At 11 years old, Dasia Roberson dreams of becoming a neurosurgeon. She wants to graduate from Princeton, Yale and New York University. She said she has to plan ahead to make that dream come true.
“I'm making sure that I'm an all ‘A’ student. I drive my mom crazy with talking about it,” Roberson said.
Roberson describes herself as outgoing, kind and well-spoken — all things she uses to lead Hillcrest Elementary School as the student body president.
“You have more responsibility, more leadership and more of being a role model for the younger kids,” Roberson said.
Earlier in February, her presidential duties brought her to lead Board of Education Chair Sandy Ellington-Graves on a tour through her school. Roberson immediately made an impression on Ellington-Graves.
“Dasia was the leader that I would love to see in all of our students. And I'm thinking at fifth grade, this girl's gonna do big things,” Ellington-Graves said.
As Women’s History Month begins, Ellington-Graves finds herself reflecting on how her gender affects her role on the board of education, especially as a working mother of three children.
“I think it's nice to give other females a voice, particularly in my case mothers,” Ellington-Graves said. “In the role that I'm in, it's nice to be able to say, ‘I understand. I sympathize with you.’”
Elected in 2020, Ellington-Graves has served as a member of the board of education for three years, the last two years as the board chair. The Southern Alamance High School graduate is overseeing the board as it tackles redistricting. Ellington-Graves is in charge of running civil board of education meetings. She said sometimes this means she has to restore order.
“It's hard to pick up that gavel from time to time,” Ellington-Graves said.
But Ellington-Graves said she does not face gender discrimination on the board.
“I've never really run into, ‘You can't get this promotion because you're a woman,’ or ‘You can't do this because you're a woman,’” Ellington-Graves said.
Ellington-Graves said it’s important for ABSS schools to address women’s history, especially the female trailblazers. Ruby Bridges is one female trailblazer Roberson has already learned about in school. Bridges was the first African- American student to desegregate an elementary school in the south in 1960. During Black History Month, Roberson admired Bridges for her bravery at school and passion for education.
According to Chief Academic Officer Revonda Johnson, women’s history is taught in all ABSS schools, not just during Women’s History Month, but all year long. Johnson also said particular emphasis is placed on women who have shattered glass ceilings, such as women in carpentry and automotives.
“We know there are girls out there who do wanna be in those fields, but sometimes the stigma that may come with that, ‘This is what boys do,’ we try to work really hard to eliminate that,” Johnson said.
How women’s history is taught varies at different grade levels. Sixth and seventh graders in ABSS are required to take technology education courses which expose them to different technical careers. High school students can opt into similar courses. Here career development coordinators invite women to come to class and talk with students.
“We want to make sure that our young women understand that there are no barriers for them anymore, and that we want them to have those opportunities, if that's something they're interested in or have a passion for, that they explore those opportunities and push on,” Johnson said.
North Carolina’s Standard Course of Study offers expectations for what every student must learn in the classroom at each grade level. The eighth grade standards mention women twice. One history standard says teachers must, “Explain how the experiences and achievements of women, minorities, indigenous, and marginalized groups have contributed to the development of North Carolina and the nation over time.”
While public schools are required to follow state curriculum, Johnson said teachers have the autonomy to introduce women’s history in other lessons if they want. Ellington-Graves said she wants every student to learn from those lessons, not just women.
“I want our kids to feel like they've got the confidence, the independence to do what they wanna do, regardless if they're male or female, tall or short, Black or white, doesn't matter,” Ellington-Graves said. “Find what makes you special and run with it.”