EPIC Women’s Conference returns

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LaShunda Leslie-Smith is gearing up again to help women realize their potential. This week, she hopes to inspire more than 200 women to invest in themselves.

Leslie-Smith will host the biannual EPIC Women’s Conference at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center Aug.18-19. The two-day series of workshops is a “whole-life conference” that is expected to draw hundreds of women from all over the region, officials say. The themes of the conference are esteem, passion, inspiration and courage.

“The reason I developed this conference is because I do believe it’s important for us as women, as individuals, to really invest in ourselves,” Leslie-Smith says. “Not just for our job, but really exploring opportunities to learn more about the things we’re passionate about.”

The conference’s vision is: “We envision a world in which all women regardless of race, ethnicity, income level, or social status, are nurtured and empowered to reach their fullest potential.”

LaShunda Leslie-Smith
(Images courtesy of EPIC)

EPIC offers workshops on professional development, spirituality and lifestyle. Industry leaders and professionals, including Leslie-Smith, Pastor Amanda Williams and Pastor Darla Edlin, will present keynotes and 22 workshops over the two days. Topics include the art of networking, getting started in real estate, parenting and various sessions on spirituality. Attendees will have the opportunity to visit an exhibit hall featuring local and women-owned businesses. 

For Leslie-Smith, building up comes naturally. As executive director of Connected Communities, a public/private partnership, she is focused on developing the EMMA and Beechwood neighborhoods through a community-based approach to break the cycle of poverty. 

EPIC is yet another passion project for Leslie-Smith, in addition to her involvement in the Rochester community. She took her learnings, as a teenage mother and a first-generation college student who eventually earned a doctorate, to develop the conference and encourage other women to move forward with courage. 

Nearly 250 women attended the conference in its inaugural year in 2018. When the pandemic took the event online, some 100 joined. 

Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected]

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