Published March 7, 2019
Amherst Central High School and the Graduate School of Education are teaming up on March 8 for what may be the first-ever celebration in a Western New York school of International Women’s Day. The celebration will feature school-wide events and “learn-in/tech-in” sessions to raise awareness of women’s issues among all students.
The motto for the day is “Be informed. Be inspired.”
The event, which organizers believe is the first of its kind at a Western New York secondary school, will take place during the school’s three lunch periods. It will include seminars and activities for all students on three themes affecting women locally, nationally and throughout the world. The program follows a week-long lead-up of announcements and flyers to raise awareness of women’s issues and struggles for equality around the world.
The three themes, which were identified through discussions with the young women in the school, are media, STEM/health and politics. Each lunch period will focus on one of the identified themes, and each discussion will be followed by a hands-on activity.
The event was organized by Sarah A. Robert, associate professor in the Graduate School of Education and director of the Teaching and Leading for Diversity program. Robert was asked to get involved by Nancy Ables, assistant principal of Amherst Central High School.
Invited to present are Noemi Waight, UB assistant professor of learning and instruction, who will discuss STEM/health; Eileen Buckley, senior reporter at WBFO-FM, who will speak on the media; and Ana Luisa Muñoz García, assistant professor of curriculum, technology and evaluation at Pontifícia Universidad Católica de Chile, who will discuss politics.
Also involved in the planning was Qinghua Chen, a UB doctoral candidate and student in Robert’s course on Intersectionality, Inequality and Education.
“I saw my involvement as that of guide,” Robert says of the event at the high school. “They had an idea, and I approached my work similar to the children’s book titled, ‘What do you do with an idea?’
“I knew of the celebration (of International Women’s Day) and I participated in it when I lived in Argentina. However, I was not aware of any schools in the area that were celebrating the day.
“As guide, I drew on my skills as an ethnographer, as a professional researcher who studies everyday life, seeking the meaning of it from the participants’ own words and experiences,” she says. “So it was important to me that we listened to young women students because this is a celebration of and for them.
“What does it mean to be a young woman in Amherst today? What matters to you? It is from these conversations that the themes emerged. The women students were concerned about reproductive health and sexuality, unequal pay for women and men, the representation of women in the media and in politics, and the lack of paid maternity leave,” Robert says.
“They were willing to talk, share their ideas, and so I hope that the event reflects those conversations and respects their concerns for learning more and raising awareness about issues that matter to them.”