In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gonzaga students collaborated to help out their fellow female students.
That’s how GU Students Empowering Women (SEW) came to be. This is the club’s first semester, and it is entirely student-run.
SEW is made up of three committees, the outreach committee, the mentorship committee and the events committee. Senior Kathleen Frein is the chair of the mentorship committee while senior Jax Viteznik is the chair of the outreach committee.
As chair of the mentorship committee, Frein's main job is organizing and matching students who are interested in being mentors to young girls in the Spokane community as well as coming up with the lessons and material to mentor these young girls on. She is also responsible with setting up campus mentor training programs.
What is so unique about Frein's role is that she wanted to take on a position of leadership because of her own experiences and her passion to give back to the community.
“It’s really important because adolescence is such a scary and confusing time for girls," she said. "It’s a crucial time both physically and emotionally."
Growing up, Frein wanted to have an older sister, but didn’t have that, so her motivation is to give growing girls that positive, older female figure who can help with the trying times of youth. She wants the members of SEW to not only be the confidants of young girls in the Spokane community, but the guiding force for them through adolescence for positive growth and good relationships.
Frein said that the club is something that she could have greatly benefitted from as a young girl, so this encouraged her to assume a leadership role. This way she can contribute and also be a positive role model for young girls in the community.
As chair of the outreach committee, Viteznik's main job is finding organizations and other partners within the Spokane community and coordinating events such as fundraisers with them.
“These three committees allow for a little bit for everyone. If being a mentor isn’t a student’s thing, then they can do outreach to schools or volunteer at events,” Frein said.
SEW prides themselves with being inclusive. Anyone can join, and students are encouraged to put their ideas out there.
The three committees are supposed to overlap in their goal to uplift women both in the Spokane community and on campus.
SEW is a club that is dedicated to gender equality, making sure that it is present not only in the classroom but in the curriculum through the recognition of feminine worth in theology.
“Women are often overlooked in the topic of theology,” Frein said. Currently, GU does offer some feminist theory classes, but another one of SEW’s goals is to increase the number of classes offered as well as help revamp some of the core classes to include more feminist theory and female recognition.
With these goals, SEW strives to help carry out GU’s mission of social justice.
COVID-19 has greatly impacted the club because it limits the number of events they can do. It also causes the club to think of some alternatives to face-to-face interactions.
Virtual seminars and on-campus donation drives for local women’s shelters are events that SEW plans on carrying out in the future.
Once COVID-19 is less of a threat and face-to-face events can occur once again, SEW wants to partner with the Center for Community Engagement (CCE) and do a mentorship program within local elementary schools, GU students being the mentor and elementary students being the mentee.
Right now, CCE has a program called the Connections where they have a set circle of elementary schools that they work with. They have their own mentorship program where they send students to schools each week and do after-school activities.
SEW’s goal is to do something similar and have their own branch of mentorship with young girls. It would focus on a different theme each week such as self-esteem or body acceptance, but there would also be fun activities as well as a career day dedicated to honoring women such as those in the world of science and technology.
So far, SEW has had an overwhelming amount of interest, especially from underclassmen. It has had two big club meetings so far held over Zoom, with more coming in the near future.
SEW also has a potential upcoming event in October. It plans on organizing a fundraising drive for domestic violence awareness month where students can donate money or send items to a donation mailbox that will be set up in the mail room.
In accordance with this event, SEW is planning on adding another social media committee to not only spread awareness of the club, but of the upcoming fundraiser and its cause.
In order to stay up to date with SEW and its upcoming events, students are encouraged to check out their Instagram, @gonzagasew, and sign up for the club's email list.