Virtually the entire Westover community – all students and most faculty and staff – went to see the Oscar-nominated film 'Hidden Figures.'
Westover Goes to the Movies to See 'Hidden Figures'
It's not often that Westover's Mathematics Department organizes a field trip, but when it happens, it does it in a big way: on Thursday, February 2nd, virtually the whole school community – the entire student body and most of its faculty and staff – went to a screening of the Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures.
Buses and school vehicles carried students, faculty, and staff early that day to the AMC Starplex Southington 12 movie complex to watch the movie, which tells the stories of three African-American women who made significant but largely unrecognized contributions to one of the greatest undertakings in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit.
"A number of people and departments were involved to make this trip to the theater possible for the math department," said Sarkis Boyadjian, department head, but he singled out teachers Veronica McMahon and Kate Seyboth for putting in "a great deal of time and effort over the past few weeks" to organize the trip. The day's academic schedule was rearranged so the school community could see the movie during the morning, then return to Westover for lunch and a shortened set of classes in the afternoon.
"I'm so glad that we were able to go as a whole school to experience this movie," Veronica said. "I loved how the girls responded to different parts of the movie. I think it's important for our students to realize that studying math and science, which they take for granted every day, was not always that easy to do for a woman. Or that there was a time when people actually were surprised that a female could do math or be an engineer."
Seeing the film with the rest of the school community was particularly compelling for Sophie Ackert '17. "It was powerful to be in a theater with all young women who are empowered by Westover and who are able to understand the importance of women in all different ways," she explained. "The moments where everyone in the theater said 'Aww' or clapped were inspiring and made me realize how Westover instills important values in the students here."
Calling Hidden Figures "a thought-provoking and compelling film," Head Proctor Ibukun Ogunwomoju '17 said, "I felt inspired seeing powerful black women whose stories have gone under the rug be portrayed by talented actresses. I am happy that these three women's stories are finally being broadcast to the world. I think the film's most important message really is that a woman is powerful no matter the shade," Ibukun added. "The movie's focus was to empower women and not to doubt what you are able to do."
Sophie noted that "the filmmaker's message was one of importance especially while in the midst of the adversity that some people in America are currently facing. The message that a girl can be whatever she wants is significant because women are underrepresented in many fields in America. If young women see the message that they can work wherever they want to work, they will be encouraged to make their goals successful, rather than hearing 'That is not a job for women.'"
Veronica hopes that having the entire Westover community see Hidden Figures "leads to many different types of conversations" within the School.
Ibukun agreed. "I definitely think this could be an outlet for conversation. Even during the movie, I heard students talking to each other, shocked at how the women were treated. I think the whole school was moved and we should keep this momentum flowing into conversation."
Since watching the movie, Sophie said, she has had conversations "on both how shocking the reality of segregation was in the 1960s and how the movie relates to issues we face today, like how women and men still do not have equal pay or how, although segregation is illegal, people of color are still seen as separate groups. I think it is very important to have conversations relating the problems the women faced in the movie to problems people are facing currently."