News, On Campus

‘I Am Strong’ Gallery Opens In O’Neill

The Level One Gallery in O’Neill Library is currently displaying a photography-based exhibit that aims to portray what it means to be a woman in contemporary society.

The Boston College chapter of the national non-profit Strong Women, Strong Girls (SWSG) created the exhibit in response to a 2012 study that found female students lose self-confidence during their four years at BC.

“The study sheds light upon a very important issue on campus,” wrote Abigail Blaisdell, the SWSG member who designed the exhibit and WCAS ’15, on a paper tacked to the exhibit wall.
“As females we all share a bond that only we can understand,” continued Blaisdell. “We are strong and proud to be who we are, and we should never be afraid to show it.”

The exhibit features eight female BC students on one side of the room and eight young girls from local elementary schools on the other. Each woman holds up a sign explaining why she is strong.
“I am strong because I’m not afraid to be myself,” read a sign held by Courtney McMann, A&S ’15.
“I am strong because I believe in the goodness of all people,” read another held by Christina Johnsrud, A&S ’14.

The mission of SWSG is to create communities of strong and successful women and build relationships between college undergraduate women and at-risk girls in grades 3 through 5 in the neighboring Allston-Brighton area.

The BC chapter was created in 2007 and has now grown to include over 30 student-mentors who volunteer at one of six locations for an hour and a half each week.

On the opposite wall of the exhibit hang photographs of eight girls from the participating schools. Like the BC students on the other wall, these girls hold up signs explaining why they are strong.

“I am strong because I have faith in my religion,” read the sign of an 8-year-old student at St. Columbkille Partnership School, a Catholic elementary school located in Brighton.

“I am strong because … I’m active! I support others!” read the sign of a 10-year-old girl from Thomas A. Edison School.

“I am strong because I see with my heart, not with my eyes,” read another held by a 9-year-old at St. Columbkille.

The photographs aim to show viewers that although these women come from diverse backgrounds and circumstances, they are all united in a unique bond.

The national organization of SWSG aims to foster leadership skills, a sense of community, and a commitment to service among three generations of women-elementary school girls, college undergraduates, and professional women. The program operates in Boston, Pittsburg, and Miami.

Women’s self-esteem has becoming an increasingly talked about topic on campus since last February, when The Heights reported that a survey administered by the Office of Institutional Research, Planning, and Assessment (IRPA) to freshmen and senior students revealed data that indicated female students experience a decline in self-confidence during their four years at BC.
An ad hoc faculty committee on undergraduate women was subsequently formed to offer a recommendation on how BC could work to create a more supportive environment for women.
The committee’s report advocated for an increase in women mentorship programs, better communication about the opportunities available for women at BC, and more forums designed to discuss the topic of women’s self-esteem.

BC’s chapter of SWSG-which has existed here for seven years-hopes that its photography exhibit will bring more awareness to its cause, in addition to showing viewers what it means to be a woman.

The O’Neill exhibit-the photographs of young girls peering across the room at those of BC women-is simple, yet stands as something visible to all those who enter the room.

March 19, 2014