Panel Discussion focuses on how to improve this community’s education system after a
screening of “Girl Rising”, a documentary emphasizing the power of girls’ education played at the Washington Center of Performing Arts.
This 10×10 Production was partnered with Intel Corporations who is also partners with Olympia’s local YWCA non-profit group aired this movie on May 3, two months after debuting on National Women’s Day.
Tickets were free for this movie screening that included a panel discussion and dessert reception after, but all donations went to the YWCA.
The YWCA non-profit organization, focuses on empowering women and eliminating racism, and has several women’s and girls’ programs.
From left to right, picture includes panel speakers Coats, Huerta, Jones, Forestor, and Hilary Soens, Girl Advancement Program Coordinator at the YWCA. Picture credit comes from the YWCA facebook page.
The panel discussion afterwards focused on local concerns on girls’ education.
The Panel discussion after the movie included South Puget Sound Community College Vice President for Student Services, Dr. Rhonda Coats. Other panelists were Jennifer Forestor, the Executive Director of the South Sound Reading Program, Erin Jones, Equality ad Achievement Director of the Federal Way School Districts, and Stephanie Gottschalk Huerta, the Group Facilitator for the CIELO Project.
Forestor’s career has her very committed to literacy and she said “everyone has the right to read.”
Forestor said that 85 percent of juvenile delinquents are illiterate and that illiterate girls are six times more likely to get pregnant.
She believes solving problems like these lies in the power of reading, and that literacy is the key to opportunity and success.
Coats said working with college students, she often sees “lack of confidence that they can be a student” getting in the way of their education.
She said she serves 16 to 70 year old students and sees how the young students can get discouraged and overwhelmed easily, and older students feel too old to handle being in school.
Jones strives to find a place in Olympia for girls who don’t fit the norm to feel welcome to express their hopes and dreams.
Washington State is 49 in demographic of white teachers to colored students, said Jones. While she did not believe white teachers were unable to teach colored children, she said students of color need to see more of themselves succeeding in positions of power.
Huerta also felt students of color are not given enough chances in school to build upon the skills they already have, and are becoming uninterested in school because they do not see their faces in the curriculum.
SPSCC art technician, Robin Ewing, was at the Washington Center to see the movie that night because “ I am a strong believe in how powerful education can be in people’s lives,” she said.
She felt the movie was both inspiring and dismaying that people were still living in such dire circumstances she said.
The movie featured true stories of nine girls from around the world that overcome tragic hard ships only to still have the highest hopes for their futures. All of these girls hold education very highly and stop at nothing to pursue their dreams of success.
These inspiring stories of triumph are also paired with the hardening facts of reality.
These statistics about the impact of girl’s education that were shown in the movie report that a girl with an extra year of education can earn 20 percent more as an adult.
Liam Neeson, who narrated most of the facts in the movie, also stated that 50 percent of all sexual assaults in the world are on girls under the age of 15. Also the number one cause for death for girls 15-19,is childbirth.
Many of the girls in “Girl Rising” were victims of these sad facts, but were able to overcome it by standing up for themselves and having others to support them as well.
The girls in the movie came from Cambodia, Haiti, Nepal, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Peru, Sierra Leone, and Afghanistan.
In Haiti, the Wadley, refuses to leave school even though her mother can longer pay tuition after the country’s earthquake in 2010.
Suma, is forced to bonded labor in her native country of Nepal, while her parents allow her brother to go to school.
After years of being a slave to numerous home owners, Suma is set free by a group of young women, and now uses her love of reading and writing to learn how to end bonded labor in Nepal.
Each girl was paired with writers from their countries that could document each girl’s version of the story, and A-list celebrities including Anne Hathaway, Salma Hayek, and Meryl Streep, narrated the girl’s stories for the movie.
After the movie Coats said, “glad I didn’t wear mascara” because it made her really emotional. The movie reminded her how blessed she is because she said we are all only a heartbeat away from tragedy, just like the girls in the movie were.
Eileen Yoshina, SPSCC’s Director of Diversity and Equity has connections with the YWCA board, and recommended Coats for the panel discussion. Coats said she feels the YWCA does good work, and after seeing the trailer she couldn’t say no to the opportunity to speak at the panel.