Young women feel optimism in the face of Trump presidency 

  • Stoneleigh-Burnham School 8th grade students discuss the results of the presidential election on Wednesday. From left are Olamiposi Ajao of Amherst and Amelia Opsahl of New Hampshire. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Stoneleigh-Burnham School 8th grade students discussed the results of the Presidential Election on Wednesday with their humanities teacher Karen Suchenski. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Stoneleigh-Burnham School 8th grade students discuss the results of the Presidential Election on Wednesday. From left are Ruthie Spencer of Deerfield and Julia Shulman of Sunderland. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Stoneleigh-Burnham School 8th grade students discuss the results of the Presidential Election on Wednesday. From left are Ruthie Spencer of Deerfield, Julia Shulman of Sunderland, Olamiposi Ajao of Amherst and Amelia Opsahl of New Hampshire. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

Recorder Staff
Published: 11/9/2016 6:10:58 PM

GREENFIELD — Students from the all-girls Stoneleigh-Burnham boarding school didn’t stay up to watch Tuesday’s election results. Amelia Opsahl, from New Hampshire, went to bed around 10 p.m. and woke up to discover Donald Trump had been elected president of the United States.

Opsahl, along with classmates Olampopsi Ajao of Amherst, Julia Shulman of Sunderland and Ruthie Spencer of Deerfield, said they were surprised and disappointed but ultimately not discouraged from advancing the cause of women.

The four middle school students would have voted for Hillary Clinton had they been old enough, but said the election results didn’t completely negate the importance of getting a woman so close to the White House.

“It was a good example that women can be president just like any man could,” Opsahl said. 

But they said the fact that Clinton is a woman was a clear part of the results. 

“Though we’ve come a long way… we’re still less respected than men,” Shulman said. 

The girls, who have been learning about the election in their humanities class, were also concerned with what a Trump presidency would bring for them and other women and said those fears had been expressed by classmates too. 

“There are lots of girls who are afraid we won’t have certain things available anymore,” Shulman said.

Ajoa said she had been discussing the election with other students Wednesday morning and there is a fear about what Trump has said during the election. 

“Usually the president makes a lot of promises and won’t fulfill all of them,” Ajoa said. “So hopefully Donald Trump won’t be able to fulfill his promises.” 

One of the school’s humanities teachers, Karen Suchenski, said one of the classes had a day leading up to the election where they dressed in white, representing suffragettes. 

But since the election, some students have felt discouraged. Suchenski said one of her students told her they felt less proud of being an American on Wednesday. 

“Well, I said, ‘but you are an American and ... what do you see as the way the United States will unite again?’” she said. 

The girls know things won’t progress at the same speed the way they feel they would with a female president, but they are all determined to keep an open mind about what’s to come. 

“Don’t be too pessimistic because we don’t know how this is going to turn out,” Spencer said. 

The girls said they would tell Clinton to keep trying and keep going. Ajoa paused though and said she would tell Clinton she was sorry it turned out the way it did. Opsahl added that she would tell Hillary it’s okay to be upset right now. 

Clinton officially conceded the race shortly after the girls spoke with the Recorder Wednesday morning. During her speech she spoke directly to women and young girls. 

“And to all the women, and especially the young women, who put their faith in this campaign and in me, I want you to know that nothing has made me prouder than to be your champion,” Clinton said. “Now, I — I know — I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling, but some day someone will and hopefully sooner than we might think right now. And — and to all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.”

All of the girls plan to go to college when they finish high school. Spencer isn’t sure what she wants to do, but is thinking she wants to be a teacher. Shulman wants to become a Supreme Court Justice, or a congresswoman. Ajoa is leaning toward a career in international business and taking Chinese language courses, and Opsahl either wants to be a scientist or an engineer.

None of them felt a Trump presidency would keep them from their dreams. 

“The fact that Hillary was still able to get so far in this election is inspiring — to hope, to try to get further in other things, and other jobs, to make things more equal between men and women,” Shulman said. 

She said that she understands that Trump may make it harder for women to advance. 

“It’s not any reason to stop trying to get what we’re trying to get,” she said. 

Miranda Davis can be reached at: mdavis@recorder.com


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