Rutgers Douglass D.I.V.A.S. hold empowerment social
Women sometimes face an uphill battle on their path to success. A Rutgers group is working to level the field.
On March 10, parents, faculty and distinguished guests joined the Douglass D.I.V.A.S. for the their second annual women’s empowerment social. This year’s social was held with the goal of defining exactly what a woman is in today’s world.
Among the night’s events were speeches from the three keynote speakers, which were punctuated by musical performances and networking activities.
Natasha Rodgers, founder and chief executive officer of the Simuel Whitfield Simmons Organization, a non-profit formed to help at-risk youths and families by providing resources and mentorship, began her speech by praising the organizers and attendees.
“I am beyond ecstatic about being here and seeing all of your beautiful faces,” Rodgers said. “Most of all, I am so honored and happy for the young women at Rutgers University for changing lives, doing great things, challenging themselves, being active and motivating one another.”
The Newark native said she grew up in a time when the city lacked opportunities and resources.
Her grandfather, the late Rev. Simuel Whitfield Simmons, worked to combat the miserable conditions many of the city’s citizens faced by creating the city’s first food program, a local thrift shop and a safe haven play street where disenfranchised youths could spend their time without being concerned for their safety.
Her grandfather’s work made an impact and set the course for the Rodgers’ own work later in life.
“As a little girl I grew up around giving,” she said. “I was often asking myself not really what company I wanted to work for, but what was my passion and what was my purpose? Why was I placed here and what was I required to do?”
These questions led her to found her own non-profit, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. Her journey would not have happened were it not for passion, she said.
“To be able to wake up in the morning and do something that you're passionate about and call it your career is phenomenal,” Rodgers said. “So to all the young people in the room … ask yourself ... what is my passion? What lights a fire up under me?”
A number of the divas echoed the sentiment, saying that passion is what drives them towards their futures.
Danielle McNeil, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student who aspires to be a broadcast journalist, said the key to success lies in ambition.
“If you’re just going with the motions, I don’t think you really have an idea of where you want to go,” McNeil said. “(Journalism is) something that I really, really enjoy doing, and I definitely want to have a career that I enjoy.”
For Kahina Jean-Baptiste, the passion lies less in work and more in righting inequality. The Rutgers Business School first-year student said she is passionate about business because women are underrepresented in the field. She hopes to provide an example for young women, like her younger sister, who lack role models in business.
“I’m mostly passionate because getting involved in business is a good way to get representation,” Jean-Baptiste said.
Her goals align closely with the those of the Douglass D.I.V.A.S..
The Douglass D.I.V.A.S. seek to empower women, said Alexis Hutto, the group's social outreach chair. During their weekly meetings, the members discuss how women are situated and treated in society.
Through its work, the group hopes to create a community of women that encourage and motivate each other to be better in their everyday lives, the School of Arts and Sciences sophomore said.
“The mission encourages me just to do better in my everyday life and strive for things that I wouldn’t necessarily go for. It helps me step outside of my comfort zone,” she said. “ it helps me gain strength and confidence in what I do on a day to day basis.”
Nikita Biryukov is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in journalism and media studies. He is an associate news editor for The Daily Targum. Follow him on Twitter @nikitabiryukov_ for more.