Ris­ing Sun High stu­dents at­tend women’s con­fer­ence

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By JES­SICA IANNETTA

jian­netta@ce­cil­whig.com

— 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

PHILADELPHIA

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.”

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF ANN MARIE ROBIN­SON

Six­teen Ris­ing Sun High School stu­dents and two chap­er­ones re­ceived schol­ar­ships to at­tend the Penn­syl­va­nia Con­fer­ence for Women ear­lier this month.

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