March is Women's History Month, which means that schools throughout the District are celebrating the many historic contributions that women have made in such fields as business, government, education, science, and the arts. Students from Whitney M. Young Magnet High School chose to honor their female role models by creating a Women's Art Expo – a colorful combination of music, dance, and visual arts with lectures and discussion forums mixed in.
The brainchild of the "I Am She" Club – a student organization meant to unite and empower young women – the event marked the first-ever school-wide celebration of Women's History Month at Whitney Young.
"The group started last year, so this is our first major event," said Rachel El-Amin, faculty sponsor for the "I Am She" Club. "All students were welcome to participate in the Expo, with the only requirement being that their artistic or academic contribution be by or about women."
El-Amin helped launch the "I Am She" Club after being approached by a student who said she wanted to start a group that would focus solely on issues affecting women, particularly teen girls.
"So that's exactly what we did," said El-Amin. "They meet once a week to talk about the issues they're dealing with as adolescent girls – friendships, relationships, peer pressure, and life choices."
The club is restricted to female students, however open forums are held once a month for any student interested in joining the discussion.
"This is when we invite our male students to join the conversation," said El-Amin, "because we know it is important to get both the boys and girls point of view when talking about these teen issues."
The Women's Art Expo was held on March 20 during all student lunch periods, and included music, dance, and poetry readings, as well as visual art displays and student vendors selling clothing, jewelry and accessories that were their original creations. Club members also hosted various discussion forums on such topics as women in history, self-esteem, and the contributions women have made in the business world.
Other projects of the "I Am She" Club have included a Christmas party for families living in a battered women's shelter, and a school-wide exploration of inner beauty, wherein they covered all mirrors throughout the school, replacing student reflections with positive messages meant to discourage the typical teenaged focus on outward appearances.
"Being part of this group is a very empowering experience for our female students," said Rachel El-Amin. "This club gives them an outlet for connecting with each other and the freedom to talk about the things they're all going through at their age."