Aline Carambat / Houma Courier

In 2002, Smart was 14 years old when she was abducted from her family's Salt Lake City home and held captive for nine months while she was raped and tortured.

Smart is now an author and an advocate for change related to child abduction, victim recovery programs and child protection laws.

'Elizabeth Smart's profound life experience will provide evidence that young girls can be stronger than they would ever imagine,' said Brandie Toups, Louisiana Girls Leadership Academy chairwoman.

The Louisiana Girls Leadership Academy is a four-day intensive program designed to help high school girls, grades 9-11, become leaders in their communities. The program has chosen 50 applicants from all over the state to attend the program June 8-11.

Smart's talk will be at 3 p.m. June 11 during the program's closing ceremony that begins at 2:30 p.m. with refreshments in Nicholls' Cotillion Ballroom in the Student Union.

'Elizabeth truly embodies the message that we are trying to send these girls that they are powerful, capable and persevering,' Toups said.

Other speakers at the academy include Alexis Jones, public speaker, media personality, activist and author of 'I Am That Girl'; New Orleans businesswoman Simone Bruni, owner of Demo Diva Demolition; Scott Angelle, Louisiana Public Service commissioner; Eric Skrmetta, chairman of the Louisiana Public Service Commission; Bear Badeaux, actor and improvisation veteran and co-founder of Southern Rivers Productions; and Crystal Rivers, actress and co-founder of Southern Rivers Productions.

Program participants will also share the creative service projects they develop at the academy. This year's themes are energy and environmental issues.

'Some girls will work in groups of about five or six and create a PowerPoint presentation. Some will do skits, and we've even had some create websites or iPhone apps,' Toups said.

The projects, which can be brought back to the girls' home schools, will be judged during the closing ceremony, and the first place winner will receive a trophy.

Tickets to the Louisiana Girls Leadership Academy closing ceremony are $25 and can be purchased by calling 448-4770 or by visiting

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