The Louisiana Girls Leadership Academy hosted its 10th dinner to commemorate the ending of another successful year on Wednesday night.

This year, the program enrolled a record number of 54 girls from ninth to 12th grades who attended the academy. Previous years, the number of girls participating in the program was between 48 and 50.

Gov. John Bel Edwards was among the attendees, as well as Dr. Rebekah Gee, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, Nicholls State University President Jay Clune and Lafourche Parish Council Chairwoman Luci Sposito.

The academy is a program sponsored by the Louisiana Center for Women in Government and Business, a nonprofit organization that is "dedicated to empowering women and promoting female involvement," according to its website.

Edwards talked about how the girls who participated in the program will remember what they learned years down the road and will find the program useful.

"I encourage you to set your goals and chase your dreams," he said. "You can accomplish anything you want to accomplish, as we see it happening all over the country with women involved in business, philanthropy and politics."

Clune talked about the power of women. 

"I grew up with three sisters, and I had a male dog. I have two daughters and I have a male dog," he said. "I learned the power of women early in life."

Gee, who noted she is a proud mother of five, said people told her it would be hard to balance her family with the position she was interviewing for. 

"It is tough as a mom to leave your kids and be away from home a lot," she said. "But I knew that if I didn't do it, that when they got an opportunity, they might get some advice that they couldn't do it. So I had to do it to show them that you can be a mom and you can have a big job."

Sposito's advice to the girls was "even if you are afraid, do it anyway. Because if you believe something isn't right, don't wait for someone else to fix it, do it anyway."

The program concluded with some of the girls presenting speeches as to why they should be elected to be next year's program ambassador, which would grant them the opportunity to lead the girls who are selected.

Edwards said higher education is synonymous with success, and he will continue working for girls to be able to stay in Louisiana to get a great higher education and lead a successful professional life. 

"Today, a high school education is no longer a path to be part of the middle class," he said. "If you chose to go somewhere else, I hope you are successful. But if you ever feel like you have to go somewhere else to chase your dreams, we have failed you, and we should never fail you in that way."

Staff Writer Andrea Mujica can be reached at 857-1148 or amujica@houmatoday.com. Follow her on twitter @CationM.