Profiles in Strength, Generosity, and Courage

MGA Profiles in Strength, Generosity, and Courage Speaker Series invites female leaders from the community come to speak with all of our students, approximately, twice a month. Our girls hear their stories, their triumphs, and most importantly how they have overcome their failures on the road to success. Having strong, smart, successful women role models they can relate to and see themselves in is critical to educating the next generation of groundbreaking women.

Our most recent Profiles speakers include:

Jessica Conley, Alumna, TV Meteorologist, WCSH-TV
Jess started her presentation by showing us her student ID photo and shared that her fascination with weather was fostered by Maine’s ever dramatic climate. She shared her experiences studying meteorology in college when she was one of a precious few women who pursued this challenging discipline. The most striking message from Jess’ presentation was her perseverance to professional calling. She shared that it took her nearly two years and two hundred audition tapes to secure her first “on air” position at a small TV station in the South. She freely acknowledged that the TV personality aspect of the job doesn’t come naturally and that she really had to work at it. Jess now works for channel 6, and we were lucky to have this tenacious alumna come share her perspectives!

Oami Amarasingham, Director of Advocacy, ACLU ME
Oami shared she pursued a career in law as a means to follow her passion for social justice. She further offered the girls that, as a young attorney, she offered to work for free at the ACLU to gain experience and to get her ‘foot in the door.’ She was eventually hired and has since made it her life’s work to fight for our Bill of Rights in Maine. Oami shared the fact the ACLU worked to eliminate the practice of shackling female inmates while they were giving birth, and the ACLU continues to work to minimize the criminalization of poverty through fines. Oami outlined for the girls the ways a poor person may get pulled over for having a broken tail light which they cannot afford to fix, which results in a traffic citation/fine, which they also can’t afford; this cycle snowballs into losing a licence to drive and a way to get to work, legally. These ‘real life’ examples allowed our students to understand there are many ways to pursue a career in social justice. Oami also bravely admitted to having had “imposter syndrome” in spite of being admitted to the Bar in two states! As a woman of Southeast Asian heritage, Oami maintains ties to her culture and her passion for dance by performing and teaching Southeast Asian dance.

Deanna Sherman, CEO, Dead River Company
Women hold less than 4.2% of CEO positions in Fortune 500 companies, and less than 21% of C-Suite jobs; Deanna was able to reflect that she was able to overcome these odds to make it to the top at Dead River. Deanna expressed the importance of commiting to a corporate community and to understanding deeply the internal culture. She shared her choice not to have children, given her demanding professional responsibilities and has instead committed herself to developing deep connections to her siblings’ children and through philanthropy work. Over her 28 year career at Dead River, Deanna has had the opportunity to fill many non-traditional roles and now relishes the chance to make professional opportunities for others. In addition to her weighty corporate responsibilities, she now volunteers with single mothers to help arrange services so these women can become economically self-sufficient. Deanna shared her ‘life lessons’ with our girls, and we were so lucky to have Deanna as an example of long-term commitment and community mindedness.

Layne Gregory & Dr. Anne Hallward, Safe Spaces Radio
Dr. Anne Hallward, host of Maine Public Radio’s “Safe Spaces” show and her long time friend, Layne Gregory, shared the power of their friendship was a driving factor for developing a radio show to allow Dr. Hallward to reach more people. Layne shared an experience from grade school where a teacher shamed her; this event impacted her and made her realize this experience is ubiquitous across the population. She wondered about the way(s) she might take this sensitive subject and reach more people to provide healing. Meanwhile, Anne wondered if she could broaden the impact of her psychiatric practice to help as many people as possible. Safe Spaces Radio was born and now covers a wide range of topics from adoption, suicide, bullying, anxiety, domestic violence and autism, to name a few. The pair also shared a technique for self-improvement by using a friendship circle where close friends gather periodically to both support and challenge each other to break through obstacles keeping them from achieving their goals.

Gabrielle Melchionda, Entrepreneur, Mad Gab’s
Gabrielle shared the story of her scrappy start-up, from when she recognized a need for all-natural lip balm during her undergraduate days. She showed pictures of her early product and how packaging and marketing changed over time. Her product was featured in Vogue and other fashion and lifestyle magazines because she took the initiative to send samples to editors. Today, savvy Gabrielle leverages new ways to reach her prospective customers through marketing at vacation resorts and using social media. Gabrielle unabashedly shared that she managed her burgeoning business to fit within her desires to raise a family; in fact, she made hard decisions not to grow the business as fast as she could, so that she could have more time with her children. This Westbrook resident also uses her enterprise to do good in the community by hiring developmentally delayed workers in the production aspect of the job. Gabrielle enjoys working with a wide range of people, and inspires great loyalty! She ended her presentation with free lip balm for all – thanks Madgabs!

Have a recommendation for a speaker or would like to share your story with our girls? Email Amy Jolly, Head of School, or call us at 207-797-3802.