri program. This year, however, it will be for all middle school girls.
“I’m very excited about our new format. We’ve opened up the event to all our girls — sixth to eighth graders. So rather than the one-on-one sessions the girls had with mentors in the past, we’ll have round-table discussions this year, in which there will be groups of four mentors and 10 to 12 girls,” Ms. Roden said. The hope is that participants will engage in meaningful question and answer dialogues about careers, personal obstacles, and life in general.
In addition, Ms. Roden said, Saturday’s keynote speaker will be an I-Tri graduate, Noely Martinez, who will graduate from high school in June.
I-Tri was launched in 2009 and enrollment has grown from 8 to 100 girls. The program trains young women to compete in a triathlon at the end of the school year: a 300-yard swim, seven-mile bike ride, and a 1.5-mile run. The girls, who are not athletes, are often recommended by school social workers for being at-risk adolescents.
“It’s definitely more than a race,” Ms. Roden said. “I-Tri helps to train the mind, body, and spirit. Ultimately, it helps girls overcome hurdles, giving them lifelong tools that will hopefully help them accomplish just about anything.”
The goals include following career dreams and ambitions, despite any negative reinforcement some girls face at home. The I-Tri Empowerment and Mentoring Day serves as a forum for the young women to talk about their passions and hear about firsthand experiences of women who might have faced similar struggles and even failures before succeeding.
“It’s also a great way for them to make connections in the community and learn how to network,” Ms. Roden said. “If I could have had this experience when I was 12, I would have been a different, more confident woman.”