30 WOMEN TO WATCH - OR - WONDER WOMEN?
Sabrina “Heymiss Progress” MadisonMaking Change through Peace, Love and dopeness
IT’S DIFFICULT TO DENY Sabrina Madison’s destiny to be a superpower agent of change. “I almost want to say it was a birthright,” she says, exuding a genuine spirit and magnetic personality. Her dad called her his “little progress” when she was young. It stuck, and people in her Milwaukee neighborhood would shout, “Hey, Miss Progress!”As a teen mom, Madison took one look at her son and vowed to offer him a drastic change from the “chaos and dysfunction” in her early life. Eventually, she moved him to Madison. She didn’t know a soul, but she knew she had to transform.“I’ve always been a problem solver,” Madison says. Working in Madison, she learned the real meaning of “change agent.” “I realized that I’d been doing that all along.”Vivacious and charismatic, she’s a rising star—labeled “the next Oprah” by local leader Kaleem Caire. Madison is pushing for change through a variety of efforts under her “Peace, Love & Dopeness” brand, officially launched in December. Dopeness, to Madison, is being yourself and living your dream. She’s walking the talk. Her day job is at Madison College, but she’s quickly carving out a career as a motivational speaker, life coach, mentor, curator of Conversation Mixtapes—discussion groups for black men and women—writer and poet, and tireless promoter of her campaign to Protect Your Peace.“Discrimination, racism, being brokenhearted— those are heavy burdens,” she says. “When I talk to black men, women and children, I tell them to keep peace in their hearts while dealing with challenges. Don’t let the outside world break you.”
When asked about huge racial disparities in Dane County, as evidenced in the 2013 Race to Equity report by the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, Madison answered, “The statistics are not good, but we spend so much time talking about crazy numbers and less time resolving things. I don’t see statistics as limiting. Numbers don’t scare me.”
And she’s not scared to speak her mind in person and on Facebook and Twitter, where she takes a stand against racial injustice and asks her many followers thought provoking questions.
Look for Madison’s next big thing this spring when she introduces Living the Dream. She’ll raise money and distribute it to high school students of color who submit YouTube videos on how they propose to live their dreams.
“When I walk around Madison, I think, ‘This is a beautiful community,’” she says. “But we’re not involving different groups in the discussions. I’m here to facilitate togetherness, which is really just love.”
– Lisa Bauer
Malika Evanco & Alia DayneReflecting The Community, Inside And Out
Since their arrival on-staff last year at Agrace hospice care, Malika Evanco, director of human resources, and Alia Dayne, the agency’s first diversity coordinator, have often worked hand-in-glove to ensure that the nonprofit agency’s employees, volunteers— and all patients and their families— reflect the community as a whole.
Already at Agrace’s facility in Madison, Evanco has helped make a “visual improvement” in staff diversity, Dayne says. Yet nearly all Agrace’s palliative, hospice and respite care—provided by 530-plus employees and more than 1,200 volunteers— takes place outside the brick-and-mortar sites in Madison, Janesville and Baraboo. Most care happens in nursing or assisted living homes and private residences.
Evanco says Agrace must equally hire and care for people from communities of color. “While we are growing, if we really want to be reflective of the community that we serve, this has to be important to our organization. It has to be important to who we are and what we do,” Evanco says. And it is, thanks to a revised long-term strategic plan.
In addition, starting this year Dayne will oversee a new minority certified nursing assistant (CNA) scholars program to provide scholarships and employment to students of color. Most of Agrace’s leadership team has a nursing background, so these scholarships will allow new employees to move up through the ranks.
Through community outreach Dayne also is addressing minority communities (which account for roughly 15 percent of the area’s population) to ensure these traditionally underserved populations understand how hospice care can serve them, its mission—or even simply, its existence. Through visits to schools, churches and community centers, she explains that care can be covered by Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance and even community-funded grants. She’s also discussing death and dying with communities in which the subject is taboo.
Death is an issue that everyone deals with eventually. That transcends diversity. But, that message hadn’t been conveyed as well to minority communities before because it wasn’t coming from someone within their community.
“When people walk through the door, they want to see people who look like them,” Evanco says.
In the end, the two say, the entire population benefits. Better health care and better end-of-life care mean fewer visits to the emergency room, lower healthcare costs and a better quality of life for all.
– Marni McEntee
Brenda GonzalezBuilding Bridges To Healthier Lives
As a Mexican immigrant who has lived in Wisconsin for 20 years, Gonzalez understands the path of people isolated linguistically and financially, and she is driven to help them access the resources they need to thrive.
As Group Health Cooperative’s community marketing and health equity manager she helps people navigate the complexities of the U.S. healthcare system and reports community need back to her healthcare organization.
Her volunteer work continues her mission to help underserved communities. She is active with the Dane County Health Care Providers Interpreter Program, the Latino Health Council of Wisconsin, and the board of United Way of Dane County. She steps up this year to serve as a national board member for the Amigos de las Americas, which develop youth through cross-cultural experiences.
In 2015, Gonzalez seeks to forge a partnership between Centro Hispano, the Madison Metropolitan School District and DanzTrad, a traditional Mexican dance troupe. She imagines her passion for Mexican folk dancing taking flight in a space where kids and families can increase their physical activity in a fun way that showcases a proud Mexican tradition.
Gonzalez’s passion for well-being breaks down boundaries: “When we all work together is when we see a healthier community for all.”
– Anna Thomas Bates
Krissy WickPushing The Reading Love Beyond Library Walls
KRISSY WICK, YOUTH SERVICES supervisor for the Madison Public Library, started as the children’s librarian, coordinating story times on Madison’s East Side. She noticed the people visiting the library were not representative of the whole population.
She wanted to “bring the library outside of the library walls” and began visiting Head Start, day care and after-school programs around town, bringing story time and other library program resources directly to them.
Seeking an even deeper reach into Madison’s communities, Wick is now expanding efforts to add services in more languages, including Spanish, Hmong and Russian. She is creating community partnerships with those who have language skills her staff may not, providing early literacy training and resources to those who can bring the library’s programs to communities that may not visit a brick-and-mortar library.
Wick’s latest accomplishment is running a summer program to prevent in a measurable way the loss of reading skills over the summer school vacation in partnership with the Madison Metropolitan School District.
Silvia RomerojohnsonAffirming Bilingual Education’s Value
With almost 30 percent of this year’s kindergarten students speaking a language other than English at home, the onus is on the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) to meet both the cultural and linguistic needs of these students. As executive director for the Office of Multilingual and Global Education for MMSD, and former principal of Nuestro Mundo, Silvia Romero-Johnson has seen instructional practices move toward transitional bilingual education and dual language immersion. She credits the “explosion” in brain research nationally which affirms the benefits of being bilingual and biliterate, for helping her office plan and communicate the necessity and importance of its ongoing mission. “How critical it is that children feel affirmed that their language and culture are valued, seen as an asset rather than a deficit,” she explains.
Romero-Johnson supports other causes aimed at ensuring everyone receives an equal education: She’s a board member for Gsafe (Gay Straight Alliance for Safe Schools) and an active supporter of LUCES (Latinos United for College Education Scholarships). She’d also like to complete her yoga teacher training so she can educate and inspire others to deal with daily stress and thrive.
– Candice Wagener
Araceli EsparzaStorytelling To Promote Literacy And Cultural Understanding
Sue-Z Schwab & Carmella GloverHelping Madison Kids Through Sports
HELPING YOUTH, especially the underprivileged and in need, access athletics for all its benefits is a common goal for both Sue-Z Schwab and Carmella Glover. It’s a mission that arose for each woman out of her own personal struggles.
Schwab was abused as a child. She entered the foster system at age 16 and persevered through 13 addresses in three years. As an adult she fostered children and later adopted a child with her husband. “The abuse allowed me to mentor the teens in my home to a different level,” Schwab says. “Once you open up your heart and talk about that you realize that you can help others.”
Advocating in what she calls a “bigger way” for kids and families, Schwab has built schools in Guatemala and worked on other international projects. This year as a local playmaker and project manager Schwab is helping bring a Nancy Lieberman Dream Court to Madison’s South Side, giving children access to basketball through the Hall of Famer’s foundation. Its mission—to create a healthy physical, mental and social environment—is what Schwab knows, firsthand, kids need.
Opening this spring, the Dream Court is a large-scale plan that includes a six-hoop court and soccer field, making it a hoop dream in a bigger way. “It’s something for the whole community,” Schwab says.
In her day job, Carmella Glover is director of managed care at Physicians Plus Insurance. Working from the heart, she’s founder and president of the Shelley Glover Foundation (SGF), which helps children access sports, namely skiing, swimming and soccer.
Glover founded SGF after her daughter, Shelley, was fatally injured while training for the U.S. Ski Team in 2004. Then, in 2012, Glover had a large tumor removed from her leg and thought she would never ski again herself. “Every hardship makes you a better person,” Glover says. For Glover that means providing SGF scholarships to children. In 2015, the SGF and community partners—Madison Parks, Madison schools and the Madison Goodman Foundation— will increase access to swimming for children of color.
Tenacious, Glover will ski again, too; in March she hits the slopes with daughter Bonnie. Both Glover and Schwab will tell you: Besides building confidence, friendship and teamwork, and fostering health and motivation, youth sports can lead to lifelong passions.
– Joyce Novacek
Mollie KaneCaring For Victims Of An Untracked Crime
HER EMOTIONS ARE ALMOST AS RAW AS THE MISSION OF HER WORK. Dr. Mollie Kane believes everyone deserves another opportunity. But this isn’t your typical second chance. Kane deals with some of the most troubled kids in our community. They’re young addicts, may have chronic pain or mental health issues, and many have been working as prostitutes. “I see patients who have been involved in sex trafficking, and often while in treatment or jail, I am the one who is able to offer a moment in their day when someone cares about them,” Kane says.
Kane is an adolescent specialist at Access Community Health Centers in Madison, and medical director of the Dane County Juvenile Detention Facility. She has her own children too, yet because of the nature of her efforts—helping some of the neediest and least-served patients—she rarely leaves her jobs at work. “Serving the populations I do, I want to make myself available 24/7. I’m also the only doctor for juvenile detention, and these kids have to know they can rely on me for their medical attention,” Kane says. The need for attention is real in this area, yet few agencies have a system for tracking those under the age of 18 involved in sex trafficking. The most recent numbers are from a 2011 Dane County Needs Assessment Study showing an estimated three dozen children working as prostitutes every year, while 90 percent of those in juvenile detention have some experience with sex trafficking.
The numbers, while unofficial, are shocking. And it’s why Kane doesn’t feel she’s doing enough. Her new year plans include creating a program to collect, analyze and use data to create programs where these specific at-risk youth can safely receive physical and emotional support, along with further trauma services, drug treatment and education. It’s about opportunity, and giving someone another chance. “In my mind, we are all equal. No one is bad. Everyone has their struggles,” Kane says.
– Teri Barr
Chris ForemanSupporting Trauma Survivors
When Chris Foreman started working with foster children 15 years ago, she saw young trauma survivors drowning under a system that didn’t understand them. With inspiration from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, she launched a support group for foster parents and began to empower them with trauma-informed parenting tools. “The knowledge was transformative,” she says. “Kids who would otherwise spend their lives in the system started looking like typical, healthy kids.” But it wasn’t just the education: Foreman gave parents hope.
Now, the curriculum she piloted in her group is being used internationally, and she’s on to even bigger things, like building a leadership network for child trauma advocacy that starts with families.
Q: WHAT DO YOU FIND MOST REWARDING ABOUT YOUR WORK?
I think about the ripple effect of what I’m doing. That I’m not just helping Mary and her daughter, but 30 Marys with 30 daughters.
– Kim Krueger
Angela ByarswinstonBreaking Down Barriers In Science
AFTER A HEART EVENT nearly took her life at age 37, UW-Madison Department of Medicine Associate Professor Angela Byars-Winston found her “be attitudes:” Be grateful, be authentic and be present.
Almost eight years later, Byars-Winston focuses on these in all aspects of her life, including her family, actively worshiping at Mt. Zion Baptist Church and her work to create paths for women and racial and ethnic minorities in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). She and a team of researchers recently received a large grant from the U.S. government to tap into this population, and the individuals who are mentoring them, to develop the next generation of scientists.
“My role is to identify interventions and assessments that can promote cultural diversity and awareness for research mentors,” she explains. “I believe we should bring the same scientific approach to mentoring that we do to the science that we’re mentoring about.”
For this researcher/counseling psychologist, it all comes down to simple math. The Department of Labor defines STEM fields as 5 percent to 10 percent of the labor market, but those occupations account for 50 percent of our economic growth. “We have a growing population of women and minorities, but they’re not historically participating in these fields,” Byars-Winston says. “I want to help equip them to at least be in the running to be a part of that world.”
– Emily Leas
Katie BrennerLeading Future Scientists
Felicia AndersonMentoring At-Risk Youth
ASK FELICIA ANDERSON how she launched a community center without any funding, and she’ll shrug. “I’m a survivor.”
Indeed: A decade ago, she was a young, homeless, single mom. Today, she runs the DSS Community Center (named after her children: Destiny, Serenity and Sir-Zion), which provides free after-school programming for at-risk youth in Madison’s Brentwood neighborhood.
Kids who once gathered in the streets are now learning to cook. They have a reading club. And they have a teacher and a friend.
Anderson has big goals for 2015: She needs a new location, more community partnerships, sustained funding, and staffing. But she’s not worried. “God is using me to do this. So I have to keep doing it, whether or not it’s comfortable.”
– Kim Krueger
Kathy CramerConnecting University And Community
BEING A KEEN LISTENER with a down-to-earth personality has helped Kathy Cramer bridge the gap between people of different races and backgrounds in Madison and across Wisconsin. Cramer’s passion to develop a community-engaged culture has been impactful through her job since June 2014 as interim director at the Morgridge Center for Public Service.
Cramer, also a political science professor, has two key objectives for the Morgridge Center in 2015. Solidifying its commitment to Madison, she is building engagement through faculty and staff initiatives for community work and collaboration with city organizations. This summer Morgridge launches Wisconsin Open Education Community Fellowship, which sends undergraduates home to their Wisconsin cities to engage with community members.
A UW undergraduate alum, in her 14-plus years back on campus Cramer has seen a renewed desire by community members and nonprofit and school district decisionmakers to decrease racial disparity.
“I feel the similar kind of energy on campus, where there are many people who are trying to figure out ‘What can we do differently? What should we be doing differently to do something about racial disparity? How can we decrease it?’” Cramer says.
For her own community work, Cramer is active with the Madison Metropolitan School District and has spearheaded racial justice work as a YWCA board member. On the City of Madison’s Equal Opportunity Commission, she’s focused on equity for all residents, especially adults and children dealing with homelessness.
A Wisconsin native, Cramer always embraced the belief that the state’s largest university is about people and students living their lives in ways that benefit the public— a view she’ll make visible through the Morgridge Center.
“I absorbed, at a pretty early age, that this university was this public good and it was for everybody in the state,” Cramer says. “It existed in order to improve lives of people in the state.”
– Tamira Madsen
Judy MiyagawaPaying It Forward To Kids
Sandy EichelLeading Authentically, Giving Voice To Diversity
ONE YEAR AGO, Sandy created her new last name: Eichel, German for acorn.
“Everything to grow a mighty tree is contained in this tiny capsule,” she says. “The answers are inside me, as long as I’m true to myself.”
Wearing a bright green bow tie and speaking animatedly in her Northwestern Mutual office filled with vintage furniture, Eichel is nothing if not authentic.
A financial representative and diversity and inclusion consultant, she’s a national trailblazer. “This industry is 50 years behind. As a lesbian in financial services, it can feel like you’re standing alone on a cold mountain,” she says. Yet with support from supervisors and colleagues, she leads women, LGBTQ people and people of color in navigating a business world of predominantly white men.
Her leadership capacity grew from a seed of hardship. As a child, Eichel was a victim of rape and violence. With no support to heal, she spent years in an identity tailspin, in abusive relationships, hiding the fact that she was gay until well into adulthood.
Eichel says Madison, while far from perfect, is a place where she finds healing, joy with her partner, Nancy, and freedom to “be who I am.”
Locally and nationally, Eichel strives to be a voice for the voiceless. Whether she’s campaigning for diversity in her field, supporting female-owned small businesses, mentoring young professionals in marginalized communities or advocating for children as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) volunteer, Eichel is on a quest. A trained opera singer who’s traveled the world to perform, she also rocks out locally in her “all-girl” band to raise money for the Rape Crisis Center and other organizations.
“I WANT TO BE THAT BEACON OF SUPPORT AND EMPOWER PEOPLE WHO FEEL THEY ARE NOT HEARD,”she says. “Everything in my life has prepared me for this work.”
– Lisa Bauer
Tamlynn GraupnerAdvancing Early, Effective Autism Treatment
Denise HettrickTalking About Possibility
DENISE HETTRICK NEVER does anything halfway. She goes by two names—including “D’neece,” a nickname she earned through completing an Ironman event. She has two master’s degrees and plans to enroll in law school. She’s had several lifetimes’ worth of careers, including working as a bouncer on Bruce Springsteen’s 1976 concert tour, overseeing a health club and teaching P.E. and health at Madison’s East High School.
That was before her “best work yet.” As a case manager at Urban League of Greater Madison, in 2013 Hettrick started Foundations Central, a program that helps special education students who have dropped out of school earn diplomas through vocational experience. Several participants are also homeless.
To date, the successful program has graduated 27 students. Hettrick says, “IT’S ABOUT POSSIBILITY. IT’S ABOUT CHANGING THE TRAJECTORY OF SOMEONE’S LIFE. I FEEL COMPELLED TO SAVE EVERYONE I CAN.”
Her goals this year: “Re-enroll and graduate as many of the high school students with whom I work as is humanly possible,” and plan a purchase of a tear-down hotel and remodel it into homeless housing.
– Shelby Deering
Nasra WehelieGrowing Youth Stronger
Erica NelsonClosing The Gap Between Dane County’s Reputation And Reality
In her role at the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, Erica Nelson helped hold up a mirror to Dane County in 2013. That mirror—the Race to Equity Report—rattled Dane’s reputation as one of the most progressive, educated and livable areas of the upper Midwest. It showed sobering racial disparities: While African Americans comprise just about 6 percent of the county’s population, they account for more than half the population in our jails. The African-American jobless rate lingers around five times as high as it is for whites. And more than half live below the poverty line, compared with less than 10 percent of whites.
Nelson, director of the council’s resultant Race to Equity Project, is now leading the charge for change. She cut her teeth as a public defender in New York, working with parents of kids in the foster system, primarily poor people of color. The experience taught Nelson—who also trained as a professional dancer in New York City—that social justice needs choreography. And it requires broad-based buy-in from the larger community.
“You can make real impact and change with a comprehensive approach,” she says, “using policy and the strengths of individuals to change outcomes.”
Nelson is working to create community wide conversations that will blossom into action plans. She’s also looking to expand the program to address gaps for Hispanics. And she’s keeping the focus on a two-generation approach, addressing obstacles to social equity for adults of color and their children.
“Maybe mom can get a job,” she says, “but the other leg of the stool is things like childcare and transportation… It takes the entire community supporting the entire family.” By looking at all the legs of the stool, Nelson is poised to lead our communities toward positive changes for people of all colors.
– Jenny Fiore
Lori Diprete BrownImproving The Lives Of Women Improves The World For All
Nia EnemuohtrammellDiversifying The Legal Field
AS AN ADMINISTRATIVE law judge, Nia Trammell has a front-row seat to the highs and lows surrounding workforce development in our state. She was the first African- American woman to hold a worker’s compensation judicial seat—an honor she felt humbled and challenged by when first appointed in 2007.
Since then, Trammell has become increasingly aware of the lack of representation of—and for—minorities and women regarding worker’s compensation law. According to Trammell, “There are benefits to having a workforce that represents the rich diversity of the communities served in a field. When you have an inclusive workforce, chances are you will find people from different genders and races whose broader collective pool of life experience can be used to solve legal or business problems.”
This outlook motivated her to advocate for a summer law internship program for underrepresented students at the Department of Workforce Development—a project that launches later this summer with Trammell as one of the lead attorneys overseeing its implementation.
– Rachel Werner
Sandy MoralesPositively Influencing Youth
MENTORING AND DIVERSITY are cornerstones of Sandy Morales’ professional and philanthropic contributions. As fund development director for Big Brother Big Sisters of Dane County and president of the Latino Professionals Association of Greater Madison, Morales is invested in helping children and young Latinas achieve academic success via internships, scholarships and workshops. The first person in her family to graduate from college, she recalls the task once seemed almost insurmountable: “I did not have too many career role models or mentors growing up to point me in the right direction.” Now, serving as that mentor to others, Morales will get more involved volunteering at Centro Hispano’s Escalera program, guiding and preparing Latino high school students for college, and teaching a personal branding class.
Q: WHAT INSPIRED YOU AND THE OTHER FOUNDERS TO START THE LATINO PROFESSIONALS ASSOCIATION OF MADISON, WHERE YOUR GOAL THIS YEAR IS TO GREATLY INCREASE MEMBERSHIP?
It was an idea that emerged from a group of active Latino community leaders in greater Madison and led by the Latino Chamber of Commerce of Dane County. Considering that 12 percent of the Latino population is under 5 years old in Dane County and the average age of a Latino resident living in Dane County is 24, the LPA wants to create an engaged group of Latino professionals and prepare them for leadership roles both at their respective workplaces and within the community.
– Rachel Werner
Melinda HeinritzSeeking Funds To Improve Lives
“It is impossible to dream, eat right, exercise, vote and do all the things one takes for granted when you’re poor,” Melinda Heinritz states when reflecting on the income disparities faced by many women in our community. As the strategic partnerships director at Madison Community Foundation, Heinritz has played a key role in securing ongoing grants and private donations for A Fund for Women, a Madison-based endowment fund for projects aimed at improving the lives of local women of all ages and color. And, with an eye toward its 25th anniversary in 2018, she’ll lead AFFW in rolling out a new brand, vision and mission this fall.
Q: HOW MANY ORGANIZATIONS AND NONPROFITS HAVE YOU IMPACTED DURING YOUR TENURE AT MCF?
Since its formation in 1993, A Fund for Women has supported over 60 nonprofit agencies with more than $1.1 million in distributions. During my first year on staff, A Fund for Women awarded $65,000 in grants to nine agencies.
Q: WHAT IS LACKING FROM THE CULTURE OF COMMUNITY BUILDING IN DANE COUNTY?
Madison places great value on dialogue and process, but struggles sometimes to move into meaningful action. “Yes” to dialogue and “yes” to process—but can we evolve into an action-oriented culture involving a more diverse cross-section of stakeholders, agenda setters and decision-makers?
– Rachel Werner
Jacquelyn HuntRestoring Families
IN 1990, JACQUELYN HUNT moved to Madison from Chicago to escape a life of addiction. Her attempt to create a stable home for herself and two young children would be short-lived after suffering from postpartum depression and the death of her mother. Within four years, Hunt would be arrested for selling drugs, lose custody of her children and eventually serve 13 months in a state prison. Reuniting her family and obtaining a college degree became her top priorities following her release. Those motivations put her on track after graduating to work at local organizations such as Journey Mental Health Center and Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS) as a licensed clinical substance abuse counselor and offer assistance to women facing similar struggles to those she overcame.
Q: IF THERE WAS ONE THING YOU COULD CHANGE OVERNIGHT IN DANE COUNTY, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
The fact that even though African-Americans only comprise about 24 percent of the population nationwide (they, together with other marginalized groups), represent over 50 percent of the out-of-home foster care placements. As a community, we need to break the cycle and show these young moms some love. Research shows that overall children do much better when they are allowed to stay in their families or retain regular contact with their parents.
Q: IN MAY YOU WILL GRADUATE WITH A MASTER’S DEGREE IN COUNSELING AND LAUNCH A REGIONAL PILOT PROGRAM CALLED F.O.S.T.E.R. WHAT IS THE VISION BEHIND THE PROJECT?
Most of the things I do come from where I have been. F.O.S.T.E.R stands for Families Overcoming Struggles To Encourage Restoration. As one who has been on the receiving side of services as well as on the providing end, I know what works and what is missing. The program will connect trained family service aides with women returning from the criminal justice system to help steer them toward a path of empowerment in order to regain custody of their children.
Q: AS A SINGLE, WORKING MOTHER OF SEVEN CHILDREN— INCLUDING TWO YOU ADOPTED— AND A POST-GRADUATE STUDENT, HOW DO YOU KEEP DEFYING THE ODDS AND ACHIEVING MORE?
It is what makes me thrive! Knowing all that I have been through, I am now the change I want to be in this world. And, the knowledge that I am a part of something bigger than myself is what drives me to keep giving and do more.
– Rachel Werner
Skye TikkanenFighting For Substance Abuse Solutions
BEING IN AN ABUSIVE relationship and seeing her younger sister struggle with addiction, Skye Tikkanen turned to cocaine, crystal meth and heroin as an escape from the lack of self-worth and trauma she lived with daily. After her sister got clean, Tikkanen turned to her family and Connections Counseling for support and treatment—in time getting sober, becoming a mentor for others and returning to school.
Now entering her 12th year of recovery she’s thriving as Connection’s assistant director, working to improve clinic outcomes. This year she’s also fighting for solutions by creating a directory of recovery-friendly services for the Parent Addiction Network, training law enforcement officers and emergency responders to motivate change and serving on the steering committee for Safe Communities’ Stop the Opiate Epidemic initiative.
Q: WHAT IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES FOR WOMEN AND FAMILIES FACING SUBSTANCE ABUSE IN OUR COMMUNITY TODAY?
The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey reports that 1 in 5 women in the U.S. are survivors of rape and 1 in 4 are survivors of domestic abuse. So many of my clients use substances as a way to numb the pain that they feel. If as a community we prioritized ending violence toward women and children, many of the problems that I treat would cease to exist.
– Rachel Werner
Alison Prange & Ronda SchwetzReviving 104-Year-Old Henry Vilas Zoo
FROM THE MARBLE HALLS of the State Capitol to walkways lined with giraffes and tigers, it sounds as if Alison Prange has worked in two different worlds. What connects the two is Prange’s passion to make positive changes in Madison and beyond.
Now executive director of Friends of the Zoo, and spearheading the zoo’s fundraising efforts, Prange previously used her talents at the American Cancer Society and SmokeFree Wisconsin.
The zoo—which remains free to all, unlike many other metropolitan zoos—will experience a boost of energy this spring with a Memorial Day target to reopen Arctic Passage, an exhibit and restaurant that overlooks polar bears. Prange, who fostered the project with her team, says, “Having the chance to work with animal experts is a whole new opportunity to make an impact.”
Among those experts is Zoo Director Ronda Schwetz, who has been everywhere— to Florida to work as a zoological manager at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Denver to supervise the primate area, Borneo to study and protect orangutans. Now the McFarland native is glad to be working at the zoo in her home territory.
“I’ve worked at other places, but this community is honestly the most supportive I’ve ever seen,” she says.
Schwetz is Wisconsin’s first female zoo director. “We have Ronda and her animal expertise,” says Prange. “It’s exceptional, and we’re lucky.”
One of Schwetz’s greatest achievements to date is the development of the new Animal Health Center, a cornerstone of the Arctic Passage exhibit. The state-of-the-art facility has several sustainable features and can accommodate more animals.
“Part of our mission is to think of our animals as ambassadors,” says Schwetz. “I want to see our zoo be top of mind for our community,” she says. “Helping the animals here helps animals around the world.”
– Shelby Deering
Kshinte BrathwaiteEnsuring Self-Determination, Voice And Opportunity
A gentle but steadfast soul, Kshinte Brathwaite is emphatic about self-determination. “I always go back to thinking about ‘whole’ people, about well-being and self-actualization,” says Brathwaite.
Working in the Fresh Air Fund programs in New York City, co-developing UW-Extension’s 2014 Better World Summit, and traveling, studying and volunteering globally have grown her ability to advocate.
Now, as the new director of programs at the East Side’s Goodman Community Center (GCC), Kshinte Brathwaite has a lot of opportunity and potential to nurture, with a diverse depth of programming that “strengthens lives and secures futures” for community members ages 3 through seniors.
Topping her list this year are three programs she calls “critically important in light of all the disparity around us.”
She wants to bring more emphasis to GCC’s early childhood programming. “In the U.S., we invest way more in post-high school and college education than we do in early childhood— which is the basis for it all,” says Brathwaite.
As the new Madison affiliate for Girls Inc.—a national program that inspires girls to embrace possibility—Brathwaite will increase GCC programming sites and cultivate women mentors and supporters to serve 800 girls by 2016. Currently four sites serve 100 girls.
She also wants to build on GCC’s TEENWorks program, which offers pathways for youth struggling in traditional school settings to accumulate credits toward graduation and develop hands-on job skills. Brathwaite wants to replicate GCC’s successful Seed to Table model—where teens learn in GCC’s Ironworks Café—to explore other fields inherent to running GCC, such as finance, operations and hospitality.
There’s more: race and equity discussions for kids at their own level, enhancing middleand high-school boys’ programming, and a 2015 leadership academy for community members. In all this, ensuring others have voice, opportunity and self-determination, says Brathwaite, “That’s my purpose in the world.”
– Kate Bast