Student-organized Empowerfest at Riverview School on Friday shines light on women and organizations making a difference |

Student-organized Empowerfest at Riverview School on Friday shines light on women and organizations making a difference

Empowerfest organizers, from left, Riverview eighth-grade students Kate Hardaker, Taia Nykerk, Sage Kaufman and Lily Stelzriede.

A group of Riverview School students have turned their studies of women’s rights and equality into a full-blown event this Friday after school focusing on the broader topic of equality and inclusion around the world.

Eighth-grade students Kate Hardaker, Sage Kaufman, Taia Nykerk and Lily Stelzriede are the organizers of Empowerfest, taking place from 4:30-7 p.m. Friday at the school south of Glenwood Springs.

The event aims to raise awareness about equality for all, including women, minorities and people with various disabilities.

Hardaker, whose little sister has Down syndrome, said she was inspired to provide a forum to share how her family has benefitted from services provided by Mountain Valley Developmental Services.

“All throughout my life we’ve done stuff with (Mountain Valley), and I wanted to give back to them, because they’ve done so much for my family,” Hardaker said.

Mountain Valley Developmental Services is one of five organizations that will have information booths at Empowerfest — all of which work to empower people in some way.

The others are Ascendigo, which provide services for children on the autism spectrum; For the Good, which partners with communities around the world to keep girls in school; the Kirstie Ennis Foundation, which works to inspire people with physical disabilities to meet their potential; and Sustainable Settings, which promotes sustainable agricultural practices and prosperity through growing food.

“It started with an idea we had last year after researching women’s rights,” Kaufman explained. “Empowerfest is a way to focus not only on gender equality, but equality for all people.”

Not only that, it helped the students develop organizational skills in terms of planning the event logistics and lining up the presenters, Nykerk said.

Several female speakers have also been invited to share inspirational messages about their work and activities aimed at human empowerment. Among the speakers are:

  • Kayce Anderson, executive director of For the Good
  • Sallie Bernard, founder of Ascendigo
  • Danielle Bessett, associate professor of sociology and women’s studies at the University of Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Nyibol Bior, teacher and Sudanese refugee
  • Shelly Braudis, recreation manager for the U.S. Forest Service
  • Alysson Gold, engineering physicist who builds quantum computers
  • Susie Meraz, senior loan officer for Bay Equity Home Loans
  • Elissa Rodman, Aspen ski patroller
  • Sara Sims, Mountain Valley Developmental Services executive director
  • Frances Bell, fellow Riverview student and aspiring aerial artist

Read more about the speakers and other event details here. Empowerfest is open to the public and also includes a community dinner.

The event is bilingual, as well, “so we will have translators making the event open to anyone,” Kaufman said.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.