Fighting, Supporting, Believing, & Advocating – Fay Stoloff

Fighting and Supporting

As a student leader at University at Buffalo, I tend to be classified into different groups: white college student, female, sorority girl, student leader, member of various organizations, and more. Often times I am usually just labeled as one of them. However, there is more to me than that. I am a believer, an advocate, a supporter, and a fighter.

I believe that everyone can accomplish anything they put their mind to.

I am an advocate – I have lobbied congress and recently traveled to Washington, DC to talk to congress about the Title IX act and how it affects women on college campuses.

I am a supporter in what women do and I support others.

I am a fighter and care about causes that affect society and affect my community.

My childhood friend from back home is much more than what she gets labeled as too. She isn’t just a friend, student and mom. She is her own personal advocate, fighter, supporter and believer.

She had her amazing son at the age of 19. She had just finished her first year at community college when she gave birth to him in July, 2013. She took time off from school and focused on raising him and saving money. After a semester off, she began to slowly go back to school, taking classes part time and studying for certification tests. Although she probably could have graduated by now or received a certification, she has not. I am a firm believer that if she had career support at her school from someone who understood her situation she would have graduated.

She is extremely lucky to have a support system from her family and friends, but sometimes that just isn’t enough. She needs someone in her court at her community college advocating, supporting, fighting and believing in her as a single mom. She needs a program like the NCCC MOMS program, funded by the WNY Women’s Foundation.

The MOMS: From Education to Employment initiative is an academic and support program to assist low-income, single parent student mothers who are pursuing a college education at Niagara Community College with targeted educational programs where there is a high demand for employees and higher wages, such as health, tourism and STEM careers. A program like this would have helped my friend get back on her feet and finish school, benefitting both her and her son.

I am a fighter for my friend’s needs and a supporter of what she does for her and her son.

Believing and Advocating

Recently, UB was honored to have Dear World come to the university. Dear World gives the opportunity to share a story through a picture. They have photographed numerous universities, the UN, Boston Marathon Survivors, Syrian refugees in Jordan, and more.

I knew about Dear World coming a few weeks in advance and had time to prepare what I wanted to share. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do something more generic, like “Live life to the fullest”, or something more serious about the recent tragedies in the world, like “Pray for All”.

I contemplated various stories I wanted to disclose but I didn’t feel like they were important enough to share. The day before I was going to take my photo, I knew I needed to decide on something. That day I was interning at WNY Women’s Foundation, and we took a trip to visit one of our Impact Grants, the Valley Community Association’s “Building Up the Future” program, located in the Buffalo River Community.

The Valley Community Association offers 5th-8th grade girls the opportunity to learn about themselves and build skills that will serve them in the future as a part of their after school programming.  Participating girls will attend specialized workshops throughout the school year that will focus on building self-esteem and confidence, team-building, goal-setting, healthy relationships, positive body image, self-respect and recognizing their own inner beauty. We visited the girls, who were doing portraits of their roles models and of themselves at the CEPA Gallery on Main Street in Buffalo.

The girls that were taking part in the program that evening were so inspirational and wise.  The moment that struck a chord for me was when the girls went around the table sharing the photo they took of their role models in the past week. Listening to the girls share how their role models had reacted to the photos that the girls had taken of them, I realized what I wanted to share for Dear World.

Here is my story:

dear world photo

“Dear World,

My grandfather suffers from Alzheimer’s that has progressed throughout the years. The one thing he still always tells me is that I am a “Shayna Maidel”, which means pretty girl in Yiddish.

Girls and women put themselves down far too often. Just yesterday, I was at a program for middle school girls that my internship funds. They were doing a photography project about their role models. Half of the girls said that when they showed their role models the photo, their role model said that they looked “fat” or “ugly” in the picture. What kind of message are we sending to young girls when we say this?

My grandfather, even when he doesn’t know who I am, always reminds me that I am a Shayna Maidel. I am reminding everyone else that they are a Shayna Maidel too! Remember this for those that can’t remember who they are or who they love. ?#?EndAlz ?#?DearUB ?#?DearWorld

By sharing my story, I hope that women and girls stop putting themselves down. I believe every woman and girl is beautiful and I advocate for those that don’t believe they are.

Being an intern for the WNY Women’s Foundation has been inspiring. The experiences I have had here have shaped my decisions and views on life. Through programs at NCCC for moms, WoMen in Action, Impact Grants, and other programs, the WNY Women’s Foundation is helping the WNY region and creating a path so other regions can do the same.

Pathways to Advocacy

At the WNY Women’s Foundation, we often talk about pathways– trailblazing women making pathways for the next generation, pathways for single  mothers to lead their families out of poverty, pathways out of violent homes, pathways to high school graduation and healthy adulthood, and beyond. The Foundation itself has forged a pathway, creating a forum to address women’s issues in Western New York and moving from fund to foundation in order to participate and facilitate much-needed discussion around advocacy.

My own path into advJessieocacy was probably even more winding. I started my college career as an art therapy major and have landed, several years, majors, colleges, and countries later, at the University at Buffalo’s School of Management and the WNY Women’s Foundation. Before I interviewed here, I already considered myself an advocate- but, as for so many students, what that meant to me was just sharing the occasional link on Facebook, scanning news headlines, and sitting in on club discussions.

While that has its place, what I’ve learned from my time here is that advocacy is so much more than that, and I truly believe that there is a space for students and youth in the discussion. We should be actively helping to forge our own pathways. It’s so easy to think of these issues as distant, issues which don’t really affect us, but that isn’t the case.

We all want to be safe at school– to know that if one of us or one of our friends is harmed or harassed, that we will be protected.
We all want to be paid and hired fairly after graduation, and for the all the work that we’ve done over our four or more years in school to be held in equal esteem as the years of our male peers.
We all have goals and ambitions, and those goals should not be hindered by glass ceilings or unfair policies.
We aren’t just students. We’re also kinetic energy, the inevitable, burgeoning generation of entry level employees, parents, and someday CEO’s, Executive Directors, and Legislators.

We have the potential to be a collective and influential voice.

With groups like Women in Action opening a new avenue for advocates of all generations, I hope that youth and students will invest their time in doing more than just clicking like or sharing links. I hope that they will join in, respond to calls to action, educate themselves, and work to forge their own pathways to an improved Western New York, nation, and world.

From Fieldhockey to Foundations – Genevieve Gresser

As an incoming high school freshman at a Boarding School on the East Coast, I signed up for field hockey as my fall co-curricular. I had never actually seen, let alone held, a field hockey stick but I figured it would be easy enough to learn. Within two weeks it had become quite apparent that field hockey was not my calling. Missing my Arizona hometown and big family, I decided to switch out of field hockey and into community service which turned out to be the right move.Genivieve Pic 2014em week after week. Going to an elementary school after a day of classes could be trying but my fall at Montague was clarifying. The kids helped me to see what really matters.

Situated in the midst of Franklin County is Deerfield Academy, a two-hundred-year-old prep school and my home for four years. Franklin County is the poorest county in Massachusetts, so there is no shortage of need. After the field hockey conundrum, I was relieved to spend co-curricular time at Montague Elementary. At Montague, the other Deerfield students and I helped with the after school program. We’d spend the first half hour on homework. After their work was done, we’d play chess, go to the playground, or read a book. Over the course of the fall, I became good friends with many of the Montague students. I looked forward to spending time with th

My sophomore year, I decided to go back to Montague’s after school program. Most of the elementary students had been in the program the year before and I was able to reconnect with them. The after school program seemed the same as the year before, but there was more trouble than I perceived. Towards the beginning of November, the other Deerfield students and I were told that Montague had lost their funding for the after school program and that it was ending after Thanksgiving.

From then on, the playground was less jovial. The students’ parents, most of whom spent their afternoon working, were trying to make plans to accommodate the end of after school. As a person who struggled in school when I was younger I spent a lot of time in after school programs and working with teachers. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the help I received outside of school and it devastated me that the students at Montague wouldn’t be offered the same opportunity. My experience at Montague sparked my interest in government programs and foundations, such as the WNY Women’s Foundation. Seeing that I’m not alone in my passion for quality after school programming – and education for all children –was a relief with organizations like WNY Women’s Foundation. I’ve spent my summer interning at the Foundation and have learned a lot about how foundations work towards bettering the community.

As I enter my senior year at Deerfield, I hope to study government or non-profit management in college. Seeing that it is possible to truly make a difference in this world has been an inspiration at the WNY Women’s Foundation.

I am also happy to report that Montague got their funding back after a short hiatus and that I’ll be returning this fall. I can’t wait to reconnect with the kids – they deserve every chance.

 

Graditude and Inspiration – Tammy Lindstrom

Tammy Jason Blog PhotoI returned to graduate school after a ten-year gap in education. I spent over twenty years as a dental hygienist working in private practice, public health, and academics. The most rewarding aspects of my career consisted of working with undeserved populations throughout Connecticut, in schools systems, homeless and domestic violence shelters and transitional living facilities. While I felt like I was making a difference, I was limited by my specialized clinical skills and education. I wanted to do more. The demand for care far outweighed the services I could provide. In addition, I only had to look at demographic data to determine the majority of those eligible were not utilizing services at all. Funding was a significant issue. I aspired to learn how to research the needs of specific populations, procure and sustain funding, navigate the bureaucratic system and advocate for change. Education would be required to obtain skills in order to develop, implement and evaluate quality programming. 

I was given the opportunity to accomplish my goals through the University at Buffalo School of Social Work. A newly single mother, I relocated with my two teenaged sons last summer. Within a few weeks I interviewed for my foundation year field placement at WNY Women’s Foundation, an organization committed to improving the status of women and girls in Western New York. It has been an honor and a privilege. I leave feeling more like a colleague than an intern. Throughout my placement I have had the opportunity to participate in research, fundraisers, public awareness events, community partnerships and advocacy efforts. I am in awe at the role and dedication of leadership at the WNY Women’s Foundation.

WNY Women’s Foundation research has provided a baseline, needs assessment, and best practice service delivery models for initiatives. Strategies for short term and long term investments are chosen specifically to create the most impact and advance opportunity for women and girls in the future. In order to promote social action and community change the foundation participates in fundraising, education, community awareness and advocacy.Tammy Christian Blog Photo

I simply could not have asked for a better opportunity or experience this year. As a single mother, I understand the challenges women face trying to pursue education, career opportunities and self-sustainability while trying to prioritize a family, yet I recognize how fortunate I am. I have financial and family support systems and the ability to access resources in order to accomplish my goals. I do not experience the same barriers to success as so many women and girls in our community. Thank you WNY Women’s Foundation for allowing me to be part of the solution. This organization has exemplified my goals and objectives for returning to graduate school. You have inspired me and I have great expectations for the status of women and girls in WNY with you in their corner.

-Tammy Lindstrom, Intern, MSW Candidate at the University at Buffalo 

In Her Words – Gabrielle K. Maier

954838_10200568841361302_948877170_nGrowing up around non-profit work, I was always impressed by the way in which a group of people who seemingly had very little in common besides their passion to change could come together and make a difference. My mother was, and still is, very involved in this type of work. I watched her help establish and maintain support of the WNY Women’s Foundation; I saw how proud she was of the organization as it formed and expanded, and how, through this type of united effort, results were realized, and I figured that it would be a good opportunity for me to try to engage in it myself.

Of all types of service and volunteer opportunities, I really believe that the goals of this Foundation are those that I believe in most. I’ve seen how if you simply present a woman with the ability to become empowered, she is able to far surpass any barrier and passes this empowerment on. It never seems to stop with one person. It seems that the community of women in Western New York is one that isn’t as much divided by class, race, or background, and it’s extremely encouraging to me as a young woman to see this type of community thrive, where there is a constant progression forward not only towards equal opportunities, but towards this type of continuous empowerment.

I am entering my senior year of college, and I’m completing my degree in economics, where most of my classes are filled with men, I’m taught by men, and my advisors are men. I know that when I go to graduate school, or find a job, it will probably be the same thing. I’ve never let that deter me. I know that math and business fields are traditionally male-dominated, but I’ve also seen that as a benefit to me; it sets me apart, it lets me prove that not only can I keep up with those around me, I can surpass them. It may be a small victory, but it makes it that much easier for the next girl to try, and the one after her, and so on. Having attended the What She’s Made Of Celebration for the past two years, listening to the speakers, seeing the women (and men!) around me so engaged with the values and mission of the Foundation, I see so much opportunity in the Western New York region for women. I don’t see that doing anything but getting stronger in the next few years, and it makes me so excited to not only have an opportunity to help out, but gives me incentive to stay in this area later in life.

-Gabrielle K Maier,  Summer Volunteer & Senior-To-Be at SUNY Binghamton

Inspiration is Always EnVogue

To be inspired can often be challenging in today’s culture, however having the right amount of passion can lead to an inspirational movement that creates societal trends and expectations. Today is the WNY Women’s Foundation’s 2013 What She’s Made of Celebration, with guest speaker Susan Plagemann, Vice President and Publisher of Vogue. Vogue is a household name in leading a movement of inspiration, which places fashion in the context of culture and the world we live in — how we dress, live and socialize; what we eat, listen to and watch; who leads and who inspires us. Vogue immerses itself in fashion, always leading readers to what will happen next. Thought-provoking, relevant and always influential, Vogue defines and inspires the culture of fashion. This level of inspiration can only be captured when your passion to achieve social change supersedes traditional thinking.

As a catalytic organization, the WNY Women’s Foundation is spearheading a movement of inspiration by creating discussions and increasing awareness about the issues affecting women and girls, and their families, in our community. We believe that when women and girls are secure, entire communities are stronger. We inspire social change through researching the status of women and girls in our community, investing donor resources to mobilize seed funding, leading collaborations to develop groundbreaking solutions for social change, educating the community and donors about issues and solutions facing women and girls and advocating for public policy. At this level, the WNY Women’s Foundation continues to be just as thought-provoking, relevant and influential for systemic change for women and girls, as Vogue is to fashion. That level of inspiration is always EnVogue.