Sophia Tchamkertenian is familiar with frustration.
When Tchamkertenian played junior college basketball at Taft, he prepared for matches in the school’s general physical education classroom, because the 25-foot-by-30-foot locker room was reserved for college players. The JV program was not assigned lockers, so Tchamkertenian and his teammates would put their clothes in their backpacks and take them to matches.
“When I got on [to varsity]It was a huge privilege to also have a space to change, “said Tchamkertenian.
Even in college, the team was pushed back to the physical education room early in their season until the women’s volleyball team finished their season. Meanwhile, assistant principal Neezer McNab said, the soccer program was getting a new team room.
“My teammates and I have just gotten used to it, not having certain things [the boys] do, “said Tchamkertenian.
But now they will have something that the boys have.
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On July 29, Voice in Sport, an organization dedicated to the elevation of women’s voices, announced that Taft would receive a $ 40,000 Title IX Micro Grant to renovate the women’s basketball locker room. The school isn’t just getting the money and running – the grant is conditional on Taft working on a number of Title IX-related initiatives to improve equity in the school.
“I’m happy that girls can experience this and feel like they’re important and like they matter as much as boys,” said Tchamkertenian.
Since Voice in Sport was founded in 2020, founder Stefanie Strack has spoken to hundreds of girls in schools across the nation about their lack of Title IX resources. Taft was chosen for the grant because there were “several gaps” between the girls ‘and boys’ programs in Taft, Strack said.
“When girls have nowhere to change before training, can you imagine how uncomfortable it makes you feel?” Strack said.
McNab, Taft’s Title IX coordinator, said the construction of a new football team room made the Taft girls eligible for the grant.
“We were lucky, because being in a public school, you only set aside a certain amount of funds,” McNab said.
McNab was unable to provide a timetable for the renovation, with the school only recently receiving the grant.
There is a broader and well-structured plan for the overall partnership between Taft and Voice in Sport.
Among the agreements, Taft will host Title IX training for the athletic community, disclose participation and revenue data for men’s and women’s sports, and conduct Title IX assessments before and after the completion of the new facility. McNab also separately mentioned that he was trying to train and attract more female coaches to school.
“Taft comes forward and says, ‘Hey, we want to do better, we want to understand Title IX better, we want our experience to be better for our girls,'” Strack said. “They don’t necessarily have the funds coming in, and that’s where we have this partnership.”
Almost all of the schools Voice in Sport surveyed in Los Angeles had unequal treatment between boys ‘and girls’ programs, Strack said. Taft was particularly chosen for his commitment to action.
Part of that action includes establishing a support program of Voice in Sport, a student-run club that monitors school progress with Title IX education.
Tchamkertenian finds himself president of an organization he didn’t know existed two weeks ago. She is ready to come up with plans for other improvements if there is money left over from the dressing room refurbishment.
“I’ve never experienced anything like this before, and I’ve never led a movement of this magnitude,” said Tchamkertenian.
When McNab, 59, grew up, she said, the girls were grateful for everything given to them. Strack echoed the sentiment. Ultimately, the goal of the partnership is to help athletes like Tchamkertenian feel worthy of that facility and more.
“It will empower her and let the girls know they are valued just as much [as boys]and you shouldn’t be thankful for that, “McNab said.