Girl Up hosts third annual International Seminar Day

Int’l Womens’ Day event featured nine acclaimed speakers



Girl Up members spent the last few months orchestrating the event

In honor of International Womens’ Day, Girl Up hosted the third annual International Seminar Day on Mar. 8, hoping to inspire female empowerment.

Each seminar featured a different acclaimed speaker. Teachers were given the opportunity to sign up their class to attend, and some students dropped in during their free periods.

Girl Up co-sponsors and English teachers Melissa Raguseo and Jessica Malamuth provided oversight in planning the day, but the Girl Up members chose and scheduled the speakers.

“[The purpose is] to promote the idea of powerful females and women in positions of power and also women in positions we wouldn’t normally think of them being in,” said Raguseo.

The idea of International Seminar Day began three years ago when Girl Up president at the time, Celia Buckman, proposed hosting the seminar.

“The reason to bring it to a high school is so that female students can see these women and hopefully get inspired by them and normalize the fact that women are strong,” said Raguseo.

Attendance has grown in size each year, requiring a bigger venue.

Each session had at least 100 students in attendance with some reaching up to 200 participants. The first year, the seminars were held in the Scrounge, while this year’s event was in McGee Theatre.

Speakers from a diverse career spectrum including a surgeon, a chemical engineer, a product designer, and a sportswriter, were featured throughout the day.

“We tried to get women who are influential in fields that are male-dominated overall,” said Malamuth.

Junior Emma Chipman went to see radio host and writer for ESPN, Sarah Spain. Chipman thought the experience of hearing the speaker was a positive one, even if the message was challenging.

“You have to play the game to change the game. Basically, take the pain and be better than everyone else until they have to accept you,” said Chipman.

Another speaker was New Trier Fit Female creator and teacher Kathryn Kalnes, who used her own experiences to initiate a discussion on students’ understanding of their own worth and power.

Kalnes hoped that students would take away that they are powerful and they are worth making decisions that are right for them. “They [women] are worth speaking up for. They are worth living a life in which they are in the driver’s seat.”

The seminar day found support throughout the school faculty and administration. The administration reviewed the speakers to make sure that the speakers were not one-sided and fit the theme of the day.

However, some students, like Sophomore Charlotte Gonikman, thought that a few of the speakers were too political.

“It should be more of a thing that makes you want to be proud of being a woman and appreciate what it means to be a strong woman, rather than how women are oppressed,” said Gonikman.

Gonikman believed that the seminar day reached the organizer’s goal of spurring conversation and having topics that resonated with the students.

“I think it’s really great that New Trier brought in speakers, because it’s interesting to listen to what people have to go through to get to where they are,” said Gonikman.

Celebrating women’s accomplishments in history is an important aspect of International Womens’ Day across the world. This was also part of the seminar led by Special Education Coordinator and speaker Pat Savage-Williams, whose presentation was titled “We Stand On Her Shoulders.”

“I tried to make space for participants to reflect upon women—both past, and present, who inspired them and how we have benefitted and continue to benefit from the sacrifices of women,” said Savage-Williams.

This was Savage-Williams’ second year speaking at the event.

“Schools have a responsibility to teach students to think critically about issues that impact the world in order to prepare them to be responsible citizens in a global society,” said Savage-Williams.

Many of the speakers, including Savage-Williams, reflected on the importance of seeking out female mentors in your life. Sophomore Eva Goren attended the seminar led by Sara Kurensky, a board member of Women’s March Chicago.

“I think it’s good that New Trier provides seminars. What I took away from it was that normal people can make a big impact in our lives, especially women,” said Goren.