Women gain empowerment at CCC women’s conference

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

She settled into a seat in the front, hugging her oversized sweater closer in the chilly, air-conditioned classroom.

Practical, with steady, dark brown eyes, Denita Wilson is planning for her future, so the topic of discussion in the chilly classroom, “Understanding your Finances,” fit.

The finance session was one of 10 offered through Clovis Community College’s second annual women’s conference. The mantra of the day: Empowerment for women.

For Wilson and others who attended the conference, fellow women are the best legends in life.

Wilson was raised in a broken home, her mother a single parent.
“I learned a lot from her mistakes and her successes,” said Wilson, a Clovis nursing student.

Her older, nursing home co-workers imparted the importance of being financially savvy, the 27-year-old said.

“Some of them have been working for 20 years and they have nothing. They have always had low-income jobs and now they have low social security,” Wilson said.

“In our culture, we emphasize men should be the providers in a family, they should take care of you,” Wilson said. “But they don’t always do that. I don’t think anybody should be a fool.”

Roughly 100 women gathered at the college for the conference, which spanned nearly five hours and danced over a range of topics, from how to dress well at any age to breaking barriers in parental involvement in education.

“The goal of the sessions was to give a message of self-confidence, image building, and networking to the masses — whether you are a stay-at-home mom or in charge of company,” said conference coordinator and CCC Director of Marketing and Community Relations Lisa Spencer.

“Men get (that message) every day,” Spencer said.

Several powerful women in the Clovis community, including Rhonda Seidenwurm, superintendent of Clovis Schools, Jan Garrett, municipal judge, and Sistar Yancy, a drug abuse prevention expert, shared their stories of struggle and triumph.

Her hair streaked in silver wisps, conference attendee Cathy Estes welcomed the wisdom showered through anecdotes and advice.
More programs geared toward women are vitally needed in the community, she said.

“Especially in this part of the state,” Estes said. “By culture, men are more dominant. We (women) need to be less submissive.”

The empowerment of women, she said, is “a slow process.”

But, “women are progressing,” Estes said. “It just takes time.”