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SAGE’s 5K Supports Female Equity and Education

Monmouth’s student club, SAGE (Students Advocating Girls’ Education), hosted its 5K fundraiser on Sunday, Oct. 30, after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic. One of the reasons behind hosting the 5K was to raise awareness for SAGE’s mission, which promotes the work of the larger organization, WAGE International (Women and Girls’ Education). Both organizations collaborate to empower underprivileged girls and women both locally and abroad.

The 5K was open to the entire campus community, and garnered participation from both Monmouth students and outside community supporters. The event was supported by various departments on campus, including Student Life, the Office of Student Engagement, Monmouth’s Police Department, Monmouth University Athletics, Facilities Management, Gourmet Dining, Information Management, and the Department of Political Science and Sociology.

Jaclyn Martinelli, a Monmouth health studies student, won first place; Aidan Mistretta, graduate of The College of New Jersey, took the second prize; Jessica Lyons, Monmouth undergraduate, and Steve Lenhard from Queens, New York, shared third place.

Rekha Datta, Ph.D., Professor of Political Science and faculty advisor of SAGE, explained SAGE’s work in conjunction with WAGE.

“Monmouth SAGE has partnered with the NJ-based not-for-profit organization, WAGE International, in hosting the 5K on campus for almost a decade. Members of SAGE and all our supporters who participated in this year’s walk/run were very excited for the event to be in person after two years.”

Datta emphasized that in addition to shedding light on issues relating to female equity and education, the 5K aimed to re-introduce SAGE to the community.

“One of our primary goals was to reconnect with the campus and local communities after the distancing and disruption brought on by the coronavirus. It was encouraging to see so many of our students, alums, faculty, and staff come out in support of the cause and our student club.”

Martinelli affirmed Datta’s point, saying, “At this event, I was able to meet new people and learn about SAGE and how to help support them. I wasn’t too familiar with SAGE before coming to this event, but now I know what it is about and enjoyed participating, being a part of the event, and being able to make a small impact.”

Casina Lundy, another student participant of the 5K, remarked, “It felt good to be a part of something that I can relate to as a woman. It’s critical that there are people who care about the education of girls… I even did it with my mom, so it made the whole thing that more meaningful to me.

According to Datta, SAGE was formed by a group of students who felt compelled to enact change by one of their classes, called “Women and the World” (PS/GS 377). Prior to taking this course, the students were unaware of the obstacles millions of women face to pursue an education, let alone continue one.

Datta expanded, “Issues such as poverty, gender-based violence, child labor, sex trafficking, and child marriage make education that much more important so women and young girls can reach financial independence and stand against domestic violence, abuse, and discrimination.”

Brianna Palmer, Co-President of SAGE and senior political science student, spoke about what SAGE’s mission meant to her.

“SAGE is close to my heart because of our dedication to helping women succeed in their educational pursuits and careers. Likewise, our promotion of diversity and inclusion, both locally and globally, is especially meaningful since our philanthropy efforts reach far beyond our campus.”

Nashaviyah Steward, Co-President of SAGE and senior political science student, agreed with Palmer. “I believe that women should have equal opportunities to advance their education regardless of geographical location and social status. Through SAGE, I have educated myself and others on these issues to hopefully foster a community where women no longer have to fight to receive the same rights afforded to men,” said Steward.

Palmer continued, “As a political science major, I am also dedicated to helping organizations that align with my personal beliefs and values. Just this year, SAGE has mentored girls in India via Zoom classes and raised money for local charities in Asbury Park. We look forward to continuing our service, mentorship, and fundraising this year in an effort to grow the organization’s presence on campus.”

Likewise, Palmer noted that this year’s 5K was a team effort from all fronts. “It was truly a team effort that wouldn’t have been possible without any one E-board member. This event also took lots of planning with our club supervisor, Dr. Datta, who guided us in the right direction and kept us all on track through the planning process. Without her, the event truly wouldn’t have been possible.”

Datta concluded, “Our students have worked hard to organize and streamline all the details of hosting this event, honing their organizational skills and networking abilities. The compassion and empathy they cultivate is a lesson that will stay with them for life…I am proud of our students for addressing social inequities and injustices through such advocacy work where they are actively learning by doing.”