2017-03-01 / Shorts

Launching Inspiration

Kristen Sanchez

Irene Miller (second from left) with fellow volunteers Carrie Ryan, Tracy Carey and Wendy VinhageIrene Miller (second from left) with fellow volunteers Carrie Ryan, Tracy Carey and Wendy VinhageOn Jan. 29, Irene Miller got her birthday wish to go the movies. It was a girls’ night out — with a twist.

She created an inspiring night for young girls in Centre County by buying out a screening of Hidden Figures. After a similar fundraiser caught her attention, she rallied the community to raise enough money to secure 82 seats for girls in the community to experience a private screening of the Oscar-nominated film that focuses on a group of African-American women who held integral roles in NASA’s space program. Red carpet and pink lights in place, the night’s inspiration also included goody bags and hot pink posters covering the walls where the girls in attendance wrote their career aspirations. Not even a day after the event, Miller, development and events coordinator at Centre Foundation, was already planning a second screening to take place in June at The State Theater, which she refers to as “Phase Two.”

Miller credits the success of Phase One to the power of social media and generosity of the people of Happy Valley. “I think passion is contagious,” she says. “People on Facebook saw my passion and were happy to contribute.” With more time to prepare for the second screening, Miller hopes to raise even more money in order to secure the larger theater, this time totaling 571 seats at a cost of $400, and use any leftover money to buy copies of the book on which the film is based for the audience members to take home. Miller also hopes to get more inspirational women involved this time around in order to give more real-life empowerment to their young audience — boys and girls alike. “Everyone is invited,” says Miller. “The message is completely universal.”

As for Phase Three, Miller has already begun envisioning what she calls “Dream Fest” — an annual version of the work she’s begun but with different inspirational films. Based off of the success of Phase One and excitement for Phase Two, it seems that this dream could easily become a reality. “All of the girls were really empowered. They definitely felt the message of the movie,” Miller recounts. “One of them said afterwards, ‘Girls rule!’ But she didn’t say the second part of that phrase, [Boys drool]. She just stuck to ‘Girls rule.’”

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