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.

Linda Cavaioli

Executive Director, YWCA of Central Massachusetts

I see the YWCA as hopefully remaining as a vital part of the fabric of the community because we start with early care and education and we do youth development and health and wellness.  In fact our department is called Wellness and Health Equity, and we do housing for women, and we do domestic violence programs. We have a very diverse but important group of services and we are a collaborator.  I used to say that I would feel like I’ve been successful when we are called upon as an expert on race and gender and so we have been called on as an expert.  When the Equal Pay Act and when the nasty laws were repealed, we get calls to comment on that and I am able to say, "Yes, pay is not equal, but when you look at race then pay is even more unequal."  And then we are the place where a lot of race and gender equity groups meet, so we are a resource, plus we are in the thick of it. I hope that we stay true to our mission and that we see ourselves as a resource to community and as a safe place for people to come together and have those difficult conversations.

This interview follows the professional and personal life of Linda Cavaioli born in 1954 and originally from Leominster, Massachusetts.  Ms.Cavaioli is the executive director at the YWCA of Central Massachusetts. Raised in a close knit and diverse community, Ms.Cavaioli details how such an upbringing expanded her perspectives. As an undergraduate, her studies dealt with social work and the impact aspects such as gender and race contain in our social world. Before working at the YWCA, Ms. Cavaioli spent years at United Way of South Florida and Worcester, Massachusetts.

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Fri, 08/31/2018
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Kate McEvoy-Zdonczyk

VP, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Central & Western Mass

Know that you can do whatever you want to do, and don’t let anyone else define that for you. And when you’re scared, it’s actually good…So, you do it, and it’s the only way to make it go away, because you have the experience, and you’re not afraid of that thing anymore.

Having spent the totality of her life in Worcester, it is no doubt that this city holds a special place in Kate McEvoy-Zdonczyk’s heart.  She was born in 1973 and lived in Main South, attending various public schools in the city of Worcester, until she went on to college, first at Assumption College, then Worcester State University, to receive a bachelor’s degree.  Kate got her start in Worcester at Shaw’s Supermarket on Gold Star Boulevard.  This fueled her love for the improvement of the city, leading to working for Worcester Magazine and now in her current position as Vice

Interview Date: 
Mon, 11/06/2017
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Mary Caulway

Greater Worcester Land Trust

I would say stick with your career. There’s got to be a way, because raising the kids is really, really wonderful, but if you can make it so you can do both… that is awesome... whatever you choose to do, do it.

Mary Caulway was born in 1961 and is from Vestal, New York. She is married to William Caulway and together they have three children. Mary moved to Massachusetts in 1988 and currently resides in Charlton, MA. In the early 2000’s Mary began working for the Greater Worcester Land Trust, which is a nonprofit land conservation organization, and she now volunteers with this organization. Since she began working in Worcester, she became very passionate about the city and what it has to offer.

Interview Date: 
Thu, 10/12/2017
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Birgit Straehle

Art Conservator, Worcester Art Museum; Owner, Sprinkler Factory

Worcester is a welcoming city, it’s the city of inventors. Just went to the Harvey Ball last night, to the Worcester Historical Museum. And I think that’s a good place where all the inventions are well-kept, and you can see what Worcester was and is still! Worcester, I think, follows that tradition because now it’s more, less the industry. But I love, I love, a lot of new entrepreneurs are starting in Worcester.

Birgit Straehle was born in Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber, Germany, in 1973, and works as an Art Conservator for the Worcester Art Museum, located in Massachusetts. Birgit graduated high school, and eventually went on to major in art history at university in Germany. In 2003, during her second semester at university, she took a break from her studies to start her internship in Worcester for half a year to gain hands- on experience in her field in- between her studies.

Interview Date: 
Fri, 10/06/2017
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Sarai Rivera

Worcester City Councilor; Minister; Social Activist

So definitely I feel like I do this because I live by what's called the two greats, the great commission and the great commandment. The greatest commandment is that in order to love God I must love neighbor.  I can't profess to love the God I serve without really loving neighbor. That doesn't mean I love you with conditions, I’m not there to ask you what you practice for religion, I’m not there to ask you who you live with, I can’t.  I’m not asked to love you with any condition I’m just asked to love you. And so understanding the importance of being on that Jericho Road even though that Jericho Road was obviously very difficult, right? Because the guy on the Jericho Road is the story of the good Samaritan who was on the Jericho Road and  gets beaten and obviously that's a really tasking road. And so definitely my service in council is like a calling for me.

Sarai Rivera was born and raised in the Worcester area and currently serves on the Worcester City Council. In addition to her work in local government, Sarai is a minister at local churches and works for global partnerships at churches abroad in Burundi, Rwanda, Haiti. She earned her master’s degree in clinical social work and her doctorate in urban ministries and  is a visiting professor at Assumption College. Her three roles often overlap in her pursuit of equity in society, be it racial, social, sexual, educational, or economic.

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Interview Date: 
Mon, 07/23/2018
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Hilda Ramirez

Assistant Director of the Latino Education Institute, Worcester State University

But success for me right now is more about enjoying my time at work. Doing the best that I can to accomplish successes for others, not for myself anymore. And so to me, success means helping other younger professionals achieve their goals and I do that a lot here with college students who I see.  And I make sure to connect them to a professional job and sort of that cycle of having them give back to their community and be part of that. So that's what success means for me today.

Hilda Ramirez was born in the Dominican Republic in 1964 and ten years later her family moved to New York City. She faced challenges as a non-English speaking child, but through strength, perseverance, and the guidance of a bilingual elementary school teacher, Hilda found academic success. After professional achievements in the male-dominated corporate sector, Hilda returned to school and earned a Master’s in Administration and Social Policy at Harvard University.

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Mon, 08/06/2018
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Parlee Jones

Shelter Advocate, Abby's House

I lived with my mom and you know how that goes once you're grown and you have two kids. So they let me move in with my sister when my mom was like, “You gotta go.” And I got back on my feet in that space. My kids went to school. Single mom, I'm still a single mom. And Abby's gave me the courage and the strength to be able to walk on my own.  Through my time here at 77 I actually got a Section 8 certificate and found an apartment moved on, blah blah blah and all that good stuff. And Abby's asked me to come back and be on the board of directors. So I did that for a while, they always have a representative from the women who serve on the board and that was my job. And I’m honored and humbled and then I did that and Tess Sneesby said, “We have an opening for shelter advocates, you should come and do that.” And I was like, “Tess, I'm a secretary. I don't know anything about that.” And she said, “Well, you'll be fine. Just come on and do it.” And they offered me a couple more dollars than I was getting at Head Start so I took that role on and here I still am.  So guess I'm supposed to be here.

Parlee Jones was born in Leominster, MA in 1966 and moved to Worcester, MA as an infant. Except for spending eleven years in Brooklyn, NY, Parlee has spent nearly her whole life in Worcester. Parlee currently serves as a shelter advocate at Abby’s House women’s shelter in Worcester and has served in this position for over ten years. She describes how activism changed the course of her life. In Brooklyn, she encountered community organizations and a sense of pride in Black culture, which she worked to bring with her back to Worcester.

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Mon, 07/16/2018
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Brenda Jenkins

Health & Wellness Coordinator,YMCA; Co-founder, Mosaic Cultural Complex

MWOC [Massachusetts Women of Color Coalition] and Mosaic would be two organizations that I would love to do  full time, if it is in God's will to do that, because of finally being in an environment of like-minded women who are in these institutions and looking at the different generations of women coming together and being able to create a paradigm shift that will make change for women of color.  And that's power to me.

Brenda Jenkins was born in Worcester, Massachusetts and currently works as the Health and Wellness Coordinator at the YMCA. This interview follows the professional and personal story of Brenda Jenkins Co-founder of Mosaic Cultural Complex and Massachusetts Women of Color Coalition (MWOC). Ms. Jenkins details her upbringing growing up in Worcester’s diverse neighborhoods. Ms. Jenkins describes what it meant to grow up in vibrant African American community, brimming with black-owned businesses and social activism. Ms.

Interview Date: 
Mon, 07/30/2018
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Judith Hanlon

Pastor, Hadwen Park Congregational Church

I started hearing about peacemaking instead of peacekeeping.  And Jesus was a peacemaker not a peacekeeper.  He didn't not talk about it, you didn't, "Shhh, shhh, shhh," which is what "good Christians" do, but you grab this one and you grab that one and you come together and we make peace.  And it’s the hardest work you will ever do, but that’s what Jesus did.

This interview follows the story of Judith K. Hanlon better known in the Worcester community as Pastor Judy of Hadwen Park Congregational Church.  Pastor Judy discusses her upbringing, particularly the importance the church had over her childhood and its impact on her professional path. Pastor Judy also details her personal journeys and explains that nothing can truly be planned, and one must learn from the highs and lows of life.

Interview Date: 
Tue, 05/29/2018
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Tina Gaffney

Actress, Activist, Educator

If I am not helping people I am figuring out a way to help people. If people tell me they need help I am helping them find resources.  That has been in my social justice work, my theater work, kind of a running theme in my life. I mean my grandma has a saying, “If you are not sleeping you are working, if you are not working you are sleeping,” that’s pretty much me, first one in, last one to leave. I am always working on something to enrich people’s lives and make the quality of their lives better which kind of leads me to my social justice/mission statement which is, “To be enriched by other people I interact with and hopefully to interact with them as well and continually make people’s lives better.”

Tina E. Gaffney, originally from San Antonio, Texas, is an established actress, activist, and educator. In this interview, Ms. Gaffney details her vibrant history in the world of social change. Similarly, Ms. Gaffney explores her admiration for the world of theater and its ability to change audiences’ perspectives. This interview also discusses Ms. Gaffney’s views on issues such as racism, sexism, and socio-economic disparities and the forms they impact the educational system. Ms. Gaffney believes “meat on the bones” theater and social activism have the capacity to establish real change.

Interview Date: 
Tue, 05/22/2018
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