by Nina Miller ‘19
“You can’t be what you can’t see.”
My experience in Government Club has led me to conclude that this statement is both true and false. The trek to St Albans for my first meeting sophomore year only made the seem more daunting. I was entering foreign territory, and the feeling of safety and security that I felt at NCS dissipated as I crossed to the other side of the wind tunnel.
As I entered the Kellogg room, my emotions were a mix of nerves and excitement. However, disappointment entered the mix as the meeting started. Though there were two NCS seniors, the first ever NCS Government Club presidents, sitting proudly at the front of the room, not one girl made a speech during the meeting. That was a time where girls only asked questions. Often times, the only girls who were bold enough to stand up faced giggles and less attention from the rest of the members, including the other girls. The culture of Gov Club when I started was what it had been for the decades before; a boys club. What I perceived at my first meeting was a debate forum where the boys were educated orators and the girls sat by and watched. My intention, along with many of the other girls, coming into the club was just to learn more about politics, while the boys’ was to speak.
However, as the year progressed, I found myself wanting to speak during debates. I would always search for a sign, something to tip the scales, so that I would final overcome my nerves and share my opinion. I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for then, but I have realized that it was representation and validation. Since I rarely saw girls speak, I didn’t feel like I was a part of the crowd that dominated the discussions. Gov Club was divided into two distinct groups, the people who spoke and the people who listened, the two connected by an unstable rope bridge that not many crossed while I was a sophomore. Since I couldn’t see people crossing that bridge, it became much scarier. What I needed was that validation that the bridge could be crossed for me to build up the courage to do it myself.
After being elected president, I vowed to myself that I would speak at every meeting from that point on. By doing that alongside Katie Klingler, my co-president, we became the presidents that we needed to have when we were sophomores. I am beyond proud to say that the active participation of girls has skyrocketed this year. In fact, there was one meeting where every speech was made by an NCS student. The change that I have witnessed over the past year in the dynamic and unity of the club has shown me how important representation is. Deciding to create two more presidential roles was the best decision made in Gov Club without a doubt. However, seeing a girl sitting at the head of the table is very different from seeing her speak. Thus, though it isn’t true that you can’t be what you cant see, it is a whole lot harder. I would have started speaking up sooner if I saw girls participate equally during meetings. Having Gov Club presidents from NCS is an absolute necessity, but it is only the first step to more active participation from the NCS student body. What Gov Club needed two years ago was NCS presidents who would speak during meetings to show every other girl in the room that they belong.