Woodford house


First On-Campus Shine Workshop a Smashing Success

On Friday 7 August, Woodford House girls welcomed Shine Mentors and internationally recognised talents – musician Amanda Palmer, author Catherine Robertson, lawyer Mihi Sorensen and financial expert Sheila Patel – to their first on-campus Shine workshop.


Stage Mentors from left to right: Amanda Palmer, Sheila Patel, Mihi Sorensen and Catherine Robertson

Wait. What? Handling the Heart Stoppers – Stories from the Stage Mentors
Catherine, Shine Workshop Director and best-selling novelist, moderated the conversation. The girls heard their mentors’ personal stories of heart-stopping situations.

  • Catherine talked about being unfairly fired from an advertising agency while in her twenties. Her initial response was tears and devastation. With the help of friends, she decided to stand her ground, sought legal action and received financial compensation and an apology.
  • Mihi recounted being told that as a Māori woman, she should not expect to complete her studies within the normal timeframe. Well supported by her family, Mihi chose to ignore that counselor’s advice and proceeded to complete her double major in record time.
  • Sheila told about an exit interview with the big boss, who proceeded to tell her she would fail at the other firm and that they only hired her because she was a woman. Sheila did not respond, the man continued to talk, and revealed information that allowed her to conclude the conversation in a satisfying manner.
  • Amanda shared how an executive at her record label wanted to edit out the scenes of her midriff from her music video because he and his team deemed those shots unattractive. Amanda gave in, which she regrets, but shared her important lesson: one does not have to agree with the opponent’s framing of the argument. On reflection, she told the girls that when faced with that situation, she should have said “This is my work, I am happy with it, and we are not going to have an argument about the shape of my body.”

More than 20 Hawke’s Bay Women Joined as Shine Breakout Mentors 
Following the stage conversation, the girls formed breakout groups of five girls plus one Shine Mentor to discuss the key learnings from each of these experiences. The small group size was made possible with the overwhelming support of local Shine Mentors. During the breakout session, more stories were shared and each group summarised what they had learned through this narrative process. The key Shine Strengths were courage, communication and confidence. The groups came back together for a stage discussion reviewing the valuable insights and take aways from the workshop. Amanda brought the programme to a close with her song “In My Mind”, the last line of which perfectly captures the Shine ethos: I am exactly the person that I want to be.

A Closing Reception, with Business Cards for Every Girl
The girls and staff participants mingled with the Shine Mentors over cordial and healthy snacks. The buzz was positively contagious. The girls were each given a set of business cards to exchange with mentors with whom they wanted to stay in contact. The feedback from the mentors was equally strong – they were thoroughly impressed with the girls and their enthusiasm for learning about life beyond school.

Gratitude from the Girls
Girls were amazed that so many women had volunteered their time and shared such personal stories, in order to help them understand the strengths that all girls have and how to use them in heart-stopping situations. We are so fortunate to have extraordinary women such as Catherine, Mihi, Sheila and Amanda in our Shine Mentor network. A special thank you to our Shine Breakout Mentors: Ali Evers Swindell, Ana Ward, Anna Jepson, Benita Douglas, Brigid Plowman, Bron Thorp, Claire Ladbrook, Clare Gordon, Connie Cawood, Helen Jones, Hester Guy, Inés Chaplin, Jules Nowell-Usticke, Juliet Hansen, Kim Davis, Liv Reynolds, Maggie Lewis, Mary Massara, Roz Mexted, Sarah Till, Vicky Roebuck and Wendy Nowell-Usticke.

More Shine to Come
The Wait. What? workshop continues the momentum established by our pilot workshop – What Went Wrong | What Happened Next which was held over Zoom during lockdown. That workshop focused on the Shine Strengths of adaptability, perseverance and resilience. Two optional, evening masterclasses with Shine Mentors followed: Stick To It and The Art of the Pivot. Masterclasses are designed to dive more deeply into what was discovered in the workshops. In the coming weeks, two masterclasses will be held to further explore the strategies that girls can employ in heart-stopping situations: Stand Your Ground, and Move On.

We continue to reach out to our community with more Shine activity. Any questions or ideas can be sent to shine@woodford.school.nz