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Viewpoint Herstory: Celebrating Women Advocating for Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging in Our Community
Viewpoint Herstory: Celebrating Women Advocating for Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging in Our Community

All month long, Viewpoint has commemorated Women’s History Month through educational activities in the classrooms and celebratory events on our campus. This year’s national theme celebrates “Women Who Advocate for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion,” and according to the National Women’s History Alliance, “this theme recognizes women throughout the country who understand the need to eliminate bias and discrimination from individuals’ lives and institutions for a positive future.”

At Viewpoint, we are proud to shine a light on a few of the remarkable employees and students who are leading the charge in advocating for diversity, inclusion, and belonging within our community. Their dedication and efforts inspire us all to continue fostering a culture of respect, understanding, and empowerment.

This is Our Viewpoint. Herstory. 

Patricia Jackson, Director of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Life

How did you feel when you first discovered this year’s theme for Women’s History Month?

My initial reaction in learning about this year’s theme for Women’s History Month was one of excitement and gratitude. Whenever individuals from underrepresented or traditionally marginalized groups are given opportunities and platforms to share their stories broadly, it matters. I hope that everyone will take the time to learn more about Women Who Advocate for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion because, like all women, we should be heard, seen, appreciated, respected … loved!

During the first week of Women’s History Month, Viewpoint hosted VOSOVOS: Our Stories. Our Voices. Our Stage., an original play that’s in its second year, and Just Imagine… the 8th Annual Diversity Leadership Day (DLD). Each highlighted women’s issues and gender equality among other topics. What do you believe contributed to the increased emphasis on women’s issues during this year's VOSOVOS?

We conduct various surveys to gather both formal and informal data, particularly in our diversity work. A series of Fishbowl sessions were conducted with Upper School students prior to my arrival at Viewpoint. Using the information from those transcripts, I began to collaborate across departments on projects that would offer all students more opportunities to be heard; to be seen; and, to be understood - this, in settings that are comfortable for them. In our inaugural production of VOSOVOS, students covered a multitude of topics that were important to them. This year, we did notice a sizable shift in students' concerns, especially those that highlight women's issues and feminism. Students often feel like their voices and feelings don’t matter, especially amidst external political discourse and changes on these topics, often leaving them without spaces and folks with whom to process such information. Programs like VOSOVOS provide students with intentional opportunities where they can express themselves freely, while developing their skills and working toward understanding the importance of good communication and audience appropriate storytelling. 

What did you think when you first read, heard, and watched “Women Can’t Win” and “Say I’m Enough” - just to name a few? How did you guide and counsel these students to prepare for their performances?

Credit for the successful development of these performances goes to Viewpoint's Chair of Theatre and Dance, Scott Feldsher, who provided months of invaluable support to the students - from the first brainstorming sessions through to the last production and beyond. Unlike last year, when we had a guest artist, this year was a self-driven effort, with Scott taking the lead. 

Whenever he encountered obstacles, we collaborated extensively, spending hours discussing not only the students’ desires, but the nuances that are involved in communicating highly emotional, very personal topics. Through this process, Scott reports that he gained deeper insight into the challenges students face, also enriching his professional depth. Each year, a few offerings push boundaries with their impactful truths, highlighting the importance of developing and using responsible language. With VOSOVOS, we emphasize the study of how the audience will receive the message as the artist stays true to self in the sharing of their story.

As you round out your third year at Viewpoint, what are some of the initiatives, programming, and overall progress you are most proud of as the Director of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Life? 

During the fall of 2023, we merged PPDI's annual potluck with our Fall Multicultural Day and World Languages Week. These combined efforts fostered a unified celebration where families joined together to enjoy great food and beautiful live music while learning about some of the many languages and cultures that thrive and help to inform our work here, at Viewpoint. Understanding each other's background sets the stage for more connectedness, leading to greater empathy and emphasizing the importance of mutual understanding and respect.

This year, we introduced Healing through Music, an event that was designed to highlight the many ways that music has influenced cultures (and vice versa) throughout time. This collaboration between our music and theatre departments, Bill Brendle (lead!), Scott Feldsher (the ever-present stage director), Carrie Dietsch (choir director) and my office brought together Viewpoint students, faculty/staff, parents/guardians, and alumni. It was truly a community effort.

Of course, there’s VOSOVOS! 

During this year’s closing performance, when the students collectively recited,"VOSOVOS 2023 … 2024," it brought tears to my eyes. I realized that the transcripts from our student’s Fishbowl exercises, the results from our NAIS Assessment of Inclusivity and Multiculturalism, and lots of informal data had served as powerful catalysts for the creation of this vibrant and impactful program. 

The heart of VOSOVOS lies in empowering students to develop and to authentically share their stories not only on stage, but also in their personal lives and beyond.

Outside of Viewpoint, what are some of your advocacy efforts?

Nearly a decade ago, I started a project called Books and Bears at under-resourced schools and community centers in South L.A. and Inglewood. One of the primary challenges in these spaces is the availability of and access to new books that celebrate the rich tapestry of human existence and experiences, particularly during the holiday season when many students weren't receiving gifts.  Each year, I visit these communities, read to amazing students, and joyfully provide them with teddy bears, books, and candy, to help foster a love for reading and offering the cuddly comfort of a soft and huggable teddy bear. 

Inspired by a connection between my daughter’s work with children and families in hospitals, and my work with children and families in TK-12 schools, I helped to support the development of her Mental Wellness program for students, teachers, and parents/guardians that became a Harvard University award winning program called Embrace the Mind. I had the honor of serving as a preceptor for her master's research project. Embrace The Mind prioritizes the mental health of traditionally underrepresented students while incorporating research-backed strategies and interventions. Years later, the program continues to thrive.

As we celebrate Women's History Month, who are some women—historical or contemporary—that have inspired you?

I am eternally grateful to have been raised by a strong, loving, and seemingly invincible Southern Black woman whose methods of teaching and parenting were, most often, very strict and to the point; whose love and support for her children were unwavering; and, whose desire to do whatever she could to have each of us reach their full potential was non-negotiable. Though she had very little formal education, Mrs. Jackson knew what life would bring, so she imparted knowledge and wisdom inside me that no book or classroom has ever replicated. Though I went on to live in worlds that she could not have imagined, life continues to reveal to me the truths that she taught.

Ardythe Sayers was another force of nature in my life - a woman whose kindness and grace helped to usher me into the new worlds in which I would live. A world traveler who has never met a stranger, Ardie would whip up a meal on a fire pit in the middle of the Rhine Valley, then venture with me to the best restaurants and museums in any location around the world. I continue to be awed by her ability to code-switch without blinking, complaining, or celebrating. What did she teach me? Flow.

When two of my children were students at Princeton University, I was introduced to a professor who never had children of her own, but nurtured and mentored as many students (and their families) as she could. Dr. Walizer became a cherished confidante from whom I received a most unexpected education. She graciously opened her home to me whenever I visited, offering wisdom and engaging discussions about life and education that I use in my practice to this day.

Today, my daughter, Dr. Tiana Woolridge, MD, MPH, board certified pediatrician and sports medicine fellow, continues to be a major source of inspiration for me. She challenges me to be a better human. 

Over the course of her many years in school, she has pushed me to elevate the way that I look at life - the ways that I work and the things that I do, insisting that I join her in as many experiences (classroom, travel, life!) as possible. She consistently encourages me to evolve, always raising the bar on what possibilities, excellence, and life balance look like for a woman, for a Black woman - all this, while taking care of her own challenges, triumphs, and everything in between with a type of grace, kindness, and strength that makes a momma proud.

Sue Jean Woodmansee, Primary & Lower School Librarian

Could you share with us a bit about your background and personal journey? What experiences or events led you to become passionate about advocating for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace and beyond?

For those who may not know, I’m actually a Viewpoint alumna. My mom is Korean-American and I lived overseas in Southeast Asia in Hong Kong and Taipei for most of my childhood. I came to Viewpoint after living internationally for nine years in non-English speaking countries, and adjusting to a small school in Calabasas that wasn’t as diverse at the time was tricky. From Viewpoint, I went to UCLA which was massive and very diverse, so I got to see many different sides of the coin. 

My mom, born and raised in Korea, earned her first Master's in Chemistry before coming to the United States as an international student. She obtained another Master's in Computer Science and a PhD in Artificial Intelligence when I was six. As a computer science professor in three countries, she was a strong international role model in education. It wasn't until I became a mom that I realized how unique her achievements were and how much she influenced me.

Today, I hold two Master's Degrees and share my mother's commitment to uplifting women in STEM. Having assisted her research on minority women in computer science during her time as a professor at California Lutheran University (CLU), where she received a grant from the National Science Foundation, I've been involved in this field for quite some time. During the pandemic, I transitioned from architecture to librarianship to enrich my children's education. I developed a passion for diverse literature which led me to pursue a second Master's Degree in Library Science, driven by a deep commitment to social justice in the field.

Why is it crucial to prioritize the representation of women in fields like STEM and other traditionally male-dominated industries, particularly within educational environments?

In the library world, a researcher from Ohio State introduced the idea of "windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors" in literature. She explained that books should serve as windows to other worlds, mirrors reflecting oneself, and sliding glass doors allowing immersion into different experiences. This concept extends beyond literature to include the people in our lives, role models, and educational experiences. Having women around us is crucial as they serve as both mirrors and windows, offering reflection and access to new perspectives.

Can you share with us some key insights or impactful moments you gained from attending this year's People of Color Conference?

The People of Color Conference (PoCC) was a life-changing experience. Everyone told me before I went that it’s the best conference they had ever been to and it wasn’t until I got there that I really understood. The power of feeling seen is just something that all humans need, no matter what age you are. I participated in various affinity groups and one of the ones I attended was for people of mixed race and culture. That was the first time I was in an affinity group with people who don’t identify singularly. When people look at me they see an Asian woman, but that’s not all I am. Being able to relate to other people who are a mix of all these amazing backgrounds and cultures and to feel seen in that way is really nice. 

One of the pivotal moments for me was when a Korean girl took the stage with her cello and performed "Arirang," a profoundly significant song in Korean culture. I wept watching her emotional performance. It’s a powerful moving song that every Korean knows and a hymn that my mom sang to me as a child. I also grew up playing the cello and watching her perform in front of 3,000 PoCC attendees made me feel so seen. She was my mirror - and to see myself reflected in her - was a powerful moment beyond words. 

As we celebrate Women's History Month, who are some women—historical or contemporary—that have inspired you in your journey towards advocating for equity, diversity, and inclusion?

My mom is one of my heroes, alongside Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Today (March 8), I'm proudly wearing my RBG-inspired collar, a tradition I uphold every International Women’s Day to honor her legacy. Additionally, I deeply admire Abby Wambach, the soccer player, for her remarkable efforts in championing equality, particularly in bridging the gender pay gap in sports. Her resilience and advocacy serve as a powerful inspiration, and I hold immense respect for her journey and achievements.

Laurel Eith ‘24 and Riley Brown ‘26

Could you share a bit about your background and personal journey? What experiences or events led you to become passionate about advocating for diversity, equity, and inclusion?

L: I've been in the feminism club since my freshman year, even though it was during COVID. My friend Emily and I started leading the club this year, after helping out last year. My interest in feminism began when I attended the Women's March in fifth grade with my mom. Since then, I've always tried to incorporate feminism into different parts of my life, like theatre. This year, we saw a great opportunity to blend feminism into our theatre performances.

R: I've been interested in feminism since I was young. I attended the Women's March in third grade with my mom, and human rights have always been important to me. I became more passionate about feminism in Middle School, especially as I noticed all the gaps. I remember having debates with classmates, including boys who made discriminatory remarks like "women belong in the kitchen." I've always been outspoken, and when I got to Upper School and found a feminism club, I was excited to join.

You both delivered a remarkably powerful performance titled “Women Can’t Win” at VOSOVOS 2024. What inspired the creation of this piece, and can you share your experience in bringing it to life?

R: I began writing the piece initially, and as we collaborated, it became longer. Each section had more content, and we had to work on trimming it down. VOSOVOS provides us with a stage to share our voice, so we wanted to touch on the multitude of challenges women face, many of which we couldn’t fully address due to time constraints. There's simply too much to cover.

L: I knew I wanted to address feminism, so I started discussing it with Riley, who began writing. We collaborated closely, and our piece underwent numerous drafts. Initially, we considered making it a poetry piece, but it evolved through various stages. Much of the editing involved removing and adding sections, as well as finding the right balance in our expression - making sure it wasn't too explicit, offensive, or overly censored.

You both led a workshop called “Misconceptions in Feminism” on Diversity Leadership Day. What are some of those misconceptions and why do you think they still exist today?

L: We believed it was crucial to address these issues and make generalizations to reach a broader audience. Some of the misconceptions we discussed included the notion that feminists hate men, the gender pay gap, and the misconception that women have achieved equality simply because they have the right to vote. We also emphasized the importance of intersectional feminism, highlighting how privileges vary among different groups of women, even within the United States.

R: One of the challenges with modern-day feminism is countering the misconception that it's radical and aims to prioritize women over men. While historically, feminism fought for fundamental rights, critics today often argue that it fosters anti-male prejudice and hinders equality. However, at its core, feminism is not about gender rivalry or elevating women above men; it's about striving for equality. It's about acknowledging that women possess the same capabilities, intelligence, passion, and worth as men

As we celebrate Women's History Month, who are some women—historical or contemporary—that have inspired you in your journey towards advocating for equity, diversity, and inclusion?

L: Malala Yousafzai holds a special place in my heart because I read her book, "I Am Malala," back in third grade, and her story deeply resonated with me. I also had the opportunity to see her speak live a few years ago, delivering an hour-long speech that left a lasting impression. Her advocacy for girls' education is incredibly inspiring and sheds light on one of the central issues in feminism. While she is well-known, I believe emphasizing her importance can only further highlight the significance of her work.

R: Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In fifth grade, I did a presentation on her where I made a diorama and wrote an essay about her. I depicted her "inauguration" with toy books and paper cutouts. Another hero of mine is Courtney Love. I'm a big fan of grunge music and punk rock, and I even have a bracelet from her band.

Kelly Toovey, Primary and Lower School P.E. Teacher, Lower School Coach

Can you share with us a bit about your background and journey as a female coach, and what initially drew you to the world of youth sports?

My journey began with youth sports, thanks to my parents who got me involved at an early age. Growing up, I participated in various sports, including volleyball, softball, and basketball, all the way through high school. However, it was softball that truly ignited my passion, eventually earning me a scholarship to play at California State University, Northridge (CSUN).

Upon graduating, a close friend of mine said, “I have an opening at this private school for a P.E. teacher. I think you would be great.” At the time, I was pursuing a degree in psychology, but I decided to give it a try. Surprisingly, I found teaching to be a natural fit for me. It seamlessly integrated with the knowledge I had gained from my psychology classes. I've now been at Viewpoint for 23 years.

How do you perceive the role of women in advocating for equity, diversity, and inclusion within youth sports, and what are some significant changes or progress you've witnessed in this regard over the years?

Growing up, I didn't have many female coaches, and that realization sparked a desire within me to become a positive role model for young athletes. That's why I take immense pride in coaching, alongside Coach Garza, with whom I collaborate closely. We are committed to teaching girls the importance of athleticism, setting goals, and pursuing their passions without hesitation. Our aim is to instill in them the confidence to embrace their ambitions and be accepted for who they are. I believe that as educators and coaches, we have the power to empower young girls and help them realize their full potential.

As we celebrate Women's History Month, what message or advice would you like to share with young girls aspiring to pursue careers in coaching or sports leadership roles?

As women coaches, our primary goal is to cultivate meaningful relationships with our student-athletes and to nurture an environment where they feel a sense of belonging and respect. We believe in empowering athletes by instilling in them a sense of ownership and accountability for their own destinies. Through sports, individuals learn valuable life lessons, shaping their character and preparing them for the challenges they may face. For those aspiring to become coaches, fostering such an environment should always remain a paramount goal.

We need more women in the physical education and coaching world to influence, motivate, and guide young girls. Women offer diverse perspectives, insight, and advice. This is one of the most rewarding jobs. We help create leaders, build trust, enforce teamwork and communication through hard work on the field, court, and pool. 

Looking ahead, what do you envision for the future of diversity and inclusion within youth sports, and how do you hope to continue contributing to this important movement?

I take pride in the long-standing tradition of promoting diversity through sports. By fostering social cohesion, community sports strengthen our Viewpoint community. They unite individuals from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and beliefs, fostering appreciation, respect, and celebration of both differences and shared interests.

Learning from each other is essential in any role, whether coaching or otherwise. In sports, starting young fosters teamwork and enjoyment, leading to personal growth and development. As a coach, I continually evolve through these experiences, becoming more understanding and accepting. I emphasize the importance of listening, supporting, and advocating for one another, mirroring the teamwork required on the field. This collaborative approach cultivates success and unity.

As we celebrate Women's History Month, who are some women—historical or contemporary—that have inspired you in your journey towards advocating for equity, diversity, and inclusion?

I've learned so much about teaching and working with young children through Claudia Antoine and Cathy Adelman. They're just such great role models, and they're such a good support system. Additionally, my mom and sister are my heroes. They are strong, inspiring women who have helped me navigate life and support my passions.

Summer Morgan ‘26

Can you tell us a bit about your involvement in sports at Viewpoint and what initially sparked your interest in exploring various activities?

My family is very involved in sports. I've got a brother who played basketball professionally overseas, and my grandpa was a baseball player. Those are the two sports I'm into right now. They're the ones who got me started with both. But honestly, I enjoy pretty much every sport. That's why I'm involved in sports media and photography. I've taken pictures for football games and some volleyball matches too. It's a huge passion and hobby of mine.

How do you perceive Viewpoint's approach to inclusivity within its sports programs, and what initiatives or opportunities have you observed that promote diversity and participation among students?

I believe there are ample opportunities for everyone to explore different sports. It's not like there are strict limitations, except maybe when there's an overflow of participants, which only happened with basketball this year. Overall, it's been great because I've had the chance to try out softball for the first time without feeling pressured about my skills. It's all about giving it a shot and enjoying the experience.

Can you share any personal experiences or anecdotes where you felt supported or encouraged by the Viewpoint community in pursuing your athletic endeavors?

Starting out in softball, I was placed at second base, which was a bit intimidating since it was my first time. But when I did something well, everyone cheered and encouraged me, which made me feel welcomed and supported. Even if I make mistakes, I never feel judged because everyone has my back. It's been a fun and inclusive experience, especially for my first year playing.

In your opinion, why is it important for educational institutions to prioritize inclusivity and diversity within their sports programs, and what benefits have you seen as a result of this focus?

When a sports team has only experienced players, the focus often shifts solely to winning and avoiding losses. However, incorporating new members fosters a stronger team spirit. Some established teams may expect the best from their players, but integrating newcomers creates a more inclusive and comfortable environment.

As we celebrate Women's History Month, who are some women—historical or contemporary—that have inspired you in your journey towards advocating for equity, diversity, and inclusion?

Beyoncé and my mom are my two main role models. Beyoncé's ability to unite diverse communities through her music and performances, including LGBTQ+ individuals and people of all sizes, inspires me. My mom, on the other hand, continuously inspires me in everything she does. 

Women’s History Month may be coming to a close, but every day at Viewpoint, we honor and celebrate the remarkable women in our community, recognizing their impact and ensuring their voices are heard. These employees and students are among hundreds at our School who advocate for diversity, inclusion, and belonging. And, we will continue to shine a light on Herstory.  

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