Politics/Community Involvement

In addition to a traditional focus on the public realm of governance and power structures, this theme should also reflect a feminist understanding of “the personal as political.” We are interested in women’s opinions, values, and activities as they relate to a broad sphere of social relations.

Kenza Dekar

Born in Algeria; Studied at Clemente Course in the Humanities

Surprisingly when I came to the U.S., I discovered my faith without the influence of the culture.  And it is something very powerful because we realize our real life there was in part patriarchal, society was everything, you needed the authorization of the father for everything, the husband, and basically you have no independence.  That is not true.  And I got to learn it when I came here because I got to discover my faith without them.  Isn't it funny, that you come to the West to end up becoming a better Muslim?  Isn't it crazy?  But I also discovered that my faith was not at odds with the Western culture, surprisingly.  But to get to this conclusion I had to delve through Clemente into Aristotle and Plato, like you have to go far away back to the Western culture and how it started and it is really not at odds.  So, there is a lot of work to do, and I learned that I can have an impact.  And I just maybe now with the kids very small, I have an impact.  You cannot be created;  you cannot be in this world and just dwell without leaving truth.  And that is something that tells you—someone who is lacking confidence like me—this is powerful.  You have an impact.  

Born in Algeria, Kenza Dekar Raheb immigrated to the United States with her husband and daughter when she was thirty-one.  Since then, she has given birth to two more daughters, home-schooled her children, and worked for a community organization.  Raised in Algeria to appreciate Western culture while living according to Muslim mores, Kenza began to explore religion seriously only after the birth of her first daughter.

Interview Date: 
Thu, 06/01/2017
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Jasmine Jina Ortiz

Professor, Quinsigamond Community College and Becker College, Realtor, Keller Williams Realty

I'd definitely give women today advice to continue to move forward with their personal goals despite what could be going on around them and to not to lose sight of their purpose, whether professional, personal, or family goals.  To continue to be encouraged and to not let discouraging individuals take control of their minds. The loudest voice that should be heard should be theirs.

Jasmine Jina Ortiz was born in 1979, and raised in New York City. She comes from both a Latino and an African American background; her parents are both from the Dominican Republic. She moved to Worcester, MA to attend Clark University as an undergraduate. She earned an MFA form Pine Manor College. Since then, Jasmine has taught at Quinsigamond Community College and Becker College.  She also works for Keller Williams Realty as a realtor.

Interview Date: 
Fri, 03/03/2017
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Erin Williams

City of Worcester’s Cultural Development Officer and Executive Director of the Worcester Cultural Coalition

It is part of my heart and soul. It’s not work it is living.  And that is where it’s not a negative it’s a positive experience where the challenges of how to bring people together through art is something that I look at every day. And with my coalition and with the city we try to build partnerships around that to see what is best for the city.

In this interview Erin Williams, born in 1957, discusses the many challenges she faced throughout her life, and how those challenges molded her into the woman she is today as the City of Worcester’s Cultural Development Officer and also the executive director of the Worcester Cultural Coalition. As an “artist embedded in city hall,” Erin helps find ways for people to express themselves openly, and bring communities together through the use of art and culture.

Interview Date: 
Fri, 10/14/2016
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Kathryn Crockett

Architect, Lamoureux Pagano & Associates

I was really fortunate to have landed the position at Lamoureux Pagano because that firm, I just fit with it.  It worked for me.  I was able to contribute and as I said, Dick Lamoureux and Mike Pagano were the ones who hired me.  They were the ones, principles of the firm, and they also—similar to my parents—I never once remember them saying, “Well you should do this because you are a women or only do this or….” There was none of that.  They encouraged me sort of in an objective way.  It was what skills I brought forward and what I could do.  They continually advanced my career as I was able to prove myself basically. So when I graduated it was 1993 and then the next step in terms of becoming an architect is becoming registered, you’re not done with your education. You have to have practical work experience.  You have to work within the field, at that time it was three years and then you could take the exam and the exam was a four or five day exam in Boston one day after another and it was all these different components including: structural engineering, programming, site design, building design, and so I studied for that.  I’d get up at 5:30 am every morning and study and then go into work—for a year—and then I went in to take this exam and in between I had my daughter so it was a lot going on at that point.  My daughter was born in 1993.  So that career is very intensive.  I think a lot of people think that architecture is a sort of, I don’t know,  a lot of people will come up to me and say, “I’ve always wanted to be an architect,” and I’ll say, “Well yeah, it’s a great career,” but  I don’t think most people understand what it takes to become and architect.  

Kathryn Crockett was born in 1957 in Pittsfield Massachusetts, and now works in Worcester, Massachusetts.  In this interview, she talks about her journey into the field of architecture, her thoughts on service to the community, and her love of education.  Kathryn is a motivated, hard working, loving mother and wife.  Education has always been an important aspect of Kathryn’s life.  She started her professional schooling at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, where she majored in American Studies.  After graduating, she began to work at the Worceste

Interview Date: 
Mon, 10/03/2016
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Kellee Kosiorek

Program Coordinator, Seven Hills Global Outreach & the International Center of Worcester

I’ve been there since June.  So it’s still less than a year and [I’m] learning a lot, but now I work for Seven Hills Global Outreach which does development projects in eight different countries including Bangladesh, Haiti, Jamaica, Syria, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia and .. Guatemala. Then I also work for the International Center of Worcester which is kind of the inbound programs, and so what we do is mostly work with the State Department and mostly bring visitors here to the U.S to do professional development training so [laughs] I’m kind of all over the place.

Kellee Kosiorek was born in 1992, in Lebanon, New Hampshire.  She moved to Worcester to attend Clark University, where she double majored in cultural psychology and international business and then earned a master’s degree in non-profit management.  Although she had primarily been exposed to her conservative, white family and neighbors growing up, attending Clark opened her eyes to a variety of different cultural backgrounds.  Since then she has fallen in love with exploring other cultures.  Her dream is to join the Peace Corps, but for now she works for the Seven Hills F

Interview Date: 
Fri, 02/24/2017
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Isabelle Jenkins

Associate Director of Community Based Learning, College of the Holy Cross

I would say the people are what makes Worcester so distinct. I think it’s a city filled with people who are really passionate about bridging difference. I spend a lot of time working with organizations that work with refugees and immigrants and that’s where I see Worcester shine the most. I think it is such a welcoming city in that sense and I think people are really great about opening their arms and minds to that. I feel like anybody who I know who’s lived in Worcester and has lived here for a long time, I just have never really seen in other places people have that much love for a place. Just really, there’s some sort of intimate connection people have with the physical you know place of Worcester that I think is really, really wonderful and inspiring and makes me want to engage with the city even more. And I’m just so lucky because I get to see so many different sides of the city with my job. You know I work with 35 community partners, I work a lot with Worcester public schools and a lot with like I was saying refugees and immigrants. I just see a lot of people who are really passionate about seeing this city—not only seeing this city becoming great, but believe that it’s already wonderful and great and, because it is. I mean it doesn’t necessarily look like, it’s not gentrified, it’s not it doesn’t look like downtown Boston, but I there’s so many great things about it already that it doesn’t need to be something different. I mean I do think all the influx of restaurants and the new construction’s great too, but I think, I just think it’s such a shining gem of a place and it’s wonderful to work with so many people who care very deeply about their neighbors. You know neighbors physically, but also just the people in their own community, so I think that’s what makes Worcester really special.

Isabelle Amy Jenkins was born in 1988. She grew up in both Gill, Massachusetts, and New Milford, Connecticut. Her childhood was slightly different from others, since her neighborhood was the boarding school where her mother worked. In her predominately white, middle class town, the boarding school brought diversity to New Milford. She attended the College of Holy Cross for her undergraduate degree and Harvard’s Divinity School for her graduate degree to become a chaplain.

Interview Date: 
Fri, 02/17/2017
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Susan Wobst

Consultant, Nonprofit management; Managing Director of Vital Voices Global Partnership

Well, success for me would be, if I had a headstone, I would say, "She tried to do some good." And in terms of my devotion to nonprofits, it's the core of everything.  Its mission, why they exist, why they were founded.  If I like the mission I will really go gung ho for that,  So it's trying to do some good through the work as well.

Susan Wobst was born in Detroit, Michigan, and attended Hillsdale High School and the University of Michigan where she earned four degrees. She is bilingual and her fluency in Russian led to many jobs in government and nonprofit organizations.  She also taught Russian at the college level and participates in several community organizations.  In this interview, Susan discusses her family, her career, and the community of Worcester.

Interview Date: 
Wed, 10/05/2016
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Josephine Truesdell

Teacher at Bancroft School; Volunteer at Children's Friend

So, there is no question that when they come back, I remember. You know, as a teacher and that’s a long memory, so that’s pretty good. But the connections, there’s no question about it. The connections that you make with the children, with their families. I feel as though it’s—again, that community, and I think the parents—I feel very strongly in working in a partnership with parents. It’s vital. Absolutely vital. And so, we’ve been fortunate enough, at Bancroft, that I think that that connection happened and can happen at any school. I’m glad that can happen there. But, I think that working in a partnership with parents, on behalf of their children, is probably what I think has really meant a lot. And the children, they are so unique and I always feel that there’s a child, with problems or misbehaving, or whatever, I used to say, “Okay, what am I doing? Why is that happening?” It’s not, “I’ve got to figure it out.” It’s not that the child has to figure it out, I have to figure it out how to get to that child. And so that’s that puzzle, that’s what keeps it always exciting I think, “What can I do?”  

Josephine Truesdell was born in 1954 in Worcester, Massachusetts and has lived in Worcester her entire life. She has lived a life of service as a teacher to young children, a grief counselor at Children’s Friend, and a volunteer/member of multiple boards within the city. In this interview, Josephine stresses the importance of family and discusses how Worcester has always been a place with influential women.

Interview Date: 
Sat, 09/24/2016
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Marissa Pyatt

Director of Supportive Services, Abby’s House

I think people don't understand their privilege, and we as a group, not just Worcester, not just women, but as citizens, as humans, need to be able to understand our privilege and how it intersects with oppression. And so there are so many people—like at Abby's [House], we provide services for women that have all different needs, from substance abuse, to trauma, to rape, to eviction. But here we try to preserve that human dignity. In the community, I don't see that as much. You know, there are a couple of agencies that work hard to provide services, but I think that responsibility should be something that we all share, to make sure that the person next to us is honored as a person and their needs are met. Granted, I know that we can't just say, "Oh I'm going to keep somebody in my house and they're going to have shelter and I'm going to feed everybody and I'm going to clothe everybody," but that person is still somebody that needs to be respected and deserves to be respected. It's just a lot of disrespect. It's a hard time now. It's a hard time to live in. Especially for me being a woman of color, it's very hard. Every day I send my son to school and I'm like, “Oh well, what's going to happen?  Am I going to have to answer questions about why people are getting shot?” It's just a hard time to live in, and I think just a simple gesture of greeting somebody, sharing your privilege, would allow somebody to live more comfortably in an uncomfortable time.

Marissa Pyatt was born in Arlington, Virginia, in 1986. In 2016, Marissa found herself in Worcester for the first time, taking on the role as Director of Supportive Services at Abby’s House. Abby’s House is an emergency shelter for women, founded in 1976 at the beginning of the battered women’s movement.

Interview Date: 
Tue, 09/27/2016
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Lila Milukas

Youth Employment Coordinator, Worcester Community Action Council ; Americorps Volunteer

I feel good about this work. I feel I am supporting young people in Worcester and being able to kind of see Worcester in a different light than through school, but also get to know themselves so they can go down a successful path.  This new position that I am doing, which is youth employment coordinator, has been a great experience to connect with youth from ages 16 to 24 and just supporting them in the time they are out of school or in school and thinking what is their next steps, and what the career is going to look like, or what jobs do they want to get to reach that career. So it kind of is what I just went through so it’s so prevalent in my mind so I’m thinking about how getting them to know themselves to be successful and it’s been a really good experience so far.  

Lila Milukas was born in Ashley Falls, Massachusetts, in 1988.  She was raised by her mother and father, both of whom were successful in their careers. She attended a small private high school, which emphasized the equality of women and men. From there, Lila went on to attend Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. She graduated in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in geography.

Interview Date: 
Wed, 11/02/2016
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