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PBHA Conference Empowers Women

By Eliza M. Nguyen, Crimson Staff Writer

On a poster taped to the window of the penthouse in the Student Organization Center at Hilles, one girl had written the phrase, “Not conforming,” next to which she had drawn a heart in pink marker. Her words were one response to the poster’s heading, “I blast through stereotypes by...” which was one of many prompts on the signs that lined the walls of the SOCH yesterday during the Athena Program’s annual conference—“Engender Justice: Act Now!”

During the day-long conference, local high school students attended workshops that focused on empowering women.

Participants attended workshops geared toward encouraging attending college and a session on sex-ed. They also chose electives on topics including women in politics, healthy relationships, and women in leadership.

A culmination of the Athena Program, a PBHA initiative, the conference featured several workshops taught by students enrolled in the program.

During the semester, Harvard undergraduates taught high school students about women’s issues and devoted a portion of their time to planning the conference together.

In one group session, Amanda I. Morejon ’13, a director of the Athena Program, said participants watched a “problematic” video by rap artist Nelly and brainstormed ways to combat sexism.

Jenay A. Israel, a junior at Boston Trinity Academy, said a friend who was leading a workshop encouraged her to attend the conference.

“I leaned about injustice and how I can change it,” Israel said.

This year’s conference is the first that is open to participants of all genders. While only women attended this year’s conference, Morejon said she hoped men would attend in the future.

Israel said her favorite workshop was one called Trans 101, during which the women learned about issues facing the trans community and individuals.

Maya W. Rogers, a junior at Malden High School, said she enjoyed learning about the history of feminism.

“Part of what I want to get from the conference is a stronger feminist identity,” she said.

The day ended with a keynote speech by E. Abim Thomas ’96, deputy chief counsel to Massachusetts Governor Deval L. Patrick ’78.

“I really hope people leave with a sense that gender doesn’t limit you in what you can obtain in life,” Morejon said.

—Staff writer Eliza M. Nguyen can be reached at

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PBHAGender and Sexuality