After Being Fired For Standing Up For Equal Pay the 17-year-old tells PEOPLE Exclusively Her Reaction to Speaking at the Democratic National Convention

By Maya Anderman
July 18, 2016 04:00 PM
Rachell Stierly Photography

Jensen Walcott from Bonner Springs, Kansas, never imagined a $0.25 pay gap with her male coworker would make her a symbol in the fight for equality. Now she’s going to speak to the country at the Democratic National Convention.

“I was ecstatic, I didn’t even think that was possible. Are 17-year-olds even allowed to speak at the Democratic National Convention?” Walcott tells PEOPLE exclusively after being invited to the DNC by Hillary Clinton‘s campaign.

The teen was fired last month from Pizza Studio in Kansas City, Kansas for discussing wages after she asked her supervisor why her male coworker and friend Jake Reed, who started the same day, was making $0.25 an hour more than she was. Her story made national headlines after Hillary Clinton commended her for standing up for equal pay.

“I just told my mom the other day that I can’t believe this all happened just from Jake and I doing the right thing, that’s simply what it is,” Walcott says.

Walcott – who will not turn 18 in time to vote for Clinton in November – will be speaking alongside Reed, who was also fired from the pizzeria following the incident.

The CEO of Pizza Studio later apologized for the actions of the manager and said the company does not support discrimination.

“I’m excited that I have a voice and can stick up for teens and show that they aren’t just immature, uneducated, little kids. And I’m proud to be doing it alongside an amazing woman such as Jensen!” Reed tells PEOPLE.

Walcott also noted how important it is to be able to give this speech alongside Reed.

“Jake and I both agree with Hillary Clinton that America is stronger together, I think that is why our story ties in really well with her platform because we did do this together.”

Though the speech was written for them by a speechwriter from the Clinton camp (the teenagers made their own revisions to add some personal flare), Walcott said she hopes their words can empower women everywhere.

“I hope people take away that it is very easy to start a positive movement, to start a national conversation,” she says. “Some women are commenting on my story that they still get paid less than men and that’s just how it is, but I refuse to accept that. I refuse to be paid less than a man for the same work, and I hope that they realize that they should speak up about that.”

Walcott also noted how she’s curious to see how her conservative small town will react to her speaking at the DNC.

“I don’t know how my Facebook friends are going to feel, because I do see Donald Trump things on my timeline and people hating Hillary and talking badly about her,” Walcott says. “If there is negative backlash I don’t really care. If they are Donald Trump supporters I know that Hillary would be a better President, I think she should be our next president, regardless of other people’s views.”

“I hope she wins, I think she’s going to win,” she adds.

Reed and Walcott are set to speak in Philadelphia on Thursday, July 28.

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