As part of our #WomenWeAdmire series for Women’s History Month, our team shared some of the women they admire the most in their lives – friends, relatives, mentors and colleagues. We are surrounded by inspiring women on our team, in our programs, and in our lives who serve as models of strength and resilience. We are proud to shine the spotlight on these inspirational women and celebrate their impact!
Jim Bruce – Project Coordinator
My Grandmother, Gladys Montgomery Gilbert, was a tower of inspiration for my family and me. She grew up on a farm in Wisconsin and moved to California in the early 20th Century. She studied to be a teacher at the Normal school in San Diego, and was teaching third grade in Santa Monica when my mom arrived as her student in the 1930s. Yes, Gladys is a step mother to my mom, who lost her biological mom to cancer. During this tragic time for my mom, Gladys helped as a friend to hold the family together. I knew her 30 years later as a fun older lady who taught me how to whistle. She was a great game player, and you couldn’t beat her in cards. She always won with a sweet grandma smile. She was the bedrock of the family I grew up in. We often felt she was a model for aging, as she kept such a positive spirit. She enjoyed being the oldest SDSU alumni the last couple years of her life. After reaching 100 years of age, she passed in 1997 while eating a cup of ice cream, we were told.
Maddy Shenfield – Marketing Coordinator
My mom, Carlina, is a woman I admire because she is a powerhouse! She moved to the United States when she was in her late 20s and she has built a successful career and life for herself. She started her own consulting business and has built a strong list of loyal clients over the years. Coincidentally, she is also a great speaker. Her confidence in presenting difficult and complex topics to large audiences motivated me to improve my own speaking and leadership skills.
She has given me so much invaluable advice and wisdom that has served me in navigating my career and my life goals. I look up to her strength, intelligence, and genuine kindness and I am proud to call her my mom!
Caroline Clarke – Development Director
I have chosen Arlene Blum for the amazing energy, passion and persistence she puts into her work. She is the Founder and Executive Director of the Green Science Policy Institute in Berkeley and a biophysical chemist. Her scientific research and policy work with government and business has contributed to preventing the use of many harmful chemicals in children’s sleepwear, furniture, electronics, and other products world-wide.
I have worked with Arlene for 10 years through many ups and downs. She doesn’t let anything stop her and is 100% committed to making the world a healthier place for us all!
Arlene is also a well-known mountaineer. She led the first American—and all-women’s—ascent of Annapurna I, considered one of the world’s most dangerous and difficult mountains, co-led the first women’s team to climb Denali; completed the Great Himalayan Traverse across the mountain regions of Bhutan, Nepal, and India; and hiked the length of the European Alps with her baby daughter on her back. More than anyone else I know, she knows how to persevere and keep going, despite the challenges.
Caitlin Healy – Education and Outreach Manager
I admire a lot of women in my life but today I want to lift up the incredible woman my dear friend Kaylie Simon is. Ever since she was a little girl, she has fought for the rights of all living beings to thrive. For almost twenty years Kaylie has worked tirelessly for prison abolition, for restorative justice, and the rights of the accused to be treated as human beings in an inhumane system. She is a Deputy Public Defender in Contra Costa County, and worked with the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project at Northeastern University School of Law to fight for justice alongside people whose family members were the victims of lynchings in the South from the 1930’s to the 1970’s. This included correcting public records, public acknowledgements and apologies from government officials on their own office’s role in the murder, streets being renamed after victims, and proper gravestones being erected, just to name a few. This work brought me to tears, the impact it made on individuals, whole communities and on the history we tell.
Kaylie connects with people from all walks of life and has contributed so much to her community, including having sat on the board of Urban Tilth in Richmond. Kaylie and I took Intro to Feminism together in college and had a deep connection immediately. She is a woman who’s steadfastness, commitment to female friendships and human liberation has helped make me the woman I am today. I see the same fierce dedication and love poured into her amazing daughter and I feel so lucky to have her in my life.
Diana Medina, Program Director
When I think of women I admire, I think of my four youngest nieces Victoria (10), Daniella (9), Marina (8), and Cassandra (7). All of them use their voices openly and playfully within our family and at school. I feel incredibly honored to be their Auntie and I am humbled by all the things these little souls teach me about authenticity. I see pieces of the little girl I once was in each of them. Daniella is mischievous and curious, Marina is empathetic and creative, Victoria is intelligent and a natural born leader, and Cassandra is inquisitive and imaginative. As a group, I admire them for the way they embody the pure and uninterrupted confidence young girls have before the world tells them to be quiet or tone themselves down. I have never seen them shy away from asking questions or sharing their opinions with grown ups. I regularly make it a point to remind them to always be that way. I treasure the giggles and big questions they ask me about life, work, and the world around us. They constantly push me to think about my own impact in the world.
I see their faces in the faces of the students I work with. In my role at the Practice Space, I often look to them for reminders about what is possible when young girls are affirmed by the adults around them and allowed to take up space as their full authentic selves. I am so grateful to be able to count on them to serve as my mini-advisors in my work and writing. Visits with them give me so much fuel, joy, and wisdom.
AnnMarie Baines, Executive Director
When I think of quiet strength, I think of my mom, Adela Darrow. A perfect example of why I admire her is when I think of her work in her garden, tending her many beautiful flowers and plants. She gets so excited by every seed and planning all the possibilities of each harvest and it is a common sight to see her surrounded by towering tomatoes and sunflowers. Growing up on a farm in the Philippines, her joy in the garden isn’t a surprise. What I love about her is how she sings and talks to her plants, guides their growth, builds them handmade supports when they need help, and how she shares her bounty with neighbors and family.
Her caretaking spirit extends to how she has always been with me, my sister, and late father, as well as the many students with disabilities she worked with as a special education aide for decades in West Contra Costa Unified. She is the epitome of the balance between tough and patient, strong and shy, caring and demanding. I admire how she helps everyone and everything grow.