By Shaunna Cullen
Over 400 friends and family gathered to honor women leaders, and up and coming student leaders, in the central Connecticut community at YWCA New Britain's 17th Biennial Women in Leadership Luncheon.
The honorees were saluted for their extraordinary personal and professional accomplishments. Each honoree promotes the YWCA mission of eliminating racism and empowering women; shows outstanding achievement as a volunteer, contributing to the betterment of her workplace, neighborhood or community; and demonstrates exceptional and superior abilities and accomplishments as a pioneer, innovator, leader, and role model.
Our extremely accomplished 2017 Academy of Women Leaders includes women who are working tirelessly for gender equity and social justice on our college campuses and in their workplaces; they are making sure other women have access to childcare and employment support services; they are connecting the business community with school districts creating opportunities for students and teachers to excel; they are leaders in their churches and faith-based organizations, caring for the sick and the elderly; they are working in the neighborhoods where they live building safer, stronger communities; they are working with families and children who are most at-risk; they provide employment, recreation and housing for people with disabilities; they are innovators in transportation, construction and engineering; they inspire philanthropy; they work tirelessly on behalf of children’s health and to end the opioid epidemic and create housing for women in recovery; they are exceptional coaches, super-lawyers, trail-blazers in male dominated fields; they are working to end human trafficking,to find a cure for breast cancer, and to make sure all children can read.
Honoree Jean Alicandro, Director of Residence Life at Central Connecticut State University said she was surprised and humbled when she received notice that she was being honored, "My first thought was that I work with a lot of wonderful women, so this is really special."
Emcee Rachel Lutzker, traffic reporter for FOX 61 Morning News and various radio stations throughout Connecticut, called each honoree up to be recognized by the group and to receive their award. Even during the ceremony, the honoree's dedication to their cause or organization was obvious. Adding some lighthearted fun to the event, one honoree, Yvette Ghannam, chanted into the microphone, "CCSU, CCSU!" Central Connecticut State University's Office of Community Engagement, of which Yvette works very closely with, was the organization that nominated her. Yvette said the office had jokingly promised to make a donation to a CCSU fund in her honor if she gave them a shout out. Many honorees received cheers and standing ovations.
Keynote speaker Karen Hinds, Founder and CEO of Workplace Success Group and author of several business books, shared her story of personal success with the audience. Karen engaged the audience with personal stories about her education growing up and how the challenges she overcame led to her eventual career as an entrepreneur. She also provided a networking opportunity at the beginning of her speech for student honorees to look for a mentor nearby.
"The one particular [message] I took away," said St. Paul Catholic High School student honoree Jaymie Bianca, "was the phrase 'bloom where you are planted.' I found this to be incredibly true. I left the luncheon feeling inspired, and will remember to bloom in every journey I decide to take in life."
Congratulations to the 2017 Academy of Women Leaders!
Jean Alicandro, Director of Residence Life, Central Connecticut State University
Tracy Andruskiewicz, Operations Coordinator, CT Department of Labor, Welfare to Work Unit
Doris Arrington, Dean of Student Services,Capital Community College
Jeanine Audette, District Program Director, Bristol Public Schools
Ingrid Canady, Executive Director, State Education Resource Center
Jennifer Carroll, Board Member, Hospital for Special Care
Edna Colon, Sub-Chair of Community Development, North Oak NRZ
Sonia Colon Mora, Director of Intensive Home Services, Klingberg Family Centers
Elizabeth Conran, Compliance Manager, CW Resources
Jody Davis, Founder & Executive Director, Coram Deo Recovery
Julia Gallup, Police Lieutenant, New Britain Police Department
Yvette Ghannam, Resident/Former President, North Oak NRZ
Caitlin Greco, Human Resource Assistant, CCARC
Amy Hare, Transportation Engineer III, CT Department of Transportation
Jennifer Hernandez, Program Manager for Outreach Services, Department of Social Work Family Enrichment Center
Cori Humes, Board Member, Community Foundation of Greater New Britain
Therese (Teri) Jones, Administrative Volunteer, Literacy Volunteers of Central Connecticut
Susan Kus, Operations Manager, Literacy Volunteers of Central Connecticut
Amy Litke, Head of Children's Services, New Britain Public Library
Melissa Mendez, Director of Early Childhood Programs, Wheeler Clinic
Michele Merced, Head Varsity High School Cheerleading Coach, New Britain High School, Consolidated School District of New Britain
Catherine Mohan, Partner, McCarter & English
Evelyn Morin, Grant Coordinator, Plainville Senior Center
Stacey Ormsby, Senior Project Manager, Continuous Improvement, Webster Bank
Jeanette Portalatin, Police Lieutenant, New Britain Police Department
Vicky Ramos , Sub-Chair Committee of Human Resources, North Oak NRZ
Lisa Rivers, Transportation Transit Manager, CT Department of Transportation
Natalie Lynne Smith, Board Chair, Klingberg Family Centers
Stanley Black & Decker Women’s Network: Adria Boyle, Lynn Costa, Ruslana Frankel, Rhonda Gass, Lori Groth, Corliss Montesi, and Abby Van Deusen
Patty Strazzulla, Board Member, CCARC
Sabrina Trocchi, Chief Operating Officer, Wheeler Clinic
Sylvia Webb, Board Member, RACE Volunteer Chair, CT Breast Health Initiative
Rita White, Director of Residential Services, CCARC
Paola Barbosa, E.C. Goodwin Technical High School
Clara Barnes, Northwest Catholic High School
Tahjae Barrett, New Britain High School
Sarah Belal, New Britain High School
Jaymie Bianca, St. Paul Catholic High School
Kara Boninsegna, Berlin High School
Jessica Buslewicz, Newington High School
Olivia Colon, Newington High School
Miriam L. Desgazon, Central Connecticut State University
Rose Esselstyn, Kingswood Oxford School
Allison Gilson, Conard High School
Michaela Griffin, Cromwell High School
Melissa Gurzenda, St. Paul Catholic High School
Tracey Kittoe, Central Connecticut State University
Margaret McGuire, Farmington High School
Jaminah Walker, New Britain High School
Angela Zheng, Plainville High School