First Ever Student Led and Run Women’s Symposium Held in HS

Women of Brewster and New York Unite!

Emily Babio, Contributing Writer

The Stanton-Anthony Symposium: Influential Women of the Hudson Valley was hosted by Brewster High School’s advanced history course, History of Women in the United States (through Dutchess Community College) on March 23rd. Students, administration, teachers, and many of Putnam County’s influential women came together to enjoy the first ever student moderated women’s symposium.

The Stanton-Anthony Symposium created an opportunity for Brewster students to directly learn from strong female leaders who have blazed paths in a multitude of fields that the students themselves might be interested in pursuing. The leaders and moderators felt that the students could listen to, interact with, and understand their potential futures in a more direct way than what could be provided in a classroom.

This conference was the first of its kind in New York history, and it might even be the first ever in the U.S. Recognized as a Hometown Diplomat event by the U.S. State Department, this monumental day allowed students to explore careers, network, and make long-lasting connections between students and leaders in their field, and the result was extraordinary.

Preparation for this event started in January when Mrs. Kayla Corvino, the teacher of the History of Women class, identified a need for students to connect with people in various career fields. From there, she reached out to Mrs. Cassidy at the Putnam County Historians Office and pitched the idea to us. We got to work as soon as she finished her statement, all with a great deal of enthusiasm and ambition. Identifying our strengths and weaknesses, we broke into subcommittees for preparation, day-of workers, and panel moderators. (I had the honor of being one of four student moderators.) Each subcommittee had a different task to complete to make the conference come to fruition. Timelines, to-do lists, and multiple revisions of our approach and program led us to our vision of the event. We all felt a great deal of nervousness as we had a lot of responsibilities on our collective backs in order to have this day go smoothly. Through a great deal of planning, troubleshooting, and connecting to local and regional business, we had everything we needed for it to be a success.

When it finally arrived, months of work came together in what many perceived as a perfect day. Arriving to school early, we went straight to Mrs. Barnes, the Life Skills teacher, who also had her Career Skills classes organize a full breakfast for the guests and speakers. The workers and moderators in the DCC Women’s History class started off the day all in our matching SASS t-shirts, and we proceeded to run all over the school, doing final checks at our stations and locations. As the panelists arrived, we served them breakfast and took full advantage of the opportunity to meet such unique people by networking prior to the official start of the event.

The morning started by highlighting all of the involvement we had behind the scenes to get ready for the event. In prepping for the day, we spoke with multiple businesses to partner with us for publicity posters, panel programs, t-shirts, food, and thank you gifts for the speakers. We saw the fruits of our labor as we started handing out our “Swag Bags” to the speakers, giving us an additional motivation once the bags were opened and the positive responses came forth. From this moment on, we knew we had thought it all through, and the day continued successfully from there.

As the day progressed, attendees cycled through student-moderated panels and were offered valuable insight into what it takes to make it as a woman today. These panels and the women involved had careers ranging from nonprofits, to local and international businesses, politics, law enforcement, science, and medicine. These women was specifically chosen because of the influence they had on their careers and on the world around them. I had the privilege of moderating a panel consisting of women who all made an impact as women in law, the military, science, and so much more. It was deeply empowering, and audiences will never forget the stories each of them told. Speakers throughout the day spoke with great conviction, citing the struggles and successes they all faced in their respective professions. Yet despite the number of setbacks cited by panelists in their fields, both as individuals and as women, each brought a message of hope for those listening, inspiring us to move forward in our lives and be the best version of ourselves.

Being amongst the students, I also saw valuable networking opportunities. The women involved were sharing so much information about themselves as well as the things they’ve accomplished. This allowed the students to find pieces of themselves within each speaker, creating connections between the two. It was never a silent room: there were conversations constantly happening.

As the symposium came to a close, we presented the Putnam Westchester Women’s Resource Center with a $400 check raised through a school raffle. All were so appreciative of the staff and students who helped throughout the planning process and on the day of the event. We know that it was a very successful day because of the dedication seen by all.

As young women, it’s a special experience to meet so many accomplished professional women who have made a difference in peoples’ lives, and to be given a chance to celebrate what they have done for us was truly amazing. As such, we hope that this is the first of many Stanton-Anthony Symposiums.