The secrets of women and mountains | ParkRecord.com

The secrets of women and mountains

Jason Strykowski, of the Record staff

Many women have to climb mountains to work their way over the glass ceiling, but not all have to scale K-2.

Jennifer Jordan, author of the book "Savage Summit," paid a visit to Park City High School last Tuesday and discussed the peaks she’s tackled, both literal and metaphorical.

The audience Jordan addressed could sympathize with her struggles as a focused and driven woman, as virtually every person in the room was female. The group, dubbed "The Secret Society of the Phenomenal Woman," counts around 80 people in its membership pool and invited Jordan to appear as their second guest speaker.

The club, which took its name from a work penned by Poet Laureate Maya Angelou, formed about a month ago under the leadership of Park City High School English teacher Roger Arsht. For his part, Arsht took the inspiration to create the club from some of his female students who seemed to struggle with their need to balance the modern challenges of femininity and the demands of high school.

Arsht points to the harsh rigors of social acceptability for teenagers as a major challenge for these young women. Not only do they deal with peer pressures to date the appropriate person as a means of achieving social status, they may also feel they have to dress a certain way and take part in the right activities. The resulting stress can leave the students with very little time and energy to devote to their school work and their futures. The Secret Society began almost as a support group. The club was designed to allow these young women an opportunity to gather and share their frustrations communally.

After Arsht asked the young women if they had any interest in the club, he placed the onus of its development upon them. The students networked on their own and swelled the club’s enrollment to its current number. Lindsey Gideon, a junior and one of the first students involved in the club, said they set out with the hopes of "getting women empowered and set(ting school) standards for activity." Personally, as an aspiring scientist, Gideon worries that she will have difficulty establishing herself in a field that is "kind of a guy thing."

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The first speaker the group invited was Bari Nan Cohen. A Park City-based freelance writer and tireless spirit, Cohen spoke to the young women about finding balance and the right people in life. Some of the students, most impressed with Cohen’s energy and vitality asked her about what she eats and how much she sleeps to stay so energetic.

Cohen chose to speak to the group because she is of the "strong opinion that women need to be role models for other women," she said. Especially now when women are expected to do everything all at once, community and leadership are essential. After two meetings Cohen plans to continue her involvement with the club and said that she "already feels more a part of the community" thanks to her role with the group.

During her prepared presentation entitled "Passion, Purpose and Panic: K-2 and a Few of Life’s Lessons," Jordan discussed her journey so far and some of the most important things she’s taken from them. Addressing her younger days, Jordan told the students that wandering for a while is a good idea and that they should "take the chance while you have it and truly play."

Next, Jordan’s slideshow covered her work as an adult. A prominent journalist and producer, among other things, Jordan produced photos of herself and John F. Kennedy Jr., whom a majority of the students did not recognize. One of the great oddities, and important lessons in life that Jordan imparted to the young women stressed that, sometimes, getting fired can be a good thing. Her life, at least in part, has been shaped by some of these dismissals that led her to create a career composed of different part-time pursuits.

Maybe the most spellbinding part of Jordan’s speech, especially for those who had never heard of JFK Jr., came when Jordan spoke of her trips to the top of the world’s most dangerous mountain. On one of the trips, she recalled, a snow drift opened up below her and she fell into a crevasse. That experience, and indeed the whole of climbing the mountain led her to believe that everyone must be able to "find that voice inside you that is calm" to achieve balance.

Following her presentation, Jordan signed a few copies of her book for students and answered some additional questions about her life. For Jordan, the talk she gave was rejuvenating. "I get as much energy from them as I hope I’m giving to them," she said.

The Secret Society meets regularly on every second Tuesday and is currently scheduling its next guest speaker.

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