(Seguin) -- A local teenager this week is on the front lines of an international effort. Barnes Middle School student Ava Haiyasoso-Gonzalez is encouraging her fellow students and teachers to not only learn more but be inspired by this Friday's observance of "International Women's Day.”
The day, which celebrates women's achievements throughout history and across nations, is also known as the United Nations (UN) Day for Women's Rights and International Peace.
The eighth grader says thanks to her family, she is learning the gifts of empowerment and the ability of working toward her goals. She says now it's time for her to share what she knows with others.
"When I was younger and just growing up, I was raised by my mom and my grandparents and they've always just had things around the house that are about empowering women and empowering people around you so just growing up in that environment really makes who I am today. One day, I heard my mom and my sister talking about International Women's Day and I didn't know too much about it so I asked them a couple of questions and I found that I really supported the message of empowering women and celebrating peoples' accomplishments so I looked some things up and I decided that I wanted to celebrate and encourage people around me such as students and other teachers to celebrate as well," said Gonzalez.
Gonzalez, who originally was inspired by the idea last year, says initial plans on campus didn't quite go as planned. That's why this year, she not only developed a formal presentation to administrators but is also sharing messages of women's accomplishments as well as fundraising for a good cause.
"So, we launched a fundraiser by selling t-shirts and we sold 116 raising over $500 so I'm super excited about that because that is just so much growth and we only did this in a week and we sold 116 shirts so I was really proud of that but thanks to social media, I put it on my stories and I was just trying to spread the word to get as many sales as we could to donate the proceeds to Girl Scouts because I feel like they do a real great job of promoting girls' leadership and that's one of the missions of this project as well and one other thing that I wanted to do just to spread the message was to show videos during lunch about each highlighted figure that I have chosen which are Malala Yousafzai, Amelia Earhart, Sojourner Truth, Dolores Huerta and Maya Angelou and students can take away a lesson," said Gonzalez.
Welcoming Gonzalez's enthusiasm and passion for a campus wide effort was School Principal Michael Garza. Garza says thanks to the student, his campus has been able to turn the observance into a classroom lesson.
"We are going to go ahead and make the messages at 3:30 in the afternoon and then what we will do is on Friday, (we) will have these inspirational videos that she selected to have people watch them and just see them and then as part of our campus, we have a writing initiative that we write at all of our campuses. So, what we wanted to do was to get those teachers some of those ideas to write on as well so the students will be able to write what they see and how they understand it. So we will try to do that as much as possible as we are going through this whole process. She initially, when she came to me, it was a great video. We sat here and we looked at it. I asked her to add a little so we get a better understanding and then she did that and then last week because we do our PLC's, our Professional Learning Communities every Wednesday -- so last week, she came and she presented to the whole campus and so the whole campus of Jim Barnes got to listen to her presentation as well," said Garza.
Garza says the eighth grader is a true motivator and is already setting out to do wonderful things in this world.
"It makes me feel proud. I'm very proud of her. I addressed that with her mom. I'm very proud of somebody stepping forward. I've had kids, since I've been in Seguin and before, who have stepped up and said 'I want to do it' but stepping up and following through is the passion that they have. My job here is not just to be 'get to class, don't be tardy' -- 'test scores.' No. My job is to grow students and if this helps her grow in a way to make her more knowledgeable and to help people learn other things, then at this point, she is an equal because she wants the same thing I want. She wants people to grow and understand about this special day that women have," said Garza.
Gonzalez's mother, Maria Haiyasoso, says she is not surprised at all by her daughter's bravery and kindness. She also thanks Garza and other teachers at the local campus for supporting her daughter's vision.
The student who moves on to the high school next year says she's already maybe thinking about taking the effort with her -- an effort she hopes will also one day be implemented district wide. She says changing the world first begins with acknowledging the accomplishments of those before us and of those standing amongst us.
"I think it's really important for us to recognize other peoples' accomplishments and I think for this project, women's accomplishments are a big deal also. A lesson that you can take away from this would be equity and I think equity is really important for out society and our community to do well so people who are not at Barnes can take away that lesson. Also, the news does stuff too so they can watch the news. They can pay attention to the school that is doing things and I think we can just spread the word throughout social media and the news and everyone can take away lessons," said Gonzalez.
As an extension of her efforts at Barnes, Gonzalez ask that everyone on Friday wear purple, the official color of International Women's Day.
International Women’s Day was founded more than a century ago after some 15,000 women marched in New York City to demand better working conditions and voting rights. The current observance for the day is now intended to celebrate women’s social, economic, and political achievements and the call for gender equality.