June 7, 2017 Updated: June 7, 2017 at 5:43 pm
Echoing the words of Maya Angelou, the women of the Karen Possehl Women’s Endowment have overcome their life obstacles and “like air, I’ll rise.”
The powerful “Still I Rise” was used by Unstoppable Woman honoree Professor Barbara Swaby to mold around the stories of the 15 mentored nontraditional graduating seniors honored at the KPWE luncheon May 16 at UCCS.
Some are single mothers, others were formerly addicted. Some are first-generation college graduates, others survived domestic violence and poverty.
Swaby, using the inspiration of Maya Angelou and looking directly at each of the women, quoted:
“Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?”
And she ended “I rise. I rise. I rise.”
And the women have.
The 370 supporters, mentors and families at the pretty spring luncheon were stunned.
Swaby herself was honored for her nonstop work teaching children to read, one little person at a time, hundreds of them each year. An endowed professorship in her name has been established and her reading programs are considered among the best in the nation.
While some children’s backpack programs provide food to take home, Swaby’s backpacks are filled with children’s books, an estimated 150,000 over the years, to carry home.
Cheering the inspiring Swaby were the KPWE Class of 2017:
Rebekah Acosta, Lois Eisenhauer, Carlene Gray, Erin Hobson, Stephanie Kleemann, master’s graduate Katrin Kramer, Jennifer Mast, Kimberly Maxson, Jenna Register, Nicole Renfrow, Phoebe Schwab, Rachel Stevens, Shae Thomas, Rebecca Waneka and Jeanne Wickham.
The luncheon which builds on the endowment established by Karen and Jim Possehl raised more than $100,000. During a pre-lunch reception, the Colorado Springs Executive Women International presented $125,000 to help more scholars. The Southern Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce Foundation donated a full scholarship and Janet Suthers’ “Second Chance KPWE Scholarship” will fund five students next year.
KPWE has had 169 scholarship recipients since 1996-97, 148 who hold bachelor’s degrees. Scholars have received $1,033,010 for their education and $84,040 was paid in childcare grants to the women.
(For KPWE mentor information: uccs.edu/~kpwe/)