The Junior League of Tyler held its annual Girl Power event Saturday at the UT Tyler University Center featuring an Olympic medalist.

The free event aimed to help sixth-grade girls in Smith County focus on empowerment, self-care, mental health and civic engagement, according to organizers. The event also helped equip young women with the tools necessary to become successful, civically engaged women.

Event committee member Katherine Bailey said the event benefits young girls in a big way.

“They are going through so many changes, and are trying to understand the directions they are growing physically and mentally,” she said. “It is extremely important to focus on our next generations and give them the tools they need to be successful.”

Olympic swimmer Natalie Hinds was the event’s keynote speaker.

Hinds, a Texas native, committed to the University of Florida and graduated as a 20-time All-American sprint specialist.

In 2015, Hinds made history alongside Lia Neal and Simone Manuel, becoming the first trio of Black swimmers to go first, second and third in a single event at the NCAA Championships.

Hinds competed in the 2016 Olympic Trials, followed by a brief retirement before coming back in 2018. She then qualified for the 2020 Olympic Games where she won a bronze medal.

Members of the community also offered sessions featuring topics such as self-defense, yoga, mental health, internet safety, self-esteem and more.

Bailey said the Junior League of Tyler is committed and focused to giving back to the community.

“The Junior League of Tyler focuses on giving back to the community through providing money back to the community and empower young women to grow up to be future philanthropists,” she said. “We are so happy the community has supported us to give these girls an amazing event and could not be happier to give back.”

The Junior League of Tyler is an organization of women committed to promoting volunteerism, developing potential and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers, according to the group.

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Multimedia journalist Jessica Payne covers several counties in East Texas. In 2011, she left her hometown Houston for East Texas. In 2016, she left the 9-5 office routine to pursue a passion for sharing inspiring stories and engaging with the community.