Championing the Words of Women

“We want our students to have the courage and the skillset to speak confidently and convincingly about what matters most to them,” said Dr. Francis Yasharian P’36, Head of Lower School. “The Women’s History Oratory Contest was designed with that in mind, giving our youngest students an opportunity to use their voice to champion the words of women.”

Second Annual Women’s History Oratory Contest

The winners of Lower School’s Second Annual Women’s History Oratory Contest were announced earlier this month. The project is a celebration of women’s voices and their contributions to our society. Participation was optional, but for those who did, it was a chance to recite a work of their choosing — a speech, poem, or piece of prose with a positive message about or by a noteworthy woman. It was inspiring to see the variety of submissions and witness how well the children did dipping their toes in the public speaking arena. At its conclusion, ribbons were distributed to all the entrants as well as a Grand Prize of $100 in the form of a gift certificate to a local bookstore. All students in Nursery, Pre-K, and Kindergarten received a prize.

Congratulations, Sloane!

Among the submissions, Sloane M. ’31 took top honors and earned the Grand Prize for her recital of “Woman Work by Maya Angelou. “At first I was really nervous, but I also felt eager at the same time,” said Sloane, “I honestly did not think I was going to win, but I’m just happy that I tried my best, and I feel very proud of myself!”

Since this was an optional project, teachers were excited to see what students would do. “I’m so incredibly proud of Sloane, Hudson, and all of the other students who bravely submitted videos and stood up to perform in front of their peers,” said Aiyana Parker, Head Teacher, Grade 4. “I was so impressed by their choices of poems and powerful performances.”

Diverse and Uplifting Submissions

Indeed, it was hard not to be utterly delighted when one of the contest’s youngest participants, Nursery student Octavia C. ’37 recited the poem “Mother Doesn’t Want a Dog” by Judith Viorst, complete with toy snake prop at the end. We learned about astronaut Mae Jemison from Pre-K student Anjali A. ’36, who explained that Jemison was the first African-American woman to travel into space. In her recital, she reminded us to “Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations.” Kindergartners gave us several heartwarming recitations including, “You Came, Too” by Nikki Giovanni, lovingly recited by Lucia R. ’35, while Eleanor S. ’35 charmed us with “Why I Wake Early” by Mary Oliver. We were taken to New York Harbor when Claire T. ’31 recited “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus. The sonnet reminds us of the plight of refugees to America and is engraved on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. Students recited works by Maya Angelou, Nikita Gill, Emily Dickinson, and Amanda Gorman, among others. One Grade 2 student, Sirena A. ’33 recited a compelling speech by actress Emma Watson about gender inequality.

Winning Words

Congratulations to ALL the students who submitted entries to this year’s contest. We’re so proud of you! 

Daniela N. '34


Daniela N. ’34

“A Girl Named Sandy”
by Projeeta Ghosh Biswas

Sirena A. '33


Sirena A. ’33

Emma Watson’s Speech about Gender Equality
at UN September 20, 2014

Kiora J. '32


Kiora J. ’32

by Amanda Gorman

Hudson T. '31


Hudson T. ’31

“All I Can Tell You”
by Alison Malee

Sloane M. '31


Sloane M. ’31

“Woman Work”
by Maya Angelou

Educating students about equity and social justice is woven into our programs. The Women’s History Oratory Contest is a way to engage and empower our youngest student voices. “We talk so much about the meaning and differences between inequality, equality, equity, and justice in our official fourth grade curriculum and anti-racist read-alouds,” said Garrett Kennedy, Head Teacher, Grade 4. “Last year was the first Women’s History Oratory Contest and in my room it was optional. I had regretted that because only a few participated and no boys did. I think it’s so important that all the students participate in social justice activities (and certainly boys when it comes to inequality for girls). The contest was also a chance for students to challenge themselves with public speaking. So, I’m proud that all fourth grade students participated this year.”

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Families may watch all the video submissions by logging into the Lower School Google site.