Academy students recently led a group of nearly 30 seventh and eighth graders through the Girls Leadership Virtual Workshop. The weeklong workshop, grounded within social justice and feminism, aimed to instill leadership skills in girls by building self esteem and support for one another.
Academy students came up with the idea to design and teach the course for middle school students after participating in the Women in Leadership program, taught by director of Punahou’s Luke Center for Public Service Dani Goddard, who has a passion for teaching female empowerment and equality.
Recognizing the pressures of the modern teen, such as the competitive nature of social media, the students felt that empowering girls in the earlier grades could help prepare them for high school and also alleviate some of the pressures.
“The goal of the workshop was to create a safe space where students can voice their opinions about gender inequality,” said Giselle Kennedy ’23, one of the Academy student organizers. “We want them to recognize these issues at an early age so they are better equipped to combat them as they grow up.”
The workshop is a pilot program, with the intention to continue into the future, with Academy students training fellow students to take over as teachers, including those who took the workshop as middle school students.
“There was overwhelming interest in the program, with 120 applicants,” Goddard said. “The goal is to have every Junior School student go through this program before they get to the Academy.”
This summer, Academy students will have the opportunity to continue exploring leadership skills and girl empowerment with Goddard and Academy English faculty member Alison Lazzara ’93 in the course Girls Talk Back.
“It’s not considered ‘polite’ to talk back, but you don’t have to always be polite, especially when it matters and you have to do something about it, such as taking a stand against social injustices,” Goddard said.