Women’s Day assembly inspirational for Yokota High School students

Photo courtesy of Yokota High School
Photo courtesy of Yokota High School

Women’s Day assembly inspirational for Yokota High School students

by Hazel Gray
Stripes Japan

Yokota High School celebrated Women’s Day in March this year with a special school event dedicated to the life stories and challenges of five different women working here on base. I rode my bike to school dressed in a business suit, complete with starched sleeves and stiff black A few of my other classmates, also dressed in their business attire, would join me at the assembly as part of the Q&A panel. As part of the panel, we were tasked with asking the presenters follow-up questions about their jobs or life experiences.

To open the assembly, the JROTC presented colors and both the Japanese and United States anthems were sung by two Yokota High School students. Lily Bagtas, the school nurse and event director, introduced Col. Julie Gaulin, Col. Fara Buss, Mary Barfield, MSgt. Teresa Tyler and Tammy McDonald, the speakers for the assembly.

Each of the women shared their powerful stories with us. It was incredible to see how each of these talented women clambered to success from diverse backgrounds, each with their own  unique challenges.

Col. Gaulin, C-130 pilot and vice commander of the 374th Airlift Wing, spoke proudly of how her high school JROTC inspired her to join the military and how she passionately followed in the footsteps of her heroine, WASP member Deanie Parrish.

Col. Buss, Chief Nurse Executive from the medical wing at Yokota, recalled a childhood memory that changed her life. She told us about the time a female guest speaker told her high school class that they would not succeed in the world because of their gender, but instead of accepting that, Buss used it as a challenge that eventually drove her to success.

 “I decided then and there I was going to prove her, and the rest of the world who thought likewise, wrong,” Buss concluded. I think she certainly did!

Mary Barfield encouraged us to “get out there and do something.” Barfield emphasized the importance of mathematics beyond the schoolroom while also reminiscing about her childhood dream of becoming an astronaut for NASA. Although Barfield’s life took her down a different career path than she had previously anticipated, she said she loves her job at Civil Engineering and is thrilled to see her building designs come to life.

The next speaker, Master Sgt. Tyler, is a boundary-breaking financial analyst in the Air Force with a fiery and inspirational personality. She stressed the fact that, as a Latina, she struggled with various social and family setbacks, but she ambitiously chose to overcome all of them. She reverently praised the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a woman who fought vehemently for women’s rights and broke many boundaries of her own.

Our final guest, Tammy McDonald, shared her experience as someone who made the very difficult decision to leave her successful career as a school counselor and instead devote her life to raising her children. She expressed the joys of raising our world’s future leaders. Unfortunately, she said, many people reacted with disapproval when they heard of her decision to give up her job, but McDonald said it was the best decision for her.

“Staying home to raise my precious girls is an honor and a privilege. We women are lucky today to even have the choice between working and parenting,” McDonald said enthusiastically.

It was such an inspiration to see how these women, though raised in very different circumstances and appearing different on the outside, all shared the common goal of striving for their success and that of other women. After each of us on the panel asked our questions, we gathered that everything came down to grit and the determination to do what is right.

It was that grit and determination that made each of the speakers stand out. They inspired us to confidently go forth and make something great of our lives!

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