YWCA New Britain

YWCA New Britain Honors Exceptional Women Leaders in Central CT

By Shaunna Cullen

Over 400 friends and family gathered to honor women leaders, and up and coming student leaders, in the central Connecticut community at YWCA New Britain's 17th Biennial Women in Leadership Luncheon.

The honorees were saluted for their extraordinary personal and professional accomplishments.  Each honoree promotes the YWCA mission of eliminating racism and empowering women; shows outstanding achievement as a volunteer, contributing to the betterment of her workplace, neighborhood or community; and demonstrates exceptional and superior abilities and accomplishments as a pioneer, innovator, leader, and role model.

Our extremely accomplished 2017 Academy of Women Leaders includes women who are working tirelessly for gender equity and social justice on our college campuses and in their workplaces; they are making sure other women have access to childcare and employment support services; they are connecting the business community with school districts creating opportunities for students and teachers to excel; they are leaders in their churches and faith-based organizations, caring for the sick and the elderly; they are working in the neighborhoods where they live building safer, stronger communities; they are working with families and children who are most at-risk; they provide employment, recreation and housing for people with disabilities; they are innovators in transportation, construction and engineering; they inspire philanthropy; they work tirelessly on behalf of children’s health and to end the opioid epidemic and create housing for women in recovery; they are exceptional coaches, super-lawyers, trail-blazers in male dominated fields; they are working to end human trafficking,to find a cure for breast cancer, and to make sure all children can read. 

Honoree Jean Alicandro, Director of Residence Life at Central Connecticut State University said she was surprised and humbled when she received notice that she was being honored, "My first thought was that I work with a lot of wonderful women, so this is really special."

Emcee Rachel Lutzker, traffic reporter for FOX 61 Morning News and various radio stations throughout Connecticut, called each honoree up to be recognized by the group and to receive their award. Even during the ceremony, the honoree's dedication to their cause or organization was obvious. Adding some lighthearted fun to the event, one honoree, Yvette Ghannam, chanted into the microphone, "CCSU, CCSU!" Central Connecticut State University's Office of Community Engagement, of which Yvette works very closely with, was the organization that nominated her. Yvette said the office had jokingly promised to make a donation to a CCSU fund in her honor if she gave them a shout out.  Many honorees received cheers and standing ovations. 

Keynote speaker Karen Hinds, Founder and CEO of Workplace Success Group and author of several business books, shared her story of personal success with the audience. Karen engaged the audience with personal stories about her education growing up and how the challenges she overcame led to her eventual career as an entrepreneur. She also provided a networking opportunity at the beginning of her speech for student honorees to look for a mentor nearby. 

"The one particular [message] I took away," said St. Paul Catholic High School student honoree Jaymie Bianca, "was the phrase 'bloom where you are planted.' I found this to be incredibly true. I left the luncheon feeling inspired, and will remember to bloom in every journey I decide to take in life."

Congratulations to the 2017 Academy of Women Leaders!


Jean Alicandro, Director of Residence Life, Central Connecticut State University

Tracy Andruskiewicz, Operations Coordinator, CT Department of Labor, Welfare to Work Unit

Doris Arrington, Dean of Student Services,Capital Community College

Jeanine Audette, District Program Director, Bristol Public Schools

Ingrid Canady, Executive Director, State Education Resource Center

Jennifer Carroll, Board Member, Hospital for Special Care

Edna Colon, Sub-Chair of Community Development, North Oak NRZ

Sonia Colon Mora, Director of Intensive Home Services, Klingberg Family Centers

Elizabeth Conran, Compliance Manager, CW Resources

Jody Davis, Founder & Executive Director, Coram Deo Recovery

Julia Gallup, Police Lieutenant, New Britain Police Department

Yvette Ghannam, Resident/Former President, North Oak NRZ

Caitlin Greco, Human Resource Assistant, CCARC

Amy Hare, Transportation Engineer III, CT Department of Transportation

Jennifer Hernandez, Program Manager for Outreach Services, Department of Social Work Family Enrichment Center

Cori Humes, Board Member, Community Foundation of Greater New Britain

Therese (Teri) Jones, Administrative Volunteer, Literacy Volunteers of Central Connecticut

Susan Kus, Operations Manager, Literacy Volunteers of Central Connecticut

Amy Litke, Head of Children's Services, New Britain Public Library

Melissa Mendez, Director of Early Childhood Programs, Wheeler Clinic

Michele Merced, Head Varsity High School Cheerleading Coach, New Britain High School, Consolidated School District of New Britain

Catherine Mohan, Partner, McCarter & English

Evelyn Morin, Grant Coordinator, Plainville Senior Center

Stacey Ormsby, Senior Project Manager, Continuous Improvement, Webster Bank

Jeanette Portalatin, Police Lieutenant, New Britain Police Department

Vicky Ramos , Sub-Chair Committee of Human Resources, North Oak NRZ

Lisa Rivers, Transportation Transit Manager, CT Department of Transportation

Natalie Lynne Smith, Board Chair, Klingberg Family Centers

Stanley Black & Decker Women’s Network: Adria Boyle, Lynn Costa, Ruslana Frankel, Rhonda Gass, Lori Groth, Corliss Montesi, and Abby Van Deusen

Patty Strazzulla, Board Member, CCARC

Sabrina Trocchi, Chief Operating Officer, Wheeler Clinic

Sylvia Webb, Board Member, RACE Volunteer Chair, CT Breast Health Initiative

Rita White, Director of Residential Services, CCARC


Student Honorees:

Paola Barbosa, E.C. Goodwin Technical High School

Clara Barnes, Northwest Catholic High School

Tahjae Barrett, New Britain High School

Sarah Belal, New Britain High School

Jaymie Bianca, St. Paul Catholic High School

Kara Boninsegna, Berlin High School

Jessica Buslewicz, Newington High School

Olivia Colon, Newington High School

Miriam L. Desgazon, Central Connecticut State University

Rose Esselstyn, Kingswood Oxford School

Allison Gilson, Conard High School

Michaela Griffin, Cromwell High School

Melissa Gurzenda, St. Paul Catholic High School

Tracey Kittoe, Central Connecticut State University

Margaret McGuire, Farmington High School

Jaminah Walker, New Britain High School

Angela Zheng, Plainville High School