Area girls reflect on women leaders

Kamala Harris’s official Senate media photo.

MOUNT DESERT ISLAND — Seeing a woman being elected as the country’s next vice president has inspired a few young women here to reach higher.

“Having a woman being voted in as vice president is something I have been waiting my whole life for,” said Sabine Costello-Sanders, who is 16 and a student of Mount Desert Island High School. “Ever since I was young, I had never seen, or was shown, many women in high positions of government. For a long time, I did not feel like I could do anything because I had not seen a woman there to show me that it was an option.

“But seeing more women running for president and now having a woman being voted in as vice president makes me feel like I can actually do more in life, especially in areas where there are (few) women represented.”

Election of a woman to the second highest position in the country exactly 100 years after women were allowed to vote could be considered slow progress. Nearly 50 years ago, Title IX, a federal civil rights law banning discrimination based on sex for any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance, was enacted.

Recently, the Islander reached out to a few young women, ages 12-16 years old, with some questions regarding their thoughts on Harris’s nomination, if there were any female leaders they looked up to, who the influential females in their lives are, what they knew about Title IX and what they hoped to do in the future.

“It means a lot to me that Kamala Harris is elected,” said Per Lisy, 14, of Southwest Harbor. “It makes me realize that we are just one step closer to having a female as president. It really shows that things are changing.”

Janna Pelletier, 12, of Bar Harbor, who is learning remotely this year for sixth grade agrees there is change in the air, but wonders why it took so long.

“Makes me wonder why there’s never been a female vice president before and also that means there could be a future female president,” she wrote in an email.

Out of four young women, Pelletier was the only one who had heard of Title IX. There is no doubt that all of these girls have participated in activities, including school sports, that are funded with federal monies.

Lolie Ellis, 13, of Tremont, listed U.S. Women’s Soccer player Megan Rapinoe as one of the female leaders she looks up to, as well as former first lady Michelle Obama, former slave and abolitionist Harriet Tubman and Lizzo, a musician and songwriter. Lisy said females in her life are greater role models than leaders or celebrities, though she did say the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was someone to look up to. Female education activist Malala is a leader who inspires Pelletier, and Costello-Sanders looks up to U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

“Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has always been an inspiration to me,” she wrote in an email. “She has dealt with plenty of people telling her no and pushing her down. But she always takes those negatives and uses it to make her stronger as a person and as a politician.”

When it comes to influential women in these young ladies’ lives, every one of them listed their mom and close female relatives.

“My mom is very influential on me,” said Lisy. “So is my Nona.”

Outside of her mom, Pelletier said her friends are influential in her life. Ellis listed an aunt and several teachers who were strong influences in her life.

“I have many influential females in my life, both in my family and outside of it,” wrote Costello-Sanders, noting two women, including her aunt, who are most influential. “My mom has always been an inspiration in my life as she has had to balance a job that takes up a lot of her time and being a dedicated parent to me and my brother.”

Their dreams of what to do in the future are still pretty open, but each young woman was asked if the fields they are exploring are ones in which women currently hold positions.

“I don’t know what I want to be yet, but I know I want to be someone that can make a difference in the world,” said Lisy. “I don’t know if what I’m going to do is going to be new for a woman, but I know it’s going to be great.”

Pelletier is striving to be a star of YouTube while Ellis had several ideas.

“I would like to be either a police officer/detective or a marine biologist or maybe an actress or artist,” she wrote in an email. “There are a lot of women police. There are some women marine biologists, and maybe more, I’m not sure. There are a lot of women actresses and there are a few really famous women artists. But there are a lot of women artists in our community.”

Living next to a national park may have some influence on a future career choice as well.

“I would love to study biology,” said Costello-Sanders. “It would not be the first time for a woman to do that and there are plenty of women in that line of work. Though at the surface it may be hard to find women to look up to as it can sometimes come off as a generally male-dominated area.

“But if you look hard enough, there are brilliant women out there who have done and succeeded in what I would like to do.”

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.

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