2016 Bezos Scholar Ana Acevedo and educator Camille Edwards-Thomas’s Local Ideas Festival: Unraveling Gender was a vibrant event that encouraged a deeper and more inclusive understanding of gender issues in the New Rochelle community in New York.
Ana was reminded of a recent controversy in New Rochelle relating to gendered graduation robe assignments after hearing Jose Antonio Vargas speak passionately at the Aspen Ideas Festival about his own experience with sexuality. Realizing there was opportunity in this too-often overlooked community she decided to explore the topic through her Local Ideas Festival, Unravelling Gender.
Throughout the day-long festival, which featured keynote speaker Sam Killermann, attendees were provided space to openly discuss gender issues in small group panels and workshops which sought to provide a common language and explore fundamental concepts on the topics of gender and sexuality. All of which supported a more comprehensive understanding and acceptance of all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
“Many attendees expressed their gratitude for creating this space for conversation. Everyone in the room was truly listening to the stories and lessons our speakers shared,” notes Ana.
In addition to the day-long festival, Ana and Camille worked with their high school administration to change the rules around graduation robe requirements to permit seniors to choose the color their graduation robe instead of being assigned one based on their gender.