PiP guest blogger

Proud and Honored

By: Aishwarya Cozby , Mayor Barb Miranda’s PiP’s Youth Nominee

"I want to nominate you." These are powerful words; words that hold a humongous responsibility. Whether it’s for a student government or a city council position, you are asked to be a part of something important in your life and the lives of the people around you. It’s a big decision to make: to accept the responsibility they are asking and make them proud. So, when Mayor Barb Miranda pulled me outside at Sunnyside (where I work part-time) and spoke those five words to me, a million things raced through my mind. But the thought that will continue to stay with me is She thought of me. She asked me. It will be a moment I will forever cherish.

As I drove home after our conversation, I became extremely nervous. This is an important privilege. A chance to make a difference. Questions and doubts ran through my mind. What if I am not the right person to ask? What if I say the wrong thing or present myself differently than what others know? It wasn't until I met Katrina Hajagos at the interview and photo shoot that I began to worry less. Katrina soothed my doubts and fears. She made it simple by taking things slow and one step at a time.

 Gustavus Beach, Alaska

The photoshoot was beautiful. She asked me to pose on an island of sand at Gustavus Beach that was slowly being washed away by the incoming tide. I felt vulnerable, exposed, excited, and empowered all at once. All while trying to follow Katrina’s directions, the ocean was taking the island away. By the end, we were surrounded by water; we had to cross shin deep in water to shore. But Katrina captured the moment perfectly: the sunlight on my skin, the strong mountain view behind me, and the power of the ocean all in one shot. We were in the right place and the right time.

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Click HERE to view Aishwarya’s official Power in Place portrait

After drying out at Katrina’s cabin, we began the interview. I have never been more nervous. My hands were sweaty and shaky, my heart was pounding against my chest, and my brain was overloading of the different questions she was going to ask. The questions opened new doors for me to have a better understanding of myself and my role as a young female. The interview was a moving moment for me. But my interview wasn’t close to the highlight of this experience.

I have known Barb Miranda for over ten years. She started out as my neighbor, but soon transformed into a person I admire and care for deeply. Barb is a driven, nurturing, and powerful woman. A strong woman that inspires me! I had no doubt when I learned she was being interviewed as an influential woman figure in our community. I was proud. Knowing that I was coming from a community with strong females from every corner makes me extremely honored to call this place my home. And being a part of Barb’s interview and photoshoot showcased the change she will make.

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Throughout Barb’s interview, I listened to her talk about her past, how she came to Gustavus, why she built Sunnyside Market and Deli, our town’s health-food store, and why she ran for mayor. I had the privilege of learning all the steps and decisions she made that has shaped the leader Barb is today. It was an inspiring moment. One that brought me closer to Barb. A moment that made my respect for her grow. Watching her shine as she talks about her beliefs and her goals made me want to conquer the mountains. She made me beyond excited for where my life is going and the changes I will make. She gave me the confidence to start out strong and never stop fighting. I had a moment to think about what types of leadership roles I want to pursue and take, in college and in life. And as we both move on with our lives, we will always have this moment to share and look back on.

 My Power in Place interview with Mayor Barb Miranda

My Power in Place interview with Mayor Barb Miranda

Power in Place is an inspirational organization. Its goal is to share the unique stories of females in politics of small towns to large cities. By sharing these stories, it gives not only the future generations of powerful women but the current generations role models.  Power in Place provides hope. It creates opportunity. It will spark change. And I am incredibly honored to be a part of the change.

 

  Photo By: Kim Heacox

Photo By: Kim Heacox

Aishwarya Cozby was born in Mumbai, India on April 1, 1999. At the age of two, she was adopted by a loving family. Aishwarya has grown up in Gustavus, Alaska, a remote town in Southeast Alaska that is only assessable by boat or plane, for sixteen years. Her favorite things to do is participate in sports, explore surrounding scenery, and spend time with family and friends. Now, Aishwarya is working towards a BSN at the University of Alaska in Anchorage. Her life goal is to become a traveling nurse, all while fighting for the rights of all people, no matter their gender, race, sexual orientation, religion.

"Any female leader is inherently an innovator, paving the way for others to follow"

When I was eight years old, I decided I wanted to get a doctoral degree. I had just spent some time going through one of my favorite books at the time, Kiss My Math by Danica McKellar, when I noticed that by the author’s name was a suffix I had never seen before: “PhD”. I ran into my parents’ room and asked them what these three little letters meant, listening as my mom explained how they were reserved for very smart people who contributed a unique theory to their field of study.

Wanting to be like the amazing woman who wrote this book, I whipped out my rainbow notepad and sparkly pen and got to work.

After an hour of struggling through my fourth-grade-level arithmetic, the conclusion of my basic calculations showed that 1= 0. Thinking I had broken math and would surely get that coveted “PhD” for my efforts, I tucked the paper with all my mathematical scribbles onto my bookshelf for safekeeping.

Though I didn’t get that doctorate at age eight, I kept that same curiosity and determination through all of my studies. In my imagination, there was no goal too high, no ambition unachievable. Eventually, my interest in science and math led me to discover my love of astronomy. By the time I was in high school, I knew that to become a research professor in astronomy, I would need to understand physics. It wasn’t until my first day in a formal high school physics class, eight years after learning what a PhD was, that I started to doubt my abilities. As one of three female students out of more than 20 in my class, I had my first experience with the gender gap in STEM. Though I was slightly more intimidated by the journey to become an astronomer after that first course ended, I stuck with my original intentions as I graduated high school, went to college, and chose to major in physics.

The introductory STEM courses at most universities are often considered to be the “weed out” courses, designed to separate those truly interested in pursuing a subject from those who are not as serious. Research has demonstrated that this process affects women more than in does men; despite taking similar courses in their K-12 education, significantly fewer women than men graduate from almost every scientific area of study. My freshman year calculus and physics classes hit me hard, and I found myself wondering if I was cut out for STEM as I struggled to grasp the concepts in the most foundational classes our school offered.

Later that year, I became a part of the Women in Physics group on campus. As I began participating more in their events, I realized that those feelings of insecurity and self-doubt had also been felt by many of the female physicists I consider to be role models, including fellow students and professors. Finally, I had found my place as a physics major, both getting and giving support in this community of strong women, who just happened to have a love of science.

Last fall, I realized that my journey in STEM was pushing me in a new direction. As I began thinking about where I would apply for summer research or internships, I found myself searching for opportunities that would allow me to use my physics background indirectly. The idea of advocating for STEM from through public policy was not something I had considered for my own goals before but was something I immediately found interesting. Deciding that pursuing science policy had the potential to completely change my direction in college, I applied to an internship through the Office of International and Interagency Relations at NASA Headquarters for the next internship cycle available over the spring.

The challenge of being female and a leader in any field does not come from women being any less smart, talented, and capable than their male counterparts. Rather, the challenge comes from not seeing many people like you who have already undertaken the journey you are about to start.

Until I spent the last semester off from school to complete this internship in Washington, D.C., my experiences in physics came only through my classes and my research projects. Suddenly, I was involved in science on a governmental scale. My focus shifted from depth to breadth; instead of contributing to one project, I had an impact on many projects as I helped draft agreements with foreign partners and plan international seminars. I supported work in aeronautics, astrophysics, and everywhere in between, learning pieces about each program mission along the way. Immersed in my work at NASA, I realized that I don’t have to be in a lab to support my interests in science and to advocate for women in STEM. Work happening through the government to ensure the success of individual projects in STEM is just as essential as the work of scientists to push their fields forward.  

As I continue to study physics while branching out to explore science policy, I’ve realized that the challenge of being female and a leader in any field does not come from women being any less smart, talented, and capable than their male counterparts. Rather, the challenge comes from not seeing many people like you who have already undertaken the journey you are about to start. Any female leader is inherently an innovator, paving the way for others to follow and making it easier for others to create their own paths in the future. It is this idea that keeps pushing me forward. Although my future goals might change, I now can reassure my eight-year-old self, knowing that women can do anything, especially when we empower those around us along the way.

Katie is from Bettendorf, Iowa and is a sophomore Physics major at Yale University. With a combined interest in scientific research and communication, she intends to pursue a career working toward the advancement of science through policy development and public education. She is on the board of the Yale Women in Physics, and outside of STEM, she loves to plays clarinet in the marching band and train for half-marathons.

Why Not Me? My story on why I ran to be an Assembly District Delegate in 2017

By: Grìsell Ariana Rodrìguez, SEIU-UHW, Assistant Director

Politics have always been in my DNA. I started young having political conversations at home.  Being a product of parents who escaped a civil war in Nícaragua, I was very self-aware of others’ living conditions.  As an 11 year old girl, living in California, as a first generation immigrant, I remember so clearly how the year 1994 affected me. Why 1994? Because it was the year Proposition 187 ballot initiative was passed. The ballot initiative would bar federal funding or access to social services to any undocumented Latino or anyone that looked "suspiciously illegal.”  It was widely believed that the political motivation behind the proposition was to intimidate the growing Latino population. When it passed, I was scared and fearful for my classmates, my family, friends and anyone who didn't look Caucasian.

Fast forward to 2016- I’ve had the amazing opportunity to work in the Labor Movement. For the last 8 years, I’ve always worked behind the scenes on every election since 2008: turning out our members, building up volunteers, and organizing Get Out the Vote (GOTV) for the campaigns we worked on.  In 2013, I had the opportunity to lead the first enrollment event in Southern California for the Affordable Care Act. It was 100% volunteer driven and we continued to enroll over 20,000 Californians over the next 2 years.

2016 started out like a regular election year, my job was to build up regional teams of leaders to participate in the primaries and the general election cycle.  My other responsibility, as the Secretary Treasurer for the Latino Caucus, was to get out the vote. During the week, I spent all of October turning out members to phone banks in Los Angeles.  Then I’d hop on a bus to Las Vegas, Nevada, in order to secure the Latino Vote for Hillary Clinton and Catherine Cortez Masto (the 1st Latína US Senator).

The following day after the election, I vowed to do more, not just for me, but for all the children in Los Angeles County

 The election season was exciting and come Election Day, Get Out the Vote (GOTV) day was seamless as ever in Nevada . On the bus back home, reality hit.  As an organizer, I began to do the numbers and it hit me for a second that everything that was at stake might be compromised.  Then I received a call from my 11 year old daughter, panicking and asking if we were going to be deported. In that moment, 1994 was happening all over again, but this time my daughter was the little girl. We all know what happened on November 9th.  To be honest, I felt so sickened, just like the day my ex-husband walked out on me with 3 children.

The following day after the election, I vowed to do more, not just for me, but for all the children in Los Angeles County, who woke up in fear due to Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric. That’s why, when I became aware of the Assembly District Delegate Elections, I didn’t think twice about running.  I had more than enough experience behind the scenes to be qualified.  I wanted my district to be reflective of its constituents, with more representation by minority women. On January 7th, I was elected as an official delegate of the 36th District in California.

 

Grisell A Rodriguez is a social activist in the labor movement and has the privilege to build leadership teams across California that passionately engage in social justice movements. She is currently seeking a post-graduate degree in Nonprofit Management and Leadership. She represents constituents of the 36th Assembly District in California, all the while, raising 3 independent, fearless thinkers, who know more about politics, than your average adult.

 

I Never Wanted to be a Princess

By: Sara Boivin, an art historian

I never wanted to a be a princess. I didn’t host imaginary tea parties. I didn’t bottle-feed baby dolls. I didn’t own a Barbie (not one). I never liked pink, never asked for a crown or tiara. I was forced to wear bows and ribbons in my braids. In fact, I was forced to wear braids. You know the kind…hair parted in the middle, mind-numbingly secured at the scalp, and again at the tail with bands bearing large plastic balls that could take out a tooth if you whipped them around too fast? Yeah, that kind. But my long thick, dark brown braids served me one incredible purpose…to have my mother twist them and pin them into “Leia buns.” This was a common request after my first exposure to the Star Wars series, which admittedly was the Empire Strikes Back, released in 1980, as I was only three when Star Wars IV arrived in theaters. I saw it at the end of June in the old movie house in Lake Placid, NY and all the way back to our camp, I shot my imaginary blasters through the back windshield at various Imperial Starfighters, closely resembling old Ford trucks and wood-paneled station wagons.

                 Sporting the Princess Leia braids at age 10 and Leia in Empire Strike Back, Planet Hoth

                Sporting the Princess Leia braids at age 10 and Leia in Empire Strike Back, Planet Hoth

Even at six years old, I knew the Star Wars experience was bigger-than-life because I felt enveloped and invested in that world. I was hooked. Lucas got me young. And so, I fell in love for the first time that day; with the act of movie-going, embracing two hours of escape, the seemingly endless creativity alien life-forms provided which satisfied my wild imagination, and with Leia. At the time, I was too young to know Princess Leia was a role model. That is only a revelation that comes with maturity, but for the first time in my young life I was more interested with what was on screen than which candy I had access to. Leia first appears in A New Hope via hologram, clad in white, projected by a droid while unveiling a mystery with an urgency I didn’t quite comprehend. However, Leia made me believe her message was very, very important and that her role mattered. So Leia, in essence, goes on to carry the entire saga even when she wasn’t on screen. But when she was present the character was complicated; often soft and caring, coupled with a sharp wit and sharper tongue. She could shoot a pistol, sling personal insults at ruthless dictators, and continue to fight for her personal beliefs and the shared principles of many being attacked by a few.

Like I said, I never wanted to be a princess at a tea party, but a princess who fights in a rebellion and becomes a general shaping the future of the cosmos?
Right on.

Now, the fact that Stars Wars IV, V, VI were considered unacclaimed movies with less than stellar acting and character development is not lost on me today but at six, who cares? I reveled in watching a young woman fight alongside men, garner respect amongst her counterparts as she built a galactic alliance to fight evil. She inspired people around her to stand up for what was right and good, and risk everything to shape a better future throughout the universe. And she wore cool-ass braids while doing it!

And as the Lucas, turned Disney formula continues, the franchise is still empowering women and girls to save the universe as seen in The Force Awakens to Rogue One. Rogue One had me on the edge of my seat as I watched yet another Star Wars heroine emerge, although quickly fade from the storyline only to find out actress Carrie Fischer had died while I was in the theatre. My two hours of escape were over and reality slapped me, and all Star Wars lovers in the face. Ms. Fischer’s death is a sad loss for the movie studio, a sad loss for her cadre of fans, and an even sadder loss for her surviving real family. Ms. Fischer had done the seemingly impossible for women in Hollywood by returning after almost 40 years to reprise that same role…well, sort of. Leia’s character, although brief on screen-time in The Force Awakens came back better, more mature, tougher, and even more beautiful in her confidence. What a pleasure it has been to watch Leia grow from a young princess with a purpose, to a general in the Resistance. Frankly I was looking forward to seeing how Ms. Fischer would bring General Organa’s leadership to life and be inspired by a seasoned role model fighting the good fight all over again. Because like I said, I never wanted to be a princess at a tea party, but a princess who fights in a rebellion and becomes a general shaping the future of the cosmos? Right on.

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So tonight, if my hair was long enough, I’d whip up some Leia-style braids and wear them around proudly (in the privacy of my own home). But alas, my hair is too short. So instead, I’ll go outside into the frosty air, look up into the clear night sky, spy the brightest star I can find, and name it “Leia Organa” and wish both the character and the actress who brought her to life, a deep and peaceful sleep in a galaxy, far, far away.

 

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Sara Boivin lives in Saratoga Springs, NY and is the curator of the Yates Gallery at Siena College, where she is currently collaborating and leading the efforts to repatriate ancient artifacts to their country of origin. Committed to the arts, Sara is also a painter working to complete a new body of work for exhibition. In addition, she cares deeply about politics and the future of her community and has been involved in local grass roots movements to effect change where she lives.

From Pain and Despondancy, a Call to Action

By: Grace A. Pan, a senior at Yale University

For me, November 8th, 2016 may well be a day that will live in infamy. Like many others, I woke up that morning with a tangible sense of empowerment, heading to the polls with my girlfriends as we cast our votes in our first ever presidential election for the first ever woman President of the United States. And like many others, I stayed up late that night, sobbing with my friends as we realized our votes were not going to elect the first ever woman POTUS.

The deeper pangs hit the next day when I watched Hillary Clinton’s poignant speech in which she implored us all to “never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.” Here was one of the world’s most dedicated, skilled, and passionate women experiencing perhaps the most devastating, high-stakes loss of a lifetime. Yet even in loss, she was able to, with poise and grace, call on her fellow women and Americans to keep fighting. With her resilience, she has renewed a sense of civic duty that many in my generation seem to have given up on.

It is no secret that millennials have the lowest voter turnout of any age group. Having grown up long after the suffragettes’ movements or the Civil Rights Movement, it is easy to believe that inequality only exists in the deadened pages of the past. It is easy to believe that as a society, America has progressed far past historical injustices. It is easy to fall complacent.

But in the same way that President Obama’s win hasn’t diffused racial tensions, Secretary Clinton’s potential win wouldn’t have done away with all the barriers we face as women. We live in a nation where less than 20% of the sitting U.S. Congress is female, where Sam Bee is the only woman on late-night, where I am often the only girl in my physics classes. Secretary Clinton’s painful loss holds this structural sexism up to scrutiny, making clear that our nation isn’t a peachy post-historical one, and inspiring in us a greater need to passionately fight and serve just as she has.

On November 12th, I walked with 20,000 other people from Union Square to Trump Tower. Young women and men brought posters and friends; elderly couples came with their adult children; mothers and fathers held up their daughters on their shoulders. These parents, in bringing their young girls, wanted them to see that unity and equality are the still the values that need fighting for. They showed them to not be afraid to stand up for what is right and to make sure their voices are heard.

For many of us, it was also the first time exercising our First Amendment rights to peaceably assemble. We were an eclectic group, but it was incredibly uplifting to see people willing to speak out for the rights of those different from them. (My personal favorite was the back-and-forth between women and men: “My body, my choice!” followed by “Her body, her choice!”) While some may be critical of those only now coming to the defense of others, sometimes it takes a loss for people to recognize each others’ similarities. Surely we all had differences in our political or personal beliefs, but I ultimately felt safe and supported in this community of strangers, most of whom looked nothing like me or even each other. I was truly moved by how empathetic everyone was, coming out of the protest with a rekindled optimism and powerful sense of individual responsibility and impact.

Nationally, the week following the election saw a massive surge in donations to non-profit organizations; for example, Planned Parenthood garnered more than 200,000 new donations, 40 times more than in a typical week. Many of my friends and I set up recurring donations to various non-profits and used social media to encourage others to do the same. These donations give me the hope that collectively we can make a large impact, starting with belief that each individual can make a difference.

And on Inauguration Day weekend, more than 100,000 women and allies will unite to March on Washington to stand for environmental rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, immigrant rights — human rights.

I hope that these displays of civic duty and feelings of empowerment don’t just ride the coattails of this election but continue to manifest in every one of us as we continue our work as parents or professionals or activists or children. I hope that we do not become complacent, that we do not just read think-pieces without taking action, or abstain from political participation altogether. Hillary’s loss has been painful for many of us, as it represents a cracked glass ceiling that didn’t break, or the sense of a promise rejected. But this “what could have been” is not so far in the future if we believe in our ability as individuals to make change, to be the role models our daughters need.

Irrespective of our political leanings, we can all consider Hillary’s challenge to us that she delivers through the frame of scripture: “My friends, let us have faith in each other, let us not grow weary and lose heart, for there are more seasons to come and there is more work to do.” I am optimistic that out of the confusion and despondency of this loss will rise a greater yearning for equality, a renewed sense of duty, and action.

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Grace Pan is a budding physicist who aspires to use her amateur roles as photographer, comedian, and writer to help promote gender equity. She co-organized the American Physical Society's 2015 Conference for Undergrad Women in Physics and is the photographer for all women in physics events at Yale. She's ecstatic to help bring visibility to women in male-dominated domains, be it physics or politics.