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BIG Student Holds Conference to Empower Women

Kinzie 2There is a common stereotype that students have no motivation for school. BIG student McKinzie Farmer, a Junior at Prairie High School, puts that stigma to shame.

While her parents were out of town for a weekend, Kinzie self-enrolled into BIG.  “I was enrolled by the time they came back. I called everyone and said I was coming in, so that’s how I got started.”

One of the rules for a BIG project is that it must have a public audience. Kinzie’s project inherently IS a public forum. After sharing her interests with BIG Headmaster Shawn Cornally, they created a plan to hold a conference. “I said I really like public speaking so Shawn said, ‘TEDx, we should do that!’”

Kinzie Presents: Women’s Empowerment

The topic of Kinzie’s project is empowering females. “I want to be a woman in leadership and I know that women are lacking in those roles right now,” Kinzie explained. “My mom is a stay-at-home mom, so I respect stay-at-home moms, but I don’t necessarily want that for myself.”

“The talks will center around empowering women by discussing the neurological, environmental, and sexist differences that exist in our society that give women both success and failure.”

Though only 16 years old, she has already witnessed sexism. “I asked a friend one day ‘would you vote for a woman for president?’ He flat out told me no. I didn’t know anyone would just not vote for a woman. He said, ‘nope, women are too emotional to run a country.’”

Kinzie herself has experienced differential treatment because of her gender, particularly in the classroom with male teachers. “With guys they joke around, but with girls they’re more serious.”

Some women become bitter with these experiences, but the focus of Kinzie’s conference is empowerment. “My project is not, ‘oh men are so mean’ or, ‘we’re being looked down upon’. It’s about girls knowing they can be in leadership positions.”

It’s still a fact that women make 71 cents per dollar a man makes, but to Kinzie this statistic isn’t about salary, it’s about job description. “Women deserve to be in leadership positions. Not if they wouldn’t be a good fit to fill that role, but if they’re qualified and would be able to lead the company and be responsible for the employees, they should hold that leadership position.”

With her conference, Kinzie is bringing together a community of women and sending a powerful message. She is taking on a topic that many dedicate their entire careers to. In fact, those in gender studies spend countless hours in conferences just like Kinzie’s.

BIG Student Kinzie Farmer is hosting a conference on empowering women in leadership.

BIG Student Kinzie Farmer is hosting a conference on empowering women in leadership.

The Conference:

Kinzie submitted her TEDx license application and is still waiting to hear back from TED, so she’s not calling it TEDxBIG quite yet. No matter the official title, on May 9, 2014 the show will go on at Whipple Auditorium in the new Downtown Cedar Rapids Public Library.

She has already confirmed multiple prestigious speakers including Iowa Women’s Basketball Head Coach Lisa Bluder, Dr. Sarah Harkness of the University of Iowa, Vice President of Administration at The Gazette Company Cathy Terukina, and biology teacher Matthew Thede.

Her plan for the day is to MC the conference and introduce each of the speakers. This wont be the only thing she has organized, however.

Inline with her mission for her conference, Kinzie has planned a grand finale by means of a communal board. “I want to have a board that says something like, “Because I’m a Girl I Will…” and have everyone write their responses. That will be the artifact of the day to see what everyone can accomplish.”


As with all the students at BIG, the lessons learned far exceed a single topic. Kinzie’s said her blended learning experience has encompassed, “math with people and prices, communications, public speaking, english and writing, history, special events, business, social sciences and sociology. Also the chemistry and biology of the brain and human anatomy… that’s a lot of stuff.”

The integration of all of these topics into one project is not the only benefit of her time at BIG. According to Kinzie, “it’s nice that I have an hour here, then I do everything I need to get done at my leisure. It’s not like, ‘everything has to be done by tomorrow!’ I like that it’s at my own pace and independent. I honestly love this school.”

After her conference, Kinzie plans to continue applying for her future. “Well, I have to get into college. I keep going on visits and thinking, ‘you want me here because I’m doing this.’ I’m doing a TEDx, like, that’s really cool.’”

With such a big event on her resume, Kinzie’s future is looking bright. In fact, her top 3 college prospects are Syracuse, Georgetown and St. Louis University. It is safe to say that her application will be unlike any others.

After all of the networking she’s done so far, she explained that she is now in a position to contact professionals and share her message of empowering women. Her project builds not only a network of women in leadership but Kinzie’s professional network. How does she feel about that? “That completely opens the door wide open.”

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