Co-Presidents’ Message 2023-2024

(February 2024)
From Monika – Hi everyone, I hope you are staying dry and warm!

From my perspective, the last week of January/beginning of February was a perfectly amazing week for DAW. On Tuesday, fourteen DAW members were visibly present at the SRVUSD school board meeting. Barbara Blalock and Ogie Strogatz gave thoughtful public comments; I was honored to be a part of the group. And then a few days later at our February DAW board meeting, we voted to include financial need and special circumstances (such as perhaps a first-generation college student) as additional considerations for our Local Scholarships. We also voted to establish a named scholarship with the Diablo Valley College Foundation:  American Association of University Women, Danville-Alamo-Walnut Creek Branch, (AAUW DAW) Single Parent Scholarship. A few days after that, on Saturday, a meeting at Rossmoor with a coalition of community group leaders from across Alameda and Contra Costa counties was organized by Public Policy Chair and AAUW California School Board Project Team member Laurinda Ochoa, Ogie, and others to develop a plan to protect public education. This impressive group is planning a summit for April 13. Please save the date and plan to attend. You’ll hear more in the coming months.

But for today, you might ask why supporting single parent families is a good idea for AAUW DAW. According to Annie E. Casey Foundation data[1], in 2021 nearly 30% of single parents lived in poverty. Within single parent families, most children – 14.5 million – live in mother-only households. DAW will award one scholarship this year and perhaps expand in the years ahead.

We learned about the possibility of directing a portion of our Local Scholarship funds to a single parent scholarship from two contacts that our members have with members of other California AAUW branches. Ogie learned from the AAUW California DEI Chair, Charmen Goehring, that the AAUW Citrus Heights – American River Branch has a similar scholarship. Also, Chris Ritter told us about it when she researched the 501(c)(3) process, since we used some of the Citrus Heights – American River Branch’s documents as examples for our own 501(c)(3) application.

I am proud of these results for Local Scholarships, and of the group that put the proposal together. Judy Lauper, Holly Sauer, Ogie Strogatz, Sarah Williams, Ann Willoughby, and I worked together for this gratifying outcome. I thank them and the DAW Board for their support. I am impressed and grateful for all the work that DAW members do in our community – with DAW, and also with other organizations.

Thank you all – Monika

[1] Child Well-Being in Single Parent Families, https://www.aecf.org/blog/child-well-being-in-single-parent-families

From OgieHi everyone,

I wish to acknowledge AAUW’s recognition of February as Black History Month. I just watched the AAUW California webinar about Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954), who became the first Black member of AAUW after winning an anti-discrimination lawsuit. The webinar featured Dr. Alison Parker, author of Unceasing Militant: The Life of Marcy Church Terrell. Terrell was the daughter of enslaved parents who earned her BA and MA from Oberlin College. She was an educator, a journalist, a founding member of the NAACP, and a fierce, prominent suffragist and civil rights activist.

AAUW also has highlighted Brandeis University’s “Black Women as History Makers” – a robust list of books and videos to help deepen our understanding.

No better time than these chilly mid-winter days to pursue inspired studies!
Ogie

January (2024)
From Monika – I am wishing you all peace, joy, and the warmth of friends and family in 2024. And, here is one extra reason to celebrate -the IRS has determined that we can officially operate as a 501(c)(3)! You will hear more about how this will simplify DAW branch operations in a future newsletter, but for now I want to express heartfelt thanks to Chris Ritter for the many hours and great care she put into our application. We are so fortunate to have Chris on our leadership team!

I look forward to the year ahead – let’s work together to make a difference,
Monika

From Ogie – Reflecting on the new year, I came across a quote from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “Hope is not something that you have. Hope is something that you create with your actions.”

What a perfect thought as we step into this month of hope-full opportunities for learning and engagement. Some of the opportunities offered through AAUW that I recommend this month are:

Gov Trek CA AAUW’s standout initiative to inspire high school junior and senior girls to pursue careers in public service and elected office launches this year’s program on February 3. There’s an information session about the program on January 8; registration for girls to participate closes on January 20.
The ask: Help spread the word! Please share the following with high school faculty, staff, and students in your networks:

Branch DEI Committeemeets online on January 9 with a robust agenda under the leadership of DEI Officer Teresa Cheung. The meeting is outlined in her article in this edition, and all members are welcome to attend.
The ask: Join us! The discussion will be that much richer for your participation. Please contact Teresa at aauwteresa@gmail.com for more info.

Third Thursday member meetingon January 18, will feature a timely presentation, “The Impact of Social Media on Girls: Challenges, Opportunities, and Support”, by Jamie Nuñez, Western Regional Manager for Common Sense Media. Shout out to Linda Jimerson and Isabel Lau for their terrific work preparing this program.
The ask: Join us! If you’ve not yet done so, please RSVP – click here

San Ramon Valley Unified School District (SRVUSD) Board meetingthis month’s meeting is on January 30. We’ll continue our branch presence at these meetings to stand up and speak out for honest, inclusive public education. We hope to debut our new branch t-shirts to amp up our solidarity and presence. And we’ll have the opportunity to offer public comments in support of the parcel tax measures on which the Board is scheduled to vote that evening.
The ask: Join us! Please contact Monika Witte at aauwmonikawitte@gmail.com for more info.

Grateful to partner with you in all that DAW does to fortify hope,
Ogie

December (2023)
From Ogie – Although I am not especially keen on chilly weather or dwindling daylight, I’m always grateful for the power of this season to remind us of our shared humanity. I am moved by the beauty of distinct cultural traditions that all bring light and warmth to this darkened time of year, whether as sparkling Christmas tree ornaments, the glowing candles of a Kwanzaa kinara or a Hanukkah menorah, or a crackling Yule log. Nothing beats the holiday season for inspiring more people from diverse backgrounds throughout the world, all at once, to gather and engage in acts of generosity, good will, and fresh hope for the coming new year.  It is truly remarkable to behold.

You all give me hope for a more equitable world through your steadfast commitment to realizing AAUW’s vision in our communities. Your thoughtfulness, drive, and compassion are my favorite antidote to any moments of discouragement or doubt in this challenging time. Thank you for being who you are.

With best wishes for a peaceful, healthy holiday season and new year,
Ogie

From Monika – The days are cold, and issues facing the world feel overwhelming and in some cases confusing; this is a tough time. I think about the reasons that we choose to connect in AAUW, and how those intentions and actions can bring light and help us be resilient.

If you have been a DAW member for a few years you might be connected through friendships. If you are relatively new you might be looking to meet women with similar interests in supporting our community. We share the connection of a desire to support our mission — to advance gender equity for women and girls through research, education, and advocacy, and as a branch we are working toward equity for all.

Coming up this month, in addition to the reformed Art & Garden and the new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) groups you will read about in this month’s Advocate, there will be a wonderful Holiday Party where you can meet people and share familiar tunes. Also, if you’d like, join our support for the school board by attending the meeting on December 13.  In January we’ll learn about how social media has a powerful impact on youth, especially girls. And then in February we’ll hear from an AAUW Fund recipient about the importance of diversity in storytelling – and that’s just the beginning of the year.

Whether you’ve been a dedicated member for years, or have recently joined us, we share common motivations. There are many ways to get involved – one quick and easy way is to help at the Third Thursday meetings and “Meet, Munch, Make a Difference” during the first 30 minutes. This is a great opportunity to meet people and to put your toe in the water to participate. I’m always looking for help, please call me!

Best wishes for a wonderful holiday and a healthy and productive new year,
Monika

(November 2023)
From Ogie –
Hello everyone, this month I’m delighted to spotlight Gov Trek, a terrific initiative from AAUW California that is now launching its second season. Gov Trek is a free, online program for high school junior and senior girls to help address the underrepresentation of women in elected and appointed positions at every level of our government. Structured as seven, two-hour Zoom sessions on Saturdays between February 3rd and March 16th, 2024, the program features two main components.

One is a series of presentations by a diverse array of women leaders in government. Gov Trek 2023 guest speakers included: California Speaker Emerita, Nancy Pelosi; California Senate President Pro Tempore, Senator Toni Atkins; Congresswoman Anna Eshoo; California State Treasurer, Fiona Ma; AAUW CA Advocate and Lobbyist, Kathleen Van Osten; Ellen Montanari, Deputy Campaign Manager, Congressman Mike Levin; Hilary Nemchik, Strategic Communications Executive, Former Director of Communications for the San Diego City Attorney’s Office; Regina Luzincourt, Lobbyist and former Press Secretary, State Senator Kevin Parker (NY); Shana Hazan, San Diego Unified School Board; Miranda Drolet, Sacramento County Deputy District Attorney; Summer Stephan, San Diego County District Attorney; Anne Marie Schubert, Sacramento County District Attorney; and Marlene Cain, AAUW California Program Director, Speech Trek.

The other component is a competitive project in which the Gov Trek participants are divided into small teams that carry out a campaign simulation. Each student team identifies the elected position that their candidate will pursue. The team determines who will perform the roles of candidate, campaign manager, communications director, and field director. Each team collaborates to produce a stump speech delivered by the candidate, a voter outreach plan, and a campaign flier with core messaging. At the final Gov Trek Zoom session, the teams present their campaigns to a panel of expert judges. California AAUW arranges a government internship for each member of the winning team.

Asha Bajaj and I were fortunate to serve as facilitators for last year’s Gov Trek student teams. If you’d like to learn more about the program (for example, perhaps you know of high school faculty who can help recruit student participants, or you’d like to learn more about volunteering), please contact me (ogstrogatz@gmail.com).

Thanks to each of you for your commitment to helping open doors of opportunity for the next generation of women leaders!

From Monika Greetings! I have found attending SRVUSD school board meetings this year to be an interesting and an easy way to advocate for our schools. Until this year I had not attended a school board meeting in several decades. We’ve heard from a handful of people in the district (trustees and staff,) that our presence at these meetings has been impactful in positive ways; it feels good. Each month one member speaks (gives a three-minute public comment) on behalf of the branch, and other DAW members who are present stand to indicate support. At the SRVUSD board meeting on November 14 we will feature our support of Tech Trek, and our comments will include gratitude to the teachers and administrators who support this program. We try to look like a unified group by wearing the same color shirt and nametags. Everyone is of course welcome! We are now taking orders for DAW T-shirts, so that in the future we can easily look like we belong together; information on T-shirts is in this Advocate.

In this season of gratitude, I am grateful for the opportunity to work with so many amazing women, and for progress that we can make together to support equity.

In friendship, Monika

(October 2023)
From Ogie – As I write, I’m still reveling in the energy from our kickoff brunch, where we reconnected, recharged, and lifted up so many opportunities to bring about our vision of equity for all. The hands-on experiments and good times shared by our local Tech Trekkers underscored the importance of fundraising to support more young women exploring STEM careers. Our keynote speakers, Walnut Creek’s Mayor Cindy Silva and Transportation Commissioner Samantha Caygill, inspired us with their personal journeys as leaders in government and challenged us to step up our civic engagement. We spotlighted CA AAUW’s Public Policy priorities — in particular, the School Board Project, to help drive the identification and endorsement of local school board candidates who will champion inclusive, honest public education. DAW is demonstrating our commitment to the cause through our sustained presence at the San Ramon Valley Unified School District Board meetings. We’re raising our local visibility, stimulating new membership, and inviting collaboration with other like-minded organizations. All of this vibrant activity is sourced to the gifted dedication and sisterhood that thrive in our branch’s working committees and interest groups.

Grateful to be in community with you, o

From Monika – September was an incredibly productive month. In addition to gathering for our wonderful annual brunch, we have small teams that are –

  • developing the focus and locating speakers for our monthly programs
  • studying options for the future of the Local Scholarships program in DAW
  • inventing creative ways to make our branch more welcoming, especially to the more than twenty members who joined DAW in the past year
  • thinking about what the promise of membership in DAW is
  • locating gardens for the 2024 Garden Tour
  • demonstrating support for our local schools and school board

And, just as important, we are continuing to learn about the issues facing our community, and how to respond to Make a Difference.

I am hopeful for the year ahead, and thankful for all of you, Monika

(September 2023)  Over the summer, the new DAW Board met for our annual one-day “Strategy Session” to plan for the coming year. We talked about where we’re headed as a branch, our programs for FY23-24, and opportunities to engage with our community. We also discussed some of the challenges we face – such as declining membership and unbalanced fundraising (with a very successful Garden Tour benefiting Local Scholarships, but an anticipated need to really step up this year for Tech Trek).

We committed to continue striving to make a difference as champions for public education, to help realize AAUW’s mission: advancing gender equity for women and girls.

Board members shared why belonging to DAW is important to them. The list of reasons is wonderfully wide-ranging! Members expressed their resonance with the mission, the opportunity to promote STEM careers for women and girls, to meet and support like-minded women, to engage with them in leadership, friendship, learning, and service with a meaningful impact on our communities.

Why is belonging to DAW important to you?

We look forward to partnering with you all to explore the many ways in which DAW membership can be rewarding. Welcome to the year ahead!

(July 2023) From Ogie
Hi everyone! Please accept my heartfelt thanks for entrusting Monika and me to serve as your Co-Presidents this coming year. I look forward to pursuing opportunities together to contribute to our mission – advancing gender equity for women and girls through research, education, and advocacy.
It is your advocacy that led me to AAUW in 2020. Since stepping away from paid work in late 2015, I have immersed myself in exploring different ways to give back to community, primarily as a volunteer progressive political activist. One of the roles I’ve picked up is Contra Costa County organizer for Reclaim Our Vote, a national, non-partisan initiative to cultivate voter registration and turnout in states with the most severe voter suppression. DAW’s Public Policy Chair, Asha Bajaj, contacted me in the summer of 2020 for Reclaim Our Vote support with the branch’s postcard writing to turn out rural, elderly, low-income Black voters in the Southeast for the Presidential election. I was delighted to discover this local source of vibrant civic engagement and eager to find out more, so I joined the branch in 2021 to help Asha with Public Policy.
CA AAUW’s portfolio of Public Policy Priorities is so robust! There is nothing more gratifying to me than the privilege of partnering with wise, caring women who are right nearby and deeply committed to bringing those priorities to life. Whether we’re listening together at a monthly meeting to hear about local programs that champion gender equity; celebrating our middle school Tech Trek participants; powering through myriad Garden Tour tactics to raise Local Scholarship funds; or engaging in all the crucial behind-the-scenes branch operations that sustain us, I am consistently inspired to learn and do more.

(July 2023) From Monika
Why do I want to be involved as a leader in our Branch? The older I get, the more I realize that my time is precious, I only want to spend time on things that really are important to me. So – Why DAW, why now?
I believe that it’s important to work towards a utopia that is equitable for everybody. Equal educational opportunities, equal opportunity for career advancement, pay equity, and the opportunity to set your own goals and to live your own life – for everyone.
I was so fortunate to have a supportive family, to grow up in California during an era when we had some of the best public K-12 schools in the country, to attend the University of California when it cost (my freshman year) about $210 per quarter. In my career as an engineer there were times when my gender made my progress more difficult. But, on the whole, good mentors, great bosses, good colleagues and teams surrounded me. My success was not blocked or hindered because of my gender.
And I believe that times have now changed in some ways for the worse.
I’m excited to work with Ogie and I look forward to working with all of you to find ways that we can work together to support policies in our community, state and country that encourage gender equity. To support education (STEM and all education) for everyone – to move toward a world where women and girls can believe that they are in charge of their own lives.

(July 2023) From Joanne Quijano and Chris Ritter, Outgoing Co-Presidents
It has been a wonderful honor to serve this amazing group of AAUW members as your Co-Presidents this past year. We hope you enjoyed the journey – especially with our monthly meetings providing time to reconnect with old and new friends and to learn how we can make a difference in the issues that matter to us. Thank you for all your efforts this year to make a difference for women and girls; from the outgoing board members and numerous group leaders to the many, many volunteers who’ve made our branch activities possible. We have a summary of our achievements later in this edition – we hope you find the successes as gratifying as we do. Your efforts moved us forward toward equity for women.
Our new Board of Directors is poised for action already, and we look forward to supporting these spectacular leaders! We have great hopes that our bonds will continue to grow stronger, and we will continue to use the power of our group to help women succeed in education, economic security, and leadership.
Now it’s time for a much-needed break! We wish you all a rejuvenating summer and we look forward to springing back into action starting with our September brunch.

Here’s to “Making a Difference”!

Click here to see previous President’s Messages from 2022-2023