By: Alexis Wright
With an early morning chill kissing the sunny Tucson sky, 8th graders from schools across the district filed off buses at the El Con Mall Theatre for a special treat.
Buckets of popcorn and sodas awaited them. Their voices buzzed with anticipation. As they settled down into their seats and the lights dimmed, a hush fell over the young crowd.
Hidden Figures, a movie about the African American women who worked at NASA and calculated the math for sending a man into space, swept the girls up in a journey of determination, history and the belief in oneself.
The viewing kicked off an all-day field trip event for the middle school girls to emphasize the importance of achieving your goals, no matter how big they are, as it takes education and perseverance.
"You are all sister scholars," said Kendal Washington White, the assistant vice president of student affairs and dean of students at the University of Arizona. "You should all see yourselves as scholars and as sisters."
An empowerment luncheon followed the conclusion of the movie, which was organized by Isoken Adodo, the coordinator for African American Student Affairs at the U of A.
The event also prompted the conversation about the value placed on having a driven, and positive support system.
"For women, especially black women, we share a lot of the same experiences or knowledge about the things that we go through," Adodo said. "It's through the relationships and through those experiences that we are able to overcome the next obstacle."
The luncheon allowed the girls to hear from successful African American women in various positions in the community and all levels of academia. The idea was to surround the middle school students with impactful, smart women and show them that anything is possible.
For a group at Booth-Fickett Magnet School, the two-part event initially began as a simple trip to the movies, with an open discussion afterwards.
That quickly changed.
Destiny Grigsby, student success specialist at Booth-Fickett, contacted the Educational Enrichment Foundation about the opportunity for an open dialogue.
In turn, EEF sponsored two buses for the trip to the movies, and then to the U of A Rec Center for lunch. Adodo raised $1000 through a GoFundMe account, which the kickstarter site matched in full.
Enough money was raised to make the event an impactful day of personal connection and valuable self-image.
"The students are able to get to see what happened back then and how women in general have come so far to be independent and be chemists and scientists," Grigsby said. "I want them to take away that anything is possible and never to give upon their dreams."
As the students departed back to their respective schools, the air seemed lighter, more confident. The film and luncheon gave the girls an outlet for future opportunities and personal growth.
Booth-Fickett 8th grader, Amil, took away that being a strong-willed woman is a good thing.
"I never pictured or knew that black people were in that field, and it was inspiring how it doesn't really matter about your race, you can do whatever you put your mind to."