Saturday, January 19, 2019     Volume: 19, Issue: 46

Santa Maria Sun / School Scene

The following article was posted on February 7th, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 18, Issue 49 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 18, Issue 49

High schoolers present solutions to gender discrimination at first annual AAUW Speech Trek


When Lompoc High School student Erin McCallon attended San Luis Obispo’s Jan. 20 Women’s March, a local take on the second nationwide rally for gender equality since President Donald Trump was sworn into office, she said it changed her life.

“I realized that I’m not the only person who thinks the way I think,” McCallon said during a speech on Jan. 26 at the Lompoc City Council Chamber, where the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Lompoc-Vandenberg branch hosted its inaugural Speech Trek.

Matthew Welch, Sarah Nameh, and Erin McCallon (pictured from left to right) each won cash prizes of more than $100 for their speeches on fighting sexism in today’s society. The local high school students presented their thoughts on Jan. 26 at the first Speech Trek hosted by the American Association of University Women Lompoc-Vandenberg branch.

“I’m not alone,” she said.

McCallon, a junior, told audience members she attended the rally with several of her friends on behalf of Lompoc High School’s Brave Women Club, which started up in 2016 after the first series of marches took place across the world. The group, including one of McCallon’s male friends, had a great time, until other boys attending Lompoc High School scolded and teased McCallon’s male friend for showing support.

“So what can we do to stand up to sexism?” McCallon asked, repeating the topic question posed by the AAUW to students competing in its Speech Trek. “Protect and encourage our allies.”

Standing up for others was a key point in McCallon’s speech on fighting sexism in today’s society, the theme of the AAUW’s Speech Trek, a competitive public speaking event which AAUW members hope to host locally each year. McCallon also emphasised the importance of voting and teamwork.

“So how can we end sexism?” McCallon asked again. “Together.”

The rousing speech won McCallon first place, $200, and a shot at the statewide AAUW competition on April 28, where the cash prize will be $1,500.

“I love knowing that other people are on my side and listening and they get me,” McCallon told the Sun after the competition.

Cabrillo High School student Sarah Nameh also impressed the judges, including Lompoc Mayor Bob Lingl, with her speech about the negative effects that heavily photoshopped magazine ads can have on young women. Nameh, a junior who hopes to attend the UCLA after high school, included “I Want a Wife” in her speech, a poem by Judy Brady describing old-school gender discrimination that Nameh said many women still face today.

Nameh’s speech landed her second place and $150.

Matthew Welch, a senior at Lompoc High School, won third place and $100 for his speech about a female friend of his who faced sexism head on while working to get her minister’s license. Although his friend still faces discrimination today, Welch told the audience she was able to become a pastor with the help of supportive allies.

The Lompoc-Vandenberg branch of AAUW hopes to host a Speech Trek annually for years to come, according to AAUW member Jenelle Osborne.

“Learning how to research and express your thoughts and defend your thoughts is vital to being an active participant in today’s democracy,” Osborne said at the event. “AAUW believes that speaking skills can be learned, and once obtained, these skills advance democracy, encouraging public discourse on societal issues, and advance careers by enhancing job performance skills.” 

Staff Writer Kasey Bubnash writes School Scene each week. Information can be sent to the Sun via mail, fax, or email at

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