Research shows that students who believe in themselves succeed both inside the classroom and out of it. But where does that belief come from when we live in a society that constantly undermines the value of women? Noticing a lack of self-confidence in my female students at Rocketship Discovery Prep, and understanding the impact that self-esteem has on positive growth-mindset and learning, I decided this was something I could not ignore. As educators, we have a responsibility to meet our students where they’re at, so with the encouragement of school leadership, I created QueenHype.
QueenHype is an empowerment club that acts as a safe space for girls to confront their insecurities and move forward from them by establishing a strong sense of self-love and purpose. The skills we’re developing in QueenHype are improving not only their personal lives, but also their academic success, putting them on the path to tackle college and their careers with courage. QueenHype inspires our female Rocketeer students to find their voice, their confidence, and their reason to make their mark in history.
This month, QueenHype girls are working on autobiography projects of their favorite female role-models and designing affirmation t-shirts to promote the sisterhood of empowered women through history. Each t-shirt has an aspirational quote on the front, along with the word “Queen” and a powerful female figure on the back. One thing we stress in QueenHype is the power of solidarity, which is why we’re selling our t-shirts as a fundraiser to support women and children in homeless shelters in our local community. A portion of the sales will also go to our college tour this summer, because at Rocketship, we believe the path to college readiness starts early.
In a recent Valentine’s Day activity, our girls wrote cards to women they felt inspired by. There were letters addressed to Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Malala Yousafzai and others. The girls wanted to express their gratitude for their sacrifice and encourage them to continue being strong forces of positive change.
One of the most amazing things about education is that it is a revolving door of the evolution of knowledge. While new information surfaces daily and modes of learning are revised, revisited and recreated, there is one constant that remains true: history. History is the fine-toothed comb that sifts through our best achievements, our worst fears, and our motives to innovate. This is why it is crucial for educators to never forget how important it is in shaping our future leaders.
The activities we do in QueenHype are what I consider to be history at an active level. Rather than being passive or dismissive of the truth, these girls are listening, internalizing and being moved to take action. They are making connections that will ignite their ideas for a better tomorrow.
Hearing from multiple young QueenHype participants that their goal is to become the President of the United States, a goal not even imaginable during my childhood, is kindling for my soul. But the lesson doesn’t end at the arrival of ambitious dreams. Teaching about the tremendous progress women have been responsible for, both in the women’s equality movement and society in general, we cannot ignore the darkness of the path we took to get here. In my experience, teaching the painful moments is just as important as the triumphs. Our kids deserve to know the truth and, more importantly, they deserve the tools that will keep them from repeating or being victims of the past.
As we pay tribute to those who paved the way for oppressed people before us during celebrations like Women’s History Month and Black History Month, we must also emphasize that the struggles we teach surpass the confines of a month; these are the stories that shaped society and continue to affect our lives every single day. Sharing these truths will empower our girls to create their own stories of courage, compassion and change. It’s her story that will define the voice of a once oppressed community, one that will no longer dwell in the past of suffrage but speak to the importance of equity and the impact of breaking barriers.
LaToya started her career at Rocketship as a member of the support staff team. She transitioned to an enrichment coordinator then a Rocketship tutor (ILS) before becoming a fifth grade humanities teacher at Discovery Prep. LaToya graduated from Newbury College in Boston where she studied Media writing and English.