Praising the Work of Those Who Came Before
By Olivia Calamia
Though there have been many advances for women in modern society, the glass ceiling is an ever-present barrier. Indeed, the glass ceiling has infested schools; it has inundated houses.
The struggle for women is not new, however. The advances today are made, in part, thanks to the many people who have worked hard to promote the rights and well-being of girls. Among them was a 19th-century nun, Sister Catherine McAuley of the Sisters of Mercy.
On Sept. 24, 1827, on the feast day of Our Lady of Mercy, Catherine McAuley responded to the needs of young women by establishing the first Home of Mercy.
This was one of several residences that housed poverty- and disease-stricken girls in the city of Dublin, Ireland. The inheritor of a generous estate from a married Quaker couple, for whom she cared in their later years, Catherine McAuley resolved to allocate her newly acquired resources to an altruistic cause.
The first Home of Mercy, located on Baggot Street, and the several others that were constructed afterward opened the doors for disadvantaged girls to education and the chance to better their lives and those of their families.
Catherine McAuley believed that education was the springboard from which young girls would one day find employment and be able to provide for themselves.
So profound was her confidence in the potential of education that in 1942, 100 years after her death, Catherine McAuley H.S. was opened in her name in Flatbush. Until its closing in 2013, due to financial issues, the all-girls high school was dedicated to the same fundamental education of young women as had been McAuley’s Homes of Mercy. The building where the high school stood is now used by Cristo Rey Brooklyn, continuing the Catholic education Catherine McAuley fought so hard for.
Catherine McAuley endured a great amount of hardships as a child. She became an orphan at a young age and afterward was taken in by relatives who were zealously anti-Catholic, putting the young girl in direct conflict with their beliefs.
However, the strong-minded woman that she was, she refused to be discouraged by her upbringing. She instead devoted herself to providing girls with a better lifestyle than she had.
Calamia is a junior at St. Saviour H.S., Park Slope.
And Continuing in Their Footsteps
Chelsea Miller, a senior at St Saviour H.S., Park Slope, joined over 300 women from around the world at the Women’s Forum Conference in Burma.
The conference was organized by Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. Miller earned the all-expense-paid trip by her participation as a youth leader in the ANNpower “Dare to Dream” program, which is part of Ann Taylor. The program is for girls, ages nine to 12, that come from underprivileged communities.
Miller implemented a six-week youth mentoring program at the UFT Charter School, and through poetry, dancing and singing the girls were taught the art of self-expression. The curriculum consisted of the following topics: hopes and dreams, education, peer-pressure, relationships and recognizing the power within.
Another aspect of the program was community service. The girls chose a cause to support and raised awareness about it through fundraising and public speeches. The cause they chose to support was the American Diabetes Association, and they sold fruit cups to raise awareness about health and wellness. In just one week, they raised close to $200.
Miller pitched her program to the Women’s Forum Conference attendees and was later given a tour of select locations in Burma.