ESU Sophomore Takes Part in White House Roundtable on Title IX

Ashley Baker

Posted by: Elizabeth Richardson on May 15, 2024, No Comments

Ashley Baker had just finished speaking at East Stroudsburg University’s Take Back the Night march on April 18 when she had to hop in her car to drive to Washington, D.C. for a roundtable discussion at the White House the next morning. A few days earlier she had received the invitation from the executive director of It’s On Us, a national nonprofit group working to combat sexual assault on campuses. Tracey E. Vitchers asked Baker to participate in the roundtable to learn about changes to Title IX, the 1972 law that prohibits discrimination in education based on sex.

That’s how Baker, an ESU sophomore psychology major and president of the campus chapter of It’s On Us, found herself at the White House for a meeting in The Roosevelt Room of the West Wing. There she and other college activists from around the country shared their experiences with Title IX with officials from the U.S. Department of Education and the White House and talked about what the new changes would mean for their campuses.

“It was really surreal to be in there,” Baker said. “I had an amazing time.”

The Title IX changes take effect August 1. For the first time they will include protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. They expand the definition of sexual assault in schools and colleges and have protections against harassment of students who are parents or those who are pregnant.

Baker was joined at the roundtable by peers from higher education institutions including Vassar, Tulane, George Washington and American.

“I never thought I could have an opportunity like that ever in my life,” she said.

It’s a reminder of how far Baker has come, from a girl who grew up in foster care, attending seven high schools before graduating from Norristown Area High School.

“That’s why I have psychology as a major,” she said. “It’s really interesting. I’ve learned things about myself too.”

Her major includes a counseling concentration with a crisis intervention certification that she hopes to use to help children in foster care while also working on policy. Citing a nationally recognized study, Baker said only 3% of children who grow up in foster care go on to earn a bachelor’s degree. She plans on beating the odds.

Baker says: “I want to continue to empower others and advocate for those who can’t.”