By Jennifer L. Warren
It was a trifecta of women and their achievements at Anthony’s Pier 9 on Wednesday night.
Not only did the 2012 Tribute to Women of Achievement of Orange County celebration mark its 20th anniversary, but the Girl Scouts of the Hudson Valley tallied its century mark, while the YWCA of Orange County became 150 years old.
Since 1992, more than 200 women have been recognized throughout Orange County as Women of Achievement for their amazing contributions in an assortment of areas.
Whether it is in the arts, human services, health care or business, each of these women exhibit the ideals close to the hearts of both the YWCA and Girl Scouts. This year’s recipients covered a wide range of talents, ages and locales; however, each shared a common bond of humility, hard work, leadership and dedication to serve.
“We are honoring women who have achieved despite adversity,” said Christine Sadowski, Executive Director of the YWCA of Orange County, during her opening remarks. “They really celebrate the work we do each day at the YWCA.”
Event Chairwomen, Ginny Rizzo, spoke further on this year’s group.
“They are all very humble people, who rarely take time to talk about all that they bring to the community, so it’s only fitting that we do.”
Amongst those honorees was a teenager, Poughkeepsie Day School senior Natasha Vega, who earned the “Women of the Future” distinction. Inspired to serve by her mother, Dr. Michele Winchester-Vega, who was heavily involved with the Nora Cronin Presentation Academy for underprivileged teenagers in Newburgh, Vega has devoted countless hours to an array of community organizations. In seventh grade, she started her own not-for-profit organization, Kidz4causes, aimed at enlightening people about children’s and human rights injustices around the world. With several active chapters in the Hudson Valley, the grassroots organization initiated a fund with the Community Foundation of Orange and Sullivan, focused on helping youth see the integral need to give back. Headed to Penn State in the fall, Vega is committed to making her organization’s voice heard by all.
“This award means so much to me; I am accepting it for other young people as well, not just myself, but for all young leaders,” said Vega, whose resume includes varsity sports and attendance at several leadership conferences.
Another leader highlighted on Thursday was Kim Turner of the flourishing Newburgh Performing Arts Academy (NPAA), who was presented with the “Arts” award. Recognizing the dire need for a more diversified population in the area’s youth arts programs, Turner, decided to fill that gap by creating the NPAA, located on Broadway in the City of Newburgh. With a present enrollment exceeding 500 students, NPAA has a waiting list of over 50.
Turner’s center, which she runs with her husband, Kevin White, is a living example of her mantra. “Art is for everyone; diversity is the rule.”
“I feel good that I can introduce a child to the arts, allowing them to stretch their imaginations to endless points and growth,” said Turner. “I just love to see that light bulb go off when learning takes place; it is truly a blessing to be honored for what I absolutely love to do.”
Another Newburgh resident, Frederica Warner, was saluted for her philanthropic work, earning this year’s Bobbie A. Lahey Memorial Award for Volunteer Services. An icon in Orange County for her volunteer efforts tracing back to the age of ten, Warner is most noted for her role as founder and executive director of Meals on Wheels of Greater Newburgh.
“What a thrill; I love people and I love to help them,” said a joyous Warner. “No one’s work is ever done; I would like to urge more women today to get on the ball and get involved.”
The night’s guest speaker was Retired Brigadier General Rebecca Halstead, the first female graduate of West Point to be promoted to General Officer. After relating the struggles she faced to achieve respect as a women in the USMA, Halstead capped off the evening with some resounding words.
“There are two important premises for leadership: the first person you have to lead is yourself, and it’s always a choice to lead,” affirmed Halstead. “Leadership is hard, it’s a challenge, and in order to be able to have it, you must know how to serve first.” She added, “It’s something each of these women being honored tonight have shown.”