Empowering change


Photo by Nate Swanson

York alum Sam Barton (left), passionately holding up her sign and a Bluetooth speaker playing “Titanium,” is joined by Junior Parker Mahoney (right) as they march together at the 2018 Women’s March. Sat., Jan. 20, 2018

With only four months passed so far, 2018 is proving itself as a year of activism. Young people are finding their voices, movements are changing the tide, and it seems that as a society we are progressing towards a better future.


EMPOWER club, a club created to promote, educate, and agitate for gender equality at York has become a very active club in this past semester as they taken part in many events ranging from V-Day to the walkout held for the Parkland victims.


“Empower has expanded from merely a women’s rights club to an advocacy group where we can go to discuss what’s going on in the world and what we can do about it,” junior and Empower member Maddy Small said.


In light of recent events including the #MeToo and #TimesUp along with Parkland shooting, Empower has broadened the scope of their club’s influence throughout different movements for change within York.


Starting with V-Day in February, Empower added a modern twist by encouraging students to wear black in solidarity with the #Metoo movement in addition to wearing the classic red V’s.


“[The year] 2017 really marked a turning point in the third wave of feminism with the #MeToo movement,” Mrs. DiTomasso, Empower club sponsor, said. “We really wanted to do something else this year since it is the 20th anniversary [of V-Day]. There is so much momentum with this going on right now.”


Immediately after V-Day, on February 14th, tragedy struck in Parkland, promptly inspiring movements for change within Empower club.


In the first meeting following the Parkland shooting, Empower members and fellow Dukes were invited to have a discussion on school safety with administrators while a Chicago Tribune reporter sat in to write a story on responses to Parkland in suburban high schools of Chicago.


“My favorite Empower event this year was getting to talk to a Chicago Tribune reporter about the aftermath of the Parkland shooting as it gave me a chance to voice my feelings following it,” Small said. “I also was invited by the same reporter to do a solo profile later that month for the Tribune about student activism following the events in Florida and the walkouts which was an amazing opportunity as well.”


In an effort to put the ideas of increased school safety and more gun control, as discussed in Empower’s meeting with administrators, Empower launched a letter writing campaign. This campaign offered an opportunity to students to contact their local government officials regarding issues important to them in light of Parkland.


“As a club, we have been trying to collaborate with all types of students across the school in order to get a broader voice about what we want to do in response to the disaster,” freshman and Empower member Ava Uditsky, who is at the forefront of the letter-writing campaign, said. “We are a reflection of what’s happening down in Parkland. We are similar in the sense that it could happen here just as likely as it could’ve happened there.”


Aside from starting movements at York, Empower also helped contribute to a more global movement with the walkout to honor the Parkland victims and push for safer schools.

Photo by Nate Swanson
Seniors Bella Young (left) and Melanie Falco (right) display their signs that demand gun reform laws. March 14, 2018.

“When you look at the difference between Sandy Hook and parkland, these little kids couldn’t speak up for themselves, but now that it’s a highschool that was affected I think that we have voices; we are educated, and we’re able to use them,” senior and Empower member Melanie Falco said. “It’s so important for us to get involved.”


Second semester has been full of change. But that change has been matched with powerful student activism lead by Empower for the rest of York to gain inspiration from.


“Something that I value in other people is when they stand up for what they believe in seeing other people at York do that was  very powerful.” Freshman Ava Uditsky said.

Photo by Nate Swanson
(Top) Senior Lillie Gihl, York alum Sam Barton, Junior Rene Sieracki, Junior Jojo Moyer, Junior Holly Goodwin, Senior Shanice Muirhead, Junior Marianna Gatti, and York alum Gianna Wieczorek,
(Bottom) Juniors Parker Mahoney and Caroline Fritsch all proudly hold their posters in front of them while standing in Chicago’s Grant Park before marching. Sat., Jan. 20, 2018