Distinctive women recognized

Keely Dakin
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The YWCA has announced the five winners of this year’s Women of Distinction awards.

Since 1990, the YWCA has been calling out to the community of Prince Albert to honour spectacular women in one of five categories: Arts, Culture and Heritage, Education, Business, Entrepreneurship or Leadership, Young Women’s Leadership and Lifetime Achievement.

“We’re looking for outstanding women who have really done great things in the city and we feel it is important to honour them and to highlight them,” Ashley McLean said on Friday.

As this year’s committee chair of Women of Distinction, McLean headed the planning process. She says that it is important to celebrate these women and their achievements.

“It’s inspiring to others, to know that these women are out there,” she said.

“We’ve given out 108 of these awards since 1990 and now we’ll have five more to add, and it’s just important to highlight women’s work in this community and to inspire others to do the same for the community,” McLean said.

Marilyn Young is the winner of the Education award this year. Young teaches special education as part of the Carlton Connection program. The program teaches young people with learning disabilities, providing them with a broader education they could not receive in a regular classroom.

Young learned she was to be honoured with the award when two Carlton co-workers walked into her class and informed her while she was instructing.

“They came in and made me cry. Isn’t that nice?” she asked.

She credits her 14 students more than herself for the success of the program and believes its success is why she garnered the award.

“I think it was due to … the success of our program,” Young said.

In the field of Lifetime Achievement, Valarie Dewhurst swept up the award. Dewhurst has worked at the Pine Grove Corrections Facility since 1989. While she is now a deputy director, she began on the floor, working directly with the women there.

“I started right on the floor as a correctional officer with these women … front-line stuff.”

While there, she recognized early on that nearly 70 per cent of the women incarcerated had learning disabilities and little or no education. She realized that to change those numbers it had to start early in the lives of children with learning disabilities.

“If you have an education, they (people with learning disabilities) are much more successful in the community, you know, if you don’t have an education, you’re at big risk,” she said.

“They came in and made me cry. Isn’t that nice?” Marilyn Young asked.

“What really inspired me was my son was diagnosed with learning disabilities, and getting out with other parents with children with learning disabilities. That’s what inspired me as well to find solutions for these children.”

She was a founder of Concerned Parents of Children with Learning Disabilities and is the current vice president of the organization.

Leslie Blacklock takes the award for Business, Entrepreneurship or Leadership. She is an interior designer and managing partner at AODBT Architecture.  She has been in the industry since 1983 and has contributed to the design of a number of buildings in the city as well as the province. Included on that list are the Alfred Jenkins Field House, the Forest Centre and the Art Hauser Centre. She volunteers on a variety of other fronts, including her church and Relay for Life.

Lynda Monahan has been granted the award for Arts, Culture and Heritage for her work as a writer  and creative writing facilitator. She is an instructor at SIAST, workshop facilitator and also heads creative writing classes for organizations such as the Canadian Mental Health Association, Prince Albert Foster Families Association and the Arts Centre and Commonweal. During the summer she takes on more writing programs in the community.

Whitney Darchuk receives the Young Women’s Leadership award, which is specifically for a woman between 16 and 25 years of age. Darchuk is the owner and operator of a massage therapy business and a manager and class instructor at Saskpro Crossfit. On top of that, she continues to help with her family’s business and pursues her own professional development as well.

The official Women of Distinction awards event will take place on Thursday Nov. 22 at the Ches Leach Lounge. A meal will be catered by Two by Dahlsjo, a local chef and restaurant owner.

Saskia and Darrel a singer-song-writer duo will provide musical entertainment. They feature contemporary and original music with prairie roots and folk music twist.

Tickets are available for perchance at the YWCA, 1895 Central Ave. Early Bird tickets are $55 and available until Tuesday Nov. 13. Tickets may be purchased up until the Nov. 20 for $65.

More information can be found at www.ywcaprincealbert.ca/WomenofDistinction.aspx

Organizations: YWCA, Young Women, Prince Albert Alfred Jenkins Field House Forest Centre Art Hauser Centre Canadian Mental Health Association Prince Albert Foster Families Association Arts Centre

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