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Women of Distinction honors influential students and women in the community

The 6th annual Women of Distinction event occurred March 26 in the Firstenburg Student Commons on the Washington State University Campus. The Women of Distinction award honors women on our campus and in our community who have inspired, mentored and empowered their peers. This year’s event honored 33 nominees: two high school students, 15 Washington State University Vancouver students and nine community members.

At the beginning of the event, guests enjoyed an array of hors d’oeuvres and punch before taking their seats. Guests were then formally welcomed to the event by Stephanie Leeper and Cambri Shanahan, two nominees in the WSU Vancover student category. Leeper and Shanahan conveyed the importance of honoring women who have made significant differences in the lives of each individual they come across, and thanked guests for being in attendance at the ceremony. Following the welcoming speech, nominees from each category were called up to receive a certificate and rose before taking group pictures and returning to their seats.

Dr. Allen Gabriel, a plastic surgeon and co-founder of the Pink Lemonade Project, gave the keynote address. The Pink Lemonade Project is a nonprofit organization benefiting breast cancer survivors. Dr. Gabriel recounted the story of one of his patients who was diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age and had to beat the cancer on her own. Her strength and perseverance led to her recovery and inspired Dr. Gabriel to create the Pink Lemonade Project. The project lends support to fellow breast cancer survivors through retreats and mentorship programs, encouraging survivors to empower the next generation of breast cancer patients.

Following the keynote, the winners of each category were announced. Winning the high school student category, Brittany Curtiss of River Homelink High school inspires her family members and fellow students by obtaining top grades while volunteering at assisted living facilities.

Kia Calderon, the winner among WSU Vancouver students, is a social studies student who received acclaim for donating one of her kidneys to a man she found on social media. Calderon had not personally met this man but knew he was in need of the donation. After accepting her award, she spoke about the importance of organ donation and urged everyone in attendance to take the opportunity to save a life by participating.

For the first time in the history of the Women of Distinction event, two winners from the community member category were recognized. Jennifer Cullison and Amy Holmes were awarded the category due to their overwhelming support and mentorship of the students at their respective high schools. Cullison created the Health Sciences program at Woodland High School and Holmes is the founding principal at Hayes Freedom High School in Camas, WA.

The Women of Distinction event occurs every March at Washington State University Vancouver. Students who wish to know more about the event and when nominations for next year’s event will take place can contact Nikki Hinshaw at nikki_hinshaw@vancouver.wsu.edu.

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