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Women of Distinction honored virtually at YWCA McLean County event

BLOOMINGTON (HOI) - Six new Women of Distinction were named in the Twin-Cities Thursday night as YWCA McLean County's annual celebration of women's achievements turned virtual because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The YWCA said more than 350 people registered to attend the event to honor 26 nominees. A panel of judges from YWCA's nationwide selected the six recipients in their respective fields.

Business/Education – Dr. Christa Platt, Illinois State University (ISU) Dr. Christa Platt is the Director of the Multicultural Center at ISU, where she works to promote antiracism, equity and justice. Dr. Platt has championed the institutional changes to the ISU campus, including a campus-wide Framework for Inclusive Teaching Excellence. This program will guide and support ISU’s faculty and staff in becoming more inclusive towards their diverse students.

Platt is also the founder of Saving Grace, a community program that mentors and educates young women on understanding and navigating structural racism. Saving Grace allows Dr. Platt to facilitate both group sessions and one-on-one mentoring sessions with the young women involved. While connecting with and educating these young women, Dr. Platt is also able to empower them and help them find their voices in the shared fight for the freedom of all people.

Community Leadership - Willie Holton Halbert, NAACP
Willie Holton Halbert makes a difference in the lives of others and excels in the role of mentor, advisor, and advocate. Willie has lived within Bloomington-Normal for more than 45 years and has impacted our community through her various volunteer efforts.  Which include Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church, Mt. Pisgah Praise Dancers, co-director of the Mt. Pisgah Married Couple Ministry, a member of Bloomington-Normal Not In Our Town and is the national youth coordinator for the Not In Our Town national movement, Not In Our School, assistant youth director of Orthodox Woodriver District Baptist Association, 2nd Vice President for Bloomington-Normal NAACP, and is a volunteer with the Bloomington Normal Black History Project with the McLean County Museum.

Willie has been the recipient of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award from the City of Bloomington, the Black History African American Leadership Award from the Illinois Comptroller’s Office, the Empowerment Award from Professional Women of McLean County and Leadership Award from WEEK-25 TV.

Human Services – Christy Kosharek, Marcfirst
Throughout her entire career, Christy has continued to showcase what it means to be a true advocate for children and their families. She has worked at Marcfirst for more than 26 years, starting as a Developmental Therapist and is now the Vice President of Pediatric Therapy Services. Christy and her team work to ensure that no child is denied care due to their race, socioeconomic status, religion, etc. Christy’s program is the only pediatric therapy program in McLean County that provides care to children over three whose primary insurance is Medicaid.

Christy also works with the Heartland Equality and Inclusion Project, the Mclean County Mental Health Advisory Committee, is President of the Governance Board for Heartland Head Start and was an advocate for the Harmony Park Project. She has also works to provide support to the parents of children through the development of the Play and Learn Program. This is a parent support group for children who utilize MarcFirst Pediatric Therapy.

Mission Impact – Dr. Doris Houston, ISU
Dr. Houston’s commitment to the field of education can be shown through her roles as a faculty member and Director in the School of Social Work and Assistant to the President on Diversity and Inclusion at Illinois State University. Dr. Houston provides leadership to the ISU campus by promoting social justice, equity, and inclusion. She launched the First Star Academy at ISU and developed the Together Creating Change organization for foster youth in college. Dr. Houston chaired the Campus Climate Task Force, chaired the Diversity Council of the Office of the President of ISU, helped develop recommendations for all ISU students to have a course on diversity, was appointed to the Leadership Initiative, Diversity, and Inclusion Planning Committee and served on the search committee to hire a Director of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Access at ISU.

She is a recipient of the David A. Strand award from ISU, the Team Excellence Award and Provost’s Faculty Impact Award at ISU, and the President’s Award from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, African American Advisory Council.

STEAM – Rebecca Henderson, SMARTpath Education Services, LLC
Rebecca has spent her career working to create career pathways and equal access to gainful employment for all will result in McLean County becoming a better community. She is as a business owner and consultant of SMARTpath Education Services, LLC. She applies her knowledge in the workshops or training she conducts so she can connect with children and introduce them to new skills. She also helps teachers learn how to offer new and innovative experiences in their classrooms. Rebecca supports ongoing STEM experiences throughout early childcare, education, and extra-curricular programming.

Through Bloomington-Normal STEM, Rebecca has woven school districts, community partners, and a variety of industries to unite under a common goal of creating educational and career options for young people. This not only increases access and opportunities for youth, but also creates a more skilled workforce for McLean County and future business needs.

Rebecca serves as an advisory board member of CeMAST (Center for Education in Mathematics, Science, and Technology), has served as a board member and STEM chair of McLean County Compact, is a member of the Bloomington-Normal Human Resource Council, is a member of the Bloomington-Normal Sunrise Rotary Club and the McLean County Chamber of Commerce.

Promise – Ashley Stacey, Bloomington Police Department
Ashley is the first African American policewoman at the Bloomington Police Department. She has used her voice to encourage a more diverse workforce and to show her support for and solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Ashley takes her role in serving the community by developing positive relationships with community members. She has worked to strengthen the relationships between the Bloomington Police Department and local African American churches by visiting, introducing herself and passing out business cards in order to develop trust. She also volunteers for “Shop with a Cop” and “Project with a Cop” both on and off duty to further her and the police department’s relationships with the community’s youth.

Ashley is also an advocate for victims of sexual assault and goes out of her way to take sexual assault reports in order to empathize with and empower the survivors of sexual assault and abuse. Her thoroughness and kindness in working with victims of sexual assault has led Ashley to develop great working relationships with the incredible workers at YWCA Stepping Stones. Through her involvement with the community’s youth, the black community, and in her care in helping victims of sexual assault, Officer Ashley Stacey works to not only protect and serve our community, but also to better it for the future.

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Heart of Illinois ABC

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