Mission Bay High School senior Sita Antel has won a national award for her volunteer work at Cabrillo National Monument honoring the centennial of the 19th Amendment granting women voting rights.
Bestowed by the National Park Service, the George and Helen Hartzog Awards in various categories honor park volunteers’ hard work while drawing attention to their skills and contributions. Each year, nearly 300,000 volunteers across the NPS donate more than 6.5 million hours of service, for a value of more than $185 million.
On Aug. 25, Antel was named the 2020 national award winner in the youth service category for creating an exhibit “picket garden.” She researched, prepared text, and created original artwork, as well as assisting with setting up the exhibition on women’s suffrage that was made available to the public both in-person and online.
The 19th Amendment in-person exhibit reached thousands of visitors at the park while it was on display, and, since its publication, the online fully-accessible exhibit has reached more than 500,000 through the park website and social media series.
“Thanks to Sita’s work on the exhibit, the park was able to highlight diverse under-told histories of women,” said Elizabeth Skinner, Cabrillo’s chief of interpretation. “Additionally, the picket garden she created sparked relevant and engaging conversations between visitors and staff about voting rights in the United States.”
The Hartzog Awards are given annually to recognize the exemplary contributions NPS volunteers make to their park and to their community. George B. Hartzog Jr. served as the director of the NPS and created the Volunteers-In-Parks program in 1970. In retirement, he and his wife, Helen, established a fund to support the program and honor the efforts of volunteers.
An avowed history lover, Antel was thrilled to participate in a historic exhibition at a historic local monument. “The Point Loma Lighthouse built in 1854 was in itself a landmark of women’s rights,” she said pointing out, “The assistant lighthouse keeper position was often held by women, and was the first equal pay for equal work job for women under the U.S. government.”
Noting it was great to be able to showcase women’s history at a historical landmark, Antel enjoyed dressing up in period garb and doing historical interpretation for guests.
But being rewarded for her work wasn’t anticipated.
“I wasn’t expecting to win an award at all,” Antel said. “I’m really surprised.” Though she never applied for or knew she was even nominated for an award, Antel is proud that she “ended up winning on a national level in the youth category.”
The 19th Amendment exhibit at Cabrillo National Monument was also visually stunning. “They illuminated the lighthouse in gold and purple, the colors of the suffragette movement,” Antel noted.
Antel added: “I wrote the signs that were along the walkway and made the picket signs that were in the lighthouse garden. I did research on national and diverse women, not just Susan B. Anthony. The most important thing is these women’s voices were being heard out there. That’s what they deserved.”
“I plan to get a history degree,” said Antel adding, “I’ve always been a huge advocate for women’s rights.”
Antel would also consider a career in parks.
“I would be happy working in Point Loma or a smaller park, getting my hands dirty, doing a lot of things,” she said. “I really love museums, interpretation, and education. I want to do something in the community that I enjoy, and that makes a difference.”