Vonetta Edwards and Isabelle Garcia are members together on the Immigration Subcommittee at St. Ignatius Church in Baltimore, Maryland. Vonetta is a scientist at the University of Maryland and Isabelle is a program associate. They shared their thoughts on education for our month-long series, "Focus On Her," in honor of International Women's Day 2020.
Vonetta Edwards. Baltimore, MD, USA.
What does education mean to you?
Vonetta: Education is the ability to aim for the sky so that even if I fall I might land on the summit of a mountain.
Isabelle: Self-empowerment and freedom. Education is the key to independence and self-advocacy. It is the means by which we discover our interests and our passions. Yet another wonderful by-product of education - the urge to share knowledge with others, the understanding of what it brings, and can bring, to other people. What is more powerful than this?
Isabelle Garcia. Baltimore, MD, USA.
I believe in Education because…
Vonetta: An uneducated world is likely to repeat many of the atrocities previously inflicted on many groups due to fear, lack of exposure and lack of understanding.
Isabelle: it changes lives for the better.
When has access to education played a major role in your life?
Vonetta: Access to good elementary and high school education and a resulting scholarship allowed me to become the first member of my family with a four-year degree.
Isabelle: The importance of education was ingrained in me by my parents. In the Philippines, jobs are very hard to come by, and parents always urged their children to do well in school so that they may have a good future.
Was there a memorable female teacher throughout your education whose teachings stayed with you?
Vonetta: So this is a two-part answer. The first is my grandmother who, as a teacher, instilled a love of reading in me. This not only allowed me to expand my horizons, but allowed early development of reading and comprehension. The other is my English teacher in high school who instilled the necessity of critical analysis when reading. So that you are not only reading but also analyzing what is being said. These techniques have been absolutely critical in not only my chosen career, but in also navigating this beautiful but complicated world we live in.
Isabelle: Madame Wilson is the female teacher I remember the most. She was my French teacher throughout high school, and I remember her kindness, her whimsy, and her positivity. High school can be a tricky place for anyone, but I knew in my bones that Madame Wilson's classroom was always a safe place for me.
How does your education influence your life today?
Vonetta: It has allowed me to be self sufficient and to know that I am the author of my life story. It has also allowed for me to support my little sister, allowing her to develop into the amazing woman that she is today.
Isabelle: Education influences every aspect of my life today. I currently work as a fundraiser for a public research university - a position I would never have gotten without my education.
What is one hope you have for the future of education for women and girls?
Vonetta: That it becomes so ubiquitous that it is taken for granted (in the sense that it has become a right and not something that you have to fight to gain).
Isabelle: One day, I hope that women and girls in every country have access to quality, free education.
Thank you, Isabelle and Vonetta.
(Photo credit for this post: Jacqueline M. Sofia for Sitti)
This post is part of Sitti’s “Focus On Her” blog series. In the spirit of International Women’s Day and as part of the our IWD 2020 Initiative, we are sharing stories and images on the Sitti blog of women around the world whose access to education has helped shaped their lives. International Women’s Day is a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. It is also a call to action to accelerate women's equality. The more we understand how education impacts womens’ ability to succeed in their goals and ambitions, the more we can advocate for education equality regardless of gender. Learn more about how you can be an advocate for education equality with Sitti at: https://sittisoap.com/pages/international-womens-day-2020