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The Groves Scriptor

The Groves Scriptor

The Groves Scriptor

EmpowerHer : girls, sports and bright futures

Christine Knoper
Girls ages 11 to 18 attend EmpowerHer: girls, sports and bright futures and join a powerful community.

“We’re here because we are all athletes. Notice how I didn’t say ‘star athlete’, or anyone gunning to be the next Simone Biles or Serena Williams,” Joanne Gerstner said as she commenced the beginning of a long tradition for Groves with the first EmpowerHer: Girls, Sports and Bright Futures event. The date was specifically chosen to coincide with women in sports month and was right before February 7th, National Girls and Women in Sports day. 

Kelly Salter, Groves High School’s athletic trainer and mastermind behind the EmpowerHer event, introduces her vision for it.

Kelly Salter, our adored school athletic trainer, founded EmpowerHer for three main reasons; 1) To celebrate the pioneers in women’s equality and recognize how much they did for us females to be able to participate in sports today. 2) To provide tools for time and self management, resilience and to recognize that it is difficult to balance the many responsibilities of a student athlete. 3) To introduce us to amazing women, like renowned sportswriter Gerstner and Paralympic* champion Cheryl Angelelli.

At bright and early 9:30 am, local vendors and sponsors of the event opened their booths at Groves High School to promote their businesses and support women in sports. Girls between 11 and 18 flocked to Groves to be a part of this new empowering community. First up was keynote speaker, Gerstner. 

Gerstner is an award-winning sports journalist, author and professor at Michigan State University. She was inducted into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame in 2021. She has made a name for herself within many places you may find your news: ESPN, the Detroit News, New York Times and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic committee. She played Basketball, Softball, and other sports in middle and high school and did not exactly succeed in those sports as her position, the benchwarmer, but she really “found her space playing tennis in college” and in writing for the sports she loved.

“Being an athlete means you find your place in being yourself, you become fierce, you are choosing to be present,” Gerstner said.

Gerstner’s motto for resilience is to become fierce. To take chances, accept ourselves, commit to others, develop resilience and become present. It is taking control of your own narrative and proving yourself and showing the world what you can do.

Gerstner asked us, “what happens if you take a risk?” The response was an assortment of mumbles saying failure. To this, she pointed out how none of us said that taking a chance could mean you could succeed.

Sports Journalist Joanne Gerstner connects with students during EmpowerHer.
( Christine Knoper)

“Us girls feel the need to be perfect, the scary truth is that we’re human, we’re not perfect,” Gerstner said.

No one is perfect but the point is you still need to try your best. You never know what could happen and that fact is exciting.

A similar important lesson Gerstner taught is that not even the best athletes are always at 100%. Some days you are 50% or 80% but the point is, the best teammates always give as much as they have, all of that 80%. Becoming the best teammate you can be and devoting yourself to your fellow athletes is what creates that long lasting team bond.

“My most happy moments weren’t when we were celebrating when we won, my happiest moments I remember were the laughs, the inside jokes, the silly stuff that we would laugh so hard your insides hurt and your coach would yell at you to stay focused,” Gerstner said. “It was the moment that something clicked. The moments you feel pride.”

Sports writing is a male dominated field, similar to many other careers in sports. It is often difficult as a woman for people to take you seriously… but it’s not impossible. Gerstner did it.

“I’ve been called a female sports-writer all my life. We don’t say female teacher, but we say female doctor, male nurse. My gender has nothing to do with my job,” Gerstner said.

She is good at her job and a woman at the same time! Her secret is always being herself. Wherever she goes, an office, the Australian Open for tennis or even the Olympics, she is Joanne Gerstner: the one and only. Showing us her confidence makes her a powerful role model for any young girls who were listening in the auditorium audience.


Empower her through yoga and mindfulness provided girls a fun, active outlet through yoga.

After the Keynote speaker, everyone went to two different breakout rooms. There were many options available as to what event you wanted to attend. There were lessons on healthy eating, yoga, sports careers, CPR training and more! I attended the breakout session Empower Her to Overcome Adversity led by Skye Taylor. Taylor is a former Groves student currently working on her graduate degree and PHD in psychology at Wayne State. The breakout session she led was on mental health, stress, and resources. 

“I roller skate to keep in my routine. I roller skate because it makes me happy, “ Taylor said. 

When she entered college she had felt lost. She didn’t know where to get that same physical activity she was used to from her two high school sports. A lot of people may know where she is coming from and her main point for them is that you should always be moving your body in some way. Taylor’s solution was roller skating;sports and activities do not have to be intense or demanding, they can be fun too! Physical and mental health are connected so one of the best ways to feel better mentally and feel good physically is through active movement.

⅕ of youth has mental health conditions, it is important to remember that you are not alone. Friends and trusted adults are a great support system but therapists are also available to talk you through hard times.

“Professionals are trained, life doesn’t have to be bad to see a therapist. They can give you the skills,” Taylor said.

Similar to therapy, NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) is a great resource for trustworthy information about mental illness and skills to support yourself and others. To better your own mental health you can do activities you love, be proactive by seeking help, be patient and persistent, take care of your physical health, join supportive communities and educate yourself.


In my next breakout session, I got to learn from Lauren Bryne-Dunn who presented: Empower Her Future in Sports. Bryne-Dunn is an Assistant Commissioner of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association, MIAA for short. She has a University of Michigan Bachelor degree in psychology and was close to the finish line when, in her last semester, she decided to completely switch her career focus. 

“I would rather change my path and feel passionate than feel stuck,” Bryne-Dunn said. 

It was scary when she realized she had been working towards something that felt like it would all go to waste but I think a lot of us are in the same position with uncertainty about the future. Choosing what you want to do for the rest of your life is a daunting task but Bryne-Dunn showed that being uncertain is okay. She attested to the fact that many people switch their majors or go into careers not specific to what they studied. When you make decisions it is not the end all be all, there is flexibility. 

In sports, people come from many different backgrounds and there is a great assortment of career paths revolving around sports. There really is something for everyone.

A vital part of getting a job you love, especially in the sports industry, is networking-

making connections with people who can help you throughout your career, in a give and take sort of fashion. Bryne-Dunn stressed the importance of networking and putting yourself out there. It’s important to build relationships and one great way to do that is volunteer work. 

“Some people think, ‘why would I volunteer and spend my time on something that I’m not getting paid for?’ But it can help you grow and in your career down the line” Bryne-Dunn said. 

Her experience with volunteering for Wayne State Baseball secured the career she holds now and has further provided connections between people in the sport. 

“Often men are like, ‘I’m just going to go for it’, but women tend to not apply to jobs if they don’t check all of the boxes” Bryne-Dunn said.  

If this event has taught you anything, let it be to take the shot-and just like Gerstner said earlier-you just might make it.


To wrap up we filtered back into the auditorium to hear the final keynote speaker Cheryl Angelelli. She was a highschool athlete and swimmer who incurred an accident during swim practice, learning a racing dive in the shallow end of a pool. When she dove, she jumped too high for the water depth and her head hit the bottom of the pool, paralyzing her instantly. 

“I was told I would need help doing everything. My life would never be ordinary again,” Angelelli said. 

Angelelli is now a paraplegic, paralyzed from the chest down. At first she struggled with this drastic life shift as anyone would; she would pray to God everyday to fix her body.

“God didn’t fix me because I wasn’t broken, He didn’t cure me because I wasn’t sick. The issue was my attitude,” Angelelli said. 

When looking at the Olympics, her dream that now seemed unachievable, she set a goal and her mindset completely flipped and she would not give up on life, or on swimming. She told herself that in four years she would be on the U.S. Paralympic swim team “standing” on the podium. 

Her goal was to be on the podium and she did just that. After four Paralympic games Angelelli retired from swimming with two bronze and two silver medals. At first it may appear that the medals for the Paralympics are the same as the Olympic ones but the back holds a surprise with braille imprinted there for visually impaired competitors. Along with medals, Angelelli also came home with a husband, who was her swim coach.

After her last paralympic games, Angelelli shifted her focus to another paralympic sport; wheelchair ballroom dancing.

“It has become my passion project. It is so different from swimming and it challenges me,” Angelelli said. 

She began ballroom dancing in 2015 and has traveled all over the world, mostly in Asia and Europe, because the sport is not very big in the United States… yet. In August of this year, there will be a wheelchair ballroom dancing competition in Dearborne, Michigan. One of the few to take place in the US and very close to home! Angelelli has made it her personal goal to grow awareness and recognition of the sport in America.

She even began a non-profit organization called Dance Mobility. Their motto is, “whether you walk through that door on two feet, or roll in on wheels, everybody can dance”. The organization wants to bring the joy of dancing to everyone with monthly group lessons or private lessons. It is for everyone and every occasion whether you are looking to go pro and compete or just for a friendly social outlet.

Were Angelelli’s doctors right when they told her she’d never have a normal life again? Yes.

“My life hasn’t been ordinary…it has been extraordinary,” Angelelli said.


Angelelli achieved so much that no one thought was possible since she became paralyzed. She is an inspiration and, if nothing else, the girls at EmpowerHer learned that just because it hasn’t been done before does not mean it is impossible so do not listen to the doubters.

These amazing womens’ stories are extremely important in inspiring the next generation of female athletes. We can find success stories anywhere online but the strength of these women washed over the audience at EmpowerHer truly connecting with the middle school and high school girls by telling their stories. The event taught confidence, balance and resilience and this is only the beginning. The girls at the first-ever EmpowerHer will take these skills with them in sports and the rest of their lives. If you missed it this year make sure to look out for the event in 2025 for a strengthening experience you will never forget and to see just how far EmpowerHer can go.


*The Olympics are widely known but what you may not know is the Paralympics and the Special Olympics.The Paralympics is a version of the Olympic games for people with physical disabilities to compete. It includes many of the same events you see in the Olympics but also includes unique sports like Goalball and wheelchair rugby. The Special Olympics is the same but for athletes that have mental disabilities. 

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Maggie Wehler
Maggie Wehler, Reporter
Maggie Wehler is currently a sophomore at Groves High School. She decided to take journalism because she wanted to discover if it was something she was interested in. She participates in soccer and marching band. Maggie likes taking pictures of the sky and any memories with her family that she loves to enjoy time with.
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