April 23rd, 2024

YWCA honours women of distinction


By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on March 12, 2024.

L-R: Mandy DeCecco-Kolebaba, Trudi Mason, Kamryn Sandberg and Dawn Sugimoto, were recognized as part of the YWCA Lethbridge and District Women of Distinction awards. Herald photo by Alejandra Pulido-Guzman

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

The annual YWCA Lethbridge and District Women of Distinction awards was a total hit with multiple members of the community in attendance Friday night to support this year’s recipients.

Four women on Friday became part of a long list of outstanding individuals who throughout the years have been recognized as women of distinction. Many of them were in attendance to support the new recipients and to enjoy an empowering evening among other women.

Prior to the ceremony YWCA Lethbridge Board of Directors chair, Emily Tilleman-Gatz spoke to the Herald and explained the award recipients selection process.

“We get their nomination forms and the letters that they have in support and then from there we look at their entire application,” said Tilleman-Gatz.

 She said they look for women who are innovating within their communities and who are empowering other women.

 “The YWCA has mind, body and spirit, so we look for women who are focused on those throughout their lives, as well as how the have shown leadership and compassion,” said Tilleman-Gatz.

One category looks for those qualities in women at an early age, who are already making a difference in their community and Young Woman of Promise award recipient Kamryn Sandberg told the Herald being nominated for doing something she loves was heartwarming.

“I am a program lead for Alberta sport and recreation association for the blind. I program and develop sporting events for the visually impaired and then on top of it, I’m a fourth-year kinesiology student, and I volunteer at dopamine boxing which is a therapeutic training for people with Parkinson’s disease,” said Sandberg.

She added that she is also part of the board of director for Lethbridge Sport Council and recently collaborated with Crossing Barriers, an organization that provides all abilities and all possibilities and sport, to launch blind lacrosse in Lethbridge – the first program of its kind in Alberta.

When asked about receiving her award, Sandberg said she was in shock to find out she was even nominated to begin with.

“I never expected it at all, I always say yes to as many opportunities as I can, but I never ever want recognition for it because I just love doing what I do, so to get recognition for it is truly so heartwarming and it just makes my heart so happy knowing that I’m leaving it impact in the community,” said Sandberg.

Not wanting the recognition was something all four recipients had in common, even though they each expressed it in their own way when asked how they felt about receiving the award, they all were very humbled by the award and the nomination process.

Mandy DeCecco-Kolebaba, Leadership and Empowerment award recipient, said she believes it was her desire to give back to her community that ultimately got her nominated and awarded.

“I like to give back to the community that I live in. I’m raising children here, my husband and I work here and went to school here, and I feel like an important part of being a part of the community is being able to give back,” said DeCecco-Kolebaba

She describes her role in the community as a combination of two worlds.

“I work with businesses and non-profits and strategic management, I’m also a mental health therapist so I’ve tried to combine both, so leadership and strategic management with mental health,” said DeCecco-Kolebaba.

 She said she feels like everybody needs it and that way they are looking after the whole person.

 “One day a week I provide mental health counselling to Indigenous in active addiction and early recovery at the Indigenous Recovery Coaching House and we’ve created a really cool program,” said DeCecco-Kolebaba.

 She said the program consists of counselling that fits the needs of that population, she loves it and it is her favourite place to be.

Community Leadership and Enhancement recipient Dawn Sugimoto said she never thought she would be back to the event as a recipient herself after nominating a previous recipient last year, and the experience was very humbling for her.

“I never, ever dreamed I would be back a year later to receive recognition so I’ve had to really ponder that one. I don’t feel deserving and I know so many amazing, strong, women, that made me realize that I need to do a better job of nominating other women for this,” said Sugimoto.

She said that being nominated by people at the Lethbridge College and the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens Society meant a lot to her.

“That’s what makes this so special to me, it was done by my work family and my volunteer family and I just feel very fortunate to get to work with these people on a regular basis,” said Sugimoto.

She explained that at Lethbridge College she is the communications manager and has a very supporting team behind her. At the Japanese Garden Society Board she unexpectedly became the president, and being involved with the Garden has allowed her to learn more about her own culture.

Recipient of the Education and Mentorship award, Trudi Mason – who like Sugimoto was nominated by her colleagues at Lethbridge College – said she wanted to cry when she was told she was receiving the award after such a long and intricate journey.

“It was very moving, sometimes things like this just come at the right moment, in a time when you don’t know if you’re making an impact something happens and you realize OK, I did make an impact somewhere, so it is incredibly humbling and it’s an honour,” said Mason.

She said she started teaching as early as junior high school including piano lessons, figure skating and swimming, among other things.

“I always knew I wanted to be a musician, there was no other pathway for me, so I started teaching at the university in my graduate degree. I was a teaching assistant when I went and did my Masters. Education has been a passion of mine forever and making sure that students have what they need and they’re ready to go out in the world,” said Mason.

She said after that she transitioned into teaching faculty members to help them develop their practice. And be the best they could be in the classroom.

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