Empowered to Lead

Sister Eileen Reilly talks to students (from left) Maggie Meystrik, Joey Wagner, Maddie Tewey and Elena Bernassi before the start of one of the sessions.

Academy of the Holy Angels students Jaya Sharma and Arianne Rowe outside the U.N. Chapel.

March 17, 2017

Be the heroes that make a difference

In Friday’s U.N. Commission on the Status of Women session on “Closing the Gender Gap in Entertainment,” the diverse panel included an actor, author, cartoon animator, psychologist, teen magazine editor, clothing designer, United Nations advocate and an organizer from the Women’s March on Washington.

Their stories and experiences joined together to bring forward a message that the students in the School Sisters of Notre Dame delegation took to heart – that they need to find the voices that are not being heard and that they must not be afraid to be the heroes who make a difference in the world.

Teen Vogue Editor Lauren Duca said that young people often are treated as if they are separate from polities. She recalled that her high school government textbook said that young people are not interested because they cannot have an impact.

“That’s absurd,” Duca said. “Young women’s publications need to make a point of insisting that young women have a right to have a stake in the future.”

Carmen Perez, one of the organizers of the Women’s March on Washington, shared that she has dedicated her life to ensuring that women find pathways to get involved in their communities and to love themselves for who they are.  


“I try to teach young women that they can bring their whole self,” Perez said.

That message had a profound affect on Elena Benassi, a student at Notre Dame Preparatory School in Towson, Maryland.

“She talked about women and minorities mobilizing,” Elena said. “She said, ‘I’m not going to wait for superman. I’m not going to be waiting for someone to invite me to the roundtable to have a discussion.’ She said, ‘I’m going to build that table myself.’ And I thought that was really poignant.”

Although Arianne Rowe, a student from the Academy of the Holy Angels in Demarest, New Jersey, attended a different session, those speakers left her with the same resolve. She had been considering going into politics but was hesitant because she wasn’t sure if she’d be able to have any impact.

“But after going to that event, it solidified in my mind that is what I want to do,” Arianne said. “They talked a lot about how young leaders really can have a lasting impact in their communities. I’m going to take what I learned and go back to my community and impact policy-making in my community.”