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Female-identifying students and staff stay empowered during Women’s History Month


girlboss noun /gerl/bos/ a woman in control, taking charge of her own circumstances in work and in life 

In 1981, Women’s History Month was established to recognize the numerous accomplishments of influential women. In other words, Women’s History Month fully embraces our society’s girlbosses. 

VHHS’s female-identifying students and staff are creating their own history through their individual accomplishments in our community, while also empowering fellow classmates. 

The Director of Technology of Dare to Empower, Liza Kalika (12) believes the club is one of the best ways to ensure female empowerment in our school.

“Reaching out on social media is one way that we empower women. Our posts on Instagram are dedicated to historical women like Billy Jean King and Lucy Covington,” Kalika said. 

Dare to Empower uses social media as a platform to spread awareness about issues of equality, female representation and feminism, to not just inform students, but to also serve outside of our community.

“We organize events outside of the community too. For instance, we held a refugee coat drive to get anybody involved in supporting the members of our club for an important cause,” Kalika said. 

Being involved in this club isn’t the only way to motivate female-identifying students. 

Anaya Bindal (9) has found a different angle to do so. 

Bindal has actively explored and demonstrated involvement in her passion by spreading awareness about our environment in her own community, which shows her strength and motivation as a female student.

“One way that I take initiative as a woman is through environmentalism,” said Bindal. “I try to do anything I can to help our environment, including encouraging my friends to do the same.”

Shayna Weinstein (12) has taken on many leadership roles in places that are otherwise more male dominated. 

“I am currently the president of Girls Who Code, the only female on the executive board in our computer science club, and one of few girls in Scholastic Bowl and the math team,” Weinstein said.  

Weinstein has not only taken on leadership roles in male-dominated areas in our school, but her previous work outside of school has demonstrated her strength as a female-identifying student. 

“I’ve spent time at the Hawthorn South coding club to encourage coding for everyone, but my goal was to encourage girls especially,” Weinstein said.

Others, especially in our affinity groups and clubs have been particularly inspiring. 

Emma Anderson (11), has showcased leadership skills through BSU. 

“A lot of BSU’s members are female students, so I take initiative to involve more female-identifying students of color to join the club,” Anderson said. 

Saira Alavi (12), takes on a similar role in MSA.

“I am on executive board in MSA, so in terms of female empowerment, I try to include others that aren’t in the club and open up the space for female voices,” Alavi said.

Our faculty and staff have found empowerment within themselves and have made an effort to spread it around to their community.

English teacher Katherine Janicek has continuously spread awareness in different settings. 

“I’ve specifically chosen to coach girls’ sports to hopefully empower my athletes, but it is also something for myself that makes me happy,” Janicek said. 

Besides coaching, Janicek has also taken this empowerment inside of her classroom. 

“In the classroom, we discuss topics, in an open way, about gender roles in our literature in our world, which I hope allows female-identifying students to feel confident,” said Janicek. “I also hope it creates an inviting space for male-identifying students to be a part of those discussions as well.”

For Superintendent Denise Herrmann, spreading awareness, not just through the students of D128, but also through her community of colleagues and administrators is something important to her.

“As the first female superintendent of our school district, there comes a lot of expectations and responsibilities to live up to, and one of them is through the process of hiring administrators,” Herrmann said.

Herrmann manages hirings of new people on the administrative side of our school district, as well as overseeing hiring protocols.

“I make it a practice to hire and attract diversity in race, sexual orientation, and gender. Right now, a new Director of Data and Assessment is looking to be hired, and this particular field is typically male-dominated. I took it upon myself to send job applications to female professors at the UIUC to encourage them and give them an opportunity to share and invite potential female candidates,” Herrmann said.

The mission of Women’s History Month, looking up to female-identifying role models, is a common thread amongst these women. 

Specifically, family members tend to be the closest role models to them.

“My biggest role model is my mom,” said Kalika. “She has gone through a lot in her life, and her perseverance and strength has really inspired me.” 

Like Kalika, Janicek’s biggest role model is her mom, as well. 

“She has always been a positive influence to both my brother and I. She’s also the healthiest person I know, and she always finds a way to help out, and I admire that about her,” Janicek said. 

Anderson’s biggest influence has been her aunt.

 “She grew up in the segregated South and has made a living for herself and has worked in Congress and has even worked for Obama as well. Overall, she’s just someone who I want to be when I grow up,” Anderson said.

To others, their role models are public figures in our society.

Madeleine Albright, the first female Secretary of State has paved the way for other women in politics and international business, making her Herrman’s biggest inspiration. 

“I think that women can be pigeon held if they are a strong woman leader,” said Herrmann. “They may be seen as ‘too bossy’ if they come off too strong, but if they are too flexible, then they are seen as ‘too soft’ and a weak leader. I believe that Albright has found the perfect balance between being assertive and flexible, while holding elegance.”

Bindal looks up to someone who is more prominent in pop culture.

“Emma Watson is a powerful woman to me because of how smart and successful she is. She also is an environmentally involved activist, and received her degree while being an actress,” Bindal said. 

Keeping oneself feeling strong and empowered is an accomplishment that these women have in common.

Anderson spends her time prioritizing her health and her well-being. From journaling to watching strong female roles in famous TV shows, such as Gilmore Girls, she is able to feel strong and motivated.

Weinstein believes that feeling confident and making sure her voice is heard is the best way to find empowerment from within. She advises students to make sure their own opinions are heard and to become a leader in any way that they can.

“For me, I listen to podcasts that center around leadership, particularly female leadership,” said Herrmann. “I also make an effort to surround myself with my female colleagues because I think it’s easy for us to lose track of support due to our jobs, families, and responsibilities. So, I like to make sure that we are all still supporting one another.”