Honoring Good Women

The Bellingham YWCA is a remarkable organization.  It does incredible work within our community’s and is one of my favorite organizations to support whenever and however I am able.

The Y’s Womencare program, for instance, provides emergency, confidential shelter, 24 hour crisis support services and community education for women who are victims of domestic violence. It’s transitional housing program is available for single adult women in Whatcom County to give them a safe, supportive place to stay while connecting them with the appropriate resources to get their lives back on track and become self-supporting. The Back to Work Boutique provides low income women in Whatcom County with new clothes sot that they feel confident and look good while applying for a job. And, an especially popular program at this time of year is the Prom Dress Program, that allows young women of all incomes access to a formal dress for a special occasion.  The YW currently has more than 200 formal dresses in stock.

The Bellingham YWCA Northwest Women's Hall of Fame is Sunday, March 23.
The Bellingham YWCA Northwest Women’s Hall of Fame is Sunday, March 23.

The organization also sponsors the Northwest Women’s Hall of Fame.  Since its founding in 1999, the YWCA has honored 56 contemporary Whatcom County women, living and deceased, and 12 Legacy Award winners, from the early days of the county, whose service has inspired later generations.  This year’s awards event will be this upcoming Sunday, March 23 at Northwest Hall in  Bellingham.

I was honored to have been asked to photograph for the event three of this year’s four awards recipients–Julianna Guy, Ann Marie Read and Deborra Garrett whom I had photographed for her campaign in 2012 in her bid for Superior Court Judge. Ramona Elizabeth Phare Morris will also be a recipient. To be selected, honorees must have made a lasting impact, served as role models for women and girls, demonstrated perseverance and vision, and overcome obstacles to achieve their goals.  

Ms. Guy will be one of this year's Northwest Women Hall of Fame recipients selected by Bellingham's YWCA.
Ms. Guy will be one of this year’s Northwest Women Hall of Fame recipients selected by Bellingham’s YWCA.

Julianna Guy is a delightful woman whose eyes sparkle with life when she speaks.  I had a lovely time getting to know her during our studio session.  A former accountant for network and local television, she moved back to Bellingham to retire and is now persistent spokesperson for a park and branch library in the underserved Cordata neighborhood, She is now helping to create a park in the King Mountain area. Juliana formed the Cordata Neighborhood Association, resulting in a park being built & greenway being designated. She is a former  SCORE counselor, helping entrepreneurs – especially women – start new businesses.  Juliana is also involved with Planned Parenthood, and Big Brothers & Sisters.

The Bellingham YWCA is honoring Ms. Read for her service and dedication to parenting and childhood education.
The Bellingham YWCA is honoring Ms. Read for her service and dedication to parenting and childhood education.

Ann Marie Read and my path’s crossed many years ago when our sons were studying piano from the same teacher. I was delighted to catch up with her and to learn what she and her family are now doing.  During the past twenty-five years, she has been a parenting educator at Bellingham Technical College (BTC). She has provided critical early childhood education for parents in a variety of venues, including weekly parent/child classes, free drop-in groups for low-income parents such as “Baby Connections”. In addition, she has worked with special populations, including parents participating in the “Early Head Start” program, parents from the Nooksack Tribe, and student parents in BTC’s professional technical programs.  How she has done all this and been a mother of three sons too, I’m not exactly sure.

Deborra Garrett, who has been an attorney in Whatcom County for 30 years, is now a Superior Court Judge.
Deborra Garrett, who has been an attorney in Whatcom County for 30 years, is now a Superior Court Judge.

Judge Deborra Garrett is someone I also came to know through our sons who attended the same middle and high schools. (She was the subject of my blog post in August, 2012–Primarily Primaries which you can read by clicking on the link here.)  Her career in Whatcom County spans more than 30 years.  She has represented individuals, organizations & businesses.  Often her representation provided her clients the only remaining opportunity to resolve their legal issues. In 2013, Judge Garrett became the first woman elected to a Whatcom County bench as  Superior Court Judge and I was proud to contribute to her campaign by photographing her and some of her campaign events.

The fourth recipient is Ramona Elizabeth Phare Morris. She is a strong proud Native women who has advocated for Lummi People as well as all Native Americans, advocating in important areas such as jurisdictional and fishing rights, BIA Land Trust, roads on tribal land, Tribal Taxes (fish taxes) Treaty Tax Force (Nationally), Health Care and Youth Education, tax issues & concerns for tribal people. Ramona  has represented the Lummi People proudly and has worked alongside many other tribal leaders .

There’s still time to make a reservation for Sunday’s Northwest Women’s Hall of Fame dinner and ceremony to recognize the contributions and achievements of these extraordinary women who have all made Bellingham a better place to live.  I hope you’ll join me in supporting this, and other YWCA programs.  For more information just click on the link( in green lettering) or phone the YWCA at 360-734-4820.

 

WWU Navigates Kids to College

If you happened to be on the campus at Western Washington University today, as I was earlier this morning, you might think that WWU’s university students had gotten a lot shorter, and younger.  In a way, they have. At least if Cindy Shepard, the WWU President’s wife, has anything to do with it.

Fifth grade students from all over the region arrive for their first day on campus.
Fifth grade students from all over the region arrive for their first day on campus.

Shortly after the Shepards arrived in Bellingham (Bruce Shepard took over from Karen Morse as the new president), Cindy launched a program similar to one she had done at their previous university stop. Called Compass 2 Campus, it pairs the area’s fifth through twelfth-graders with university students who mentor them for a full year.

Volunteers like Margaret help greet the arriving students as they make their way towards the university gym.
” Volunteers like Margaret help greet the arriving students as they make their way towards the university gym.

During the school year, the kids visit the campus, experience different aspects of college, participate in workshops and basically learn what it means to be a university student.   It’s a great way to introduce the idea of higher education to the kids.  And for the university students who take part in the program, many of whom are education majors but not all, it gives them a life-long college memory unlike any other.

“You should see these kids when they leave, their faces are just beaming,” said Truc Thon, a community member and program volunteer.  I ran into Truc and the other Compass 2 Campus volunteers–many of whom were friends of mine–this morning when they were greeting the kids who were arriving at the university literally by the busloads for this first day of this year’s program.

Volunteer Truc loves to see the smiles on the students faces as they arrive.
Volunteer Truc loves to see the smiles on the students faces as they arrive.

I’m not sure who was more excited for their arrival, the volunteers or the kids.  The fifth graders were wearing bright chartreuse T-shirts with the Compass 2 Campus logo emblazoned on the front.  Many of them were hauling along big backpacks too, just like the university students who were hurrying on their way to class at the same time.  The university’s student volunteers met each group as they unloaded and then escorted them towards the middle of campus where they all would attend an opening ceremony of sorts that was designed to resemble a college graduation.

The chartreue-colored t-shirts of fifth graders were hard to miss, even in the morning fog, as the visiting fifth graders gathered before the university's Wade King Recreation Center.
The chartreuse-colored t-shirts of fifth graders were hard to miss, even in the morning fog, as the visiting fifth graders gathered before the university’s Wade King Recreation Center.

They would remain on campus all day, until 3 p.m. during which they would visit many of the different departments, perhaps sample a little cafeteria fare, and get to see what it’s like to be a university student. For many of these kids, it’s the first time that any of them have ever set foot on a college campus. The hope is, at least as far as Cindy Shepard and the program volunteers are concerned, it won’t be their last.

Autumn’s First Day Moves In

Today is the first day of autumn.  It’s also ‘Move In Day’ at Western Washington University for the university’s 15,000 students.  Ninety-two percent of the incoming freshman will spend the next school year in residence at the dorms.  On this day, parents and their students descend upon the university campus in vans, SUVs and station wagons stuffed to capacity with pillows, towels, rugs, desk chairs, DVDs, computers, whatever it takes to make their assigned dorm room feel like home.  Neighboring streets are jammed with the traffic as everyone waits their turn to pull into the nearest dorm parking lot to quickly unload their belongings in the allotted 20 minutes.  Western students wearing T-shirts printed with the word ‘HELP’ are strategically posted around campus in order to direct both students and parents to their intended destinations.

My youngest son kindly granted my request for a quick shot of him in front of his new home during 'Move In Day' at his university.
My youngest son kindly granted my request for a quick shot of him in front of his new home during ‘Move In Day’ at his university.

It’s a day full of emotion for both.  Emotions to which I can readily relate having gone through this ritual myself with my own three sons.  Any parent who’s ever taken their son or daughter to college can recall that day in considerable detail.  There’s the excitement of seeing your student off to a new adventure, one which many of us probably embarked upon ourselves.  But it can be bittersweet to say good-by and head back home minus that young woman or young man who spent the first 18 years living with the family.  It’s a period of adjustment for everyone.

As I look back, my memory of that day for each of my sons comes back into sharp focus.  They each started off alone, at different schools, in different states in locations where they had no immediate family.  The experience for each of them, while similar, was also different.  Two of them flew off on airplanes to their college cities, taking with them whatever they could pack into their duffle bags and my extra suitcase.  One loaded up a moving truck to the max with whatever furniture we could spare as well as his own bedroom furniture so he could furnish the little apartment he had rented for himself off-campus.  Upon his departure, I climbed the stairs of our home to the second flor and went into what had been his bedroom.  It was empty except for one barren bookcase and a pile of dirt that had been swept to the middle of the room’s wooden floor.  That’s when I realized that he was truly gone and the tears welled in my eyes.

With his things finally unpacked and his Washington State flag pinned up on the wall, my son could sit down at his desk and phone home to his father.
With his things finally unpacked and his Washington State flag pinned up on the wall, my son could sit down at his desk and phone home to his father.

Yet it’s a happy time too as memories of your own college experiences come rushing back.  I’m sure it was just as hard for my parents to say good-by to me as it was for me to see my sons leave.  I don’t remember that, of course.  All I recall was the thrill of finally being out in the world on my own, of trying out new things, of making new friends and of getting a pretty good education along the way.  College is a bridge between the known and the unknown.  Crossing it is a big deal, for everyone.

I remember the last thing my oldest son said  before hopping into the rental truck and driving off to his university. He turned around, took a long final look at our house as if committing every detail to memory, and said aloud almost exactly what had been running through my own mind:  ‘So this won’t be my home anymore.’

I grabbed one final picture just as my son and husband were about to close up and head off to my son's college.
I grabbed one final picture just as my son and husband were about to close up and head off to my son’s college.

He later learned that wasn’t exactly true. He could always call our house ‘home’, but from that moment on, it would never be quite the same.   He was growing up, about to find his own way and to learn to live and lead his own life apart from ours.  Now, years later, as I watch the students and parents at WWU unload their cars, stroll together through the campus one last time before hugging each other and going their separate ways, I smile knowingly.  And as I pass by them, a tear or two still comes to my eye.

Two of my sons head off together, ready to conquer the school and the world on 'Move In Day' at the University of Oregon.
Two of my sons head off together, ready to conquer the school and the world on ‘Move In Day’
at the University of Oregon.

The Graduate Goes Home

It’s always hard to say good-bye.  Seems like I’ve had to do a lot of that lately.  Last week, I bid farewell to my photographer’s assistant for the past two years–Ika Hirawan.   She has been by my side on location during photo sessions with high school seniors and families as well as having handled whatever I needed done in the studio.  I’m going to miss  her.

Ika, my photography assistant for two years, on the Western Washington University where she studied for two years.

But she graduated from Western Washington University in June with a bachelor’s degree in business and has a job waiting for her in her native Indonesia.  Having spent five of the last six years in the United States, I know her family was anxious to have her back again.

Ika first came to the States as a junior in high school and lived with a family in Iowa.  It was quite a  change from her homeland.  After graduating from her high school in Indonesia, she applied to and was accepted in a student exchange program and wound up at Whatcom Community College in Bellingham.  Upon completing the two-year program at WCC,  she applied to WWU where she continued her college education.

She proved herself to be a diligent student, a delightful young woman and a very dependable photographer’s assistant!  I hope to see her again one day, whether here in the States, there in Indonesia or some other far corner of the world.  In the meantime, we’ll keep in touch via the wonders of electronic mail and Facebook.  It makes the distances between us seem closer and our worlds feel less far apart.

Many thanks, Ika, and best wishes for your future!