Angelou is focus of Women’s Center book discussion

Located inside Dewey Hall, the Johnson State College Women’s Center is a welcoming resource for students not only seeking personal help, advice, and resources related to women’s health issues, but also an all-inclusive book club offering readings and discussions on topics ranging from women’s issues, sexual harassment, and sexual health, to poverty, foster care, and body awareness.

Towards the end of the fall and spring academic semesters, members of the Women’s Center book club meet to discuss, debate, and explore the book they chose to read throughout the past semester. For the spring 2016 semester, members of the Women’s Center book club read the autobiography “Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou.

Members of the Women’s Center held a group book discussion for the autobiography on March 25 in the Women’s Center. This was the final book discussion of the 2016 spring semester and the last discussion that senior Samantha Gorton participated in while enrolled as a student at JSC, along with Karen Madden, director of Academic Support services.

“The book discussion provides an environment for people who care about similar issues or important topics and allows students to be a part of a social event that may be significant or beneficial to them.
There are many conversations that students, especially female students, want to be involved in but may not otherwise get the chance to talk about those issues or topics,” said Gorton. “It’s an opportunity for young women to connect with others about subjects that interest them or have impacted them at one point in their life.”

Gorton has worked at and been a member of the Women’s Center since her sophomore year at JSC in 2012. Her role at the Women’s Center is to be available for students who are seeking personal help, someone to speak with privately, a place to relax while working on assignments, or simply good company.

“In addition to the Women’s Center being a place to raise awareness, it is also a place for women to go when they are not feeling safe, if they need to talk about personal issues such as if a student has been sexually harassed, raped, or if they may think that they are pregnant,” said Gorton.

While the Women’s Center primarily deals with issues and discussions pertaining to female students, Gorton said that the Women’s Center is open to all students of any gender at JSC.

“The Women’s Center is not just about sex and women’s health, which is a belief that many students have about the Women’s Center,” said Gorton. “It is also a place to go to relax, socialize with other students, and to become involved in the JSC community.”

The Women’s Center offers a variety of resources and has access to information regarding safe sex, physical health, mental health, and physical safety. It offers brochures and phone numbers to different community resources such as the Clarina Howard Nichols Center, Planned Parenthood, and local mental health clinics.

“Some of the main issues that we have raised awareness about in the last few years include poverty, foster care, breast cancer, sexual assault, first generation college students, single mothers, and women’s history,” said Gorton.

During her years working for the Women’s Center, Gorton has also been involved in organizing and participating in a variety of community outreach events on JSC campus. These events include a presentation of a project about body awareness and women’s portrayal in the media, weekly yoga sessions at the Women’s Center, and hosting a showing of the film “Miss Representation,” a 2011 documentary film about sexism within American society and the media.

In the past, Gorton has also helped the Women’s Center create a team of students to represent TRiO and the Women’s Center to help fundraise for the Relay for Life event, a fundraising event for cancer research and awareness that took place at JSC during the academic years 2014 and 2015. The team ended up fundraising over $2000 over the course of two and a half years and earning first place both years for raising the most money.

“It has been our goal to get more students, especially women, involved in the Women’s Center,” said Gorton. “There are many issues to be addressed, whether it be body awareness, stress relief, sexual harassment, or simply being a busy student, and by students being involved in the Women’s Center students can join together and become involved in the things that interest them the most.”

While this is Gorton’s last year representing the Women’s Center, she said she sees a lot of potential for the Women’s Center in the future and for the young women who will take her place after she graduates.

Gorton said that the Women’s Center played a significant role in her development as a student and a young woman throughout her years at JSC and hopes that other students are able to have positive and impactful experiences with the Women’s Center.

“If a student is in need of additional supports, there is typically a student working in the Women’s Center that will be able to assist with helping that student gain access to whatever resource is needed,” said Gorton. “It is important for students to know that regardless of who is working in the Women’s Center at that time, they will be non-judgmental and happy to help no matter what situation that student may be in, and that we are there to serve upon request.”