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Shaping the Future: A Women’s History Field Trip for Middle Schoolers

Posted on December 6, 2017

By Lynn Yeakel

On November 20, Vision 2020 hosted 20 middle schoolers for a day of women’s history learnings. The field trip was part of the Vision 2020 Youth Education Initiative, of which Wells Fargo is the Founding Supporter.

Every year, students at Eastern University Academy Charter School in Philadelphia identify a year-long service learning project. This year, the seventh- and eighth-graders in Patricia Weller’s class chose women’s rights as their project. It made perfect sense for them to visit Drexel’s Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership – the home of Vision 2020 and a hub of women’s history, located not far from their school.

The day began with a tour of The Legacy Center Archives & Special Collections, the repository for the records and heritage of Drexel University College of Medicine and its predecessor institutions, including Hahnemann University and Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania – the world’s first all-female medical school, founded in 1850.

I joined the students for a talk about the contributions of women throughout history as well as life lessons I have learned along the way, including “We are women and men, girls and boys, by chance. We are sisters and brothers by choice.”

The students then participated in a HERstory Hunt, uncovering pieces of women’s history in a scavenger hunt where they learned about the role women’s hospitals played in the Suffrage movement, the 1848 Declaration of Sentiments from Seneca Falls, NY, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and important women throughout history, such as Sojourner Truth, Shirley Chisholm, Eleanor Roosevelt, Mary Jane McLeod Bethune, Ann Preston, and more.

After the HERstory Hunt, students participated in two engaging discussions with Dr. Melinda Johnson, Director of Administrative Operations at the Institute, and Jackie Koomson, a first-year medical student at Drexel. Melinda emphasized the importance of education and hard work to realize one’s dreams, and Jackie sparked students to reflect on “who inspires you?”

When we asked students what they learned and to share their dreams for the future, they wrote their responses on sticky notes and placed them on the wall next to Vision 2020’s “Shaping the Future” banner. These are some of my favorites:

  • “I want to own my own business, a business that helps women and children.”
  • “This trip has opened my eyes to see the struggle women went through. I want to be a great entrepreneur and have my business be known all over.”
  • “Today was an eye opener about women’s history.”
  •  “Hope!”
  • “I want to be the face or the centerpiece of a business.”
  • “Women’s history is very interesting.”
  •  “I hope we can go on another trip like this.”
  • “My future holds success in many different ways!”

Vision 2020’s Education Initiative educates young people to value gender equality, shared leadership, and the contributions of women throughout history. On November 20, I think we got a little closer to shaping the future.