WRITING WOMEN INTO HISTORY
In 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued a proclamation declaring the week of March 8 as the first National Women’s History Week. Thirty years later, the 2010 Women of Achievement celebrated that fact with the theme “Writing Women Into History” at the annual awards luncheon, held Friday, March 19 at the Hilton Vancouver Washington. Hosted by KOIN-TV anchor Kelley Day, the event drew more than 650 people attending -- an all-time record for the Women of Achievement celebration.
The annual awards recognize women in Southwest Washington for their contributions to the region’s community. Now in its 26th year, Women of Achievement was the inspiration of Pat Watne, who was serving as Director of Women’s Programs at Clark College in 1985. Today, the event is co-sponsored by Clark College and the YWCA Clark County. Watne created an awards program that would recognize women and commemorate National Women's History Month and International Women's Day in March.
“Because of the combined efforts of YWCA Clark County and Clark College, the Women of Achievement celebration was the largest and most successful ever,” said Kathy Murphy, who as a staff member of Clark College’s Communications and Marketing Department was instrumental in putting the event together. “The room was bursting at the seams with family, friends and admirers of these successful women.”
One of Clark College’s own was honored as a Woman of Achievement: Nancy Simmons, who serves as community partnership program coordinator at Larch Corrections Center, was the last honoree to speak at the luncheon. She credited President Bob Knight (who helped introduce the luncheon with an opening speech) with helping her succeed as a community leader. Prior to joining Larch, Simmons worked for the Clark College Foundation.
“Working at the college and having someone believe in me led me to my current position at Larch,” she said. She also noted that, as part of the college’s partnership with Larch, Knight decided to come to Larch with some of Clark’s basketball players for an informal game. Afterward, he chatted with some of the offenders and told them to call him if they wanted to attend Clark after their release. Two did, and both received scholarships after Simmons and Knight encouraged them to apply.
Those two students -- Gary Warden and Randall Henderson -- were in the audience, enthusiastically cheering their former teacher. Both are currently earning 4.0 GPAs, one in Automotive Technology and one in Computer Science. “You don’t know how the work you do today can impact lives tomorrow,” said Simmons.
Young Woman of Achievement Holly Vogel, who attends Ridgefield High School and hopes to be an education lobbyist one day, said she found the event both gratifying and inspiring.
She said being a young woman trying to create change in the world can pose challenges, but that the stories of the women being honored showed the power of standing up for what’s right. “I think when you’re younger, people think you’re a little girl, you’re blonde, and they don’t always take you seriously,” she said. “But I’ve learned that sometimes I have to put my foot down and speak out for what I believe in, even if I’m not the biggest fish in the pond. After all, if all the little fish get together, we can make one heck of a splash.”