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Banquet to celebrate Title IX

Stephanie Dragan still remembers the time when she had to wear a hand-me-down boys basketball jersey during her freshman year of high school volleyball.

For Dragan, now the women’s volleyball coach and senior women’s administrator at Franklin Pierce University, it was a world that would be unrecognizable for today’s young female athletes.

While that memory was more than a decade after Title IX, a landmark 1972 law requiring gender equity for boys and girls in every educational program that receives federal funding, things were slow to change.

Dragan considers herself a second generation Title IX athlete. Even though she was not a part of the initial movement, Dragan still had to deal with limited opportunities at her high school in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. There were only five sports offered and the list did not even include soccer, one of the most popular sports today.

“The generation before me fought the hard fight,” said Dragan. “But in my senior year of high school, we were still wearing hand-me-down boys’ jerseys.”

That is why Dragan thought so highly of the idea put together by Ashton Whidden, a graduate assistant for the university’s softball team.

When Whidden was at Saint Leo University in Florida, she attended a ceremony that celebrated women’s athletics and its evolution since Title IX went into effect. It made a big impact on her and showed her the struggles that many athletes before her faced.

“Because my experience with it was a very positive one, I’d like to bring that to some of our student athletes,” said Whidden.

So she put together a proposal last summer and met with members of the administration. With full support, the 1st annual Women in Sports Dinner will be held Friday, April 26. It will be held in celebration of how far women’s sports have come over the last four decades since Title IX.

“I’m not sure a lot of our present student-athletes know about the history of it and what women went through,” said Dragan.

This marks the 40th school year since Title IX’s passage into law and on Feb. 5, the 27th annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day was celebrated. It is also the 50th anniversary of Franklin Pierce as a higher education facility.

“We could not have asked for a better time to do it,” said Whidden. “And our athletes need to be aware of the trials and tribulations that women went through before them. It makes you more aware when you look at the struggles women went through.”

The event will recognize current and former Franklin Pierce female athletes and take a look at the evolution of women’s athletics. All the money raised through sponsorships and donation will be used to help pay for the event and for current female athletes and coaches to attend.

The keynote speaker for the night will be Tara Mounsey, a two-time Olympic medalist with the United State women’s ice hockey team. Mounsey, who played for the Concord High School boys hockey team and was named Class L Player of the Year in 1996 when Concord won the state championship, won a gold medal in Nagano, Japan in 1998 and a silver at the following Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.

“We could not be more thrilled that our first keynote speaker is a two-time Olympic medalist,” said Whidden.

Two current athletes will be recognized with the Spirit of Franklin Pierce Award and the Women in Leadership Award, both of which come with $500 scholarship.

In addition to Mounsey, Dragan will also speak along with Athletic Director Bruce Kirsh and others.

“I don’t think I’d be the person I am today without those experiences,” said Dragan.

The event will run from 6:30-8:30 p.m. and is open to the public. Space is limited and those interested should contact Whidden at elizwhidden@gmail.com.

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