Friday, Jun 02nd

Accomplished Scarsdalians Share Their Stories at the Middle School

EdgarConsidering that women couldn’t apply for a credit card until 1974 when Congress passed the Equal Credit Opportunity Act or that until 1978 a woman could still be fired from a job for being pregnant, it is easy to see why we celebrate women’s history during the month of March. To showcase how much progress has been made over the last few decades and how much women have contributed to their communities and to society at large, Scarsdale Middle School hosted their first annual Women’s Symposium on Monday March 20th. The symposium, which came together in large part due to the efforts of co-chairs Mayra Kirkendall-Rodriguez, Esthela Lecuona, and Rachana Singh and faculty members Meghan Troy, Meghan Lacey and Janay Moss, brought over 50 parent volunteers to the middle school to share their stories.

The list of impressive volunteers presented on topics ranging from Women in Veterinary Medicine, to RocahSMSWomen in Banking, to Women in Biochemistry, and everything in between. Seventh grade students in Mr. Raff’s homeroom class were treated to a discussion about criminal law, politics, and media with Westcher District Attorney Mimi Rocah and Executive Assistant District Attorney for Policy and Strategic Initiatives, and Chief Ethics Officer Berit Berger. Ms. Rocah began the presentation by detailing her journey from a prosecutor to her decision to run for District Attorney of Westchester County. When Rocah was elected as DA in November of  2020, she became only the third woman in Westchester’s history to hold this important position. While Rocah and Berger engaged their audience in a discussion about the responsibilities of the DA’s office, they also outlined how the DA’s office works to protect women, what it is like to be a female prosecutor, and the importance of having women in law enforcement. When asked about the Women’s Symposium, 7th grader Tessa Berger said, “it is a really good educational opportunity for us, and fun to see what all our moms do.”

LizMcNallyIn another Popham homeroom, students explored the life of women in the military when US Army combat veteran Liz McNally talked about her personal experience serving in the US Army for eight years during combat with Iraq. Ms. McNally highlighted many of the amazing experiences afforded to members of the armed forces including traveling the world, jumping out of airplanes (which Ms. McNally has done 5 times!), protecting ports, writing speeches, leading soldiers and so much more. In addition to these experiences, Ms. McNally emphasized the ever-evolving roles of women in the armed forces describing how the first war women were allowed to participate in was the Revolutionary War and how now, all jobs in the military are open to women. She shined a spotlight on Capt. Amy Bauernschmidt, the first woman to lead a carrier in US Navy history. It was clear that the class of 7th grade students was impressed with Ms. McNally’s accomplishments as well as enamored with her engaging energy. Ms. McNally’s son James happened to be one of those students and when asked, he said, “It is great that my mom and the other moms can be here to share their experiences and hopefully inspire all the students.”Rosenthal

Another presenter, Jenny Simon Tabak, spoke about being a professional volunteer and all the different ways she is involved with, and contributes to our community. Tabak drew attention to the important role volunteers play in society and how many places and organizations would not be what they are without the time and effort of hard working volunteers. She also described how volunteering provides an opportunity for people to explore their options and find their passions.

In another class, Jeannie Rosenthal spoke about social entrepreneurship and her experience starting a non-profit as a teenager. Ms. Rosenthal also took the opportunity to encourage her audience to try to look beyond the walls of SMS to the broader world where they will have the opportunities and agency to be, and to do so many different things and express themselves in so many ways.

Art Historian (and PTC Vice President) Leah Dembitzer spoke to a class about self-portraits and identity. During the presentation students examined the self-portraits of several female artists and how their work exemplified self-expression. Dembitzer compared these self-portraits to the modern “selfie” and encouraged the students to consider how selfies shape and explore identity and individual expression.

WSVolunteersAs the morning drew to a close, both the faculty members and the event's co-chairs, expressed appreciation for the volunteers who graciously carved out time to take part in SMS’s first annual Women’s Symposium. In the words of co-chair Mayra Kirkendall-Rodriguez, “We really wanted to celebrate Women's History Month and showcase the many women globally who have contributed so much in different fields; many of those women are right here in Scarsdale, too.  We have been so impressed with the number and diversity of parents who volunteered. We even have a few parents and teachers who do not have kids at SMS; it is especially nice that they volunteered.” Co-chair Esthela Lecuona added, “"It was a dream come true, organizing this event at SMS. There were a lot of different parts involved: teachers, staff and parents worked hard and put a lot of love into this. I hope that the students, especially girls, see themselves getting inspired by all these amazing presenters." Showcased in this article are only a few of the many remarkable volunteers, for a complete list of presenters please click here.

Photo captions:

(Top) Rachana Singh, Esthela Lecuona and Mayra Kirkendall Rodriguez with Edgar McIntosh
Mimi Rocah and Berit Berger
Liz McNally
Jeannie Rosenthal, Melissa Eisenberg and Deborah Lichtenstein
(Bottom) All the volunteers

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