AURORA, IL, USA, March 18, 2022. Months before the 2021/2022 school year began, Empowered Women of the Future (EWF) Club members at West Aurora High School began putting in place a plan to reimagine the women’s empowerment movement in Aurora. EWF student leaders Janice Baez (graduating senior who began the club in 2019), Mariella Acevedo (Co-President), Melissa Flores (Co-President), and Terri Shepard (Teacher Co-sponsor) were encouraged to dream big and together, with the assistance of the A+ Foundation for West Aurora School District 129, the group helped develop a grant proposal which was presented to and funded by the Aurora Women’s Empowerment Foundation (AWEF).
Club activities include a series of monthly “lunch and learn” events on topics ranging from career and skill development to period poverty and emotional health. The EWF Club members organize the monthly events, including securing speakers and local food caterers, and also promote the event and help lead group discussions.
“These are well-attended and empowering luncheons the students produce each month in addition to keeping up with their studies,” said Terri Shepard. “They are a remarkable group and the educational luncheons, while they are a significant focus of club activities, are only one of the many ways these students support and empower each other and the community.”
In addition, the EWF Club members formed a “Girls on Fire” mentoring group with girls from Jefferson Middle School. At least monthly, they spend time with the girls on enriching activities from making friendship bracelets to teaching them hip-hop dances. Younger mentees at Nicholson Elementary received copies of Kamala Harris’ book “Superheroes are Everywhere” when EWF students led group book discussions with them. The club also provides opportunities to help EWF Club members explore STEM camps, paying for transportation and clothes if needed, and helps members explore and receive training in future college and career fields of interest. Club members, including one student who plans to break the glass ceiling into auto mechanics, learned car maintenance at Christian Brothers Automotive. Plus, the club gets involved in promoting empowered females throughout history and sharing stories of human rights leaders at school activities, such as homecoming and Women’s History month.
The club’s most recent luncheon speaker, Shani Klapheck, spoke on the topic “We Are Enough.” While listening to Shani, each student received a lunch catered by Night Market Taiwanese Bistro, a local business owned and operated by female entrepreneur Liyu Sung Ma (Lisa) who immigrated from Taiwan with her family in 1989.