Testimony In Support of the Student Fair Access to School Act of 2017 | January 30, 2018

Good Afternoon, my name is C. Nicole Mason, and I am the Vice President of Programs at the Washington Area Women’s Foundation, home to the Young Women’s Initiative–our city-wide effort to improve life outcomes and chances for young women and girls of color in the District. As a part of Young Women’s Initiative, I also facilitate the Young Women’s Advisory Council, a bi-weekly group made up of 21 young women and girls of color between the ages of 12-24 that reside in the City.

Needless to say, I have a personal interest in making sure that every child regardless of her race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status is in the best position to succeed and have her social, emotional and educational needs met while in school, and on a daily basis. Currently, this is not the case.

As you know, In-school disciplinary actions and suspension rates among Black and Latina girls and young women are alarmingly high compared to other girls in the District. Black girls are nine times more likely to receive at least one out-of-school suspension, compared to non-Black girls. Less than 0.2 percent of White, non-Hispanic girls in DC receive an out-of-school suspension.

When the Student Fair Access to School Act of 2017 was introduced by Council Member Grosso, we at the Foundation believed it was an opportunity for the City to address glaring disparities in out-of-school suspensions, create uniform standards across District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), encourage positive approaches and the use of evidence-based and promising practices to discipline in schools, and to curb out-of-school suspensions for minor offenses.

Passing the legislation would put the City on a path to increased educational parity and equity for the most vulnerable students in our system.

When I discussed the bill with our Young Women’s Advisory Board, they were fully supportive of the legislation. Of the 21 girls on the Council, more than half reported that they had been suspended once or more; many for minor infractions ranging from dress code violations to talking back to a school official. Most of the young women that had been suspended believed they had very little recourse to dispute the suspension and struggled, in some instances, with the arbitrary enforcement of rules.

One story from our meeting relayed by one of our Fellows was truly heartbreaking and strikes at the core of why I believe this legislation is so urgent and necessary. One of our Fellows, now a recent graduate of Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia and current DCPS school teacher was suspended for bringing a knife to school when she was in the 12th grade. When she went through the metal detector at her school in the District, the alarm sounded and her backpack was searched.

Upon further investigation, it was revealed that she was homeless, and worked nights at a local Burger King restaurant. Most nights she would get off work extremely late, and carried the knife for protection as she made her way from Burger King to the local shelter where she lived. She forgot to remove the knife from her backpack before school. Rather than expel her, she was given a 10-day suspension.

I think we have to ask ourselves, was this just? Knowing the situation, could there have been an alternative that would have kept her in school and engaged? More importantly, how can we work to ensure that we are meeting the needs of students and not applying a one size fits all solution to a problem that is multi-layered and complex? I believe the Student Fair Access to School Act of 2017 helps us do just that.

Thank you for this opportunity to submit this testimony.

 

Forward Together: A Reflection on the Impact of the First 100 Days of the Trump Administration on Low-income Girls, Women and Families

screen-shot-2017-04-29-at-10-31-10-am

April 29th marks President Trump’s 100th day in office. Washington Area Women’s Foundation releases a report that summarizes action impacting women and families.

“According to the White House press office, the President has signed 30 executive orders, used the Congressional Review Act 13 times to review and overturn federal regulations that went into effect under the Obama Administration and enacted 28 laws during the first 100 days of his Administration. These actions include the revocation of the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order, a measure that strengthens protections against workplace discrimination and another order that, if it had gone into effect, would have limited immigration and travel to the United States for targeted groups.

In addition to the legislative and executive branch actions that could create barriers for women and girls, the Administration’s appointees do not have a history of promoting women and girls. On January 31, 2017, the President nominated 10th Circuit Federal Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. In his rulings, Judge Gorsuch denied protections for pregnant women and sided with corporations in their efforts to deny women access to the full range of reproductive health care services. Judge Gorsuch was confirmed to the highest court in the land on April 7, 2017.

From high rates of poverty to food insecurity to disproportionately high rates of unemployment compared to other groups of women, low-income girls, women and families face multiple barriers to building their longterm economic security and accessing opportunity. As such, in this current political moment, it will be critical to work across communities to ensure that policies enacted at the federal level do not have a disproportionate impact on these populations.”

Read and download the report here.

The Time is Always Right To Do What’s Right…

mlk-2

Next week, we will not only celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but we will recognize the inaugural National Day of Racial Healing, and bear witness to both a peaceful transition of power with the inauguration of our 45th President and the mobilization of several hundred thousand women and girls for the Women’s March on Washington. And all within the third week of 2017. As I reflect on the historic significance of it all, a quote by Dr. King comes to mind:

“The time is always right to do what is right.”

Well, that time is now.

Over the last two months, I have been a part of many private and public conversations with friends, family, and colleagues, and I’ve closely watched the public discourse around how we move forward as a country. The divisiveness we see and feel, the name calling and complete disregard for civilized debate, and the general sense that we are being pitted against one another has left many at a loss for how to move forward. As a leader, I’ve been forced to confront my own uncertainties, fears, and discomfort around the task before me as I continue to fight for women and girls, but it was a simple conversation with my 17 year-old daughter that moved me to action. Last week, she said to me, “Mommy,” (yes, at 17 she will still on occasion call me mommy), “I don’t feel like I have a voice, and I don’t know what to do.” My own daughter, the girl I’ve very consciously raised to be a strong, independent feminist, was at a loss, and her words were a wake-up call for me.

“The time is always right to do what is right.” And so I’m pushing my fears and uncertainties to the side, and I’m diving in with everything I’ve got because I never want to hear those words from any woman or girl ever again.

We have a voice, and we are powerful. It’s how we choose to harness our voice and power in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead that matters. We cannot be overwhelmed by the tasks at hand. There are actions each of us can take in our daily lives to make a difference.

  • Make an effort to understand opinions and beliefs that are different from yours. Read books and articles that explore different opinions and perspectives. Seek out media outlets and journalists that you may not necessarily follow. Have meaningful conversations with the friend, neighbor, or colleague with whom you may disagree.
  • Get involved locally. Feel passionate about an issue in your community? Get involved and learn more. Find the organization leading the charge on the issue and get connected. Attend local government meetings or hearings on the issue you care about. Connect with your local women’s commission. Volunteer.
  • Become politically active at the local level. Regardless of your political affiliation, become informed about races happening in your own backyard. Learn more about the candidates and their positions. Attend events and voice your opinion and concerns. Support the development of the next generation of political leadership. Consider running for office.
  • Use your voice. Speak up when you see a wrong that needs to be righted, whether it’s in your neighborhood, your school or your workplace. Write your local political leaders. Write a letter to the editor or an op-ed.

The New Year brings with it a sense of optimism and the idea that one can wipe the slate clean and start anew, whether that means you resolve to eat better, spend more time taking care of yourself, learn something new, etc. This year, I did not make a New Year’s resolution. Why? Because I am resolved that my resolution is not simply year-long but lifelong. At no time in my short 44 years have I been more resolved and committed to fighting for a fairer and more just and equitable community for women and girls than I am today, and I urge you to do the same. Our women and girls deserve nothing less.

Yes, the time is always right to do what is right.

Washington Region Early Care and Education Workforce Network Implementation Plan For Competency-Based Career Pathways

ABOUT THIS IMPLEMENTATION PLAN

This plan was prepared by FSG through the generous support of the Washington Area Women’s Foundation and its Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative.

FSG

FSG is a mission-driven consulting firm supporting leaders in creating large-scale, lasting social change. Through strategy, evaluation, and research we help many types of actors — individually and collectively — make progress against the world’s toughest problems. Our teams work across all sectors by partnering with leading foundations, businesses, nonprofits, and governments in every region of the globe.

We seek to reimagine social change by identifying ways to maximize the impact of existing resources, amplifying the work of others to help advance knowledge and practice, and inspiring change agents around the world to achieve greater impact.

Washington Area Women’s Foundation

Washington Area Women’s Foundation is the only public foundation dedicated to increasing resources and opportunities for women and girls in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. We mobilize our community to ensure that economically vulnerable women and girls in the Washington region have the resources they need to thrive.

Washington Area Women’s Foundation established the Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative in 2008, as a multi-year, multi-million dollar collective funding effort. The Collaborative is supported and directed by corporate funders and local and national foundations.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

In April of 2015, the National Academy of Medicine and the National Research Council released a report, Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation, that is both ambitious and visionary in its recommendations for how to transform the workforce and systems that serve children from birth through age 8, or third grade.

To catalyze implementation of the report’s recommendations, the National Academy led a national “Implementation Network” of states across the country working to implement recommendations from the report. Our Washington Region Early Care & Education Workforce Network formed as one of the initial state networks, representing different sectors in early care and education (“ECE”) as well as the geographies of Maryland (Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties), Virginia (Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax Counties), and Washington, D.C. Our region decided to form a team based on the unique needs in our region, including better serving our multi-cultural immigrant population with high numbers of dual language learners; embracing that the ECE workforce in our region is highly transient across state lines and thus could benefit from transferable credentials and compensation levels; and counteracting the lack of connectedness to a valued profession and to peers in ECE.

Our project purpose: “Mapping competency-based career pathways that are linked to quality and compensation and can be used across the region” will result in two concrete, connected deliverables:

Deliverable 1: 

Career pathways document

·   Document based on existing ECE professional credential/knowledge/competency frameworks in our region that establishes a practical and common set of quality standards for competencies at different levels, including suggested compensation levels, that are linked to identified competencies.

Deliverable 2:

Blueprint for an implementation mechanism

·   Certification/credential process that assesses and verifies competencies among the region’s ECE professionals according to the competency levels defined in the career pathways document and that establishes suggested compensation levels that correspond to the certification/credential.
Initial feedback on this project has been gathered from dozens of ECE stakeholders in the region and overall this idea has been met with a positive response. Developing the final deliverables, ideally over the course of 12 months, will require a highly collaborative process of further engaging stakeholders in the region. Moreover, research will be conducted to better understand how to create a career pathways document that is clear and user-friendly; what the competencies should be at each level of the pathway; how the competencies can be assessed and verified by a third party; and what the cost and benefit will be of achieving compensation commensurate with demonstrated competencies.In order for these deliverables to be used in practice, the region will need to create supporting infrastructure, for example shared services and practices related to substitutes, mentors, and/or benefits administration. This project will explore the feasibility of this kind of supporting infrastructure.

For the thousands of dedicated ECE professionals in our region, we hope this project will result in greater awareness of where they are on the career pathway; greater ability to engage in continuous improvement of their competencies; increased compensation and compensation alignment among early education and learning settings; and greater connectedness to a valued profession and to peers. This is in service of the ultimate outcome of this work: children in the region benefit from high quality early childhood experiences that foster positive learning and development.

 

DOWNLOAD AND READ THE FULL IMPLEMENTATION PLAN HERE.

How To Maximize Your End-of-Year Giving: Donor Advised Funds

29% of all giving to non-profits happens in December.  Why?  Because savvy donors give before the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve to make sure that they can deduct their gift in the current tax year.  This is very important for donors who itemize their taxes.  In order to take deductions when you prepare your 2016 taxes in the coming months, you must give by December 31st.

No one knows for sure what changes to tax policy will happen in 2016.  Many donors, anticipating the President-elect’s tax proposals are choosing to give more in 2016, for the certainty of the deduction at the level they’ll get it this year versus the uncertainty of next year.  If you have not yet, you should consult your financial advisors on what these changes could mean for you, and if it may be wise for you to accelerate your giving this year.

A Donor Advised Fund (DAF) is a great way to give and get your tax deduction this year, and choose what non-profit you will contribute to in the future.  It’s a smart solution if you decide to accelerate your giving now, and want to give over many years to come.  You can potentially realize additional tax benefits if you donate appreciated securities (which should be done now, so that the stock transfer can complete before the end of the year).

At The Women’s Foundation, we provide a DAF that offers you all the tax benefits of other DAFs and the opportunity for you to show your commitment to women and girls in the region.  Through our Philanthropic Services, we can consult with you on the organizations that create the greatest impact in our community and that align with your giving priorities.

If you are interested in opening a DAF, do not hesitate to call me at 202-347-7737 or email me at lpaulson@wawf.org .  We require a minimum opening gift of $50,000.

How to give before the end of the year:

  • Stock

Many donors choose to give appreciated stocks for the tax benefits. Stocks owned for a year or more are eligible for tax deductions for the full current value of the donated securities, not the lesser amount paid for them. In addition, they are not subject to the capital gains tax like they would be if the securities were sold and proceeds were donated as cash.

Stock gifts must be initiated by your broker in sufficient time to clear before the close of business on December 30th.  To you decide to give a gift of stock to The Women’s Foundation, your broker will need the following:

Account Custodian:  Capital One*

Account number: JZ1046633

DTC number:  0443

Contact person at Capital One:  Anoput Phimmasone 202-603-6094 or anoput.phimmasone@capitaleone.com

*Please note that this account is for direct gifts and NOT to open a DAF.  For information to open a DAF please contact me directly.

  • Check

Please be sure your check is dated and your envelope is postmarked on or before December 31.

Kindly send checks to:

Washington Area Women’s Foundation

1331 H Street NW, Suite 1000

Washington DC,  20005

  • Online

Give online before at thewomensfoundation.org/give.  Donations made by 11:59 p.m. ET on December 31, 2016 will count in the 2016 tax year.

 We appreciate all you do to help all women and girls achieve economic security in our community.  We wish you and yours a great holiday season and a happy new year!

Juanita King 2016 Luncheon Remarks

Has anyone ever investigated themselves? I have and I realized I am an overcomer. The definition of the word overcomer is to beat, to defeat, to conquer, and to gain the victory of. And I have done all of that. Today I am 8 years clean of crack cocaine and undetectable of HIV. I would like to recite a poem by Alexis Xia:

If we can fight together, we must strive together
If we can play together, we must pray together
If we can plan together, we must stand together
If we can cry together, we must try together
If we sing together, we must make peace together
If we stick together, we must stay together
If we have faith together, we must believe together
If we work together, we can make this a better place.

I would like to thank the Washington Area Women’s Foundation for allowing me to stand here today. I would like to thank my daughter, my mother, my sister, my pastors, and my encourager, Mr. Thomas Penny, for coming out today. And I would also like to thank the Goodwill program, for it was you who helped lift me and today I can smile again.

Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat 2016 Leadership Luncheon Speech

Good afternoon everyone! Thank you all for being here. I’m always blown away whenever I walk into the luncheon—the energy, excitement and enthusiasm are truly contagious, and I always leave this room feeling inspired.

And really how could you not be inspired by Karen and Juanita? Wow. Thank you both for the courage it took to share your stories with us today.

You know something that Karen said earlier really resonated with me: She said that you can’t find balance after pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, without a community of support.

At the Washington Area Women’s Foundation, this is what we’re all about, building and mobilizing community. And it’s the power of community that unites us of us here today.

It is absolutely no mistake that the theme of our luncheon this year is Together, We Thrive, because we know that when we bring community together, we can achieve better outcomes. And in the 18 years since The Women’s Foundation was created, we’ve certainly made incredible strides. Last year alone, our grant investments reached more than 3,600 women, and we helped them increase their incomes and assets by $3.6 million.

But we all know that the reality of today is that not everyone in our community is thriving, and in particular, women and girls of color face systemic challenges that stand in their way. And rather than lifting up the strength, resilience, and hope that is resident in communities across the country, some of the current public discourse is dragging us down.

And so, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about that and trying to figure out what I wanted to say to you today. As a white woman leading this organization in this moment, I’ve thought deeply about my role as a community leader in advancing racial equity. I acknowledge my privilege as a white woman, and I acknowledge the privilege and power that inherently comes with philanthropy. Frankly, on some level, it’s easy to hide behind that and go about my day. It’s hard to have difficult and uncomfortable conversations. It’s hard to confront and challenge the unconscious biases that we all have, but at the end of the day, I can’t honestly look into my daughters’ eyes and say that I did all that I could to create a better community for women and girls if I remain silent when deep injustices are happening around me.

Last year, I stood on this stage, and talked about the need for bold action. I’m a firm believer in – “don’t talk, act. Don’t say, show. And don’t promise, prove.”

And that is why today, The Women’s Foundation is publicly committing to advancing equity for women and girls of color and tackling racism head on so that we can truly advance our mission and ensure that all women and girls in our community have the opportunity to thrive.

We must use our voice, our resources and the community we have created to remove the barriers women and girls of color face.

As you know, the mission of The Women’s Foundation is to mobilize our community to ensure that economically vulnerable women and girls have the resources they need to thrive. Economic security has been central to our mission since our founding, but it’s not enough to simply say that we are working with low-income or economically vulnerable women and girls. We have to be intentional and explicit in our language and our actions. We can no longer leave unsaid the realities facing women and girls of color, and I would argue, it’s time to write a new narrative, one where we celebrate and embrace the contributions of women and girls of color.

While it’s always been implicit in our work, now we are committing to also explicitly applying a racial equity lens to our convening, our research and advocacy agendas, and our grant investments.

But most importantly, we are committed to ensuring that women and girls of color not only have a seat at the table, but are driving the solutions. And we’ll start that by launching a Young Women’s Initiative, which will be co-designed with young women and girls of color and other leaders in our community (many of whom are here with us today), all with the goal of crafting policy recommendations that address racial, gender, and other disparities. I’m pleased to say that we are doing this in collaboration with seven other women’s foundations from across the country as part of a broader effort called Prosperity Together, as well as the White House Council on Women and Girls.

As a first step in this Initiative, we are listening—really, truly listening—to the concerns and challenges facing women and girls of color in our community: Issues that limit their ability to achieve higher paying jobs; issues that threaten their own safety; and issues that jeopardize the health and well-being of their children.

And to be clear, when I say issues, what I am referring to are the policies and practices that disadvantage and disempower women and people of color on a routine basis—in other words systemic and institutional racism.

And so today, every member of my board, and my staff, is taking a public stand and professing their commitment to racial equity.  We are all in—today, tomorrow, and for the years ahead because this is hard work, and this hard work that must continue long after the national conversations have faded.

As we move forward in advancing equity for women and girls of color, I ask you to join us.   Stand with us.

Stand with us as we work together to understand the root causes of inequality and inequity in our city, and develop plans, together, to create change.

Stand with us if you believe that having a bright future means that you can’t predict how well women and girls are doing based on their race and ethnicity.

Stand with us if you believe that, Together, We Thrive.

 

When Is Enough, Enough?

We had our July enewsletter planned. In fact, yesterday, I sat with a copy of it for my review. I read it three times, and while I very much wanted to share the good work that Washington Area Women’s Foundation has been engaged in—and there is so much good work happening—I was struggling to sign-off on the beautifully prepared and celebratory newsletter that sat before me. And then I woke to more violence and bad news this morning.

My heart is heavy. I feel immobilized. Tears flowed on several occasions yesterday. I wanted to turn away from the screen and social media, but I couldn’t. Another video, another senseless murder, another life lost, another family destroyed. Have you heard the heart wrenching, bring-you-to-your-knees sobs of Alton Sterling’s 15-year-old son during a news conference, as he cried, “I want my daddy…”? Did you watch Diamond Reynolds as she stood in front of the Minnesota Governor’s mansion demanding justice, not only for her boyfriend Philando Castile, but also for every family that has sadly come before her? “This is much bigger than me,” she said. I challenge anyone to watch either of those videos and not be rocked to your core.

Think racism is a thing of the past? Think again. As a white woman, I will never know what it feels like to live in constant fear that my actions or my words or my simply being could end my life. I’m the mother of two teenage girls. I’ve never had to sit them down and explain to them how they are supposed to “be” in this world. When my 16-year-old started driving, I feared for her safety as a new driver, but I never feared for her life in the event of a traffic stop. Privilege. I am privileged. My girls are privileged. We live a privileged life.

All day, my Facebook feed was filled with friends and colleagues who are grieving. They are tired. They are angry. They’re feeling hopeless. They are in pain. I want to wrap my arms around all of them and offer words of comfort, but what would those words be? Everything will be ok? Justice will be served? We’re going to make this right? Ha – those aren’t words. Those are lies, and I won’t lie to my friends and colleagues. Instead, I promised to find my words at a time when I was at a loss for words.

And so here’s my start. At what point do we say enough is enough? At what point are we willing to look deep within ourselves and face our own prejudices and biases head on and call them out for what they are? At what point do we collectively decide that the racialized structures we inhabit have to go? If not now, when? In 1964, Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Here we are, 52 years later, a long way from racial justice.

Don’t take my word for it, though. Instead, listen to the stories of six beautiful women in DC who bravely shared their experiences. “Too few hold the power. Too many are powerless… There’s a different standard for everything… You think we don’t see it?”

I see it. My eyes are wide open. The question is: What do we do now?

 

Giving A Voice to Young Women & Girls Of Color At The United State of Women Summit

It’s hard to find the words to adequately describe the energy and enthusiasm of last week’s United State of Women Summit. More than 5,000 women from across the country packed into the convention center in Washington, DC, all there to celebrate how far we’ve come while committing to changing the #StateofWomen for tomorrow. As I stood on stage with eight women’s foundation representing Prosperity Together, I wondered how we can bottle the passion and hopefulness that was so palpable that day. There was a very different feeling in the room, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until further reflection, and then it hit me–voices.

This Summit showcased the voices and experiences of an incredibly diverse group of women—from Mikaila Ulmer, the 11-year-old African American girl entrepreneur, who introduced the President of the United States to Bamby Salcedo, the President and CEO of TransLatin@ Coalition to Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, Founder and Editor-In-Chief of MuslimGirl.net. Their voices spoke volumes as we collectively came together to serve as champions for the countless women and girls who have yet to be heard.

Standing on stage next to Ana Oliveira, President of the New York Women’s Foundation, as she announced our joint commitment to young women and girls of color through the Young Women’s Initiative, I could not have been prouder of the work at Washington Area Women’s Foundation. It is a privilege to spark and guide philanthropic investments that will have a long-lasting impact on the lives of the Washington region’s most vulnerable women and girls. This initiative will focus specifically on women and girls of color and will put their voices, experiences, and needs front and center.

The day-long event, organized by the White House, included so many inspiring moments. President Barack Obama opened his speech by pointing to himself and saying, “This is what a feminist looks like,” to a resounding round of applause. And by now, everyone has probably watched the video of First Lady Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey, in one of the most open, honest and powerful discussions about women’s empowerment and gender equality that I have ever seen. “I think as women and young girls, we have to invest that time in getting to understand who we are and liking who we are,” said Michelle Obama.

For the Young Women’s Initiative, we are investing our time in young women, and they themselves will be at the heart of our effort. This week we kicked off a listening tour to lift up the voices of local women who don’t often have an opportunity to share their personal stories. We watched a production by Empower DC, where six women shared their experiences living in public housing, and discussed the challenges they face and solutions they want to see in their communities, the places they call home. When I asked one of the women why she chose to tell her story, she answered, “I just wanted to be heard.”

And so we will listen. Over the coming months, we’ll continue to host sessions to empower women to become powerful advocates for themselves and their communities. But it’s not enough to listen. We must also take action.

At the end of the Summit, the First Lady said, “We can’t afford to be ignorant.  We can’t afford to be complacent.  So we have to continue the work.” We’re ready to work, and I hope you’ll join us.

 

About Prosperity Together: 
Seven women’s foundations announced their commitment to launch a Young Women’s Initiative in 2016, which will invest and catalyze resources to improve equal opportunity and the prosperity of young women, with a focus on young women of color and those experiencing the greatest disparities in outcomes in our communities. The Young Women’s Initiative will be built on cross-sector partnerships, including: government; philanthropies; nonprofits; corporations; and, most importantly, the young women themselves. The foundations announcing this commitment include the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, California Women’s Foundation, Washington Area Women’s Foundation, Dallas Women’s Foundation, The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham, Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis and The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts. The New York Women’s Foundation previously launched a Young Women’s Initiative in 2015. Read more here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/06/13/fact-sheet-government-businesses-and-organizations-announce-50-million

The Most Important Lesson in Life I Learned From My Mother

Linda Paulson-Mom-WAWF

With Mother’s Day just a few days away, I can’t help but think of the important lesson I learned from my mother – to give.

As long as I can remember, my mom provided for others. She set an example and included me in her good work. As a child, I would often go volunteer wherever my mom was helping in the community and I loved it. We did many different things including volunteering at our church or the park concession stand, which I realize now played a vital role in my passion to help others.

Before she passed, we had a conversation about the days when she took me door to door to raise money for important causes—including selling Girl Scout Cookies (yum!). It made me remember the day she was so excited when I scraped together what I had and made a donation from my baby-sitting money. I don’t remember anything else I have ever done where she reacted with such overwhelming joy. I had, after all, just acted on what she really wanted to teach me in life. That is, when we give beyond ourselves we get the most out of life.

When I was in school, we spent hours discussing current events and issues of social justice. She was the first to teach me the concept that we rise from lifting others. Mothers, who undeniably influence and raise all of us, have a unique capacity to help their children see the world. Through those conversations, she helped me to think about the world in which I live. When I moved to the Washington region 20 years ago, I learned about the women that live in the area and the challenges they face. Today, at least 1 in 4 women are living in economic instability. There is a tremendous gap between what many women in our region are earning, and what they really need to survive and take care of their families.

There are countless stories of mothers giving their children everything, including the very clothes on their backs. But who is giving to the mothers? At The Women’s Foundation, we help women in the Washington region and beyond by providing the resources they need to thrive. By investing in women and girls in our community, we can ensure brighter futures where mothers don’t have to choose between medicine and food for their child, or a job and child care. While we celebrate the mothers we know, let us remember the ones we don’t know, who need our help. Because of my mother, I continue to encourage others to give to help bring economic stability to our region and make women’s lives just a little bit easier.

Women like my mom are the heartbeat of community, and often go without being thanked. So this Mother’s Day—I want to say thank you to my mom and to all the mothers who keep our families, schools and communities running. There is likely a mother in your world that should be appreciated as well. Share your thanks and her story in the comments below.