Rising Sun High students attend women’s conference
— For Rising Sun High School teacher Ann Marie Robinson, the fifth time’s the charm.
After five years of applying for scholarships to the Pennsylvania Conference for Women, Robinson received 18 scholarships this year, allowing her and another chaperone to take 16 RSHS girls to Philadelphia for the annual conference, which regularly attracts more than 8,000 people.
During the one-day conference earlier this month, the students got to hear from speakers such as soccer star Abby Wambach, actress Mindy Kaling, Annie Clark, a campus activist against sexual assault, and Anita Hill, best known for her role in the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation hearings.
“I just figured it was a really empowering kind of experience for young women especially with everything going on politically and all the messages out there,” Robinson said. “It was meant to empower the girls to speak up and speak out.”
All the students who attended were recommended by teachers based both on their academics and their leadership skills. For Sara Campana, a RSHS junior who attended the conference, the highlight was a breakout session conducted by “I Am That Girl,” a national organization that works to increase women
empowerment. During the session, various people got up and anonymously shared their life stories.
“It was just really nice to hear people’s stories and understand that most people are privileged more than others,” she said. “You think your life’s hard but then you hear other people’s stories and realize that their life is a lot harder than yours.”
Another highlight for Campana was getting to meet Wambach. Campana didn’t know Wambach would be at the conference until the group arrived, but once she found out Wambach was doing a book signing, she decided to get in line even though she didn’t have Wambach’s book.
The women in charge of the line allowed Campana and her friend to have Wambach sign their programs though, she said. While she didn’t exchange much more than a quick “hello” with the soccer player, Campana said the experience was still “amazing.”
For Kaitlyn Szekerczes, another RSHS junior who attended the conference, the best part was the opening speech given by Adam Grant, the youngest tenured professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
“He kept making a bunch of jokes and everything he said was like ‘Oh, that’s true’ but it also related in a more deep way,” she said.
Both Campana and Szekerczes said the conference made them think a lot about equality and fairness and how no one is better than anyone else. And despite getting up at 4 a.m. that morning to catch a train to the conference, both the students and teachers who attended left the conference feeling energized.
“I didn’t know what I’d think about it. I thought it sounded kind of strange,” Szekerczes said. “But I went and it was so much fun and everything they said was so eye-opening.”
Robinson hopes to continue the conference trips in the future and is pleased her students walked away from the conference feeling empowered.
“That’s what I was hoping for,” she said. “It’s important that (the students) feel that way. I firmly believe that they have to feel like they can do anything.”
Sixteen Rising Sun High School students and two chaperones received scholarships to attend the Pennsylvania Conference for Women earlier this month.