Oregon Branches Fly High with WINGSJuly 11, 2011
This is the second post in a series featuring the 2011 Breaking through Barriers Award winners, which were announced at the 2011 AAUW National Convention.
For women seeking to further their education, the AAUW Astoria (OR) Branch and AAUW Seaside (OR) Branch have made the process easier by putting together a conference — Women Interested in Going to School (WINGS) — that helps women break through the logistical and financial barriers to higher education.
This September, WINGS will hold its 10th annual conference, having served almost 500 women since the program was established. Held at Clatsop Community College, WINGS helps women from an economically distressed, rural area where fewer than 20 percent of adults over 25 hold university degrees. Conference attendees, whose ages range from 17 to 77, receive information about the college application process, general equivalency diplomas, and other areas to help them advance their education. The conference provides free child care, meals, and transportation so that all women, regardless of economic circumstances, can attend. Indeed, attendees have included homeless women, single moms, and women from the local domestic violence shelter. Following the conference, volunteers call each of the attendees to offer further assistance.
“Receiving this national recognition will help publicize our annual conference, and additional funds will assure that more local women can receive support in their quest for education and a better life,” said Pat Lehman, a member of the Seaside branch and co-chair of WINGS.
Mentors and volunteers at the WINGS conference often hear high praise from participants, including comments like “WINGS literally saved my life.” The success rate of the program certainly speaks to the branch’s effectiveness: Of the 68 participants at the 2010–11 conference, 29 went on to participate in entry-level programs, while four took classes for their GED certificates.
“The members of AAUW of Oregon are very pleased and excited that Astoria and Seaside branches won this award,” said Jane Lancaster, program vice president for AAUW of Oregon. “WINGS is a remarkable and deserving program.”
In addition to a Breaking through Barriers Award, the WINGS conference has also received recognition from local news sources lauding the program’s work sending women to college. By drawing attention to the massive discrepancy between the average earnings of working women with and without a degree, the WINGS conference brings to light the importance of education as a tool for improving the condition and independence of women everywhere.
This post was written by former Communications Intern Ann Baum.