Jan. 26, 2011 – Twice a year, Fort Valley State University’s female students mark their calendars for a special occasion to attend the ultimate power workshop: the 2011 Spring Sip-n-Chat. This year’s theme was, “Becoming a Lady in the 21st Century.” First Lady Betty Rivers hosted the affair before a crowded house inside the C. W. Pettigrew Center on Jan. 24.
“This is a part of the lifelong learning experience that begins here on FVSU’s campus,” says Rivers, while addressing the audience. “Each semester, we host Sip-n-Chat to discuss things I hear from you or speak about with your professors and employees.”
At times, Sip-n-Chat felt like an all-girls’ night out with women dressed to impress, donning stylish hairdos, wearing classy business attire and pumps. Before the event began, Chaka Khan’s song “I’m Every Woman” serenaded, as Women’s Learning Community students ushered guests to their seats. In front, three screens featured a slideshow of successful Black women such as Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama and positive messages like, “The Women of FVSU are Here for You” and “Remember to be a Lady First”. Some guests stopped strangers, asking them to take group photos of them with friends.
The evening began with Rivers’ heartfelt dedication to role model, Florence J. Hunt, wife of Fort Valley High and Industrial School’s second principal, Henry A. Hunt. Young women seemed to enjoy Rivers’ exuberant energy, giggling when the first lady said something humorous.
“When I arrived here at FVSU, I had no clue about what a first lady was supposed to do,” Rivers says. “I read about the Hunts in Dr. Donnie D. Bellamy’s book ‘A Light in the Valley’ and read about Florence J. Hunt.” Rivers showed a PowerPoint presentation on Mrs. Hunt’s life of service to her husband, the black community, and the school that would later become FVSU.
Two spoken word poems by junior Ola Onikosi encouraged women to respect themselves and to find men who would do the same.
Students discussed their Trinidad and Tobago study abroad experience and described snorkeling underwater, volunteering at orphanages, and visiting museums. In another slide show, Student Government Association President Jared Tolbert and an entourage of male students presented a video about the traits of “attractive women”. JoAnne Nobles, FVSU’s Health Services Center director, gave the audience sobering tips about caring for their bodies.
Jacqueline Caskey, FVSU’s new counseling center director, was the evening’s highlight. Her humorous but frank, no-nonsense topic, “Communication, Yes, Drama, No Way!” entertained the audience.
“How long are we dependent on our romantic relationships to make us happy, or think that when we get into a relationship that it will make us happy?” asked Caskey. “When we acquire our true source of happiness, we can relieve our romantic partners from carrying that burden. Make yourself face the hard questions.” Caskey then gave young women ten tips for a healthy relationship that included keeping realistic expectations, being dependable and talking to others.
At the end of the event, a question and answer session addressed female issues.
Sophomore Jherricka Henderson, an early childhood education student, has attended Sip-n-Chat regularly, since her freshman year. “In Sip-n-Chat, we discuss issues in society that help elevate concerns of young women,” the 19-year-old Stone Mountain native says. “It’s a moment to be real, from one sister to another. We talk about issues that are important to us. I learn something new each time. It’s like a workshop to teach you how to blossom into a young woman.”
Women’s Learning Community member and veterinary tech student, Lycia Thomas, said Sip-n-Chats bring out FVSU’s women’s inner queen. “Well, Sip-n-Chat is wonderful. It’s nice for girls to get together and be positive, without arguing or fighting. Just women helping other women to achieve their true purpose.”
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Christina D. Milton, editorial assistant
FVSU’s Office of Marketing and Communications
(478) 825-6319, email@example.com