YWCA hon­ors 11 as Women of Achieve­ment

Woonsocket Call - - Front Page - By JONATHAN BIS­SON­NETTE jbis­son­nette@paw­tuck­et­times.com

LIN­COLN – When Deb­o­rah L. Perry was a young girl, she wanted noth­ing more than to be a stunt woman. While that ca­reer didn’t ex­actly pan out for the pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the YWCA of Rhode Is­land, she said that she looks back on that po­ten­tial life di­rec­tion fondly.

“Not only did I have dreams, I had op­por­tu­ni­ties,” Perry said. “Not all have op­por­tu­ni­ties. We are work­ing to em­power all.”

The YWCA of Rhode Is­land is ded­i­cated to em­pow­er­ing women, elim­i­nat­ing racism, and pro­mot­ing peace, jus­tice, free­dom, and dig­nity for all, Perry said, and the 11 women who were re­cip­i­ents of the YWCA’s Women of Achieve­ment Awards ex­em­plify that ded­i­ca­tion on a day-to-day ba­sis.

“The women we are hon­or­ing are noth­ing short of in­cred­i­ble … They are ded­i­cated to their com­mu­ni­ties, to women and girls ad­vance­ment and to mak­ing the world a bet­ter place,” Perry said of the women be­ing cel­e­brated dur­ing a gala Tues­day af­ter­noon at Kirk­brae Coun­try Club.

Deloris Davis Grant was com­mended for her ef­forts as an English and drama teacher at Cen­tral Falls High School, par­tic­u­larly for keep­ing the school’s theater pro­gram alive, thriv­ing, and pro­duc­ing a va­ri­ety of thes­pi­ans.

“It’s great to be rec­og­nized for the work I do,” Grant said. “It’s an ab­so­lute achieve­ment.”

Grant said that in many in­stances, youths in her classes have dreams of go­ing on to per­form on the big screen or stage to the cheers and ado­ra­tion of mil­lions. Ex­cel­lence in drama runs in Grant’s fam­ily, as her sis­ter Vi­ola Davis – her­self a Cen­tral Falls High grad­u­ate – boasts a re­sume that in­cludes an Academy Award, Golden Globe, and Primetime Emmy Award. Grant says she un­der­stands that her stu­dents’ par­ents have the high­est ex­pec­ta­tions of her and her abil­ity to bring the most out of her pupils, given her sis­ter’s suc­cess on a global level.

Grant shared suc­cess sto­ries of her thes­pi­ans who went from the walls of Cen­tral Falls High to a suc­cess­ful ca­reer in the film, tele­vi­sion, or theater in­dus­tries. She re­called one stu­dent who is just about ready to de­part for Cal­i­for­nia to try out the bright lights of Hol­ly­wood.

“I love plant­ing those seeds. It’s so worth it when that puts a smile on their face,” Grant said. “Ev­ery time I see them, it makes me happy.”

Julie Nora is the di­rec­tor of Pawtucket’s In­ter­na­tional Char­ter School – a tri-lin­gual el­e­men­tary school for chil­dren from kinder­garten through fifth grade liv­ing in Pawtucket, Cen­tral Falls, and Providence. She said she’s com­mit­ted her­self to ad­vo­cacy for lan­guage learn­ers, call­ing the work she does “tremen­dously re­ward­ing.”

“So many of them ac­com­plish more than we do,” Nora said of her stu­dents. “One girl in par­tic­u­lar, I met when she was 12 years old. She’d just moved from the Do­mini­can Repub­lic and knew no English but you could see the po­ten­tial. She’s gone on to do great things.”

Nora added that to see what a stu­dent is ca­pa­ble of and to watch them ful­fill that po­ten­tial is some­thing that moves her on a daily ba­sis.

Vanessa Volz, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the So­journer House do­mes­tic vi­o­lence or­ga­ni­za­tion, which runs a women’s shel­ter in Woonsocket, has been spear­head­ing the agency for nearly seven years. For her ef­forts in Woonsocket, Providence, and much of North­ern Rhode Is­land, she was cel­e­brated on Tues­day af­ter­noon.

In ad­di­tion to her work at So­journer House, Volz is an ad­junct pro­fes­sor of gen­der and women’s stud­ies at Rhode Is­land Col­lege and a prac­tic­ing at­tor­ney for a non­profit that spe­cial­izes in hous­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion cases. By her es­ti­ma­tion, she’s spent her en­tire ca­reer in so­cial ser­vices, which lines up per­fectly with the mes­sage of the YWCA of Rhode Is­land.

Her work, Volz said, is very com­ple­men­tary of the achieve­ments and ac­com­plish­ments of the YWCAand she added that she was “very sur­prised and just hon­ored” by the re­spect shown by the com­mu­nity in re­ceiv­ing the recog­ni­tion at Tues­day’s gala.

“That’s why I do this work,” Volz said. “It mo­ti­vates me to keep go­ing, hav­ing an ef­fect on the com­mu­nity … I don’t do the work to be rec­og­nized, but I’m hon­ored and hum­bled. I’m cer­tainly hon­ored to be among a num­ber of im­por­tant mem­bers of the com­mu­nity and be a part of that group.”

Join­ing Grant, Nora, and Volz as the 2017 re­cip­i­ents of the Women of Achieve­ment awards were LeeAnn Byrne, Ali­son Eich­ler, Anne Grant, Marta Martinez, Pi­lar McCloud, Elin Torell, Hen­ri­etta To­nia WhiteHolder, and Chanda Wo­mack.

The YWCA of Rhode Is­land, at 150 years old, is the third-old­est YWCA in the coun­try. But de­spite cel­e­brat­ing its sesqui­cen­ten­nial, Perry said they are “as rel­e­vant today as 150 years ago.”

Photo by Ernest A. Brown

Deloris Davis Grant, of Cen­tral Falls, an English teacher at Cen­tral Falls High School who is ded­i­cated to aca­demic ex­cel­lence in all forms of com­mu­ni­ca­tion in the high school class­room, has worked with un­der­served chil­dren and their fam­i­lies for more than 35 years. She is one of 11 re­cip­i­ents of the 2017 Women of Achieve­ment Award pre­sented by the YWCA Rhode Is­land dur­ing a luncheon at Kirk­brae Coun­try Club in Lin­coln Tues­day.

Photo by Ernest A. Brown

An­other re­cip­i­ent of a Women of Achieve­ment Award is Vanessa Volz, who has served as the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of So­journer House since 2011. Dur­ing her ten­ure, the agency has ex­panded its mis­sion, de­vel­oped new res­i­den­tial pro­gram­ming, and grown its bud­get.

Photo by Ernest A. Brown

Julie Nora is one of 11 re­cip­i­ents of the 2017 Women of Achieve­ment Awards.

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