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Welcome to AAUW-KC

The American Association of University Women (AAUW), founded in 1881, is the nation’s leading organization advocating equity for women and girls. Its national membership of 100,000 seeks to advance equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy and research.

Founded by prominent Kansas City women in 1893, the Kansas City branch of the American Association of University Women has mirrored society’s changes. No longer is it primarily a social organization with clubrooms, but rather one with meaningful projects to support the education and equity of women. Among the long-standing projects is the Hundred High School Girls, providing scholarships and recognition for girls in the greater Kansas City, MO area, started in 1931. This branch is frequently listed among the top donors to the AAUW Funds, national support for education. Unique projects have been started after careful study by interest groups and branch programs.

Exciting Close to Equal Rights Action Day

equalpayrallyAfter a morning of meetings, inspiring speakers and marching, we set about as citizens’ lobbyists to visit with legislators. We distributed copies of AAUW’s booklet, The Simple Truth, while requesting their support to close the gender pay gap. To our surprise, we learned of the convening Senate committee hearing. We attended and witnessed bill SB 144 Equal Pay Legislation pass out of committee. The bill will next move to the floor of the Senate for debate.

aauwequalpaypicsSB 144 requires the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations to establish guidelines relating to gender pay equality. Once this bill becomes law, we women’s advocates will push for an amendment stipulating penalties to be applied to employers in violation.

Equal Pay Legislation is on the move in Missouri! What more fitting close to an exciting, productive day at the Capitol in Jefferson City, Missouri.

While our AAUW sisters were in Jefferson City, Patti Jackowicz and Winnie Weinrich went to UMKC to help set up for an Equal Pay Day event on campus in the Miller Nichols Library. Each of the four participating sponsors met with students and explained their connection and commitment to fighting the gender pay gap. Of the 139 students who visited our booth, 110 of them signed up to receive more information about AAUW and the free student membership. We have since followed up with these new young contacts and look forward to them joining us soon!

Two Annual Events Award Education Scholarships to Local Women and High School Senior Girls

REENTRY2015On April 11 the Kansas City InterBranch Council presented the annual Reentry Scholarship Award to six outstanding women who returned to the college classroom after an absence of five or more years. While all applicants were very worthy candidates, these six women best exemplified the courage and personal resolve to overcome significant barriers to pursue their academic, career and life goals.

2015 KC-IBC Reentry Award Recipients: Cyrillian Ayoola, Nursing, Penn Valley; Natalia Zanders, Sociology-Family Studies, UMKC; Jennifer Christine Clark, Social Work, Park University; and Susanne Johnson, Social Psychology, Park University; Toni Thornton Award Recipients: Aubrey Kent, Radiology, Blue River; and Johnique A. Jordan, Business Management, Park University/Longview Community College.

100HSGIRLS2015The annual 100 High School Girls celebration was held on Sunday, April 19 at the Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center in Kansas City. This event sponsored by the AAUW-KC branch honored metro area senior girls who participated in an essay competition. Their submissions focused on academic goals, leadership experience, and volunteer work.

In attendance, along with the high school young ladies, were family members and friends, school representatives, and AAUW members.

These young women were recognized for their accomplishments and received certificates. The following girls received $1,000 scholarships to the college or university in which they are enrolled: Mi Dohn, East High School; Hannah Wilczewski, Southwest Early College Campus; and Shereese Brown, Ruskin High School.

The guest speaker was Dr. Marjorie Williams, a former superintendent of the Hickman Mills School District and a well-known educator – she gave an inspirational presentation about opportunities for young women as they attempt to reach their educational and life goals.

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Special thanks to the 100 High School Girls committee for their dedication in making this annual event such a great success!

2014 Wagy Awards Recap

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As always, this year’s Wagy Awards & Holiday Luncheon was festive and rewarding! We met representatives from three local organizations receiving the Wagy awards and hear about the good work their organization does. The event was held on Dec. 6 at Lidia’s Restaurant. After partaking of fine Italian cuisine, guests observed a moment of silence in memory of Pam Burke, AAUW-KC Co-Program Chair, who had done the event planning and had passed away suddenly a few weeks prior. Then it was on to presentations by the representatives of the three organizations. Here is a bit about each of the organizations and the awards received. Clearly, we cannot capture in this write-up the passion these groups bring to their work nor the voices of those who benefit from their work. For that, one needed to be at this event.

Amethyst Place, Inc. provides treatment based supportive housing for homeless, low-income, high-risk women who have a history of chronic alcohol and/or drug abuse and their children. They are a campus of 38 fully furnished apartments, serving 60 families per year including their 120 children, more than half preschool age.

Julie Carmichael, Founder of Amethyst Place’s EnCompass Mentoring Program, and Christina Benz, a resident of Amethyst Place and participant in the mentoring program, and a mentee of Julie’s, received a check for $3,672 which will be used to support the mentoring program which currently consists of 20 moms and 40 mentor pairs (professional women who are already friends and have established, healthy relationships which they can model for the moms. Program participants attend to two meetings a month where they share a meal and where the moms can learn ways to improve their health-related behaviors, care of their children, and life-course development. Clearly the mentor/mentee friendships that result far surpass just the learnings that take place during the meetings, as we learned from Christina and Julie.

Connecting for Good works to ensure that low income and under resourced Kansas City residents have an Internet-connected computer in their homes. To help people become active digital citizens, Connecting for Good offers three equally important programs to the community – connectivity, affordable refurbished computers and digital literacy, conducting free classes and one-on-one and hands-on digital tutorials at its centers and mobile computer labs held in places like libraries and community centers.

Marian McClellan, AAUW member and a volunteer with Connecting for Good, spoke about the great work this organization is doing and then introduced Michael Liimatta, President of the organization, who accepted a check for $3,225 which will “buy” 43 refurbished computers for women and girls in Kansas City who, after taking Connecting for Good’s free classes, are unable to afford the cost of a computer.

True Light Family Resource Center’s Emancipation Station offers homeless, near homeless and community women a safe place to stay during the day while they search for employment and permanent housing. Classes, taught by volunteers, are offered that aim to teach skills that empower women to become self-sufficient and more productive community members.

Alice Piggee-Wallack, True Light’s Executive Director, and Kelli Wright, Board Member, were presented a check for $2,000 to purchase equipment and supplies for Emancipation Station’s Creative Outlet for Women program.  These funds will allow tan  already-successful sewing program to expand to teach participants simple quilting techniques with the hope that their work will evolve into an art form that is displayable and marketable. The quilts they create will tell a story – the maker’s story.

The Wagy Fund was established through a bequest from Irene Van Der Veer Wagy which is held and managed by the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. Funds available through this endowment are supplemented by donations from AAUW-KC members and friends. A Wagy Committee of reads applications from organizations who are seeking grants in amounts ranging from $1,000 to $4,000 and selects from among these. This year’s committee members included Cynthia Ginn, Ellen Johnson, Sara Pedram, Dana Perry, Winnie Weinrich and Chair Jane Crigler. LaVon Colhour, Manager of Community Investment at the Foundation, provided staff support.

2014 Wagy table shots.
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Thorpe Menn Literary Excellence Award 2014 Event Recap

Over 100 authors and guests gathered at the Kansas City Central Library for the 36th Annual Thorpe Menn Literary Excellence Award in early October. The award was established in 1979 by AAUW-KC to honor Thorpe Menn, longtime book editor of The Kansas City Star, who supported all aspects of Kansas City’s cultural life, especially local authors and artists.

tm2014picThe 2014 Literary Excellence Award was presented to Maija Rhee Devine for her book The Voices of Heaven. The finalists were: Suzanne Kelly for Stolen Child and Deborah Shouse, Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregivers Journey. Congratulations to all of the 26 nominated authors!

AAUW-KC honored Crosby Kemper III for a decade of generous support of the Thorpe Menn Award – with his help we have been able to honor and recognize over 150 local authors.

Special thanks to keynote speaker Mary Sanchez, Kansas City Star Editorial Columnist; Vivien Jennings and Roger Doeren of Rainy Day Books; and all of our table hostesses and volunteers.

We are already making plans for the 37th event in October 2015. If you would like to nominate an author, please go to the Thorpe Menn page under “Events” for 2015 guidelines.