YWCA Madison held its 46th Annual Women of Distinction Leadership Awards live on its Facebook page on May 21.
This year’s honorees are Jannet Arenas Pineda, Dr. Roxie Hentz, Jacquelyn Hunt, Adrian Jones, Jenny Pressman, and Nasra Wehelie.
“ Our theme this year is Reimagining Community,” says Vanessa McDowell, YWCA Madison, CEO. “It came as a result of the pause that the COVID-19 pandemic made us all take. It has given us the opportunity to not just go back to things as normal, but reimagine everything including what community looks like. We can now have our community extend wider because we will be virtual.”
YWCA Madison established the Women of Distinction Leadership Awards in 1974 to increase community awareness and appreciation of the diverse contributions of women in the workforce and in the community. Since its inception, Women of Distinction has honored 239 women whose achievements have aligned with the historic mission and values of YWCA Madison.
About the Honorees
Excerpts from their Women of Distinction nominations.
JANNET ARENAS PINEDA
Jannet Arenas Pineda is described as one of the people in our community who go above and beyond in their efforts to make our world a better place, often, without seeking the spotlight or any recognition. As a social worker at Midvale Elementary, Pineda has worked extremely hard to ensure that her students and families feel safe and welcome, especially families of color. She is someone who does so much behind the scenes whether its organizing for immigrant rights or supporting a better education system for Madison students, Pineda is always there directing the plan. Her leadership has been felt across many community organizations in the Madison area.
DR. ROXIE HENTZ
Dr. Roxie Hentz has been a force for the empowerment of women and girls as well as a strong advocate for change with regards to racism in every position she has held throughout her career. While employed at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, working on racial disparity issues, she played a big role in “Closing the Racial Gap.” Hentz worked with priority schools which were the lowest achieving schools in the state. Before DPI she taught in public school and loved that work so she decided to return to teaching to impact kids of color using her gifts and talents to change and influence the world.
Jackie Hunt’s work always followed a path of supporting folks in overcoming the challenges of involvement in the criminal justice system, addiction, homelessness, poverty and racism. She worked as an AODA Community Outreach Specialist with Nehemiah Center (1996-2000 and 2006-present), Clinical Substance Abuse Counselor at Journey Mental Health (2000-2016), AODA Prevention Specialist at Genesis Development Corporation (1999-present) and others. Hunt’s focus has been to provide culturally specific interventions and trauma informed services especially to African American men and women. She often sat on committees and in meetings where it was at times difficult, but stayed, in an effort to affect change for those served.
Adrian Jones has developed her professional and personal commitments to honor and lift up those in her community who have experienced racism and sexism. Driven by a passion to ameliorate the injustices experienced by herself and loved ones in the health care system, Jones dedicates her vast expertise in women’s health to better our community. Within the Office of Population Health at UW Health, she leads the implementation of strategies to improve the vast disparity in birth outcomes experienced by women of color in Dane County. Jones guides the work of the Maternal and Child Health Steering Group and the newly formed Maternal and Child Health Community Advisory Committee, lifting up voice and solutions from those most impacted by systemic racism in health care systems.
Jenny Pressman has devoted her life to championing racial, economic, and social justice, especially for women. As the daughter of Holocaust survivors, a decades-long champion of women’s and LGBTQ rights, the past Director of Development for the Goodman Community Center, and the current Director of Community Partnerships for the life-changing UW Odyssey Project, Pressman has fought to break cycles of generational poverty and to end racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of oppression.
Nasra Wehelie is an immigrant from Somalia who has become a force to be reckoned with in the Madison community. Throughout her life, she has committed herself to the empowerment of women of all ages and eliminating racism. In her professional and personal life, Wehelie has always fought for equality and uplifted the voices of the most marginalized. Her development and fundraising work at Madison area-Urban Ministry allowed for more projects like the Just Bakery program to receive funding. Additionally, Wehelie has worked globally to uplift the voices of women and worked with young girls in Somalia on gender empowerment and community building. Currently, she is an alder for Madison’s Common Counsel, District 7.