Presentation trains young women as leaders

Record Photo by Ruby Thomas
Seniors Alexis Cammack, left, and Delaney Davis sat in Presentation Academy’s “Idea” room April 25. Cammack’s book “Dear Oppression” and Davis’ film “Food For Thought” are the culmination of their work for the Senior Independent Project, a component of Presentation’s leadership program.

By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer

Among this year’s seniors who’ll take the ceremonial walk through Presentation Academy’s front doors one last time are Delaney Davis, a budding filmmaker, and Alexis Cammack, a newly-published author.

The two students are completing the school’s Senior Independent Project, the newest component of Presentation’s 25-year-old leadership program.

The program drew national recognition this spring after it was named a finalist by Today’s Catholic Teacher Magazine for an Innovations in Catholic Education award in curriculum and instruction. Presentation was recognized at the National Catholic Educational Association Convention in Chicago last week.

The program begins cultivating leadership among young women even before they’re students — with its seventh- and eighth-grade leadership forums. By the time they’re seniors, students have had opportunities to gain hands-on career experience.

Delaney Davis’ experience has culminated in her film, “Food For Thought: Kentucky’s Silent Issue.” It explores the tension between the Butchertown neighborhood and the JBS Swift and Company’s slaughterhouse, as well as the emerging vegan community in Louisville.

The film, which runs for 35 minutes, will

be screened at Village 8 Theatres May 11. Tickets to the showing have already sold out. But Davis said she plans on making it available for streaming online and on DVDs.

Alexis Cammack wrote a book of poetry entitled “Dear Oppression,” in which she explores racism, sexism and issues affecting LGBT and immigrant communities. The book features 38 poems penned by Cammack.

The book will be introduced to the public during a signing event at the Heine Brothers’ Coffee shop on Douglas Loop, 2200 Bardstown Road, on May 8. 

Presentation Academy’s leadership program also includes a speaker series, career shadowing opportunities, internships and the leadership forum for seventh- and eighth-grade girls, which is organized by Presentation students.

The leadership program was launched in 1993 and SIP, an optional “next step” in the program, started five years ago. 

“I don’t think that anyone thought then we’d have anything like this,” said Barbara Wine, former Presentation principal who was part of the program’s launch 25 years ago. The students’ SIP projects demonstrate “the depth of where the program has gone. It’s a point of pride for the school.”

Wine, who now serves as an assistant for special projects, said the “goal of the leadership program was to follow the mission of Mother Catherine Spalding (the school’s foundress) to develop young women leaders and to allow every girl to find and develop her leadership style.”

Every student participates in the program regardless of academic ability. The optional SIP program requires interested students to submit a proposal, letters of recommendation and go through an interview, said Paula Samuels, a teacher who coordinates the SIP program. School leaders then determine which proposals qualify for participation.

SIP participants have to apply for grants and work with mentors outside of school.

“It goes beyond the traditional curriculum,” said Samuels. “The scope of the projects has been remarkable.”

Davis wrote a grant proposal and was awarded a $500 grant from the VegFund, an organization that supports vegan activists. She also received funds from a crowd-funding website.

Making the film was fulfilling, said Davis, who plans to study anthropology at the University of Louisville next year.

“I pushed myself harder than I ever thought I could, but it’s been rewarding,” she said. “I started with just an idea, but in the process, I learned about my community and got to see my city from a new perspective.”

Cammack — who plans to study law at the University of Louisville — said the idea for her book came as “a thought in the middle of the night.”

She took the idea to her parish, St. Augustine Church, which led to a network that eventually helped her act on the idea, she said.

The project “helped me find my voice. I always liked talking, but now I’m talking to help others who don’t have a voice,” said Cammack, who serves as president of the senior class.

Laura Dills, the school’s president, said the leadership program helps lay a foundation for the future.

“The girls gain a lot of skills and competencies which help them become stronger leaders,” said Dills, a Presentation alumna.

Dills said she’s excited about the film and the book.

“Delaney has worked really hard in presenting both sides of the issue and it allowed her to explore a lot,” she noted. And Cammack “is passionate about issues affecting society. I’m glad she’s had this outlet.”

Both students have “great talent and we’ve been able to nurture and grow that.”

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