“My kids call me TLC. Tough. Love. Chef,” Gail Reese Ward Award recipient Terry Lynn Crenshaw said.
Nearly everyone in the room cracked a smile, as she spoke about her mentees, or ‘kids’ as she calls them. Crenshaw provides career training and positive mentorship to young adults in the juvenile justice system in the culinary arts program at Youth With Faces. “I challenge them inside the kitchen so they can strive outside of it,” Crenshaw said.
Crenshaw was one of the six award recipients at SMU’s 53rd annual Women’s Symposium: “Hit Like a Girl!” on March 7. Like Crenshaw, the recipients were powerful women with an incredible ambition that has driven them to make a difference in our community. From advocating for clients engaged in complex legal disputes to helping cities transition into a home-rule, this year’s award recipients see needs in their communities and have worked to create positive change.
For the past 53 years, the Women’s Symposium has focused on an aspect of female empowerment. According to the welcome pamphlet, the Symposium exists, “to educate, challenge, and motivate through the interaction of its multigenerational, multicultural participants, as well as with the speakers and facilitators.”
The awards ceremony wrapped up the day full of interest sessions, a resource fair, and a keynote speaker, all of which were organized by the Women & LGBT Center with the help of CORE, a group of seven student leaders dedicated to planning the Symposium. Both attendees and award recipients alike shared a passion for celebrating powerful women and saw the awards reception not just as a way to honor these women, but to challenge each other to find a way to make a difference in the world.
“It’s the power of the multiplier. The people that are here tonight are encouraged to say, ‘what could I go and do? How could I use my gifts and talents to impact lives, to leave the world a little bit better?’” said Evelyn Henry Miller, who is a friend of A. Shoon Brown, Profile in Leadership Award recipient and friend of Crenshaw, recipient of the Gail Reese Ward Excellence in Mentoring Award. “It’s interesting that every recipient was recognized because they’ve touched lives, but they spent their time up there thanking others in the room who have impacted them.”
Each of the recipients had a different story, different passions and different strengths, and they expressed their humility and gratitude for others as experienced in each of their acceptance speeches.
“We need to embody fearlessness that helps us demonstrate courage in the world,” said Reverend Rachel Baughman, a pastor who opened her doors to the homeless last winter. “It’s a blessing to be honored for doing the things I just think I’m supposed to be doing.”
Listening to each of the recipients give a speech, it was easy to see how they have used gender inequalities not as barriers, but as motivation to not give up. “Our culture tells girls to question everything,” said Shanterra McBride. She is the recipient of the Profiles in Leadership Awards and founder of Marvelous University which offers life coaching for young people.
“Be the one to tell her who she was meant to be. When you see a young girl, go up and tell her, ‘you’re marvelous,” McBride said.
The Symposium strove to combat societal pressures placed on females by putting these women on the stage to act as role models for young women. “It’s such a great privilege and honor to meet these resilient, sharp, hardworking women,” said Nusaiba, event attendee and SMU student. “They’re leaders of the community and they’re doing remarkable things.”