BETTENDORF, Iowa – Madison Keys is usually known for her big serve and having one of the most powerful forehands in tennis. Now, the Rock Island native returns back home to host the third annual “FearlesslyGIRL” conference.
The event’s purpose is for girls to support girls; something the US Open tennis star knows all about.
“It’s just kind of like you are a big sister to all these girls in the room,” Keys explains.
Keys is now working with the “FearlesslyGIRL” team to spread words of boosting self-esteem and eliminating bullying among young women.
See WQAD's one-on-one interview with Madison Keys below.
“I don’t think teachers, parents, and adults in the situation are realizing – especially with the online bullying – it’s something that they never dealt with,” reminds Keys.
“Girls are going through a lot, self-esteem is definitely down, especially at my school,” says student, Armonni Parks.
At the conference, girls are learning to stand up to bullies. They started by revealing their fears to the people they may fear the most – their peers.
“I heard some of the girls say “I am so scared right now”, but they still went up there and they still read it,” says Kate Whitfield, “FearlesslyGIRL” founder.
By the end of the conference, the room of more than 1,000 young women quickly became a safe space.
“They know this is a place that no one is going to judge you, where you are among friends. You’re with people who want to see you grow,” says event speaker, Dre Brown.
The young women can now to grow with friends who will support them in the future, thanks to inspirational people like Keys.
“I don’t think words can describe how it feels to someone who came from where you are from, and you know they made it somewhere you can go,” Parks says.
It all starts with girls supporting girls.
“We can help each other, we need each other to get through these tough times,” comments Keys.
The conference has dramatically grown the past three years - 300 attended last year to more than a thousand this year.
The event was streamed to thousands of other students in schools across the country.