Austin kicks off Women’s History Month

Published 8:02 am Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Honoring the contributions made toward progress, Women’s History Month kicked-off at Austin High School Tuesday afternoon.

For the last 14 years, Austin High School had a partnership with the local branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW)  to commemorate Women’s History Month, and traditionally bring in a keynote speaker to talk share their experiences and stories in various professions and backgrounds.

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“It helps students understand who these people are and what their story is,” said Principal Andrea Malo. “I think this event went very well in helping students learn about different people and having students research various topics in their social studies class.”

Along with the keynote speaker, there were six total projects pertaining to a specific topic for women’s history that were up for judging, with two of those projects being single entries. First place individual winners included Chloey Camerer on women and mental health issues, and Tori Watkins for women in science.

Carolyn Bogott and Peggy Benzkoffer of Austin’s AAUW, said that having events like this helped students recognize the amount of progress for women’s equality has been made within the last few decades. However, they also wanted to acknowledge the amount of progress that is still yet to be made.

“There are a lot of things many people can take for granted,” Bogott said. “Women weren’t allowed to compete in competitively in high school sports years ago, and they make 80 cents on a dollar in comparison to men. We want to remind them that this isn’t just women’s issues, but everyone’s issue.”

Laura Lee, co-anchor of KAAL-TV6, speaks to students at Austin High School on Wednesday afternoon as part of the events honoring Women’s History Month.
Hannah Yang/

“It’s been phenomenal,” Benzkoffer said. “We wanted to recognize women of different backgrounds to share their stories. The student body of Austin has changed quite drastically over the years, and we wanted to recognize that.”

This year, Laura Lee, co-anchor for KAAL-TV6 was selected as the speaker and spoke extensively about her experiences as a woman of color in mainstream media. Honoring her Hmong background as well as the sacrifices her parents made by immigrating to the United States, Lee shared the challenges she encountered while having children at a young age, as well as juggling a career and attending school.

“I was told to sacrifice my career or family, and that I could not have both,” Lee said. “I thought that this could not be. I refused to accept that.”

Through her challenges, Lee said she did not take any opportunities for granted, and that she did not have to sacrifice a career over having a family. She also emphasized the importance of having mentors and a support system who helped shape her experiences in the news industry.

“It takes one person to see something in you for you to see something in yourself,” Lee said to the audience. “The only thing stopping you, is you.”

Project Winners

First place

  • Chloey Camerer (Women and Mental Health Issues)
  • Tori Watkins (Women in Science)
  • Katie Lillemon and Morgan Raymond (The History of Women in Medicine)
  • Faith Nystel and Ariana Shapinsky (Women in the Workplace)

Second place

  • Kyle Murley and Hser Htee (Changes in the Lives of American and Burmese women)
  • Abby Muller and Natalie Nunez (Title IX)