BY JURRY TAALIB-DEEN
Journal Staff Writer

Toledo EXCEL ConferenceIn the male dominated field of sports broadcasting, Jemele Hill has excelled at her current job with ESPN. On Saturday, January 28, she shared her story with over, 700 students, in the University of Toledo’s Student Auditorium.

Building on the theme, “Expectations vs Reality: Exploring gender roles in society,” Ms. Hill shared with her young audience, the challenges of growing up in Detroit, Michigan.

Toledo EXCEL ConferenceA father that was in and out of her life, struggled with substance abuse. Her mother, cleaned houses, and also had bouts with substance abuse. But it was in the house of one of her clients, an elderly white man, where she would read the newspaper, and watch Detroit Tiger Baseball with him, as her mom cleaned the house.

“I began liking sports because you could excel in it, no matter your color, or gender. And with writing, it allows you to create your own world, without allowing circumstance to dictate your potential,” Ms. Hill told her audience.

After her brief talk, she took questions from the audience. One by one, her young listeners began approaching microphones placed throughout, but close to, the stage of the auditorium.

Over 700 students were in attendance for the 33rd annual conference.
Over 700 students were in attendance for the 33rd annual conference.

“Was it difficult working in sports with all men,” was one of the first questions. Ms. Hill replied by saying, that it was challenging, but she was confident about what she knew. “And as a woman, you have to have very thick skin,” she said.

Another question was, “What’s your biggest achievement? “My biggest achievement or my legacy is about being able to help others,” she answered.

“How do you deal with stereotypes,” a questioner asked. Ms. Hill responded by saying, “Social media has prepared me to not, be so sensitive. I know that, most of the people who criticize me for my opinion, about their team, wouldn’t do it if they really knew me; they’re just upset about my opinion of their team.”

After taking more questions from the audience, the program concluded and Ms. Hill would take several pictures with her very inquisitive audience.

David Young, director of Toledo Excel, addresses the audience on how many students over, the years, have benefited from the program.
David Young, director of Toledo Excel, addresses the audience on how many students over, the years, have benefited from the program.

David Young, director of Toledo Excel, told The Toledo Journal that one of the ways they can tell if the program was a success is by watching the faces of the students, and paying attention to the questions asked; which he deemed a successful conference.

In addition to Ms. Hill’s address, there were break-out sessions for both students, and parents. In the student session, presenters would talk about people who chose careers not typically considered appropriate for their gender, and how they overcame the stereotypes associated with their path.

Shawanna LaVoy, associate director of Toledo Excel, present the founder of the program, Dr. Helen Cook with flowers for her vision to start the program, and vision to help develop it to where it is today.
Shawanna LaVoy, associate director of Toledo Excel, present the founder of the program, Dr. Helen Cook with flowers for her vision to start the program, and vision to help develop it to where it is today.

In the parent session, common stereotypes about gender roles in the work place would be discussed, and parents would be given keys on how to encourage their children to view their career options as unlimited.

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