Fighting and Supporting
As a student leader at University at Buffalo, I tend to be classified into different groups: white college student, female, sorority girl, student leader, member of various organizations, and more. Often times I am usually just labeled as one of them. However, there is more to me than that. I am a believer, an advocate, a supporter, and a fighter.
I believe that everyone can accomplish anything they put their mind to.
I am an advocate – I have lobbied congress and recently traveled to Washington, DC to talk to congress about the Title IX act and how it affects women on college campuses.
I am a supporter in what women do and I support others.
I am a fighter and care about causes that affect society and affect my community.
My childhood friend from back home is much more than what she gets labeled as too. She isn’t just a friend, student and mom. She is her own personal advocate, fighter, supporter and believer.
She had her amazing son at the age of 19. She had just finished her first year at community college when she gave birth to him in July, 2013. She took time off from school and focused on raising him and saving money. After a semester off, she began to slowly go back to school, taking classes part time and studying for certification tests. Although she probably could have graduated by now or received a certification, she has not. I am a firm believer that if she had career support at her school from someone who understood her situation she would have graduated.
She is extremely lucky to have a support system from her family and friends, but sometimes that just isn’t enough. She needs someone in her court at her community college advocating, supporting, fighting and believing in her as a single mom. She needs a program like the NCCC MOMS program, funded by the WNY Women’s Foundation.
The MOMS: From Education to Employment initiative is an academic and support program to assist low-income, single parent student mothers who are pursuing a college education at Niagara Community College with targeted educational programs where there is a high demand for employees and higher wages, such as health, tourism and STEM careers. A program like this would have helped my friend get back on her feet and finish school, benefitting both her and her son.
I am a fighter for my friend’s needs and a supporter of what she does for her and her son.
Believing and Advocating
Recently, UB was honored to have Dear World come to the university. Dear World gives the opportunity to share a story through a picture. They have photographed numerous universities, the UN, Boston Marathon Survivors, Syrian refugees in Jordan, and more.
I knew about Dear World coming a few weeks in advance and had time to prepare what I wanted to share. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do something more generic, like “Live life to the fullest”, or something more serious about the recent tragedies in the world, like “Pray for All”.
I contemplated various stories I wanted to disclose but I didn’t feel like they were important enough to share. The day before I was going to take my photo, I knew I needed to decide on something. That day I was interning at WNY Women’s Foundation, and we took a trip to visit one of our Impact Grants, the Valley Community Association’s “Building Up the Future” program, located in the Buffalo River Community.
The Valley Community Association offers 5th-8th grade girls the opportunity to learn about themselves and build skills that will serve them in the future as a part of their after school programming. Participating girls will attend specialized workshops throughout the school year that will focus on building self-esteem and confidence, team-building, goal-setting, healthy relationships, positive body image, self-respect and recognizing their own inner beauty. We visited the girls, who were doing portraits of their roles models and of themselves at the CEPA Gallery on Main Street in Buffalo.
The girls that were taking part in the program that evening were so inspirational and wise. The moment that struck a chord for me was when the girls went around the table sharing the photo they took of their role models in the past week. Listening to the girls share how their role models had reacted to the photos that the girls had taken of them, I realized what I wanted to share for Dear World.
Here is my story:
My grandfather suffers from Alzheimer’s that has progressed throughout the years. The one thing he still always tells me is that I am a “Shayna Maidel”, which means pretty girl in Yiddish.
Girls and women put themselves down far too often. Just yesterday, I was at a program for middle school girls that my internship funds. They were doing a photography project about their role models. Half of the girls said that when they showed their role models the photo, their role model said that they looked “fat” or “ugly” in the picture. What kind of message are we sending to young girls when we say this?
My grandfather, even when he doesn’t know who I am, always reminds me that I am a Shayna Maidel. I am reminding everyone else that they are a Shayna Maidel too! Remember this for those that can’t remember who they are or who they love. ?#?EndAlz ?#?DearUB ?#?DearWorld”
By sharing my story, I hope that women and girls stop putting themselves down. I believe every woman and girl is beautiful and I advocate for those that don’t believe they are.
Being an intern for the WNY Women’s Foundation has been inspiring. The experiences I have had here have shaped my decisions and views on life. Through programs at NCCC for moms, WoMen in Action, Impact Grants, and other programs, the WNY Women’s Foundation is helping the WNY region and creating a path so other regions can do the same.