Member Announcements

Exceptional Year for the Marshall Grant Committee

4/25/2017 | Posted By: Johanne Castagan

This was an exceptional year for the Marshall Grant Committee. As a direct result of your generosity, we are providing grants to ten striving and deserving women in our community and giving nearly $13,000 in tangible support to help them meet their educational and career goals. What an outstanding expression of the values of the Athena Society in action and it could not be done without your generosity.

It is fitting that this is the 20th anniversary of the Career Assistance Grant program, which was started under the leadership of Paddy Moses, then president of Athena, along with the founding committee members Nancy Ford, Linda Hanna, Juel Smith and Susan Bucklew to help striving and struggling adult women establish a more hopeful life for themselves and their families. It was renamed to honor Phyllis Marshall and her commitment to women and education.

Each year the Phyllis Marshall CAG Committee reaches out to community organizations and schools to identify motivated and deserving local women struggling to succeed. The women selected to receive awards are amazing. At the awards luncheon this year we will celebrate their strength and resilience – the grit that allows them to persevere in the face of obstacles.

The Marshall grant program has grown over the years in other ways. This year we have two returning award winners, Mary Velasquez-Sullock and Erika Robinson, who are successfully continuing their education. A third woman, Linda Walker, was awarded a Marshall grant in 2015 but was diagnosed with breast cancer before she was able to use it. She is back, cancer free, and ready to pursue her goals. This will also be the first luncheon at which we will have a former award recipient attending as a guest to support a newly selected award recipient. How Athena-like and fitting for this 20 year anniversary.

I could fill the newsletter with their amazing stories but instead I will share just a couple. Khumari Barakzai came to the US from Afghanistan in 2013 as a bride in an arranged marriage. After teaching herself to speak English by watching television, her husband allowed her to attend school at HCC. There she met people who helped her escape from an abusive marriage and plan a different life for herself and her daughter. She is an exceptional student pursuing a degree in computer science with a dream to return to Afghanistan and teach other women that education can be a path to freedom and independence.

Latonya Parker’s application was at first confusing. Although she is only 26 years old, she has 6 dependents. Her references explained that she lost her mother in 2013 and her father in 2016, leaving her to care for her son, her siblings and a niece. She maintains a stellar academic record while making sure her sister has an outfit for career day at school and that her siblings were able to visit their father during a protracted hospitalization prior to his death. She assumed this matriarch role with grace, kindness and strength. Her goal is to become a registered nurse.

Twenty-seven women were eligible and deserving of grants this year. The ten women selected for awards are diverse. We have women retooling their skills to compete in today’s world of work and young women on the brink of their careers. Although pursuing different goals, they share the characteristics of strength and determination. It is an honor to support their goals. Congratulations, Athena, on twenty years of supporting striving women!

Elaine Terenzi, CAG Co-Chair

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