New Leadership Seminar Encourages Creative Activism
By Sarah Morehead Pope, 2006
“Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela
I teach in the Gore Leadership Institute, with the task of equipping our students with the tools to innovate and create positive change. Offerings through our Leadership Institute are designed not only to inspire students to want to make a difference, but also to consider what kind of difference they intend to make, and how they might begin to turn their ideas into realities. In the 10th and 11th grades, students work with the basic principles of leadership and entrepreneurship through multi-faceted leadership seminars they choose to take, including, for the first time this past fall, a course called Changemaking: Creative Activism + International Women’s Health.
This seminar came about when RPCS was approached by Jhpiego, an international, non-profit health organization affiliated with The Johns Hopkins University dedicated to improving the health of women and families, to see if we would be interested in piloting their Changemakers curriculum in our Gore Leadership Institute. Jhpiego’s Changemakers’ mission is to engage students in global women’s health issues and showcase proven methods for sustainability to holistically meet these challenges. Through a thoughtful, hands-on curriculum, Changemakers leverages individual interests and talents by empowering students with both the knowledge and tools to create actionable plans for social change.
Changemakers is the perfect fit for the Gore Leadership Institute at RPCS. It is aligned with our vision and belief that young women who build each other up will thrive. Over the course of the fall semester, students in this seminar gained a greater sense of issues related to women and girls within health systems – especially in developing regions around the world. Through exposure to stories that highlight the necessity of innovation and energy, the students became inspired to take action while learning the skills and tools needed to do so. Then, using Jhpiego’s efforts to make the world more equitable as a model, students took creative action to address the issues that felt most important to them.
The 10th graders in this seminar became creative activists, producing projects that address existing power structures and call for reform. Topics students chose to explore included maternal health, women’s empowerment, gender discrimination in healthcare, access to education, adolescent health, and disease prevention.
Three of the students’ project on female empowerment culminated in a podcast called Not All Queens Wear Crowns (available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts), in which they interviewed five different women from all aspects of life who are inspirational. “We were able to connect with amazing women and not only have great conversations about change-making, but also learn from their experiences. We learned a lot from these conversations and hope that we have also inspired some of our listeners as well,” said 10th graders Ryan G., Lanie L. and Taite S.
“I learned a lot from this class, and enjoyed taking a deeper look into women’s health and activism,” said sophomore Maggie W., who researched issues about advocacy and women’s health and created a web site detailing Serena Williams’ story of giving birth and the complications she faced when delivering her daughter a few years ago.
Makenzie P. and Blessing D. created an insightful presentation titled “Factors That Influence Adolescent Health,” with a focus on teenage pregnancies. “We were able to research and explore how different teenagers around the world are impacted by possibly being uneducated about matters involving their health,” Makenzie and Blessing said. “We really enjoyed getting to learn so much about this topic and hope that our project can enlighten others about it as well.”
Additional student projects included insightful presentations and creative public service announcements about gender discrimination and disease prevention, including COVID-19.
At RPCS we believe that leadership is a process of engagement that moves people toward awareness, compassion, and action to ultimately impact the world for the better. My students and I loved piloting Changemakers this fall and I am pleased to be able to offer the seminar again in the fall of 2021. The Gore Leadership Institute at RPCS is thrilled to be partnered with Jhpiego in this important work and to be able to give our students a global platform for their creative activism.
About Sarah Morehead Pope, 2006
Sarah Pope teaches in the Gore Leadership Institute at RPCS. This school year, in addition to piloting the Changemakers curriculum with 10th grade students, Sarah is co-advising the school’s student-run Philanthropic Literacy Board, and hosting Power Lunch, a new investing and networking program for students in grades 9-12. She also serves as an 11th grade advisor and is the faculty sponsor for RPCS’s Community Service Organization. For the past five years Sarah has served as a mentor for the Baltimore Girls Schools Leadership Coalition.