Former First Lady Michelle Obama stopped by the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House to welcome students and help kick off the first annual Young Women’s Leadership Conference: Leadership Lessons Learned through
the Arts. The program, produced by the nonprofit AT&T Performing Arts Center, included 150 young women from nine North Texas high schools and organizations who – thanks to donors and underwriting – participated free of charge.

Mrs. Obama spoke briefly to the full group. She also spent time with a small group of students during one of the conference’s breakout sessions, moderated by business executive Matrice Ellis-Kirk, Chair of the Center’s Board of Directors.

The girls had all received a signed copy of Mrs. Obama’s new memoir Becoming and are attending her engagement at the American Airlines Center this evening.

Mrs. Obama previously visited the Winspear Opera House in March for “A Conversation with Former First Lady Michelle Obama” as part of #hearhere, the Center’s popular speaker series.

“These young women have been studying Mrs. Obama’s book in advance of the conference but did not know she would show up here in person, so you can imagine the excitement,” said Debbie Storey, interim president and CEO of the
AT&T Performing Arts Center.

“This conference leverages the arts to build creativity, improve educational outcomes and develop strong leaders. Having Mrs. Obama share her lessons on leadership was really one of the highlights of the day!”

The day-long program included a Women in Leadership Panel which featured Pat Smith, Founder & CEO of Pat Smith Enterprises; Matrice Ellis-Kirk, Dallas Managing Director of RSR Partners and Chair of the Center’s Board of Directors; Denise Lee, award-winning actress and singer; and was moderated by Debbie Storey, Interim President and CEO of AT&T Performing Arts Center.

The young women also participated in three breakout sessions, including Leadership Lessons Learned through Improvisation with Amanda Austin; The Art of Storytelling with actress Liz Mikel; and Effective Communication through the Voice and Body with Jenni Steck.

Participating schools and student groups include David W. Carter High School; The Hockaday School; Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School; L.G. Pinkston High School; Ursuline Academy of Dallas; Qalam Academy; Young Women’s Leadership Academy at Bill Arnold Grand Prairie; Young Women’s Leadership Academy Fort Worth; and The Links, Inc.

The conference was made possible by the generosity of underwriters Fossil Group, Lyda Hill and Lynn McBee. Additional support was provided by Vicki Blanton, Debra Hunter Johnson, Jill B. Louis, Mark Malveux, Lisa Montgomery and Regina Montoya.

The annual conference is now the newest of the Center’s education and community engagement initiatives, which include Open Stages, where students visit the Center for shows and educational experiences; Backstage Spotlight, where students learn technical theatre skills and build a professional portfolio; Community Partners, which provides free tickets to underserved individuals and families; Disney Musicals in Schools, where Dallas ISD elementary schools produce a Disney musical; and ArtsBridge – Powered by Toyota, which connects West Dallas residents with cultural experiences both within their community and at the Center. All of this is made possible by generous donors and sponsors.

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