To the Editor:

As a preteen, I was kind of expecting it to be formal, quiet, and uptight. It was all such a new experience, and I was really confused what to do and where to go. I knew from looking at the email that there would be celebrities there, but I didn’t necessarily know how it would all pan out.”

On March 8, I had the privilege to be one of 300 people who attended an International Women’s Day summit in New York City, hosted by Aerie. Aerie is a lifestyle apparel retailer known globally to be an advocate of promoting positive awareness about body-image and inclusiveness - especially for women.

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It was my mom’s idea to take me to my first ever summit. When I arrived there, I was surprised to see how welcoming the environment was, and how genuine people were. It was absolutely not formal, quiet or uptight. There were tasty snacks, upbeat music and an exciting vibe was in the air. It was a very different experience from what I was expecting. People were embracing their age, their gender, their race, their disabilities, their differences, similarities and so much more. The event was made up of cool swag, networking and a series of panel discussions (with themes such as intent and action). The celebrities on these panels were Katherine Schwarzenegger-Pratt, Lana Condor, Tiff McFierce, Molly Burke, Aly Raisman, Dre Thomas and so many others.

Molly Burke, a blind Youtuber, said, “I’m making a difference by authentically sharing my story as a disabled woman, and not sugarcoating it or choosing to conform to the mold that people think I should fit.”

Being a preteen, I took away that one day I too may face a traumatic event, like Molly (losing her vision at a young age), and that embracing that change can give me a purpose in the future.

Ali Stroker, a Tony Award-winning actress who was the first to appear on Broadway in a wheelchair, stated, “The moment I realized I was a changemaker was when I looked around and I realized that there was no one else doing what I was doing.”

I understood that Ali had a dream. Looking at her story from the standpoint of a preteen, I realized that I can be like her. I recognize that others may see what makes me different as an obstacle, but I can also be the first to represent people like me.

Tiff McFierce, the first female DJ for the NY Knicks and Madison Square Garden, said, “I hope that when I bring people together that they see how much we really are alike, and how much healing is important, knowing that you’re enough is important, knowing that you are that tool in your toolbox, so utilize that wisely. Nothing outside of you is going to give you that happiness.”

Being one of the youngest audience members at the summit, Tiff left an impression on me. Going beyond her words of wisdom, she taught me that for creative females, the future is promising. Even though currently, creative women - especially minorities - are commonly under-acknowledged and underpaid.

As I stared out of the car window while my mom drove me back to Bridgewater, I started thinking about how I could inspire some of the other preteen girls in my community. Three ideas came to mind:

  1. Wouldn’t it be great if the Bridgewater-Raritan community could host their own International Women’s Day summit?
  2. Wouldn’t it be great if the Bridgewater-Raritan community could showcase our own Bridgewater-Raritan heroines during Women’s History Month?
  3. Wouldn’t it be great if the Bridgewater-Raritan school district created a women’s history initiative, starting from the intermediate grades, so that preteens can feel inspired at an early age?

I really hope that other girls my age will one day have the same experience I had on International Women’s Day. It was truly very inspiring and memorable. 

Sincerely,

Amalia Kylie Tsampalis

Bridgewater