Malta House of Care is pleased and proud to announce the names of the Wonder Women Class of ’19! These six incredible community servants were chosen from a pool of 64 nominees by an eight-person Wonder Women Selection Committee using an anonymous electronic voting tool. More than 300 people gathered on Thursday, April 25, 2019, to honor them at the ninth annual “Celebrating Wonder Women” awards ceremony and fundraiser at the Hartford Marriott Downtown Hotel.
Jody Bell, 17, of Greenwich founded a website called “In Case of Deportation,” after listening to the fears of some of her immigrant classmates at Greenwich High School. Geared toward kids ages 8-18, it explains what deportation is; how to talk to family members about it; and provides government resources and other info for kids whose parents or guardians face deportation. Jody’s website is already being used by several school districts, including in Greenwich and New Rochelle, NY.
Daisy Cocco De Filippis, PhD, of Waterbury, president of Naugatuck Valley Community College in Waterbury, is a highly respected Dominican authors and women studies scholar — and the first Dominican president of a community college in the United States. She is known for her practical, common-sense leadership of a school that attracts many first-generation college students. Since 2008, when she took office, NVCC enrollment and retention have risen steadily and the Danbury campus has expanded. In 2012, NVCC became CT’s first community college to confer more than 1,000 diplomas, and in 2017, it was named one of the top 25 community colleges nationwide in advancing opportunities for low-income students.
Janet Grace of Coventry has spent the past 30 years serving as the volunteer adult advisor to the “Instructors of the Handicapped” swimming program in Manchester, founded in 1956 to match physically and mentally challenged children and adults with able-bodied teenagers for Sunday afternoon lessons. That means that every single Sunday since 1989, Janet has been at Manchester High School, coordinating, encouraging, and supervising high school kids as they mentor their sometimes-nervous students who are learning to swim for the first time. Nearly 4,000 people with disabilities have learned to swim through IOH – and many still come every week! Note: Sadly, Janet Grace passed away on June 11, 2020, after a six-year battle with breast cancer. She was 60 years old.
Antoinette Lazarus of Farmington is chief compliance and risk officer for Landmark Partners in Simsbury. Holding a BS in Physics from Fairfield University and an MBA in Finance from the University of Hartford, Annie previously worked for Aetna Financial Services, Cigna Retirement and Investment Services, Prudential Financial, and Phoenix Equity Planning. As a volunteer, she shares her expertise on several prominent Boards, including the Saint Francis Foundation, the Federal Home Loan Bank Board of Boston, and the Hartford Community Loan Fund, which promotes affordable financial services for low-income city residents. But Annie helps people in her private life, as well, by quietly and tirelessly connecting first-generation Jamaican families with local opportunities for education, internships, employment, and housing – all aimed at helping them achieve financial security in their adopted home country.
Lhakpa Sherpa has climbed Mount Everest nine times – more than any other woman in the world. The 46-year-old Nepalese native now lives in West Hartford with her three children, where she works as a dishwasher at Whole Foods in Blue Back Square. She is also a survivor of domestic abuse – and an entrepreneur, having just started her own guided-expedition company, Cloudscape Climbing. “If an uneducated woman who is a single mother can climb Everest nine times, any woman can achieve their dreams,” she told a reporter in Kathmandu.
Antonina Uccello, 96, of West Hartford is a trailblazer. A graduate of Weaver HS and St. Joseph College, Ann worked at G. Fox for the legendary Beatrice Fox Auerbach – and then entered politics. She served as Hartford’s Mayor from 1967-71 — the first female mayor not only of Hartford, but of any capital city in the United States. She was seen as a pragmatic leader and a calming influence during a time of racial unrest in Hartford and nationwide. Ann took her talents to Washington, DC, where she became the first Director of Consumer Affairs in the U.S. Department of Transportation. and worked in the Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations. She was inducted into CT Women’s Hall of Fame in 1999, and has two streets named after her – one in Hartford and one in Italy.
UPDATE OCTOBER 2019:
Hartford street dedicated to the city’s first female mayor