Holmes women’s leadership group shares movie night in growing movement for exploring female impacts

Members of the Holmes LEAD (Loving Everything About Differences) group had a pizza pajama party on March 3 to watch the movie”Iron-Jawed Angels.”

Twenty-one strong women in footie pajamas and a tower of Pizza Hut pizza filled the cafeteria of Holmes Junior High on March 3. The women’s leadership group met that night and the movie “Iron-Jawed Angels” was bringing them together.

“Iron-Jawed Angels” is about female suffragists in the 1900s. The movie depicts an abundance of persistent female activists, and it left the Holmes group thirsty for opportunities of their own to better the lives of women in the world and learn more about themselves. The movie was also a valuable outlet to learn about how women in America got where they are today.

“I feel like the movie did a really good job of showing the struggles and unfair punishment that these women faced for fighting for their rights. Even though I’m too young to vote, it really made me appreciate all of the things that they faced and dealt with to get us the right to vote that we sometimes take for granted. I felt really inspired by the way that they kept fighting for suffrage no matter what and always lifted each other up when things didn’t go right,” Malvika Khadiya, eighth grade member of LEAD (Loving Everything About Differences), said.

“Iron-Jawed Angels” does include some graphic scenes, but those scenes had the strongest message and demonstrated how strong the female activists in the film were. “You learn that women protested for suffrage, that they went to jail and were force fed. You memorize the names of the organizations for the test, but you don’t get the story. These were real women. They have stories and lives. The more you learn their stories, the deeper you understand,” Japhy Holt, ninth grade LEAD member, said.

The women’s leadership group at Holmes is organized by Angela Wittmer, a guidance counselor at Holmes, and it consists of eight and ninth grade girls. Holmes LEAD was started last year with a select groups of girls. This year the group was opened to all eighth and ninth grade girls who were interested. “I started LEAD last year with a small group of eighth and ninth grade students as a way to advocate for the needs of young women going through junior high,” Wittmer said.

It is also a way for the girls to learn outside of the classroom. “The movie night is an opportunity for us to get together and watch an awesome movie (“Iron Jawed Angels”) about the journey of women’s suffrage. It’s an opportunity for us to bond and get to just have fun outside of the school day while also learning about the importance and struggles women have gone through for some basic human rights,” Wittmer said.

The movie night was also a time for the girls to get to know each other better since the group does include students from different grades and is fairly new.

The group currently meets every other Tuesday during Tiger Time and discusses struggles that junior high students are currently facing. “The main topics this year have been body issues, self image and the impact of the media, role models and we also had the opportunity to talk about the election and the different responses by women to the election,” Wittmer said.

The LEAD group has been open to more students at Holmes so more young women get the opportunity to learn more about themselves. “This group is special to me because it provides a unique opportunity for young women to talk and discuss topics that are important to them.  I love watching young women come together and bond over their shared experiences.  I want young women to feel empowered by being together and lifting each other up,” Wittmer said.

Every other week when LEAD meets, more young women’s faces appear and more knowledge is absorbed. “I have benefited a lot from joining this group. One thing would be learning that I shouldn’t be ashamed of being a woman and to embrace who I am,” Lakin Sheely, a ninth grade member of LEAD, said.

Along with self confidence, the members are learning about past role models. “I’ve learned a lot more about the things that women have fought for that we take for granted now, like being able to vote. I’ve also learned about the discoveries that women have made and things they’ve done that we don’t talk about very much,” Khadiya said.

The group opens up the members’ eyes to how much women have their voice heard now compared to the 1900s. The LEAD group emphasizes getting everyone’s voice heard.

“I love how we get to voice our opinions on many different topics, knowing that everyone is listening to what we have to say,” Teria Campbell, ninth grade member of LEAD, said.

The women’s leadership group has many benefits. For example, one may come to the TigerTime enrichment because her friend is going and she wants to socialize, but she may walk out with a new found confidence and outlook on the world.

“I think it’s important to be in this group because it is a time where girls of all shapes and sizes can talk about their differences, problems and things they have accomplished. I think it is important to have that time in your day,” Ellie Peter, eighth grade member of LEAD, said.

Another reason being part of LEAD is beneficial is the fact that members can talk about their problems to people who understand and share the same feelings. “The things we hear in the hallways or in classes every day, jokes and comments that depreciate female issues or that stereotype us. Hearing the reaction of those when I tell them I’m a feminist, comments that both girls and boys make on others’ appearance, people that don’t acknowledge and don’t take women’s issues seriously, it has a huge affect. I start to doubt myself when I hear others doubting my values, and that should never be an issue. Hearing girls that feel the same way I do, and bring us together as a community really helps me,” Kellen Chenoweth, ninth grade member of LEAD, said.

LEAD is also a place every other Tuesday where members can get their stress and feelings out about politics. “I joined during the presidential election because at the time I knew that whatever the outcome, there would be a large impact on women, whether that was because we would have our first woman president or have a president that would put us in a situation that requires women around the country to work together. I wanted to be part of a group of those types of empowering women who could support each other. And with Trump winning the presidency, I think it’s important for girls to be bonded together more than ever,” Chenoweth said.

As well as empowering and teaching the LEAD girls themselves, the group plans on reaching out to other young women in the Cedar Falls School District. “We plan to do an outreach with our current seventh grade girls as well as some sixth graders this year.  We plan to address changing relationships, peer pressure, social media and positive and negative impacts, body image and the media and finding positive role models,” Wittmer said.

The members of LEAD are very excited to inspire and educate the younger grades like the ninth graders once did to them. “I hope to help inspire other girls to join the LEAD group just like the girls did for me when I was in eighth grade,” Allie Grinsted, ninth grade LEAD member, said.

Grinstead is referring to the fact that every year in junior high, the ninth through 12th grade women’s leadership group comes and talks to the junior high students. Holmes’s LEAD group hopes to go to Hansen Elementary and talk to them. One thing the LEAD girls hope to hit on throughout the LEAD group and with others is self esteem.

“Self esteem is something that has to come from within. As junior high girls, we need to know that our worth and value are not based on our looks. Our value goes much deeper than that. When we have a solid understanding of our value and worth, we will still have times we doubt ourselves and not like the way we look or act, but we will have a strong foundation to go back to,” Peters said.

Holmes’ LEAD members’ overall goal is to empower other junior high or younger girls to have more confidence in themselves and/or to gain confidence by joining LEAD. “I want to accomplish spreading the word of LEAD to other woman and get others to join our group,” Grinstead said.

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