Television role models are fine, but there’s nothing like the real thing. That’s why Carolyn Reed-Smith, a language arts teacher at Whitlock Junior High School, took 22 of her students to Girls’ Day at Converse College Friday.
Led by Converse students, student-athletes, coaches and faculty, the first-year event featured activities throughout the campus – in athletics, art, dance, theater and science – for girls ages 6-14. In addition, WNBA veteran and former Furman University basketball standout Rushia Brown served as guest speaker during a lunch break. “This, to me, is like a day in the life of a college student,” Reed-Smith said, “and I wanted (my students) to be exposed to a college setting where they feel that confidence, that ‘this is something that I can do.’ ”
While walking her girls down a hallway on the way to a Girls’ Day art therapy class, Reed-Smith said her group passed by a Converse interior design class, where they saw a black student. “These girls (who are all black) see her sitting there taking this class,” Reed-Smith said, “so they can see themselves in that situation: ‘If I make sure my room is clean and I like to dress it up, and I have a flair for that, then I can be this (an interior designer).’ And that’s what it’s all about.”
More than 400 girls from the area attended Girls’ Day – doubling what event coordinator Ginny Alexander originally had predicted. Alexander, the volleyball coach at Converse, established a similar event in Jacksonville, Fla., for three years. “I thought it would be perfect to have it here at Converse,” she said, “because we’re a women’s college, and the campus atmosphere allows for us to expose these girls to so many different elements like art, theatrical performance, athletics and science. And all of those areas are so important to these girls, to their growth. “So we’re hoping to spark an interest with some kind of activity that maybe the girl hasn’t experienced in her life, and that maybe something will click and she’ll pursue that.”
More than 140 volunteers gave their time for the event, including Nestor Chacon, a coach with the Carolina FC soccer club who led soccer-related activities Friday along with Converse soccer coach Rob DePaol. “It’s just a matter of providing fun for (the girls) with the soccer ball, and hopefully it will help them make a decision to try soccer because it’s a great sport,” Chacon said.
While many of the girls frolicked in the Converse quad, playing soccer and football under a glorious blue sky, another group gathered nearby on the patio of the Blackman Music Building to participate in, and dance to, a drum circle. It was the one activity Shalynn Hawkins, a seventh-grader at Florence Chapel Middle School, was looking forward to the most. “It was fun,” she said. “It’s been a great response – 100 percent participation,” said Alison Watson, a Converse II student majoring in music therapy who led the group with senior Amy Gower. “Drumming is such an energetic activity, and we were blessed with a beautiful day to have it outdoors.”
This article was written by Gary Glancy of the Spartanburg Herald-Journal.