Sye-Women's Summit

Houston teacher leaves NFL Women’s Summit empowered

By Sye Bennefield
Reporting from Houston

One after another they stepped on stage at the NFL Women’s Summit fully expecting to change lives.

United States Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee infused ideas of empowerment, character, and camaraderie.

Disability Inclusion Leader Haben Girma spoke of the daily difficulties she faces by being both blind and deaf, but quickly reminded the audience of how she prevails and lives her life how she sees fit.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner reminded the few men in attendance to continue to demonstrate their appreciation, respect and support for women in various fields and levels. His daughter Ashley, 30, returned the favor by talking about the role of a father and how they can breathe both encouragement and confidence in their daughters.

Houston Texans Defensive End Devon Still and his daughter Leah arguably stole the show. Together, they spoke of the importance of being grateful for good health, family and most importantly, Barbies.

“One time we were playing Barbies and my dad had a crazy voice,” said Leah.

As the audience erupted in laughter at the thought of the 6’5″, 305-pound Devon playing Barbies, Leah quickly added, “It was kind of like a girl voice, but it was kind of not good.”

Their message deeply resonated with the audience, especially Houston native Andrea Hudson, a teacher at North Forest High School.

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It is remarkable to see that just a little while ago she was fighting for her life and now she’s just in here sharing her story,” said Hudson.With the help of Congresswoman Jackson Lee and North Forest Principal Richard Fernandez, Hudson and three girls had the opportunity to listen and benefit.

“I just felt empowered by her willingness to do it. I don’t even think she really realizes what she’s doing for people everywhere.”

It wasn’t by chance that these six individuals and various other guest speakers, coaches, professional athletes and entertainers were on hand in the same location.

For the second year in a row, the NFL hosted the NFL Women’s Summit, an interactive event for both teen girls and adults alike to draw inspiration and learn from others.

250 Houston-area teen girls and their chaperones were in attendance during the two-day event on Feb. 3 and 4.

Hudson took this opportunity to further her bond with her students, personally instructing them on the benefit of a mentor.

“For me as a teacher I sat here with my girls and while we were doing the break I just kind of talked to them about mentorship,” said Hudson.

“I ask them, do you have mentor? Is there anybody in your life that you can go to and talk to about anything, they don’t judge you, [or] you can trust them with your most treasured secrets or deepest fears?”

The majority of her students answered yes, but one girl answered no. This brought Hudson to share her own personal story about mentorship with the girls.

“I just shared that I do have mentor,” said Hudson. “Now that I think about it, there are people in my life that are like that. So, I just kind of encourage them to find a mentor.”

Many of the teenage girls, along with the adults who accompanied them, said The NFL Women’s Summit left them with a sense of empowerment and belief in themselves. This included Hudson.

The only thing Hudson said she’d regrets about the two-day event was not bringing her own daughter, she now sees the benefit it could have brought her.

“I really wish my daughter could have been here,” said Hudson.

“She just recently graduated from college and when you take that big step and you’re getting ready to jump into the world and do whatever it is you’re going to do you just need somebody pushing you upward.”

Photo at top: Women’s Summit participants celebrate as they receive free T-shirts. (Sye Bennefield/MEDILL)