COLLEGE OF THE CANYONS : Hundreds Attend Conference

More than 400 women converged on the College of the Canyons campus last weekend for the Santa Clarita Valley's sixth annual women's conference.

The conference, sponsored by the Santa Clarita Valley branches of the Zonta Club and American Assn. of University Women, featured two dozen workshops on topics ranging from financial management and starting your own business to health and handwriting analysis.

Women attending represented a variety of career fields. However, most seemed to want the same thing out of the daylong event--greater personal power.

"I kind of lost my identity when I married my husband," said Grace Stewart, 38, who recently returned to work as a secretary after 11 years. "Now, I'm just getting it back."

Stewart signed up for stress management and personal empowerment workshops.

Others at the conference sought a compromise between staying home and going to work.

"I've always worked," said Jami Kennedy, 43, who owns two businesses. "I want to be able to have the chance to stay home and do things. I think the overall message is to take care of yourself first."

David Viscott, talk-radio personality and television psychiatrist, gave the keynote speech. He advised women to avoid jobs with no personal growth and male bosses who thwart their development.

Viscott also challenged women to pursue the career they love the most, no matter how late they start, because he said that is where their talents lie.

To illustrate his claim, Viscott talked about his mother, who worked as a homemaker until she was 63 when an auto accident caused her to be wrapped in a body cast for six months.

During her hospital stay, Viscott said, his mother read all the Harvard University prerequisite books for a degree in social work. When she left the hospital, she applied for a job and was hired, with no experience, when she corrected her interviewer about an area of casework.

"It was energizing," Olga Zapata, a 32-year-old freshman student, said of Viscott's speech. "I'm not going to waste any time. I'm just going to go for it. I want to start my own business."

The conference attracted so many women that despite a waiting list of more than 60 names, several people appeared at the registration table hoping to be admitted.

"We had to turn people away," one volunteer said. "A couple were in tears."

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