Sofia Chamkertenyan is familiar with disappointment.
When Chamkertenian played junior varsity basketball at Taft, she trained for games in the school’s common gym room because the 25-foot by 30-foot locker room was reserved for varsity players. The JV program did not have dedicated lockers, so Chamkertenyan and her teammates stuffed their clothes into backpacks and dragged them to games.
“When I got up [to varsity]it was a huge privilege to even be able to change,” Chamkertenyan said.
Even at the university, the team was moved to the gym at the beginning of the season until the women’s volleyball team finished the season. In the meantime, according to assistant principal Nizer McNab, the football program has received a new team room.
“My teammates and I, we just got used to it, not having certain things that [the boys] do,” said Chamkertenyan.
But now they will have what the boys have.
July 29, Voice in sports, an organization dedicated to raising the voice of women, announced that Taft would receive a $40,000 Title IX micro-grant to renovate the women’s basketball locker room. The school doesn’t just take the money and run – the grant is dependent on Taft working on a number of Title IX initiatives to improve fairness at the school.
“I’m happy that girls can experience this and feel that they are important and important just like guys,” said Chamkertenyan.
Since the creation of Voice in Sport in 2020, founder Stephanie Struck has spoken to hundreds of girls in schools across the country about their lack of resources to participate in the Title IX program. Taft was selected for the grant because there were “a few gaps” between girls’ and boys’ programs at Taft, Struck said.
“When young girls have nowhere to change before training, can you imagine how uncomfortable you are?” Streck said.
McNab, Taft Title IX coordinator, said the construction of the new football team facility made the Taft girls eligible for the grant.
“We are lucky because the public school only has a certain amount of funds that you have allocated,” McNab said.
McNab was unable to provide a schedule for the renovation, as the school had only recently received a grant.
There is a larger and well thought out plan for a general partnership between Taft and Voice in Sport.
Among the agreements, Taft will conduct Title IX workouts for the sports community, disclose participation and earnings data for boys and girls, and conduct Title IX evaluations before and after the completion of the new facility. McNab also specifically mentioned that she was trying to coach and bring more female coaches to the school.
“Taft takes it one step further and says, ‘Hey, we want to do better, we want to understand Title IX better, we want our experience to be better for our young girls,'” Struck said. “They don’t have funds that are sure to come in, and that’s where we have this partnership.”
Nearly all of the Los Angeles schools surveyed by Voice in Sport had different attitudes toward boys’ and girls’ programs, Strak said. Taft was chosen in part because of his commitment to action.
Part of this action includes the creation of the Voice in Sports support program, a student-run club that monitors the school’s progress in Title IX education.
Chamkertenyan turns out to be the president of an organization that she didn’t know existed two weeks ago. She is ready to develop a plan for other improvements if there is any money left from refurbishing the locker room.
“I have never experienced anything like this before and have never led a movement of this magnitude,” Chamkertenyan said.
As McNab, 59, grew up, she said, the girls were grateful for everything they were given. Struck echoed this sentiment. Ultimately, the purpose of the partnership is to help female athletes like Chamkertenyan feel worthy of this facility and more.
“It will empower them and give girls the opportunity to know that they are valued just as much. [as boys]and you shouldn’t be grateful for it,” McNab said.