When Indian Springs School senior Katie Wiatrak saw sexism affecting current events, including the 2016 presidential election, she looked in vain for a place to discuss it with her peers. “So I decided to build one,” says Katie. “I gathered my closest friends and the head of school, and together we founded the Gender Equality Club (GEC). It was originally titled the ‘Women’s Empowerment Club,’ but…the issue is not just about women. It’s about everyone.”
The idea resonated immediately with Springs students, although some were unsure what membership meant. “To be perfectly honest, I joined this club by accident,” says sophomore Alex McFadden, now a club officer. “As a transgender student, I was still trying to assess whether I fully belonged.” But the more-inclusive GEC became the catalyst for conversations students were not having elsewhere.
“The day after the 2016 election, we had a meeting to talk about how it impacted us,” recalls sophomore J.D. Haws. “There were over thirty people crowded around a circle of couches. Over the course of two hours, we all came to the conclusion that it was up to us, a pack of worried high schoolers and a handful of our favorite teachers, to be a beacon of hope in the next four years.”
Katie and the club have been recognized with honors locally; and the club is now the largest in the school, showing films, inviting speakers, and holding donation drives for the YWCA. But senior and co-founder Delaney Porter savors the discussions. “It gives me hope when we meet.”
“There is nothing we can’t discuss,” agrees Alex. “We don’t shy away from topics because they are ‘too uncomfortable.’ I believe everyone needs a space like this.”