YWCA Mankato has named Dr. Yalda Hamidi, Dr. Sherrise Truesdale-Moore, Jennifer Ek, and Michelle Zehnder Fischer as the 2023 Women of Distinction Honorees. Rising Star Honoree, Sumaya Musse, and Distinctive Difference Honoree Go! Therapy will also be recognized. This year marks the 50th anniversary of this event, where the community and YWCA Mankato come together to honor women, organizations, and businesses for their leadership, community impact, and, most importantly, dedication to the YWCA Mankato’s mission. The event and awards ceremony will be held on Thursday, April 13, at The Capitol Room in St. Peter and is presented by Jones Metal, Inc.
ABOUT THE HONOREES:
Dr. Yalda N. Hamidi, Woman of Distinction
Yalda Hamidi (She/Her/Hers) is an Assistant Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and faculty fellow for “Teaching Toward Social Justice” at Minnesota State University Mankato and a member of MN Committee of Scholars. In her research, Yalda adopts an anti-racist and transnational feminist lens. Her research highlights the role of trauma in the formation of Iranian feminism/s, and challenges Iran’s cultural and literary representation for the voices the graphic novel leaves behind. At MNSU Mankato, Yalda teaches Transnational, Postcolonial, Islamic Feminism/s, Feminist Pedagogy, and Queer of color Critique courses. She collaborates with Women’s Centers and non-profits to share stories of Iranian feminism/s and literature with the public. Yalda’s Islamic Feminism Book Club has received Feminist Change Agent Award from the National Women’s Studies Association and multiple other awards for her work on social justice, advocacy, and mentoring students from underrepresented communities.
Dr. Sherisse Truesdale-Moore, Woman of Distinction
Dr. Truesdale-Moore is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Corrections at Minnesota State University, Mankato. She has over 27 years of combined experience in the criminal justice profession, including supervision over federally funded Maryland correctional program, program development, and criminological, legal, and legislative research. She is a member of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, the American Society of Criminology, the Minnesota Correctional Association, the Midwest Sociological Society, and Board Member of Blue Earth County Community Corrections. She works to advocate for diversity and inclusion throughout higher education and the criminal justice systems. Dr. Truesdale-Moore’s personal charge is to research and promote effective approaches in working with at-risk communities to assist with producing positive outcomes for youth, adults, and families. Her research interests include re-entry issues surrounding formerly incarcerated individuals involved in higher education, cultural-specific programming, mental health and family, and criminal justice majors in higher education programs.
Jennifer Ek, Woman of Distinction
Jennifer Ek, co-owner of Bellisimo Paint and Coatings in Old Town, has advocated for Spanish-speaking people for many years. As a social worker, Jennifer has served as a Spanish interpreter in emergency medical situations. She has also worked with nonprofits like Legal Services and La Mano leveraging her Spanish and English-speaking skills to support her Latino community. In recent years, Jennifer has been a catalyst for connecting the Southern MN Latino business community through the Old Town Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Without Jennifer, this event would not have been possible. It has had a substantial, uplifting impact on the confidence and solidarity of our Spanish-speaking communities. She freely shares her years of business and social service experience to help other Latinx women and non-gender conforming people become and sustain entrepreneurship through strong referrals, skill sharing, and generosity.
Michelle Zehnder Fischer, Woman of Distinction
Michelle Zehnder Fischer moved to St. Peter in 1995 and began work as a part-time assistant county attorney and part-time private attorney. Her private practice focused on family law, where she became known as a zealous advocate for women and children. In 2011 she assumed the role of full-time Nicollet County Attorney. Zehnder Fischer is widely known in the legal community for her work in child advocacy and has written about child abuse investigation and prosecution for multiple legal publications. Her work helps put people that would abuse or harm women and girls behind bars and raises issues that are sometimes complicated or difficult to deal with. Michelle has won numerous awards, serves on boards and committees that uplift women and children, as well as mentors young women in her field and the community. Michelle’s work in changing the truancy system and with the Equal Access to Justice Committee are shining examples of her work to lead in making a more inclusive community.
Sumaya Musse, Rising Star
Sumaya Musse is a senior at Mankato West High School. She is a student leader who
advocates for inclusion and works to remove barriers. Sumaya is a compassionate advocate for students. She is a Link Crew leader who works with 9th-grade students to support a smooth transition to high school and to ensure all students feel valued and have a sense of belonging. She is a peer tutor willing to support other students’ learning. Last year, she saw a need for accessibility to feminine hygiene products in the school bathrooms. Sumarya worked with Planned Parenthood to secure them and is now working with an individual who has secured funding to provide a continual supply of products to girls’ bathrooms for the next two years. She wants her school community to be a welcoming, inclusive place where all students feel valued and have a sense of belonging.
GO! Therapy, Distinctive Difference
Jenny Kortuem and Brenna Hoisington are Clinic Owners of GO! Therapy in Saint Peter, MN where they specialize in ability by offering services in Speech, Feeding, Physical and Occupational therapy. The two have overcome their own hurdles in life in order to build this incredible women-owned clinic founded on empowerment and holistic care. This model equips their clients with the skills they need to create a life they can envision in a positive way. In addition, the entire staff strives to educate the community on neurodiversity and inclusion. It promotes continued learning opportunities for practitioners to deliver cutting-edge interventions and strategies to serve their patients well. With a strengths-based lens, the staff at GO! Therapy is confident that engaging in therapy can change the lives of women and girls, giving them a better quality of life and leading to inner joy and self-acceptance.
Awards will be given during the 50th Annual Women of Distinction event on Thursday, April 13th, at The Capitol Room in St. Peter. YWCA Mankato will also present four Advancing Racial Justice grants to those that are doing critical work in advancing its mission of Eliminating Racism and Empowering Women.
The event reception will begin at 5:30 p.m. Dinner will be served at 6:30 p.m. with a program to follow. Single tickets are $60, a reserved table is $500, and all are available for purchase online at www.mankatoywca.org/women-distinction or by calling YWCA Mankato at (507) 345-4629. Tickets will be available until sold out.