Suzy Merchant talks with a studentSuzy Merchant, Michigan State University women’s basketball coach, has joined forces with the Eli Broad College of Business to develop the EmpowHER retreat April 29–30 for fifth through ninth grade girls.

EmpowHER was developed to provide girls from all backgrounds with the tools to find confidence, passion, and purpose, with interactive workshops that nurture skills in leadership, resiliency, relationship building, and more.

Merchant was inspired to develop the retreat after a talented young woman she was recruiting as a college basketball player chose to end her own life.

“I’m still shook up about it,” said Merchant. “I didn’t understand what could be so bad, what could be so hard in her life that she would make this decision.”

As she wrestled with the experience, she noticed other young people having difficulty handling obstacles—“and I wanted to make a change. I wanted to do something here in our community that gives back, gives back to our young kids, particularly our young females.”

Merchant contacted Kristin St. Marie, assistant director of Broad Executive Development Programs (EDP), in January for assistance in developing the retreat. Since EDP partners with MSU coaches like Merchant to produce the Building Winning Teams program, EDP seemed like a good fit to support her vision for EmpowHER as well.

“We felt this was a great extension of the women’s initiatives and programs that EDP and the college offer,” said St. Marie.

The retreat features a keynote by former US Army Black Hawk pilot Elizabeth McCormick and interactive workshops on such topics as handling cyber bullying and building a positive self-image on social media, setting boundaries and handling unfriendly classmates, self-care, and yoga.

“We want to build workshops and opportunities for them, and skill sets that, when they leave here, that they feel better about themselves, who they are, what they’re about, they have the skill sets they need to handle some of the challenges they face in today’s times with social media and pressures at school,” said Merchant.

This year’s program will host 150 fifth through ninth grade girls. Registration is $25 and open now. Questions can be directed to 517-353-2169.