WESTPORT — A leadership summit aims to improve self-esteem among local girls in grades five to eight.

“All things start with self-esteem. Having an inner core of self-esteem allows you to go out and have a positive impact on the world,” said New Canaan resident Sheri West, founder of LiveGirl, the organization facilitating the April 23 “Live Your True Self” leadership summit.

The free event will take place at the Toquet Hall Center from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in partnership with Westport Youth Services. Pizza is included.

“Self-esteem is important and lays a good foundation for leadership and personal development in other areas,” Westport Youth Services Program Director Kevin Godburn said of his motivation to pilot a LiveGirl workshop in Westport.

With its mission of leadership development and empowerment for middle school girls, LiveGirl offers after-school programs, monthly leadership summits and a summer camp in communities across Fairfield County. The four pillars of LiveGirl’s leadership model are to live your true self, live brave, live kind and live your power, West said. Westport’s summit will focus on the first pillar.

“Our goal is to pay it forward and prepare the next generation of female leaders with social and emotional health and self-esteem,” West said. For girls to be equipped with the skills to take on leadership opportunities in high school, they first need to be taught to lead themselves in the middle school years, she said.

More Information

LiveGirl Leadership Summit: April 23 from 3:30 to 5 p.m. at Toquet Hall Teen Center. For local girls in grades five to eight. Free with pizza provided.

Register at www.golivegirl.com/leadership-summits

“Research from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and other sources tells us there seems to be an epidemic of self-doubt in girls today. During the teen rates, we’ve seen skyrocketing rates of anxiety, eating disorder and depression,” West said. Social media platforms that surround girls with unachievable images of perfection have made girls especially vulnerable, she said.

Surveys of students and parents reveal pressure, stress and anxiety is high among Westport’s youth due to the competitive environment, Godburn said, adding issues with self-esteem are often embedded within anxiety.

The summit still has open spots, Godburn said, and if the event goes well his department may add an after school LiveGirl program in the fall. “If you give kids and families the tools and resources to manage themselves and live well, then you’re going to create a healthier community overall,” Godburn said.

svaughan@

hearstmediact.com; 203-842-2638; @SophieCVaughan1