Stand Up and Be Heard

by Samantha Foster

A local counselor helps young women let their voices be heard.

Empowering women with effective communication techniques should begin at a young age, so they know how to respond when they feel they are not being listened to in a situation. That is exactly the goal Nancy Anderson of Morton has in mind for her communication workshops.

Anderson, a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) and Certified Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Counselor (CADC), is working to integrate these workshops, directed toward junior high-aged girls, into afterschool youth programs at area churches and schools. Her workshops focus on teaching girls the skills and techniques to get their voices heard—both inside and outside the workplace—exposing them to alternate presentation styles and effective framing of ideas. Various simulations show the ways these scenes typically play out—with a woman being ignored or not knowing how to stand up for herself—followed by a range of suggested responses to turn the conversation around and regain control of the situation.

Inspired after reading an article posted on Facebook regarding the communication styles of women in the workplace, Anderson began thinking of ways she could help. She decided the issue needs to be addressed while these women were still young. “Junior high-aged girls are my target because they are young enough that they are still forming,” she explains. “If they can develop these skills while they are still young, [they] will become a more natural part of life and carry on through the years.”

Anderson’s dream of helping young women gain lifelong skills was recently recognized by Royal Neighbors of America, one of the nation’s largest women-led life insurers. Founded more than a century ago and headquartered in Rock Island, Royal Neighbors has given more than $1.5 million to nearly 1,200 families and individuals to reach their goals and rebuild their lives through its Nation of Neighbors grant program. At an event held at the Country Club of Peoria in October, the organization surprised Anderson with a $5,000 grant to implement her workshops through the program.

The Nation of Neighbors program was created in 2007 when Royal Neighbors decided to take its community involvement to the next level. When a woman purchases insurance from Royal Neighbors, she becomes a member of the local chapter. Members are able to nominate people for the grant program who have a dream of making a change in the community to empower women. They must explain how these individuals are passionate for what they are doing, what they hope to accomplish with the grant money, and how they plan to pay it forward. An independent panel of judges comprised of members, past grant recipients and other nonprofit professionals selects those who will receive the grants, which range from $500 to $5,000.

“Nancy wants to host workshops and talk to young women who really are looking to gain the communication skills to stand up and be heard,” says Rita Toalson of Royal Neighbors. “This is so important for women these days—especially young women.”

Through this grant, Anderson hopes to go live with the workshops in early 2015. She says the money will enable more programs than initially anticipated, as well as helping to purchase supplies for interactive activities. She also hopes to offer gas cards to bring in graduate students to help with the workshops. Volunteers are needed to help with the simulations and keep the groups organized and on task. “My main goal,” Anderson says, “is to get the word out about this problem and have more opportunities for young girls to learn these communications skills.” iBi

For more information, visit or call (309) 573-4580.