OPPORTUNITY TO ACHIEVE
YWCA honors 11 as Women of Achievement
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.”
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.
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.
Julie Nora is one of 11 recipients of the 2017 Women of Achievement Awards.