Quabbin Regional High School student Lauren Beauregard first learned of the YWCA’s domestic violence shelters when her mother suggested she donate some of her toys to the BWR Shelter in North Central Massachusetts. As a Girl Scout, the importance of community service was a quality Lauren grew to recognize.
“I’ve been a Girl Scout since kindergarten,” Lauren explained. “There has always been a community service component, and it has built from small to large projects.”
As part of her scouting, Lauren was determined to earn the Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest award in Girl Scouts. For the project she was asked to identify a need in the community, and develop a project to address that need. For Lauren, the project was an excellent opportunity to help the many children who came to the YWCA’s shelter every year as part of a family escaping domestic violence.
At the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year, Lauren began collecting school supplies and backpacks to donate to the YWCA’s Domestic Violence Shelters. She hosted drives in her community, solicited from friends and family, and was able to collect 75 backpacks full of school supplies, for students from elementary school to high school.
As part of her outreach Lauren estimates that she connected with about 1,000 people of all ages. “People were very receptive,” she said. “The Girl Scout Council was also very supportive, and believed it was a worthwhile cause.”
After this initial experience Lauren wanted to gain more of an understanding on intimate partner violence, and developed a Teen Dating Violence Workshop to present at her high school. The program included posters and other methods of generating awareness on the issues related to dating violence and healthy relationships.
Lauren made the workshop interactive, using props, videos, and discussing the issue with students on a peer to peer level. She explained how behavior can escalate in an unhealthy relationship, and what red flags to look out for. She also gave the students options if they found themselves or someone they know in a physically or emotionally abusive relationship. These options included contacting the YWCA’s 24-hour hotline, as well as speaking to teachers, parents, and guidance counselors.
The project was well-received by the students, with many giving positive feedback on the peer-led workshop. “They felt like they learned a lot,” Lauren explained. “The retained a lot of the information, and many of them were not aware of what constitutes an unhealthy relationship.”
This fall Lauren plans on attending nursing school, where she can continue helping people. “I believe that you can make a difference in this world just by helping,” she said.
The YWCA of Central Massachusetts has teamed up with the City of Worcester to form the first official YWCA Running Team. The aim of the team is to provide opportunities for people in our community to improve their health and fitness through walking and running – in a supportive team environment. “The Team is not limited to city employees, anyone can join,” explained Patty Flanagan, Director of Health Promotion Services. “In fact, we really want folks from all over!”
The team formed out of the city’s wellness program, which hoped to encourage employees to take part in the “Tour de Worcester” road races, a series of races which came together through the City’s Economic Development Office. The events include the Jay Lyons Memorial Road Race, which took place on April 28, as well as the Worcester Firefighters Memorial 6k on June 9, and the Canal Diggers 5k on September 7.
“The goal of the program was to help employees become healthier through physical activity,” explained Pamela Callahan, City of Worcester Training and Wellness Coordinator. “I hope that by being part of a team, with encouragement, coaching and support, employees will be engaged because they enjoy the activity.”
The team supports members of all fitness levels, with all different goals. Some current team members are training for events from 5ks to a marathons, while others are in it to lose weight, or reach other personal milestones. There is also a triathlon option. When you choose your program, you will be linked to an on-line training plan to help keep you on track.
The team is wasting no time getting started, with many taking part in the Boston Strong Benefit Run to support the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. The 2.62 mile run took place on May 11, and all proceeds were donated to the One Fund Boston.
Group workouts take place from the YWCA at 6 p.m. on Wednesdays, and 8 a.m. on Saturdays. As the season progresses the Saturday runs may start from other local, scenic locations. The program runs now through October, and has a $100 entry fee, with new members welcome at any time. For more info contact Patty at email@example.com
As part of the United Way of Central Massachusetts’ Youth Venture Team, the YWCA has launched their very first team, Worcester In actioN (W.I.N). The United Way Youth Venture Program allows youth to initiate their own social ventures to benefit the community. The teams receive training and tools to help build leadership, teamwork, and entrepreneurial skills.
The YWCA’s W.I.N. Team is helping to raise awareness of social issues in Worcester, including bullying, and the cleanliness of the city. “We want to change the mindsets, dialogues, actions, and perspectives of the younger people, who will be our future” said Ajia Riley, a 12 year old 6th grader at the Goddard Scholar Academy at Sullivan Middle School, and member of W.I.N.
After the initial action plan process, the team pitched their venture ideas to a Community Panel, where they were approved for funding. The team will be given seed money along with continued support to successfully and sustainably launch their ventures. All the teams in the program are fully youth-created and youth-led.
The group will be dedicated to spreading awareness on how to prevent bullying, as well as how to stand up for yourself and others, along with the correct steps to take when bullying happens. “Being a bystander is almost worse than being a bully,” said Stacia Ostiguy, 13 year old W.I.N. member.
The YWCA team hopes to give other youth the skills they need to stand up and say enough to bullies. Their first event will be a summer cookout including food, music, entertainment, and activities such as games, face painting and a drawing. Through this cookout they hope to bring the community together, share the stories of those being bullied, and spread the word about the impact bullying has on school aged students around the country.
The team summed up their goals during their presentation to the Community Panel: “We want to make a difference, eliminate the amount of people who can’t defend themselves, and give them an opportunity to stand up,”
The YWCA will be posting updates on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ywcacm so check back often to see the W.I.N. Team’s progress!
The YWCA of Central Massachusetts presented five women with Katharine F. Erskine Awards today at its 20th annual Tribute to Women, held at Mechanics Hall.
The YWCA of Central Massachusetts will give Katharine F. Erskine Awards on Monday to five women whose professional accomplishments have made life better for their community and especially for women and girls.
WORCESTER – Police are characterizing a double shooting at a Hadwen Road home as a murder-suicide.
A Worcester, Mass. woman and her ex-boyfriend are both dead in what police are describing as a possible murder-suicide. The two were found with gunshots wounds Monday morning.
Margie Potash refuses to slow down. For years she would regularly walk four miles a day. She also enjoyed playing tennis and golf, and has always stayed active in her community. But it’s not just Margie’s attitude and commitment that make her a success story, it’s also her strength. After a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) 25 years ago she continues to be active, keeping up with her exercise program, while continuing to volunteer to help others.
Margie currently works out with YWCA Personal Trainer Sue Johnson twice a week doing strength training and stretching exercises. While keeping up with a regular fitness routine can be a challenge for many of us, Margie’s no excuse attitude is one we can all learn from.
After a period of remission Margie’s MS came back about five years ago. She was dealing with the effects of MS on her body when her doctor encouraged her to continue her active lifestyle, and find a structured exercise program. Soon after Margie joined the MS Encompass – Get Fit! program, which is a collaboration between the local MS Society chapter and the YWCA of Central Massachusetts. “It was the best thing I’ve ever done,” she explained.
Margie explained that during her first visits she didn’t feel comfortable using the equipment on her own. YWCA Fitness Coordinator Monica Salazar Carmona was there to help her, and soon suggested she try working out with a personal trainer. With Sue’s guidance Margie noticed a difference in her endurance and flexibility, and her once a week sessions quickly became twice a week.
Sue and Margie work together for an hour, doing strength training on the equipment, as well as other activities designed to improve strength and flexibility. “She keeps me going, and works me the whole hour,” Margie explained. “She explains everything to me, and gives me the positive reinforcement that I love!”
Margie wasn’t the only one who noticed the changes, her friends saw a difference as well. “Monica used to help me get on the equipment and warm up,” she explained, “Now I can do it myself.”
The exercise doesn’t just help improve Margie’s strength, flexibility, and endurance, she also credits it with improving her confidence, self-sufficiency, and energy levels. “I still have a very active lifestyle,” she explained. “I try to do as much as I can everyday.”
Her active lifestyle includes taking classes at Assumption College’s Worcester Institute for Senior Education (W.I.S.E.), and volunteering with the Jewish Healthcare Center’s Hospice program. “The Hospice program is very challenging, and gratifying,” she said. “I completed 30 hours of training on how to be a good listener, and how to help people deal with a difficult time in their lives.”
Margie is a great example of remaining positive in the face of difficulty. When asked to share the one thing she would want people to know about MS she said, “MS is not a death, I’m still the same person I always was even though I have MS, and I’m not going to let it get me down. I’m going to keep doing as much as I can.”
The YWCA of Central Massachusetts is proud to host our 4th Annual Stand Against Racism on Friday, April 26 with special guest speaker Allan G. Johnson. The nonfiction author, novelist, sociologist, public speaker, and workshop presenter has devoted most of his working life to understanding the human condition, especially in relation to issues of social justice rooted in gender, race, and social class.
The Stand Against Racism is a movement of the YWCA that aims to eliminate racism by raising awareness through its annual event. It is our goal to unite groups and individuals that share our mission of a society free of racism and discrimination. Together, we want to raise awareness that racism still exists and that it cannot be ignored or tolerated.
Dr. Johnson will be taking part in the Community Forum from 9:00-10:00 a.m. at the YWCA. Everyone in the community is invited to attend the discussion. According to Mr. Johnson, his approach to social justice is based on the idea that unraveling the knot of privilege begins with being clear about what privilege really is, about what it has to do with each of us, and about how everyone can see themselves as part of the process of change toward something better.
He bases his work around three questions: What are we participating in and how are we choosing to participate in it? How do typical ways of thinking about privilege blind us to what’s going on? What can we do to make a difference?
Mr. Johnson emphasizes that systems of privilege and injustice are not inevitable, but that we all have the power to make change through our own choices. His goal is to present the material in a way that everyone can not only understand, but can also relate to on a personal level.
The Stand Against Racism is an annual event held on the last Friday in April. Over 50 local agencies joined the YWCA Central Massachusetts in taking a Stand Against Racism in 2012, and we hope you will join us this year, too! The event on April 26 includes the Community Forum from 9:00-10:00 a.m. as well as a Rally at City Hall from 3:00-5:00 p.m. The Rally will feature speak-outs and performances.
Students from the YWCA’s Young Parent Program (YPP) participated in a book discussion group with several YWCA staff members as part of “The Big Read,” a program of the National Endowment for the Arts. The YWCA partnered with WPI and the Worcester Public Library to bring the program, based around Zora Neale Hurston’s 1937 classic, Their Eyes Were Watching God to the Worcester area.
“The Big Read” is a nationwide initiative that is designed to revitalize the role of literary reading in American popular culture. All of the participants in the book discussion admitted that they had some difficulty getting into the book, particularly with the dialect, but all of them quickly reached a point where they became enamored by Janie Crawford’s journey.
“She grabbed my soul,” said Brenda Safford, Director of the Young Parent Program. “It amazes me that she had the strength to leave her husband, because African-Americas didn’t have rights at this time. She told herself she had a choice, and in the end she just wanted to be loved.”
The book is told through the voice of Janie, a woman who refuses to live in sorrow, bitterness, fear, or foolish romantic dreams. The story follows Janie through her evolving selfhood, three marriages, and a life marked by poverty, trials, and purpose.
YPP student Jennifer Baez explained that one of her favorite parts of the book was when Janie realized that she wasn’t going to get married anymore. “She just wanted to go with the flow,” she explained.
After some discussion on the roles of marriage, women, and African-Americans during this time period, the group had a better understanding of Janie’s strength.
Sue O’Brien, Finance Director of the YWCA, said that she felt one of the most powerful scenes in the book was when Janie fought her way into her husband’s room as he was dying, just to tell him what was on her mind. “If she never got that chance she might have felt bottled up for the rest of her life,” she explained.
Ammeris Escalante, another YPP student shared her amazement of the relationship between Janie and TK. “She wasn’t hiding anymore,” she said. “She just came out and showed herself.”
The group also discussed the author’s life. Zora Neale Hurston was born in Alabama in 1891, and moved to New York in January of 1925 with just $1.50 in her pocket. She studied at Morgan Academy in Baltimore, Howard University in Washington D.C., and Barnard College while in New York.
A lifelong writer, Hurston remained devoted to the craft, but received little monetary compensations for her works of art. With her health declining, she was forced to enter a welfare home where she died penniless on January 28, 1960.
Hurston’s neighbors raised enough funds for a funeral, but did not have enough to pay for a headstone. She was buried in an unmarked grave until 1973, when writer Alice Walker tracked down her burial site and purchased a plain gray headstone with the inscription: “Zora Neale Hurston: A Genius of the South.”
YPP teacher Angela Borda summed up the thoughts of the group at the end of the discussion. “Janie had the attitude that this is who I am, you can take it or leave it,” she said, “and that’s an important lesson for everyone.”