Healthy, Happy and Whole: A Conference to Empower Young Women Hosted by Liberty Hall Museum and Kean University

UNION, N.J. – Liberty Hall Museum and Kean University will host a conference, Happy Healthy and Whole: A Conference to Empower Young Women, on Friday, May 20 from 9:00 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.  The event is a  one-day seminar for teenage girls discussing topics of body image, self-esteem, fashion/beauty in the media, eating disorders/nutrition/fitness, bullying/peer pressure and yoga/meditation for stress management.

The conference will gather 120 high school girls selected by their schools for their achievements and leadership roles in and outside of the classroom.  The students serve in their respective communities as student ambassadors, members of student government, peer leaders or outstanding scholar/athletes.  With the guidance of conference facilitators, the attendees will learn about these issues to both empower themselves and to take their knowledge back to other young women in their communities.  Each student will receive a certificate for their participation in this program as well as a training kit of tools so they can host their own mini-empowerment workshops for middle school girls.

“While doing research for a Liberty Hall exhibit, we came across a Christian Dior quote where he declared anything over a 17 inch waistline to be ‘repulsive’,” said Susan Garino, Liberty Hall Museum’s coordinator of historic structures and coordinator of the event.  “Many dresses from the Victorian era required women to deform their bodies with corsets to achieve the fashionable silhouette of the day.  A public policy program on fashion, beauty, image and how these ideas are communicated to today’s young women seemed like a responsible and positive community program.”

The facilitators will include Dr. Lori R. Ippolito, who has served with distinction as Clinical Director of the Philmore Associates since 1983.  She specializes in the clinical treatment of anxiety and stress disorders.  She will address self-esteem issues at the conference.  Dr. Ippolito has received numerous awards, including the prestigious United States Congressional Achievement Award, the Women of Achievement Award by the New Jersey General Assembly and the nomination for the National Labor Committee's Lewis Hines Award for outstanding professional work with children and families.

Roni Benson will discuss peer pressure and bullying.  Benson has co-authored the anti-bullying books Bully Frog, winner of the 2004 National Legacy Book Award and Forlorn Frog’s Fantastic Valentine’s Day, which emphasizes girl-bullying and social and relational aggression. Benson also serves as co-director of LIPEN, a New York-based professional education network. National and international radio and television programs turn to her as an expert on parenting and youth related issues. She has been featured on NBC, ABC, CBS and News 12 television on the topic of bullying and cyberbullying.

The area of nutrition will be covered by Penny Cappuccino, registered dietitian at Trinitas Hospital in Elizabeth.  Yoga and meditation workshops will be conducted by Ms. Garino, who will also lead the discussion and demonstration of media coverage of body-imaging for women.  Garino will explore the subliminal messaging that ads give to young girls and why advertising is crafted as such.  She will demonstrate image photo-shopping.

“We will show that what see in certain print advertisements has no basis in reality,” said Garino.  “We have some dramatic video of before and after photo shop images of celebrities that I think will really make an impact, as well as dramatic photo-shop manipulation of a plus size model down to a very skinny runway model.”  The point is to make the young women aware of what they are seeing, and to look at things with a more critical eye so that they understand and direct their reactions to such imagery.

The conference will take place in Kean University’s newly constructed environmentally “green” Science and Technology (STEM) Building, a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified (LEED) academic facility on Kean University’s east campus.   For further information, contact Susan Garino at 908-527-0400 or

Paul Whelihan
April 25, 2011

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