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Local women honored for service and achievement

To recognize the contributions of local women to their community, Washington State University Vancouver recently honored 46 different women at the annual Women of Distinction event.  Emily Forette, Andrea Olvera and Faye Palmerton each won awards for their service work in the community.

Julie Mercado introduced the event, spoke about its history and announced the nominees. Sheri Bennett, a graduate of Clark College, Western Washington University and the Leadership Clark County program, delivered a keynote address. Bennett is now the executive director of YWCA Clark County. Bennett has worked for over 19 years to better the lives of local families and women through her work at the YWCA.

In her presentation, Bennett discussed the importance of women in leadership, how she obtained her position at the YWCA and the functions of the YWCA. When Bennett first took her position at the YWCA 19 years ago, she started as an on call staff member at the domestic violence shelter. Bennett told of how an encounter with a child named Sean changed her outlook on life and made her want to grow with the YWCA. Bennett talked about how she took a position of leadership at the organization by taking the initiative in her own hands and by “saying yes” to the opportunities in front of her.

Awards and honorable mentions were then recognized. The first category was for high school women in the community. The winner of this event was senior Emily Forrette, who attends Union High School in Camas. Forrette was recognized for her courage, participation in extracurricular activities and her individuality. Forrette recently came out to her friends and community as transgender and has faced bullying. Despite that, Forrette has pushed on and has been an active member on her high school’s speech and debate team, and has worked as a crew and production member for her school’s drama department. Forrette also works to educate her family and friends about the transgender community.

The honorable mentions for the WSU Vancouver female student of the year were Allison de Vincenzi and Stefani Mammenga. De Vincenzi is a doctoral candidate for education and was recognized for her work and research with the math endorsement program. Mammenga is a graduate student studying prevention science and was recognized for her involvement in campus diversity projects, such as work done for the Cougar Pride Club.

The winner the WSU Vancouver female student of the year award was Andrea Olvera. Olvera is a sophomore at the university and is majoring in mechanical engineering. Olvera is an undocumented student and was recognized for her academic achievements and bravery. Olvera talked about her experience as an undocumented student and said that she was “very proud to be going through higher education, especially as a woman in my area of study.”

The honorable mentions for the WSU Vancouver female community member were Anne Johnston, Nelea Nelson and Rosalba Pitkin. Johnston was nominated for her work as a public nurse for Clark County. Nelson was recognized for her work as a mentor and manager, and Pitkin was nominated for her work at the Office of Diversity at Clark College.

The WSU Vancouver female community member of the year was Faye Palmerton. Palmerton was distinguished for being “a retired administrator with the Portland Public Schools who founded TLC-TNT, a dropout prevention program,” said Brenda Alling, the marketing and communications director for WSU Vancouver. Palmerton has worked for the Portland Public Schools for over 30 years and worked for schools located in impoverished areas. Palmerton said she believes that all kids “want to be and do good.”

For more information on the Women of Distinction nominees for this year, visit https://admin.vancouver.wsu.edu/marketing-and-communications/press-releases/wsu-vancouver%E2%80%99s-women-distinction-honors-women-who-make.

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