Q&A: Oakton High School’s Response to Graceland Messages

I received a request to screen Graceland Girls at Oakton High School in northern Virginia, initiated by a 10th grader named Alicia.  Alicia took the initiative to start a local chapter of Girls Learn International, and wanted to screen the film for the group in celebration of the International Day of the Girl on October 29.  I am impressed!  Are there more strong women who want to make a difference like Alicia out there?

I asked Alicia if she could host a discussion following the film and then record some of her fellow students’ answers to share them with me.  What she shared gives me hope that young people are open to cultural messages, they do care about these issues and want to be a part of the solution. Check it out:

Q: How did the film make you feel?
A: At first I felt really bad, and embarrassed because I take my schooling for granted, when they have to work so hard. And I complain about school when they have so much more to complain about, but they don’t. They’re thankful. It makes me think I should be just as thankful, if not more. And the end of the movie was very uplifting, like, I don’t have to be ashamed that I have so much more, because I can help them get more.

Q: What obstacles are these girls facing?
-Societal Norms

Q: What are some of the ways you feel education can help break the cycle of poverty?
A: To see the big picture of education as the teachers at Graceland did. To understand that knowledge is power and education is the key to obtaining that power – the power to make a difference.

Q: What are some similarities you see between the Graceland Girls School and your high school? What differences do you see?
A: Similarities: VERY determined to get into a good university, and lots of pressure to get into a good university. Also we are both worried about money for college.

Differences: Difference in the reason for. For us, we live in a rich community where going to community college is shameful and looked down upon, but if that’s where we go, it’s not the end of the road (although it feels like it). But for the Graceland Girls, if they don’t get in, it literally IS the end of the road.

One difference that stood out to me the most, was what the girl said when she saw her picture on the board. She said “I look beautiful.” That really stuck out to me the most, because if northern Virginia girls saw a picture of them on a big screen, they would criticize themselves and so how ‘fat’ or ‘ugly’ they looked. We may have better schooling, but the Graceland Girls sure do have more self confidence. Maybe it’s because they know they were sent to school because their parents believe in them, and they know that they can have a future, they are worth it.

Q: What are some things we can do in the U.S. to empower women and girls here and around the world?
A: Doing things [that we already are] like having clubs and movies to educate people on girls educations (hehe). But we also need to get people to care, and understand that this isn’t some charity that you give a few dollars to and forget about, this is actually a big problem in the world that needs to be solved.