On Friday, March 16th June Archer and Eleven28 Entertainment hosted the third annual 100 Women of Color Gala at The Bushnell Theater in Hartford. The Gala recognizes contributions made by women of color in business, education, entrepreneurship, entertainment, government, public service and the impact they have made on the lives of people throughout the State of Connecticut and Western Massachusetts communities.
The goal of the ceremony each year is to provide financial support for programs that support the advancement of young women of color. Portions of the proceeds from this event support scholarships for young women who graduate from high school and plan on attending College, leadership and mentorship programs.
Among those innovative women being honored this year were members of the CT Public family – Senior Vice President of Education Donna Sodipo, The People Project creator Mallory Mason, and Board of Trustees member Yvette Melendez. Upon hearing the news that they would be included in this year’s cohort, both Sodipo and Mason were surprised and humbled.
“I had anxiety to be honest.” Mason recalled, laughing. “I don’t know, I was excited, I was a little shocked I think. I wasn’t expecting this at all. To be next to people like Donna and other people who have been in and of the community doing amazing work for much longer than I have – it was very unexpected for me, but definitely a pleasant surprise.”
Ms. Sodipo is not the first of her family to be thrust into the spotlight for her public service work in Connecticut. Her father, Reginald Donnell Cathey, was a member of the second 100 Men of Color cohort back in 2015, honored for his work as a school teacher in Bridgeport for thirty six and a half years.
Contemplating the significance of the honor to her, Sodipo was modest and appreciative but emphasized the never-ending nature of public service. “I just enjoy doing the work.” She remarked. “It’s not about the award – it’s all about the work that we do every day. Seeing so many successful women and the impact they made in their communities is what resonated with me the most.”
Reflecting on their own personal and professional experiences, both women discussed what advice they would give to young women of color growing up in Hartford today. “I would tell them to do a lot of introspection about what is important to you personally, what your personal values are, and what you’re passionate about. Then channel and implement that into your career.” commented Mason.
“One of my biggest takeaways is that you’re the most effective and impactful on your community when you’re doing something that you’re genuinely excited about.” Mason continued. “And it’s not always easy for people to find what intrinsically motivates them. I wish someone had told me that when I was younger – just to take time to think about who you are and what’s important to you, and to let that inform choices you make around your career.”
Adding to that sentiment, Sodipo encouraged young women not to limit themselves. “The rules have changed since I was a little girl. Women can be bold, unapologetic, take risks, and innovate. I would encourage young women, and even women like us, to not just defy the odds—but to boldly create a new narrative.” Sodipo said.
“I would tell young women to be open to mentors.” Sodipo concluded. “It’s important to teach women of all young ages that this is not a competition – we can stand amongst many and elevate together.”
About Connecticut Public:
Connecticut Public is home to Connecticut Public Television (CPTV) and Connecticut Public Radio (WNPR), as well as Connecticut Public Learning. Together, Connecticut Public serves nearly one million citizens each month through Connecticut Public Radio and Connecticut Public Television, as well as through our many digital and online platforms. Connecticut Public is also home to Connecticut Public Learning, which offers direct service education to teens, adults and veterans in digital media, and provides educational programming on television, radio and online and in the classroom. Through our mission to inform, educate and inspire the people of Connecticut, we connect people of all ages to high quality journalism, storytelling, education and experiences, and amplify the voices of our diverse communities. Connecticut Public is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, with an $19 million annual budget, funded primarily through community support from individuals, foundations, and corporate sponsors.
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For more information on the 100 Women of Color Gala, please visit the following link: