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Second Annual Young Women of Color Symposium Inspires and Uplifts

On March 5, Loyola Academy and Francis W. Parker School hosted the second annual Young Women of Color (YWOC) Symposium, which led nearly two hundred 6th to 12th grade participants from thirteen schools in a series of workshops, affinity groups sessions and activities to create a space for conversation, connection and community for students who self-identify as young women of color. The day's conversations were guided by the 2022 theme: Unapologetically Me.
“It is hard to put the significance of the Young Women of Color Symposium into words,” says Assistant Principal for Student Service Mrs. Terri S. Jackson.  “We created the symposium not only to empower and educate these students, who for the most part attend predominantly white institutions (PWIs), on topics such as racial and gender identity development and how to confront bias language such as microaggressions, but also to create community with students who are facing similar experiences in similar situations. It is important that they be a part of affinity groups and networking circles so that they know that they are not alone in their daily interactions whether they be positive or negative.”

The keynote address, “Navigating Microaggressions,” was delivered by keynote speaker Rosetta Lee, a Seattle-based consultant, educator and activist. Ms. Lee helped students develop practical strategies to use when they find themselves the target of, or witness to, microaggressions -- those little words or actions that offend or hurt, even though they may be unintended. She teaches science, math, technology and art at Seattle Girls’ School (SGS), an innovative school for junior high girls that aims to empower women leaders and change agents with an anti-bias mission and an integrated curriculum.

The symposium proceeded through thought-provoking sessions such as “Self Care, Love, and Joy as Resistance,” “Sisterhood Self-Care: From Me to We to Community” and more. A full program can be viewed here.   

Loyola Academy Dean of Students Dr. Alexandra Cruz led a session titled “Daughterhood through a Feminist Lens.” The discussion explored contradictions young women experience while working to break out of societal norms and the ways daughterhood works against feminist struggles for change. Mrs. Jackson presented on “Financial Literacy: A Different Type of Education that Unlocks Freedom.” In her talk, Mrs. Jackson helped students understand the importance of credit scores, managing student loans and debt, and investments. They discussed how crucial financial literacy is to young women of color by examining current trends that affect women of color the most.

“Representation has always been important to me after realizing the lack thereof while growing up,” said Blessed Stephen ’22, who has served on the symposium’s student planning committee for the past two years designing merchandise, like tshirts and sweatshirts, and creating posts for the event’s Instagram page. “It was rare to see a fellow black woman portrayed positively in the media and it was even rarer to see one at the white institute I attend. These events are important because they bring a lot of young women a sense of unity and connection. They are able to meet other girls who have the same experiences as them and they gain a sense of sisterhood. In my affinity group, I’ve left heard, inspired and motivated. These other young women validated my feelings and experiences and also pushed me to work harder than I was before.”

Punctuating the day with energy and enthusiasm were beautiful performances by Ballet Folklorico de Chicago, a non-profit Mexican dance organization, the Loyola Academy Step Team and Francis W. Parker Slam Poetry.

"For the past two years, I have had the wonderful opportunity to establish and participate in Chicagoland's Young Women of Color Symposium; therefore, I can attest to its incredible growth and power that women of color have when we are given the chance to foster and showcase our identities,” reflects Inès Galiano ’22, a member of the symposium’s student planning committee. “Being surrounded and working with strong women of various ages, races, religions and locations has been beyond motivating; however, it could not have been done without the support of Francis W. Parker and Loyola Academy-specifically Dr. Cruz, Ms. Jackson, Ms. Bennett, Ms. Fernandez, Ms. Suh and Ms. Pineda. I am proud to have aided in the creation of a first-of-its-kind safe space for Chicago's female-minority students and cannot wait to continue to see how we grow as an organization from here!”

“For me, this symposium is a labor of love in action, and I am grateful for the support of the Principal's Office, the student planning committee and the adult organizers,” adds Mrs. Jackson. “The resounding sentiments from participants during the 2nd annual Young Women of Color Symposium were ‘I wish we had more time’ and ‘We should get together like this more often.’”

A special thank you to the following for the hard work and preparation needed to make this symposium a success: 

Student Planning Committee
Ava Bogan, Loyola Academy
Ardyn Chin, Loyola Academy
Nariya Cooke, Francis W. Parker School
Inés Galiano, Loyola Academy
Jaydra Hamid, Francis W. Parker School
Chelsea Njei, Francis W. Parker School
Milannia Martin-Hayes, Loyola Academy 
Noemi Ponce, Francis W. Parker School
Monique Robinson, Loyola Academy
Blessed Stephen, Loyola Academy
Litzy Tafolla, Francis W. Parker School
Guadalupe Vazquez, Loyola Academy 
Madelyn Young, Francis W. Parker School

Adult Planning Committee
Sarah Bennett, Loyola Academy
Alexandra Cruz, Loyola Academy
Berenis Fernandez, Loyola Academy
Masooma Hussain, Loyola Academy
Terri S. Jackson, Loyola Academy
Alexis Pantoja, Francis Parker
Priyanka Rupani, Francis Parker
Rolanda Shepard, Francis Parker
Rosanna Suh, Loyola Academy

We are grateful to Blessed Stephen ’22 who designed the symposium logo. 
 
Learn more at goramblers.org/conferences and follow the Young Women of Color Symposium on Instagram.
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