Each year, four women are honored at Keene State College’s President’s Outstanding Women of New Hampshire Awards ceremony during Women’s History Month. This year’s theme is Visionary Women: Champions of Peace and Nonviolence. On Monday, March 4 Briae Robillard, Therese Seibert, Sandra Wallace and Eva Castillo were honored at the 29th annual Outstanding Women of New Hampshire Awards. The categories for the event’s honorees include KSC student, KSC faculty/staff, a Monadnock region honoree and a State honoree.
KSC senior Briae Robillard is this year’s student honoree because of her work with young women who are trapped in domestic violence situations. Robillard works with the nonprofit organization InspireHer. This nonprofit helps teenage girls who are in violent relationships or unhealthy environments by helping them start their own online business. After choosing an online business of interest, they are paired with a mentor who is volunteering with the program who works in a similar field.
Robillard said she was not expecting to receive the award and that it is surreal to be honored for this work. As for what it means to her to be an “outstanding woman,” she said it simply means being yourself, unapologetically.
“To really make a difference and to be impactful in whatever field you are in, you need to be willing to stand apart from everyone else,” Robillard said. “There are so many people that are going to say all the reasons why something won’t work out and you just have to go full force and believe in yourself.”
This year’s faculty/staff honoree Therese Seibert is being recognized due to her work around genocide and access to healthcare. Seibert is currently in Rwanda on sabbatical working alongside Never Again Rwanda (NAR). She is compiling numerous reports and documents from the “Societal Healing and Participatory Governance for Sustainable Peace in Rwanda” (which is a program designed to promote sustainable peace, development, and social justice as Rwanda continues to heal from its 1994 Genocide) into a book draft. She is also helping create a workshop for adolescents in Rwanda that helps deal with past trauma and promotes reconciliation.
While Seibert could not attend the event in person, she made a video that was broadcasted of her accepting her award. “I pretty much thought by the time I turned 60, I would sit back and relax and just impart wisdom to the next generation. This young generation is demonstrating a level of courage en masse, fighting violence against girls and women. They demonstrate a level of courage that I have not seen in a long time. They inspire me to stay involved, fighting the good fight,” Seibert said.
Monadnock region honoree Sandra Wallace is a founding member and active participant in the Keene Immigrant and Refugee Partnership (KIRP). This is an organization committed to making immigrants and refugees full members of their new communities by providing services like transportation, social mixers and other services like a day of free dental care, which was provided recently to local immigrants and refugees.
Wallace’s mother and grandmother immigrated to Canada from the former Yugoslavia and were survivors of concentration camps during World War II. Wallace herself has immigrated from Canada to the U.S. In her work, she feels that she is paying it forward for all the community members who helped her family adjust to life in Canada years ago.
“When you volunteer and give to other people, that is the joy. You’re not thinking about creating change or about recognition. Your priority is supporting the lives of fellow human beings,” Wallace said. “[In] the acknowledgement of this award I hope can encourage other people in the community to realize that the power of one can really make a difference.”
New Hampshire State honoree Eva Castillo is the Director of the New Hampshire Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees. Castillo advocates for immigrant rights and has been working with the Latino community since she moved to the United States from Venezuela in 1976.
KSC President Melinda Treadwell presented the awards to all the honorees in Norma Walker Hall. Associate Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Dottie Morris emceed the event. The event also included student performances. Multiple students showcased their instrumental talents and KSC English major and Eder Writing Prize winner Eva Quill read an original poem.
The award ceremony was also held in memory of deceased KSC employee Rebecca Dixon, who died last month due to complications related to pancreatic cancer.
“She was such an important part of the success of this event, and others at Keene State, for many years,” Morris said. “We lost her far too soon and would like to remember her tonight as we celebrate these amazing women.”
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