Be the change: Young Women LEAD celebrates milestone in Kentucky

Community News

Catlettsburg, Kentucky, Foundation

The national tour Young Women LEAD (YWL) celebrated its tenth anniversary in Ashland, Kentucky, in October, and organizers are already planning for this year’s conference. The live event that crosses the country is focused on inspiring and boosting the confidence and aspirations of high school-aged girls.

Employees from Marathon Petroleum Corporation’s (MPC) refinery in Catlettsburg, Kentucky, along with volunteers from the community once again took part in the event held at Ashland Community and Technical College (ACTC). The theme of the event was “Be the change,” and hundreds of teens from over a dozen area high schools in Kentucky, West Virginia and Ohio attended.

Hundreds of young women attended the Young Women LEAD event in Ashland, Kentucky.

“It was such a fantastic two days in Ashland as we marked our 10th year here,” said Amber Hudson, MPC YWL Breakout Speaker. “Over 6,000 girls have attended our event over the last decade, which is 6,000 opportunities to change a life, even if just for one day.”

The event featured keynote speaker Kate Gladdin, one of Australia's Top 100 Women of Influence, who travels the globe as a motivational speaker and has also authored numerous books for teens.

Keynote speaker Kate Gladdin shared an inspiring message to the young women at the event.
Students meet Kate Gladdin.

“If you walk away from here with one thing in mind it’s this: that even when you can’t find the good in what you're going through, you always have the power to create that good,” said Gladdin during her speech. “For you to be the good thing that happens in whatever circumstance it is you find yourself in, by stepping up and taking back control of the one thing, I promise this world can never take away from you. That is your power over your ‘response-ability’ to things, your ability to choose how you feel and how you respond to anything that happens to you.”

Attendees also met in smaller, interactive breakout sessions that focused on leadership, education and development (which stands for LEAD, as in Young Women LEAD) topics.

Students take part in breakout events during the two-day event in Ashland.

Marathon Petroleum has been a co-sponsor of the event since its inception and is an active participant in the planning and execution of the event. Volunteers help lead breakout sessions that cover a wide range of topics including careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

High school students from West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio filled the Ashland Community and Technical College.

“Every year this event seems to get bigger and better,” said Sheila Fraley, ESG and Stakeholder Engagement Representative at Marathon Petroleum. “So many young girls have taken part in this unique event over the years, and they leave feeling empowered and with what we hope is a renewed sense of confidence that they can do whatever it is they set their minds to.”

“Even when you can’t find the good in what you're going through, you always have the power to create that good.” - Kate Gladdin

By the end of the event, it was evident that the individuals who came through the doors uncertain of what the day would bring were leaving armed with newfound confidence in themselves and each other.

Student feedback

“It was just a really good experience to see all of these incredibly strong and successful women together.”

“The speakers were awesome. I feel a lot more motivated to become an engineer after listening to them.”

“I think more than anything, learning how to redirect our minds and not be so stressed and not to get so down on ourselves.”

“It was incredible if I’m being honest. Inspiring. I learned about being a mom and an entrepreneur.”


Preparations are underway for the event to be held again at ACTC in October.