Home Featured News GRCC’s Women in Leadership Summit concludes by honoring two influential women

GRCC’s Women in Leadership Summit concludes by honoring two influential women

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Photo by Jacquelyn Zeman
Top, Left to right: Jessica Krebs, Arielle Brown, Eirann Betka, Ross Pike, Dani Vilella, Candace Chivis, Elise Kolenda, Kyle Brethauer. Bottom, Left to right: Winnie Brinks, Judge Sara Smolenski, Lupe Ramos-Montigny, Mary Hollinrake, Gretchen Robinson.
Photo by Jacquelyn Zeman
Top, Left to right: Jessica Krebs, Arielle Brown, Eirann Betka, Ross Pike, Dani Vilella, Candace Chivis, Elise Kolenda, Kyle Brethauer and Brooke-Lynne Ferris.
Bottom, Left to right: Winnie Brinks, Judge Sara Smolenski, Lupe Ramos-Montigny, Heather Richards and Gretchen Robinson.

By Jacquelyn Zeman

The Women in Leadership Summit, hosted by Grand Rapids Community College’s Women’s Issues Now club on Monday Oct. 14 featured female leaders from around the state who gathered on campus to share their stories.

Dani Vilella, winner of the
Dani Vilella, winner of the Woman of the Year award.

The speakers were a group of 22 females, ranging from GRCC students and faculty to local and state community leaders, who have a voice in the public eye of the Grand Rapids area, and the state of Michigan.

Winnie Brinks, the 76th house district representative, gave a keynote address during which she discussed how she ended up becoming the first female representative for Grand Rapids. She explained that for a very long time she simply “saw herself on the sidelines in politics.”

Eventually she did decide to run for office.

“I took Eleanor Roosevelt’s advice,” she said. “I decided to do one thing each day that scares me, and I declared my candidacy…I have this secret hope that Eleanor Roosevelt would have been really proud of me.”

Brinks concluded her address by encouraging women to speak up and push themselves out of their comfort zones, and “picture yourself in the seats with the name plates, the seats with the microphones, in the decision maker’s chair.”

When asked why she agreed to come and speak, Sara Smolenski said, “I was very pleased to be asked because I am an alumni of GRCC, so I always want to support whatever they are up to. I thought this was a bold initiative because women are still underrepresented…we need to get the message out there. We need more women in political positions and in public office. So I am happy to come and help and share my story.”

Photo by Jacquelyn Zeman
Callie Melton, winner of the Outstanding Achievement award

WIN gave out awards to women leaders at GRCC during the closing remarks of the day. The Outstanding Achievement award went to Callie Melton, and Woman of the Year award to Dani Vilella, president of the National Organization for Women of Grand Rapids.

Ross Pike, president of WIN said “From a operation perspective, the event was flawless. Everything was right on track with the time we had. Our speakers were captivating, and they exceeded our expectations.”

When asked what they will be improving if they have the summit again next year, he said “where we definitely fell short was in attendance. It was the first time we ever had an event like this at GRCC, so it was difficult to get people interested the first time around. Next year we are possibly looking at a new day to have it, and a shorter length of time to have it for. We will also look into new marketing tools to raise attendance of the event.”

The event was sponsored by the WIN, GRCC Student Congress, College Democrats, StandOut, Black Student Union, College Republicans, the Diversity Learning Center, NOW GR, and Planned Parenthood Affiliates of Michigan.

Shelby Corliss contributed to this article.