"Women's Issues": A New Club at Rock Island High

May 31, 2017
Originally published on May 18, 2017 5:12 am
Some girls at Rock Island High School say they're tired of reading male-dominated history and literature, so they've started a club that will offer more.

It's called the Riveters. It was approved by the Board of Education in February.

Jada Veasey

"It stands for Rock Island Voices Ensuring Their Equal Rights are Secure, because we wanted to make sure that boys knew they could be in it," said 17-year-old Veasey.

She and a few of her friends, with the help of two teachers, started Riveters this year, Veasey's junior year at Rock Island. Veasey has short curly hair and a big smile. She's outspoken, and passionate about politics.

She's also extremely bright, if extra curricular activities are any indication. She's in the book club, National Honors Society, marching band, and is the captain of the Academic Scholastic Team. She was wearing a NASA shirt when I talked to her, when she told told me about her freshman year.

Her class was reading Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun.

"There was this big argument over whether if Beneatha was a feminist or not, and the boys in our class really didn't want to say that she was one, and there was this huge cringe away from the word," Veasey said. "There were four of us in the same English class that already identified that way, and it was hard to fathom why anyone would not want to associate with the word."

That experience was the catalyst for the club, but Veasey says it's also just another example of how things can get uncomfortable in the classroom. 

"And then sophomore year we were all in the same AP U.S. history class. . . and it was the same kind of deal with the boys not understanding where we were coming from," Veasey said. "We also noticed within the textbook, it was primarily history that was about men, so we were kind of like 'When did the woman come to America?'" 

Her and a few friends who also had Ms. Randolph for AP history met that summer to brainstorm. They agreed on one thing for sure: "an acronym was the way to go." They named the club the Riveters and the rest fell into place with the help of Amanda Randolph and Sarah Miers.

The "Grown-Up Stuff"  

"I honestly felt honored when they came to us," Randolph said. "So right when they came to me when they were sophomores, at the end of the AP U.S. history and they said 'Would you be interested in getting involved in this club?' I said 'Absolutely.'"

And Miers, who is now the club's co-facilitator said there's always been a need for an alternative space.

So started the Riveters, after the approval by the board of education in February. Randolph and Miers volunteer their time as co-facilitators, doing all of the grown-up stuff, like housekeeping and book-ordering. The club comes at no extra cost to the school, and Miers says it was easily approved.

There's only been one meeting so far, and 10 girls showed up.

The Riveters

"We developed this list and it's like: women in politics, women in sports, women in business, women in all of these different fields. We're going to read a book about them and then watch a documentary and then meet maybe once or twice a month to discuss what we've learned," Veasey said. 

There are a few guidelines -- boys are welcome, and encouraged, to join; the club aims to be politically neutral, open to all students -- and Veasey says there's just one rule: 

"Pay attention and really try to listen to what they're saying because I think that's what we lose a lot of times in classroom discussions -- just the ability to really soak up someone else's opinion, and I think that's what the whole sharing-of-ideas vibe of the club is."

The club is currently reading Off the Sidelines by New York U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and will discuss it at next month's meeting. 

So far one boy has expressed interest in joining.

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