Hundreds gathered at the South San Francisco Conference Center Thursday to recognize eight remarkable women of the community as they were inducted into the San Mateo County Women’s Hall of Fame.
The 28th Annual Women’s Hall of Fame awards banquet, produced by the San Mateo County Commission on the Status of Women, celebrated the 2012 honorees for their distinguished dedication to the progress of their community, commitment to their chosen profession, or both.
“You will see that the legacy of improving the quality of life is being faithfully carried on by our new honorees,” said San Mateo County Supervisor Carole Groom.
Assmblymember Rich Gordon and Assemblymember Jerry Hill were among the many elected officials of the county who applauded the extraordinary inductees, including two young women who received the “Young Women of Excellence Award.”
“This expands on their achievements and inspires others,” said Commissioner Solmaz Rafiee-Tari. “When you notice powerful women, you inspire younger women.”
of El Granada, Lynn Eastman Bowdish of Daly City, Maria Meza De La Vega of East Palo Alto, Jeri Fujimoto of Belmont, Karen Musegaas Larson of El Granada and Sara Salsbury were congratulated as new Hall of Famers, while Seema Chaudhry of Redwood City and Karen Chee of Foster City were titled “Young Women of Excellence.”
The path to becoming an inductee is a difficult one, as nominees are held to the highest standard by a panel of out of county judges who rate the applicants who are submitted without listed names to ensure an unbiased vote.
“It is a difficult task,” said ABC7 news anchor Cheryl Jennings, emcee of the night alongside David Louie.
Honorees were given certificates of achievement from Congresswoman Jackie Speier, resolutions from the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors and California Legislature Assembly, certificate of special congressional recognition, a certificate from the State Board of Equalization and a crystal trophy.
“At first I doubted how much of an impact young people could have on their community,” said Seema Chaudhry.
Chaudhry, a senior at Sequoia High School, was recognized as a Young Woman of Excellence for her work as a peer mediator, Key Club member, Sequoia Youth Advisory Board member and participation in the Youth Oversight Committee of Redwood City/North Fair Oaks Prevention Partnership in which she brought awareness to “alco-pops”, juice-flavored alcoholic drinks that were sold to minors in local corner stores.
Chaudhry said that as she witnessed others achieve community progress she retained a contagious optimism.
“I have seen more dedication to youth than ever before in my life,” Chaudhry said. “They’re why I look forward to helping the community.”
Jeri Fujimoto, a Belmont resident recognized for her work at the San Carlos Department of Parks and Recreation with the Special Needs and Youth Development Program, said she remembered a time when the youth of San Mateo County was forgotten.
In a survey conducted in the early 90s, the Parks and Recreation department found that local youth felt adults were apathetic toward their needs.
“They felt unwanted,” Fujimoto said.
Fujimoto was instrumental in the development of the Youth Advisory Board that, she said, created a dramatic change for local youth.
“Our youth now felt needed and wanted,” she said.
Fujimoto emphasized that each person could create change and advancement of their community and asked the audience to remember and support the projects of the Parks and Recreation department.
“Make San Mateo County a strong, vibrant place to raise our children and families,” she said.
For Jeanine Asche — honored earlier in December by local women in county government as the and celebrated Thursday night for her advancements of the San Mateo County library and activism to promote literacy for all children — community programs was what ultimately led to her success.
“My journey out of poverty started with books,” she said.
Ashce added that this journey continued from community outreach and programs that allowed her creativity to flourish.
As the child of a single mother with disabilities, Asche found refuge in the library and its many community offerings.
She alluded to the well-known book “If You Give A Mouse a Cookie”, but substituted with, “if you give a girl a book.”
Literacy, she said, creates an infectious love of learning and can transform a seemingly dim future into one of infinite possibility.
“It can change a life,” she said. “It changed mine.”
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