A panel discussion focused on how to improve the Olympia community’s education system after the screening of the documentary “Girl Rising” May 3 at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts.
The documentary emphasized the power of girls’ education.
The panel included South Puget Sound Community College Vice President for Student Services Rhonda Coats, South Sound Reading Program Executive Director Jennifer Forestor, Federal Way School Districts Equality and Achievement Director Erin Jones, and CIELO Project Group Facilitator Stephanie Gottschalk Huerta.
Forestor said her 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.
Forestor said she believed solving problems like these starts with the power of reading, and she said literacy is the key to opportunity and success.
Coats said she has often seen how a student’s lack in personal confidence can get in the way of their school work. She said she serves 16- to 70-year-old students and sees how young students can get discouraged and overwhelmed easily, and how older students feel too old to handle being in school.
Jones said she strives to find a place in Olympia for all types of girls to feel welcome to express their hopes and dreams.
While Jones said 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 said students of color are not given enough chances in school to build upon the skills they already have, and they 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 documentary that night. “I am a strong believer in how powerful education can be in people’s lives,” she said.
Ewing said it was both inspiring and dismaying that people were still living in such dire circumstances.
The movie featured true stories of nine girls from around the world that overcame hardships maintaining the highest hopes for their futures. All of these girls hold education very highly and stopped at nothing to pursue their dreams of success.
These stories of triumph are also paired with the hardening facts of reality.
The statistics about the impact of girls’ education 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 narrates 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. The documentary also reported that the number one cause of death for girls 15-19 years old is childbirth.
Many of the girls in “Girl Rising” were victims of these sad facts, but they were able to overcome it by standing up for themselves and having others support them as well.
The girls were paired with writers from their countries that could document their versions of the story. A-list celebrities narrate the girls’ stories, including Anne Hathaway, Salma Hayek, and Meryl Streep.
Eileen Yoshina, SPSCC’s director of diversity and equity recommended Coats for the panel which was selected by the YWCA. Coats said the YWCA does good work, and after seeing the trailer, she could not refuse the opportunity to speak at the panel.
This was a 10×10 production, who partnered with Intel Corporation.
Intel partnered with Olympia’s YWCA, which provided many volunteers to make the screening happen.
Tickets were free for the screening, panel discussion and dessert reception after, and donations to the YWCA were accepted.
The YWCA focuses on empowering women and eliminating racism, and has several women’s and girls’ programs.