An important part of our mission here at the YWCA Central Massachusetts is eliminating racism. As an organization, we have advocated for racial and social justice on national, state, and local levels. Members of our Board of Directors regularly receive racial and social justice training, and stand as representatives of our mission.
Joyce McNickels, EdD has devoted most of her adult life to social and racial justice work. As a member of the Board of Directors she felt it was important to expand on our mission, and together with board member Etel Capacchione, she founded the Racial Justice Task Force.
How did you first become interested in social justice work?
On a personal level, my husband and I have been married for 22 years, so when we first were married, I was bothered by the reactions some people had because we were different races. It became a mission for me to understand these people. I wanted to peel back their reactions – I knew there was more to these ideas than whether blacks and whites should marry – but I wanted to get to the root of that.
I ended up having this personal interest, and wanting to know how people’s experiences were shaping their perspectives. I wanted to know more about bias, prejudice, and discrimination.
How has your education helped you to understand the area of social and racial justice?
While studying at UMass we looked at discrimination from the perspective that you can’t eradicate one inequity without eradicating all of them. If you’re interested in fighting oppression, you need to be equally concerned with all of them because they all overlap: racism intersects with sexism, classism, and heterosexism.
I worked towards my Master’s Degree at UMass and started working at the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ) as their program coordinator, doing training curriculum for workplace diversity. I did that for a number of years, before I moved into teaching social justice classes in higher education. While I was teaching I went back to get my doctorate degree.
How did you become involved with the YWCA?
I first started working with the board while training them on racial justice as an employee of the NCCJ. After I left NCCJ, I began teaching courses in social justice at Anna Maria College, before eventually founding my own consulting firm, which specializes in individualized coaching and training around social justice work. McNickles and Associates allows me to continue my social justice work, and through this I often crossed paths with the YWCA.
This is now my second year on the board. I was proud of the work that we do here at the YWCA, but myself and Board Member Etel Cappaccione wanted to form the new task force to make the YW more visible in the community around racial justice work.
Why did you feel it was important to form the Racial Justice Task Force?
People know that the YWCA is here, and they know that it’s a woman’s organization, but we wanted to be seen in the community as a leader in racial justice as well. I think that sometimes people do not know the work that we do around racial justice here. There is a lot of policy and advocacy work we do behind the scenes as members of the board, but those aren’t necessarily what people in the community see.
I feel it’s important for people to see us doing tangible things which promote racial justice. The policy work and advocacy work are important, but Etel and I both felt that we wanted to do something to organize our message, and organize around our mission. Initially we’re focused on bringing one event to the community, which will center around increasing people’s awareness about how racism functions in society.
What kind of event are you looking to put on?
We are still in the planning process, but our plan is to show a film from SPIT-IT, a program that allows Worcester youth to create social documentaries. The screenings will show the community how young people use media to tell their stories, while addressing issues on social justice. We hope to have the film producers serve on a panel to discuss, and encourage community participation.
What do you hope the Racial Justice Task Force will achieve?
I want the people from our community to feel as if they had a hand in producing something that they can benefit from. I want the YWCA to become a venue for educating and awareness-building. I feel the task force will help the community because it will give them a forum to talk about racism. We want to continue to bring events to the community so together we can continue the dialogue, and build a presence, while continuing to build awareness and educate.
On December 30th, teens from the PEARLS Youth Advisory Council volunteered to cook and serve dinner for residents at Dismas House in Worcester. Together the PEARLS members cooked and served a meal of pasta with meat sauce for 15 residents, staff, and volunteers. “It as fun, and I had a great experience,” said Katrese of the PEARLS program. “It feels good to give back!”
The teens in the program were looking for a place to serve during the holiday season, and together they chose the Dismas House. The experience grew out of their desire to volunteer in the community.
The Dismas House is a supportive community that provides transitional housing and services to former prisoners. The residents at the Dismas House live as a family, with everyone contributing. The goal of the program is reintegration into society.
The PEARLS members were able to interact with the residents. They had direct contact with those they were helping, and the appreciation from the residents and staff encouraged the teens to continue their volunteer work.
“It was incredibly rewarding to help people work on changing their lives,” said Hannah of PEARLS. “It was great to see people creating a new start at the start of a new year.”
Leila Counihan, Program Coordinator of the Young Women’s Leadership Program used the experience to teach the teens about the importance of leadership. “It was important for the PEARLS members to understand that leadership is about service, not necessarily about having power or a title,” she said. “It was important that the teens took the initiative and did it on their own, and they were very proud of themselves.”
The PEARLS members had such a great experience they hope to continue their work in the community. They are currently planning their next volunteer pursuits, including the Dream Come True prom event scheduled for March 22. The event will make prom dresses available to selected students in the Worcester area, and also provide make-up and hairstyle tips, as well information about personal safety on prom night. If you would like to donate dresses, make-up, hair products, or gift certificates please contact Leila Counihan at 508-767-2505 ext. 3017 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Southgate at Shrewsbury retirement community and CinchIT, an IT solutions company, have joined forces to donate computers to the YWCA of Central Massachusetts.
The Community Services Program at United Way of Central Massachusetts has announced the 2013 Holiday Wish List as a way to help people in need in Central Massachusetts.
The Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts distributed more than $1 million in its most recently completed quarter, the organization said this week.
The YWCA of Central Massachusetts, the longest-serving agency by, for and about women and girls in central Massachusetts elected new officers and directors at its 128th annual meeting earlier this year.
The following members were newly elected to serve a three-year term to the agency’s Board of Directors.
Margarete Arndt is a Professor of Management in the Graduate School of Management at Clark University. She has authored and co-authored numerous articles on leadership, management and business practices in health care. She has been an active volunteer for VNA Care Network serving as a member and chair of various committees including: finance, audit, strategic planning, and mergers.
Lori Dawson is the Director of Women’s Studies and a full Professor in the Psychology Department at Worcester State University. Her scholarly work has focused on physical, sexual and emotional abuse and the intersectionality of discrimination. She is a member of the Association of Women in Psychology, a certified Rape Crisis Counselor and a volunteer youth educator with the O.W.L. program through the Unitarian Universalist Church.
Nora Keefe is the Regional Director of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s Office. She has held various other positions in political organizations including Worcester County Field Organizer for the Massachusetts Democratic Party, Field and GOTV Director for the Committee to Elect Joe Petty, and Campaign Manager for the Committee to Elect Ken O’Brien State Representative.
Meghan Maceiko is a Strategic Market Consultant for Unum. She is a graduate of Worcester LEAD, a year-long professional, personal and civic leadership development program. She is an active community volunteer serving with the United Way of Central Massachusetts as a Dollar Scholar Mentor, Community Impact Review Team Member, Women’s Initiative Coordinating Committee Member and as chair of the Women’s Initiative Membership Cultivation, Education & Outreach Committee. She is also a Corporator of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Central Mass/MetroWest and a member of the Board of Directors for NEADS.
Mary Jo Marion serves as the Executive Director of the Latino Education Institute at Worcester State University. She co-chairs the city of Worcester’s Mayoral Commission on Latino Educational Excellence and served as a member of the City’s successful bid for the Promise Neighborhood planning grant.
Elected to serve a second three-year term to the Board of Directors is: Judith Ockene, Ph.D., M.Ed., M.A., a tenured Professor of Medicine, and Associate Vice Provost for Gender and Equity at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) where she holds the Barbara Helen Smith Endowed Chair in Preventive and Behavioral Medicine. She is the founding and current Chief of the Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine at UMMS. She has been very actively engaged with the YWCA for more than 10 years and currently serves as a member of the Daybreak Standing and Resource Development Committees. Lorna Stearns was also elected to a second three-year term. She also serves on the Resource Development Committee.
Elected to serve as officers for a one-year term were: Suzanne Singh Nebelung of Sutton, President; Linda Looft, assistant vice president at WPI, President-elect; Micki Davis, coordinator, CEV Center at Clark University, Vice-President/President-elect; Joyce Augustus, financial analyst at Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Treasurer; Karen Kempskie-Aquino, owner of Seven Hills Bookkeeping, Assistant Treasurer 2013; Etel Capacchione, director of the Youth Academy at Dynamy/YOU, Inc., Clerk; Christienne Bik, director of government relations at Fallon Community Health Plan, Assistant Clerk.
All of us at the YWCA are honored and thrilled to have women of such high caliber leading the Agency and working on behalf of women, children and families in our community,” said Executive Director Linda Cavaioli.
The YWCA Central Massachusetts hosted the Young Women’s Leadership Conference on Saturday, November 2. The event brought 40 young women from local colleges to the YWCA to meet with local community leaders, who shared their expertise and experience in order to help develop their leadership and networking skills.
This inter-collegiate leadership conference addressed some of the challenges that young women face today, and was designed to support leadership development, while increasing the potential of current students.
The program included a keynote address by Naisha Bradley from the Women and Public Policy Program (WAPPP) at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Her speech “Claiming Your Seat at the Table: Why Women’s Leadership is Important” was well received by everyone in attendance, and focused on the importance of mentoring in the business world. Her idea to “lift as you climb” expressed her belief in the importance of looking back to help others as you make your way up the career ladder.
YWCA Board Member Etel Capacchione stated that the event was a great way for young women to learn about their path to leadership and the challenges women of color and women of color in the LGBTQ community face. “As a board member of the YWCA I was proud of the agency’s ability to thread together our community and mission.”
Topics for the workshops included: Women with Power: Feminine Leadership Styles by Etel Capacchione of Dynamy; Why is it important for Women to Support Women? by Chantel Bethea, founder of WIN (Women in Action); Financial Literacy by Jeanne Dupre of Workers’ Credit Union; Let Your Voice Be Heard! by Beth Cady, Consultant; Women Leaders Speaking Up for Social Justice by Dr. Cinzia Pica-Smith of Assumption College; Dress to Impress by Amy Mosher, Strategy and Innovations Leader; Women’s Leadership: Local, National and Global by Rithika Kulathila of Girls CHOICE; and Racial Justice and Women’s Leadership by Dr. Joyce McNickles of McNickles & Associates.
“It was a great opportunity to showcase our mission of empowering women,” explained Brenda Safford, YWCA Director of Economic Empowerment. “We had volunteers from our Board of Directors, and area colleges and businesses all here to share knowledge and expertise, and invest in the future of these young women.”
The conference allowed students to hear from skillful facilitators on how to develop their leadership abilities. It included opportunities to engage with inspirational leaders and discuss approaches to leadership. The students also learned the importance of being a part of working groups, where they were able to meet and exchange ideas with other young leaders from within the Worcester Consortium. The goal of the program was to better prepare these young women to take on leadership roles and learn from their experiences as leaders.
“I can tell you that I was truly inspired by the workshops, speakers, and even the young women who attended,” said Carly Giannini, a student at WPI. “I have immense respect for the work that the YWCA does and it makes me feel like there are truly good hearted people still left in this world. I just wanted you to know that you have made a difference in me and for that I thank you.”
If it wasn’t for all the support I received from the Daybreak program I may still be in the abusive relationship that I found myself in several years ago.
It wasn’t hard to see how I got to that point. I grew up around abuse. Every woman in my family had been a victim. My great-grandmother, grand-mother, and my mother all quietly accepted that the abuse was just a part of their life.
When my step-father began to abuse and molest me and my brother, that too became just a part of our life.
It wasn’t until I had a son of my own that I began to realize that he deserved better, and so did I.
While his father abused me I had vivid memories of my mother’s bruised and bloody face, and the guns pointed at her head. I remember at 9 years old, jumping out the window to run for help.
The police officers would come to the door and tell my step-father to cool it, and that would be the end of it – until the next time.
When I found myself pregnant I decided that it would be best if we try to make a family together. But during my pregnancy the abuse started, and from there it escalated. I would make him leave, but he would always come back.
I reached out to my family, but they didn’t help. My mother told me to go back to him. To them it was just a part of life, and that was that.
But when my son was three months old I knew I had to leave, if not for me, then for him.
I found Daybreak, and Lynn my counselor. With their help I was able to leave. It was very difficult because I had nothing, and I had no support from my family. They stopped talking to me, and I had no where to go.
I was scared, and unsure, but Lynn gave me all the info, and materials I needed to find a way out. I wanted to make the right decision for my son, and I studied these materials, and figured out exactly what I needed to do.
My abuser went to jail, and my son and I moved on. I earned my GED and am currently going to school to become a respiratory therapist. I’ve worked through all my financial trouble, and we have a place of our own. I was the first person to go through the More Than Wheels program and now have a nice new car.
I don’t know where I would be without the YWCA. The system worked for me. It’s a battle, and an ugly process, but the result was worth it.
My baby is five years old now. He loves school, and reading books, and he just started playing basketball. He doesn’t know violence, and I hope that he never will.
Lynn tells me I’m an inspiration, and that it was my inner strength that got me away from the abuse, but I know that without her and the Daybreak program my story might be a lot different. I know that I am standing on this stage today because of her, and because of all of you who are here to support these programs that help people like me, and I can’t thank you enough.
The YWCA of Central Massachusetts helped spread awareness about domestic violence through several initiatives during the month of October.
The month kicked off with the Dance for Peace: End Domestic Violence dance-a-thon held at the Fitchburg Senior Center. The event was a huge success, with dancers from all over, including Mount Wachusett Community College, Worcester State University, Clinton Savings Bank, and Workers’ Credit Union, as well as board members, staff, and supporters coming out for a great cause.
With the help of our dancing teams we were able to raise $17,000 this year. Our sponsors helped us put on the best event yet! Thank you to all the dancers, donors, and our headline sponsors, Clinton Savings Bank, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Leominster Credit Union, Workers’ Credit Union; media sponsor Worcester Telegram & Gazette; and spotlight sponsor Nypro.
On October 1st the YWCA Central Massachusetts kicked off our Purple Purse campaign to spread awareness of domestic violence, and in particular the financial difficulties faced by victims/survivors. The Purple Purse is a program of The Allstate Foundation, who donated $350,000 to the YWCA USA and 30 local YWCAs across the country. As part of this campaign the YWCA Central Massachusetts was awarded a $10,000 grant to continue our domestic violence services work.
The campaign went viral with the help of celebrity spokesperson Rosario Dawson. The YWCA Central Massachusetts’ purses were passed all around the state beginning with State Senator Hariette Chandler. The purse made its way through local police departments, courts, businesses, and other non-profit organizations, and was passed along virally through email, Facebook, and Twitter campaigns. As of right now we are at nearly triple the required 1,000 passes to earn our grant!
On October 16 the YWCA took some time out of our day to remember the victims of domestic violence in the state of Massachusetts over the past year. In a solemn ceremony at City Hall Executive Director Linda Cavaioli read the names of the victims, and a minute of silence in remembrance was held. City Councilor Phil Palmieri read a proclamation from Mayor Joe Petty stating that October will be observed as Domestic Violence Awareness Month in the City of Worcester.
A purple flag flew in the front of City Hall to commemorate the event. The YWCA urged supporters in our community to wear purple in honor of the victims. Later that night staff from the YWCA’s Domestic Violence Services program attended a candlelight vigil in Shrewsbury to honor the victims. The vigil was organized by the Against Domestic Violence in Shrewsbury Education project (ADVISE) and Saheli, an organization that supports South Asian woman and families.
On October 28 the YWCA hosted the Annual Daybreak Breakfast at the College of the Holy Cross. Keynote speaker Lily Ann M. Divino, LCSW, MPH spoke on how to break the intergenerational cycle of violence. This event included testimonials from survivors of domestic violence, and the powerful message that no one should live with abuse.
The event was made possible by Daybreak Breakfast sponsors Fidelity Bank, Reliant Medical Group, Webster Five Cents Savings Bank, and media sponsor Worcester Business Journal.
Linda Cavaioli took part in the YWCA USA’s Week Without Violence blog carnival where she wrote about what it will take to stop violence against women and girls. She also shared domestic violence information on the new Worcester Connects site, a product of the Worcester Telegram and Gazette.
People who gathered at Worcester City Hall want to end domestic violence; city handles close to 3,500 cases a year.