JASPER — On International Women’s Day, 500 high school girl students throughout Southern Indiana attended and participated in the Young Women LEAD (Leadership, Education and Development) conference held at VUJC.

For 11 years, the Young Women LEAD organization has held this conference in Jasper, with a focus on building confidence and leadership skills for young women in high school.

This year’s keynote speaker was Amberley Snyder, a professional barrel racer from Utah who became paralyzed after a car accident but has continued to work hard to achieve her dreams and goals. Snyder gave an inspiring and motivational speech to the group of young women.

She wanted the young women to be willing to be a hero and to know that they have the ability to change someone’s life.

“Don’t ever forget the power that you have, within yourself,” said Snyder.

When she became paralyzed, she was given a choice of either allowing this obstacle to hold her down, define who she was or allow it to give her a platform and to do more than she did before, to double the power she has.

Syner highlighted that everyone has challenges, and inspired the group of young women to use their challenges to double their power and become someone greater than who they are today.

Snyder has been riding horses since she was three years old and competing in rodeos since she was seven.

In the world of rodeo, she won the All-Around Cowgirl World Championship. She also served as the Utah FFA President during her senior year of high school.

At 18 years old, she was driving from Utah to Colorado. After stopping at a gas station, Snyder says she then made a decision that changed her entire life. Her stomach was hurting, so she decided to not buckle her seat belt.

She looked at her map while driving, and looked up to see she had traveled into the other lane. At 75 MPH, she overcorrected and her truck rolled over, ejecting her from the truck and landing into a fence post.

This accident left her paralyzed from the waist down. During her first day of therapy, she was asked by a nurse what goals were. Snyder said they were to walk, ride and rodeo.

She said everything was hard to do at first, even the smaller act of brushing her hair. Over time, she has gotten leg braces, a standing frame, a trackchair (all-terrain wheelchair), and is learning how to walk in ReWalk Robotic legs.

She has learned to appreciate the little moments and goals she has accomplished, and that there are things along the way that are worth celebrating. One of her favorite discoveries was that she was able to pull herself up into the saddle by grabbing the saddle horn and the ladder of her horse trailer.

Snyder pointed out that she has had difficulties and frustrations adjusting to the differences in her life. But she has learned to keep going and to make the love you have for something be bigger than everything else.

Today, she is able to ride and compete in barrel racing with modifications to her saddle. These modifications include a seatbelt on her saddle, velcro around her legs, her feet rubber banded in, a nylon strap across her hips and a seat similar to the one in her wheelchair.

Snyder received an undergraduate degree in agriculture education and a Masters in school counseling from Utah State.

Throughout her talk, she had the students be involved, having them come up on stage for interactive activities. She asked students to pick one of three different items or obstacles out of a bag. Comparing them to obstacles that are drawn from life, and how we can choose how to react to those obstacles.

After the keynote speaker concluded, the students traveled to different classrooms on the Vincennes University Jasper Campus. These breakout sessions were led by women leaders throughout Dubois County and surrounding counties.

The presenters led interactive and informational discussions on subjects ranging from career choices, mental health resources, confidence building, self defense, and much more.

All breakout sessions focused on the conference theme of “The World is Yours.”

While the Young Women LEAD conference travels throughout the nation, local leaders are involved in the mission of the organization and planning of the event.

According to a press release for the conference, This year’s SOAR participants and conference steering committee included Brandy Nord, April Welp, and Tina Dalrymple with Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center, Samantha Knies with Kimball Electronics, Angie Troutt with Kimball International, Kristin Schroering with Jasper Engines and Transmissions, Tina Ziegelgruber with German American Bank, and LaDonna Watson with MasterBrand.

Young Women LEAD is also supported by a local Advisory Council composed of Jasper area women. The Young Women LEAD Advisory Council members include Dana Coultas, Kimbra Gunselman, Sue Habig, Jill Kidwell, Danielle Moya, Brandy Nord, Donna Oeding, Sara Schmidt and Jen Verkamp.

In the press release, Brandy Nord, project manager for the Young Women LEAD Conference shared, “I am so very proud to be a part of this organization that recognizes the need to support and develop our youth, to help them learn the potential they possess and how to develop it. This conference and Young Women LEAD are helping to ensure that there are generations of strong women leaders in our future.”