Leadership in Focus: Empowering Female Voices Delegates

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Graphic courtesy: Laura Haushalter (‘21).

The 2021 Empowering Female Voices program involves groups of students creating policy proposals for the new Biden administration’s first 100 days, in honor of the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage.

“I hope to learn something about how to create change and how policies are proposed and accepted/rejected,” Yvette Shu (‘23) said. “I would like to bring my experiences back to Webb and encourage discussion and discourse about some of the greatest issues facing the U.S. today.” 

This year, in honor of the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the United States, the Empowering Female Voices program (EFV) focused on civic engagement and creating policy proposals for the new presidential administration’s first 100 days.  

Yvette Shu and 21 other Vivian Webb School students had the opportunity to join girls from schools across the country and participate in the program. Over the past weeks these VWS delegates have represented Webb and learned valuable skills to bring back to our community. 

The program was divided into six workshops taking place between January 25 and February 11, with a culminating symposium to occur on February 18, where the students that participated in the program will share their policy proposals to a panel of female politicians, activists, etc. In these workshops, students “discuss issues that matter most to them, develop empathy for the perspective of others, and build the skills and confidence needed to empower a generation of female change-makers.” 

The VWS delegates had many different reasons for applying and attending this conference, but one theme was common throughout — hoping to make a positive difference in the future and the opportunity to become a changemaker. 

“During the summer of my junior year, I became really involved in politics and I campaigned around Claremont for Elizabeth Warren in the 2020 California Democratic primaries,” Lily Miller (‘21) said. “Campaigning opened my eyes to how women are viewed in political positions, specifically the reservations that most people held, and the trepidations based solely on her gender. So, when I heard how NCGS [National Coalition of Girls’ Schools] works to empower female voices and leaders I immediately wanted to take part in an empowering group in learning about advocation and policy work.” 

“I wanted to participate in this conference because I took a class [called] Honors American Crime and Punishment last semester, and the issues we learned about were really important to me and I wanted to learn how to be a part of the solution,” Sofia Centeno (‘22) said. “It’s easy for me to get caught up in what’s wrong in the U.S., so learning the tools to actually address and fix those issues has been an exciting and powerful experience for me.” 

The program seeks to provide female students with the tools and knowledge to create positive change in areas they are passionate about. To do this, they have divided the students into committees based on policy areas, and then into even smaller groups, where they work together to create their policy proposals.  

The variety of committees and policy areas allowed students to pursue individual areas of interest with peers from around the country. The delegates can expand on their Webb education or even dive into a topic that they would not otherwise have been able to. 

“I chose to be a part of the environmental justice committee, where we started out with talking about the root causes of environmental problems,” Aiperi Bush (‘24) said. “After that, we split into even smaller groups, where we did research on possible solutions to these problems.” 

“So right now, we’ve split into committees, I’m in criminal justice, and then identified issues within those topics,” Sofia said. “My subcommittee is focused on felon voting rights, and we are drafting a policy proposal to make voting more accessible to felons coming out of prison.”  

“Currently I am collaborating on creating a policy for reforming the court processes of the criminal justice system,” Lily said. “We have worked on investigating roots of issues, the causes of these issues, and policy work that has already been made. One of my favorite pieces of this conference is in collaborating with all of the other people in my criminal justice breakout room.” 

“I personally chose to tackle economic inequality, since it was a very interesting and broad issue that I love to research,” Yvette said. “My favorite part of this experience so far would be talking and brainstorming ideas with fellow high schoolers.” 

Many of the students attending the conference expressed the value of being able to collaborate with peers from different places and backgrounds. 

“So far, the conference has been really informative,” Aiperi said. “I’ve gotten to learn a lot about issues that I care about and hearing other people’s perspectives has been really interesting.” 

“My favorite part of this experience so far would be talking and brainstorming ideas with fellow high schoolers,” Yvette said. “The teamwork is something that can only be experienced firsthand, and I’m glad to say that I did.” 

One of the benefits of the conference is the ability to meet important change makers in the government, who took time out of their very busy schedules to talk with these passionate young women.  

“This past session, we met with Senator Jason Pizzo and lobbyist Christian Minor who shared the process of change they have enacted in the criminal justice system in Florida,” Lily said. “Hearing from them was fascinating and eye-opening for how government processes work and how we can improve our own policy work.” 

The Empowering Female Voices program helps build the next generation of female change-makers, and Webb is proud to send VWS students who are dedicated to making a positive difference both within the community and outside of it.