A Conversation With Abby Roden
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Posted May 11, 2016
By Stephen J. Kotz
East Hampton High School Senior Class President Abby Roden, a pioneer in the i-tri triathlon for adolescent girls, talks about her experiences and how she came to organize a Young Women’s Political Literacy Day, which takes place this Saturday at the East Hampton Middle School, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
You were one of the first girls to do the i-tri. Tell us about your experience?
That first year was magical — it had never been done before, we were all were sort of dreaming it up as we went along. We all learned things about ourselves: that we were braver and stronger than we thought we were; that we were more alike than different; and that being part of a team meant more than being “the best,” or “the fastest.” Once we had completed the program we couldn’t wait to bring new girls into the program the following year and help them as we had been helped. It has certainly shaped my life — given me self-confidence and a true belief in my abilities.
Did you make any special friendships with the other girls?
Most definitely! My two best friends were also members of the first i-tri group, and so many of the girls who came after in the following years have become great friends as well. We like to say in i-tri that we become more than friends — it is like the girls become your family and as our family has grown so has the support we give each other. I have encouraged many of the girls to join Student Council and clubs at East Hampton High School. Today many of the leadership positions in clubs like Key Club and World Languages Club and on Student Council are held by i-tri alumnae.
You were recently given a Young Leader Award from the Women’s Fund of Long Island. Do you think your experience with i-tri helped you win that?
Absolutely. i-tri gave me the opportunity to gain the skills necessary to becoming a good leader. One of the most important of these is being able to listen to the needs and concerns of others and then advocate for them. I did this for the i-tri girls, and I do this every day in my role of class president and as president of our Key Club.
You have chosen to use your $1,500 award to sponsor a Young Women’s Political Literacy Day. What does it entail?
When I won the Women’s Fund of Long Island’s Young Leader Award, I knew that I would use the grant money to help educate girls on politics so that they could make up their own minds when it comes to government and who they vote for and how to make sure their voice and opinions matter.
I made that decision back in June when the presidential elections were just starting. Since then I have only felt that hosting a political literacy day to educate girls about politics has become more and more important.
At the event this Saturday, the girls will have a chance to hear from Jackie Hilly, the former executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, and participate in interactive break-out sessions on self advocacy and lobbying.
There will also be a “Women in Politics” panel discussion. Who will be there and what do you hope girls will learn from it?
I think that it is really important for young women to see women who are involved in politics. Many times I feel that girls see mostly men being elected to office and don’t even think about the people behind the scenes. That is why the panel is going to be made up of elected officials, political activists, foundation leaders, and campaigners.
So far the panel includes Judith W. Samuelson and Glorian Berk who are co-president’s of the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons; Minerva Perez, executive director of OLA of Eastern Long Island; Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming, East Hampton Town Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, political activist Jennifer J Maertz, and political and social activist Julie Ratner.