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The Student News Site of Rock Ridge High School

THE BLAZE

The Student News Site of Rock Ridge High School

THE BLAZE

The Student News Site of Rock Ridge High School

THE BLAZE

Women’s Rights Activists Rise Above at the “Rise To” Summit

On Saturday, March 2, activists, politicians, and educators gathered at the annual “Rise To” summit to converse about the importance of women and their voices in politics, their importance in education and to be educated, while allowing an open space for audience and speakers to converse.
Hostess+and+English+teacher+Jessica+Berg+engages+the+audience+while+leading+the+Summit.+Before+the+event+took+place%2C+Berg+was+working+hard+to+organize%2C+contact%2C+and+piece+together+the+inner+workings+of+the+event%2C+as+many+big+names%2C+scholars%2C+and+guests+were+attending+the+much-anticipated+event.+
Lucian Tiller
Hostess and English teacher Jessica Berg engages the audience while leading the Summit. Before the event took place, Berg was working hard to organize, contact, and piece together the inner workings of the event, as many big names, scholars, and guests were attending the much-anticipated event.

On March 2, Rock Ridge held the annual “Rise To” Summit. Pioneered by the Women and Gender studies creator, Jessica Berg, the event was set up by volunteers from the Feminist Party Club and members from the Writing Center.

While her volunteers did most of the work during the event, Berg did the heavy lifting in setting up behind the scenes and before the event. “[The thing I’m most looking forward to] is seeing the interaction between the people I do work outside of school with, the activists and organizers and elected officials meeting the students, and that connection,” Berg said. “It’s the two most important parts of my life, besides my own children, coming together and it’s something special, and that’s the part I love about this event.” 

The first panel of speakers featured Senators Jennifer Boysko and Russet Perry, scholar Pooja Tanjore, Bonnie Stabile, and former speaker of the house Eileen Filler-Corn. They engaged in questions asked by the President of Women in Politics (an organization with the goal to make education on politics accessible), Katherine Bronov, about women in politics, their journeys, education, and the impact they make on those spaces. “I hope to give the students a vision of what you can do with your life, that you can be a changemaker, that it can be one small step, and then another small step, and then all the sudden you’ve really made some big accomplishments, and that it’s hard, and that you need to keep trying even when it’s really hard,” Boysko said.

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The commentary was led by Bronov, who kept energy and engagement high in an effort to create a safe space for discussion. “I think it’s so important that a lot of these panels feel like you’re so removed from the panelists, and I think that is something I have experienced in these really high conferences that I’ve attended,” Bronov said. “I just feel like you don’t really get the same feel or energy and actual impact from it; it’s more open and conversational.” 

The second panel consisted of former Rock Ridge students and teachers like Everett Callaway, who spent the entirety of his Rock Ridge career teaching biology, Pratyusha Komaragiri, who took his 9th-grade biology class, Maya Manchester, and author Nargis Jamil, who have all made an impact on education and teaching, and specifically here at Rock Ridge. They talked about their experiences being at Rock Ridge, how it was different from where they were previously or where they are now, and how we can make our spaces more inclusive for everyone, especially women. “When I think about what I really wanted to accomplish in my classroom, although we were doing it through biology, although we were doing labs and things along those lines, the true work that I was trying to do with my classroom was emotional instruction (E.I.) work,” Callaway said. “I wanted each and every one of my students to see themselves in the work, I wanted to find those scientists, those experiences, and all of those things they can connect to, so it wasn’t necessarily that canon of all of these people that you see that look a specific way, it’s: no this is how we all can contribute to this thing.” 

The final speaker of the summit was Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger, who is currently running for governor of Virginia, and if she is elected, she will become the first-ever woman governor in Virginia. During the speech, Spanberger vocalized her campaign, perspectives on women in the workplace and more specifically, the political landscape, and how if she’s elected, she will help break the stigmas of women in higher positions and help make that sector more equal. “I’m glad I got to see the panel that spoke before because I thought they brought really amazing perspectives and I hope the conversation started on a variety of different topics,” Spanberger said. “People should view that their perspectives and theory are always additive to the conversation, and you never know of the way that your experiences may be helpful in identifying or addressing a problem, or even just seeing something through someone else’s eyes.” 

After the speaker sessions, attendees were invited to stay for an all-inclusive lunch that was held in the cafeteria along with several stands selling products such as bags, jewelry, and art, where the funds would go to businesses and programs/groups that support feminism. Some stands acted as the office for some political candidates running in the upcoming election so that people could be educated on the candidate’s position.

The event ended on an inspirational note, as Berger gave some final words thanking all the sponsors, people in attendance, and speakers. She also spoke on the importance that this brings and how much it means to give an opportunity like this to people who feel they don’t have a voice.

The next Rise To Summit will be in March of 2025.

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About the Contributors
Nidhi Manchala
Nidhi Manchala, Staff Writer
Nidhi is a junior at Rock Ridge and it is her third year as a member of The Blaze. Outside of school, Nidhi enjoys drawing. She prefers to keep her art private, and mostly doodles on work. Her favorite part of school is newspaper, which she actually joined on a whim as a freshman. Her favorite part of newspaper is the design aspect because she gets to put her art skills to use. Nidhi has spent this past summer studying for the SAT and taking care of her beloved dog. Nidhi aspires to be a psychiatrist when she’s older due to her interest in psychology. Nidhi is looking forward to college and the freedom that comes with it.
Lucian Tiller
Lucian Tiller, Opinion Editor
Lucian Tiller is a junior who has always liked reading about news and current events, and he thinks that it’s important for people to stay up to date about things that can impact them. Despite challenging deadlines, he also likes how the newspaper provides a service for the school, encouraging staffers to write about what they like. As Opinion Editor, he reminds staff that if you don’t write what you enjoy, it isn’t gonna be as good; plus, writing about stuff you like is easier, and you have fun while doing it.

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