Sometimes your gifts to Washington Area Women’s Foundation help a woman discover and travel paths she’s never dreamed of. Step by step she learns new skills, gains confidence, and dares to paint herself into a new vision of the future.
But in the case of PreAnn Walker, your gifts are helping a young woman navigate a path she’s always dreamed of.
By third grade, PreAnn had a crystal clear idea of her future. She was going to Spelman College and she was going to become a doctor. It has been a dream of hers for so long, that at the ripe old age of 20, she doesn’t even know how the seed was planted.
“I’ve just always known I was going there,” she says with a conviction that’s hard to argue with. After all, against ridiculously high odds, that’s exactly where she is. Enrolled at Spelman, taking Spanish courses this summer, making room for more classes in her major—Psychology—in her final two years.
And, of course, she’s working. Because that’s what she’s always done since she was 15. KFC, McDonald’s, Safeway, Chick-Fil-A. Not for pocket money like other girls her age, but for the stuff that keeps body and soul together—underwear, shoes, school supplies, meals. Necessities, not niceties.
Your support has helped hardworking, vulnerable young women like PreAnn realize their dreams.
In high school, PreAnn juggled two jobs while attending school full time, despite a precarious living situation. At age 11 she was removed from the custody of her mother who was suffering from schizophrenia, and became the ward of a twenty-something cousin. By high school, PreAnn was largely taking care of herself. On any given night, she cadged a bed/couch/space on the floor in one of several homes—staying in one place only long enough to not wear out her welcome, then moving on to the next, eventually circling back and starting the cycle again.
“I carried a big purse,” she says with a laugh, “because I needed to keep a change of clothes in there. I was never sure where I was going to sleep, so I was always prepared. When I got ready to move to Atlanta, I had to go to five or six different places to pick up my stuff because I had a little here and a little there.”
Always, she kept her eyes on the college prize—shrugging away sacrifices, and relentlessly pursuing every opportunity that got her closer to her goal. That’s where you came in!In her senior year, PreAnn seized the opportunity to participate in two programs that were the final stepping stones on her path to Spelman—Urban Alliance’s internship program and College Success Foundation’s DC Achievers Scholarship Program. Thanks to generous donors like you, The Women’s Foundation funds both of these organizations whose programs provide tools and resources that change young people’s lives.
Your continued support is the fuel that keeps dreams alive for determined young women!
We got to know PreAnn, and the fierce determination that drives her, in the fall of 2011 when she became our Urban Alliance intern. One of the benefits of being an intern at The Women’s Foundation is you instantly acquire an entire cadre of mentors and cheerleaders. The day PreAnn received her acceptance from Spelman, the entire office celebrated with her, with high-fives, hugs, and not a dry eye in the office. A generous and well-deserved DC Achievers Scholarship cleared the final obstacle for PreAnn to finish the journey she had set for herself almost a dozen years before. We’re not sure she has stopped smiling since!
As many students prepare to head back to school, we know there are many other young women like PreAnn out there –ready to set forth on the path of their dreams with pure determination. At The Women’s Foundation, our goal is that no young woman will be left behind just because she was born in the wrong ZIP code or to parents with insufficient resources. Together, we can provide the tools that give each one a fighting chance.
Of all the jobs I’ve held over my career, none have been harder than being a mom. Nothing could have prepared me for the rollercoaster that I ride on a daily basis with my two girls. And during those moments when I’m feeling particularly challenged, I ask my mom for advice. She always demurs, saying, “You’re raising your children in a very different time.” And while she’s right in many ways—technology alone has transformed how parents and children interact—in other ways, very little has changed over time. For many of the 200,000 women and girls living in poverty in our region, the challenges and barriers they face have made poverty multi-generational.
That’s one of the reasons why The Women’s Foundation is investing in a promising and innovative two-generation strategy working with middle school girls and their female caregivers. We are excited to be adding our voice and expertise to the Aspen Institute Ascend Network on two-generation work, and we look forward to sharing our learning with you in the months ahead.
With over 72 percent of mothers with young children participating in our region’s workforce,families are increasingly relying on the wages of women in order to achieve economic security. It’s never been more important that workplace policies reflect the realities of women’s lives. I’m thrilled that the Foundation has been recognized as a Best Place to Work by the Washington Business Journal. For us, modeling positive policies and ‘walking the walk’ is equally as important as ‘talking the talk’; investing in the talent and strength of our staff has always strengthened us as an organization.
Earlier this month in celebration of Mother’s Day, if you follow us on Facebook, you had an opportunity to meet the women behind the women—the wonderful moms of our staff! We’ve all had a guiding force in our lives, whether it was a mom, friend, neighbor, grandmother, aunt or colleague. She’s the person who picked you up when you were down, told you the truth when no one else would or simply listened when you needed an ear. She ultimately stood with you so you could stand on your own. We hope that you also take a moment to recognize and honor that special woman in your life.
With much gratitude,Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat
Here at The Women’s Foundation, we have hit the ground running and are looking forward to an exciting 2014. With much of a brand new year ahead, I want to share a few of my top priorities:
We have an opportunity to build the momentum and national messaging generated by The Shriver Report, which emphasizes why we must make investing in low-income women and girls a priority. You -- your presence, voice and support -- are critical to our efforts to transform the lives of women and girls, and the Washington region. I hope that you’ll stand with us in 2014.
Sincerely, Nicky Goren
When Elijah was a baby, he and his mother Tia lived with his grandmother. Tia was grateful to have a place to stay, but knew it was only a temporary solution. Elijah was growing fast and there wasn’t room for an active child to play and explore. With rents in the District growing as quickly as her son, and most of her income going to child care, Tia was scrambling to provide a safe and secure future. And then she made a big, bold decision: she was going to buy a home. It took her several years – but she did it. And you helped make it possible.
Your previous gifts to Washington Area Women’s Foundation were invested in programs like the Homebuyers Club, which helps low-income families like Tia’s buy homes through peer support, professional guidance and financial education. Your support transforms families and our entire community.
Tia’s story might sound familiar – she shared her experience at the 2006 Leadership Luncheon. That day, she told the audience how impossible becoming a homeowner seemed – at first.
"I used to think that because I was a single mom it would be too hard for me to buy a house,” she said. “I thought that I didn’t earn enough money and that my childcare expenses would stop me.”
In making the bold decision to move from being a renter to a homeowner, Tia took the first step on the path to financial stability for her and her son. I’m revisiting Tia’s story, because I want you to know that your donations are long-term investments in women and in the Washington region. I’m happy to tell you that seven years after she first shared her story, Tia and Elijah remain in their home, and that buying her home changed the course of her life and that of her son’s.
Elijah is in the fourth grade now. He and Tia’s favorite thing to do is hang out in their living room, playing games and watching movies. They have the stability and security that comes with being in the same house and neighborhood for years, and are important members of their community. And Tia is working to help more families follow in their footsteps. She now volunteers at the Homebuyers Club. She provides childcare for other mothers just starting on the path she took nearly a decade ago – but maybe more importantly, she helps them believe it’s a path they dare to walk down.
“There’s nothing greater than feeling like you can provide for your kids,” she says. “Being a homeowner is a struggle sometimes. But I have the security of knowing I still have a roof over my head. I always have shelter. I always have the security of home.”
Over the past 15 years, supporters like you have made it possible for low-income women and girls to find security through new and better jobs, access to affordable, high-quality early education, and increasing assets. With these targeted investments, we can work together to end poverty in our community. But it’s going to take big, bold action. When change seemed impossible, Tia had the courage to make a bold move.
Nicky Goren President
Earlier this summer, Washington Area Women’s Foundation released a case study that details effective approaches for helping low-income women overcome persistent barriers in workforce development programs and employment in nontraditional sectors: “Lessons Learned & Recommendations for the Field: A Case Study of Nontraditional Job Training Programs for Women.” The study was funded by the Public Welfare Foundation and the Ford Foundation.
The findings of the case study are based on grants The Women’s Foundation awarded over a six year period to DC-area nonprofits for nontraditional job training programs. The Grantee Partners highlighted in the case study are: CASA de Maryland, Goodwill of Greater Washington, Urban Alliance, Year Up National Capital Region and YWCA of the National Capital Area.
According to the US Department of Labor, nontraditional jobs for women are defined as occupations in which women comprise less than 25 percent of all workers. Examples of these jobs include construction and building trades, engineering, and transportation, and encompass technical, scientific, and labor-intensive work. The case study points out that nontraditional jobs typically pay more than those traditionally classified as “female jobs” – often 20 to 30 percent more – and are more likely to offer career pathways and benefits.
“We explored nontraditional jobs specifically because our research and experience have shown that occupations with higher wages, progressive career pathways and benefits like health care go a long way in helping women, particularly single women who are head of household, achieve and maintain economic security,” said Nicky Goren, president of Washington Area Women’s Foundation. “This is not only about finding jobs for women. It’s about preparing them to excel in careers with family-sustaining wages that will enable them to put themselves and their families on paths to prosperity.”
The case study highlights the categorical and systemic barriers that low-income women often face, including level of educational attainment, work supports, transportation costs, access to affordable child care and discrimination. These barriers are present in many occupations but are often more intense in nontraditional jobs.
The report also makes recommendations that include: more comprehensive case management and support services; greater focus on retention and career advancement services; addressing basic skills and post-secondary education needs; and building partnerships with community colleges and employers.
“Our hope is that policy makers, nonprofits, employers and funders use the case study as they create innovative strategies that will break down barriers and open up good jobs to women,” said Goren. “One in five women in DC lives in poverty and many are supporting children. By opening up these opportunities to them, we can help ensure that women and their families thrive and we can move closer to ending poverty in our community.”
A copy of the case study is available on The Women’s Foundation’s website.
Workforce development and jobs with benefits, career pathways, and family-sustaining wages is just one of the three areas of the Stepping Stones Initiative. With your continued support, we will mobilize our community to ensure that economically vulnerable women and girls in the Washington region have the resources they need to thrive.
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