Girls Build 2018


Julissa Ventureno

Students pose with free shirts at Girls Build LA.

Minerva Theresa, Features Editor

Last Friday on Sept. 28, approximately 10,000 girls from all over Los Angeles County high schools gathered at USC’s Galen Center to attend the fourth annual Girls Build LA Summit. Venice High School took a large group of 100 girls who were first timers, returners, and the girls of the Sports Medicine team.

This year, the LA Promise Fund-sponsored event made an early return at a different location. Last year, the summit was hosted at the Los Angeles Convention Center in mid-December.

The LA Promise Fund is a nonprofit organization that sponsors various programs, but none are as focused on young female empowerment as Girls Build. Not only does Girls Build host large events such as its summit, it also runs a yearlong program that challenges groups of young women to participate in grassroots projects aimed at utilizing STEM and 21st Century skills to innovatively correct issues in their communities.

This year, the organization partnered with former First Lady Michelle Obama’s newly launched nonpartisan nonprofit program, When We All Vote, which aims to make the voting process much more accessible to all American citizens. Indeed, the Girls Build LA Summit heavily emphasized on rallying young women to vote or pre-register to in anticipation of the midterm elections on Nov. 6.

“It’s very inspirational and motivational that women have the power to change our society by voting,” said senior attendee Lilly Martinez.

After waiting in long lines, each school was welcomed into a fun atmosphere by DJ Smiles Davis spinning booming rap music. Shortly after, MC Ryan Brown came up onstage to welcome the first panel led by Grace Parra, who runs a podcast that translates politics into a topic that is easier to understand.

During the panel, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla was joined by Delaney Tarr and Kyrah Simon, two students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where the Parkland school shooting occurred earlier in February.

The three discussed the beginnings of their involvement in political activism. Padilla graduated with an engineering major, but he saw the need to represent his community and entered political work. Torr and Simon were both impacted by the Parkland tragedy, which only added to their dedication to be activists for feminism, immigration policies and inner-city infrastructure.

They also touched upon the current Ford-Kavanaugh case. Tarr encouraged the eligible voters in the audience to participate in the midterm elections because they determine the Senate who in turn has the power to confirm or refuse a Supreme Justice to the nation’s highest court.

“Vote, please vote. Vote for your lives!” urged Tarr.

Probably the most anticipated speaker of the summit, producer Shonda Rhimes finally took the stage. Rhimes is an award-winning television producer and storyteller who has written successful shows such as “Grey’s Anatomy.” She has even founded her own television production company, Shondaland, which produces “How to Get Away with Murder.” She presented the keynote speech in which she described her entertainment empire as a facilitator to unite viewers from all over the world around the same campfire. Rhimes urged her audience to use their storytelling and voice to rally others to participate in making a change in society by voting.

“You do not want anyone to determine the course of your future,” declared Rhimes.

The spotlight turned to Culver City High School in the stands. Over the course of the year, the Culver High Girls Build team had been working to reverse the gentrification of the city due to rising rent fees.

Singer-songwriter Daya made a surprise appearance, performing her girl power anthem, “Sit Still, Look Pretty” followed by her collaboration with The Chainsmokers, “Don’t Let Me Down.” The audience swayed their smartphones’ flashlights to her music.

Davis announced an ongoing competition in which the winners get to meet the former First Lady and win computers for their high school. The winning high school must raise the highest voting pre-registration rate on campus.

Immediately after Davis’ announcement, juniors Makena Cioni and Olivia Mariano were especially enthusiastic about the contest and even created a Remind thread as a way to communicate to the other attendees.

“I really want to meet Michelle Obama,” said Cioni.

If you are interested in helping, you can join the Remind thread by texting 81010 the message @9acdk9.

Girls Build is very active on its Instagram page @girls_build. If you would like to attend the Girls Build LA Summit next year, you can visit their website for more information. Keep an eye out for announcements next fall or winter.