How This Newark School Aims to Empower Women Beyond the Classroom

For Akinyele, bringing respected community leaders and speakers into the school to speak to students was just one facet of a larger objective. When it comes to female empowerment, Akinyele wanted the event to delve deeper into various ways students could realize their self-worth.

“We didn’t just want to have a whole day of talk,” he said. “We wanted our young ladies to go into workshops facilitated by our guest speakers and specialists to come in and work with our girls.”

The various workshop sessions addressed about a dozen different topics, including health, relationships and cultural empowerment. Alongside the workshops, students gathered inside the school gymnasium where they were treated to speeches from various speakers, including the famous rapper and entertainer, Roxanne Shanté, and Sharnee Brown, chief education officer for the City of Newark.

Both speakers shared powerful words of advice with the young ladies.

“Whatever it is that you chase that runs from you, don’t chase,” said Shanté, a South Ward resident. “Walk slow, and I’ll come and walk with you. Don’t worry about the things that are going to pass or the things that somebody did to you. Look forward and know what you want your future to look like.”

“Discovering my self-worth is probably the most revolutionary thing I have ever done as a Black woman in this country,” said Brown. 

“I want you to stand in your worthiness,” said Brown. “Every place you go, get respect, get tenderness, and get help.”

The event resonated with many of the young ladies in attendance. 

One student, Errycia Gainer, said she was excited to meet new people and learn from their experiences.

“Women get torn down a lot, so we need words of encouragement,” said Errycia, an 11th-grade student at Weequahic. “[Women] don’t know about how much they can really do. We’re limited to certain stuff, so knowing that we can do stuff - it’s important.”

Another student, Aramide Lawal, said she was interested to understand her classmates better through the workshop sessions.

“It’s about bonding and just having more one-on-one time with your girls,” said Aramide, a ninth-grader at Weequahic. “It’s about knowing what we have going on in each other’s lives.”

Moving forward, officials are hopeful the program influences other Newark schools to adopt similar events to empower and inspire female students.

“It’s important for our girls to see a reflection of themselves with speakers in front of them,” Newark Public Schools Board President Dawn Haynes told TAPinto Newark. “It’s important that they’re able to see leadership, guidance at different platforms and different levels. If we don’t give it to them in school, then when do we expect them to have it? Our schools should be just that.”

“We hope that the other schools look at Weequahic and see that teaching and learning is not just in the classroom,” said Akinyele.

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published this page in News and Politics 2022-03-26 03:23:12 -0700