EvCC group’s Empowerment Lunch connects community virtually

The event was the first for EvCC’s American Association for Women at Community Colleges chapter.

EVERETT — More than 80 “womxn” gathered virtually Wednesday afternoon to take a break from work for an hour and a half of self-care and networking.

The Womxn Empowerment Lunch was the inaugural event for Everett Community College’s chapter of the American Association for Women at Community Colleges (AAWCC), a national group formed in 1973 to support and uplift women. EvCC’s chapter started in February and is the first in Washington.

“We acknowledge that we are all incredibly busy and we are all managing multiple competing demands,” said Ciera Graham, director of Everett Community College East County campus in Monroe and president of EvCC’s AAWCC chapter. “This is our time and we need to prioritize ourselves and our needs.”

Graham, who is also a columnist for The Daily Herald, said the EvCC chapter chooses to use “womxn” to include those who identify as transgender and nonbinary.

With the group not being able to gather in person, attendees settled in on Zoom for 90 minutes of connecting through breakout rooms and a panel discussion with four leaders at the college who shared their experiences coping amid the COVID-19 crisis and social injustices, like the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

With a rule in place promising privacy and confidentiality, panelists shared their experiences working from home, sharing the benefits and the pitfalls, and offering advice where they could.

“This event really presents the opportunity to continue to inspire, to continue to empower and to really provide women with a safe space,” Graham said ahead of Wednesday’s event.

AAWCC made its way to EvCC when Daria Willis arrived as the college’s new president last summer. Willis has been a member of AAWCC for four years. In 2018 she was honored with a “40 under 40” award from AAWCC and she was scheduled to be the keynote speaker at its national convention this past March before it was cancelled because of the pandemic.

“It’s not just building a network and a community of women at the campus, but it is also a national organization and you can build a network of women nationally,” Willis said Wednesday.

Along with creating a community for women , Graham said the organization provides faculty, staff and students with education and career development opportunities.

After forming in February, the chapter had planned to hold a networking event in April before the virus derailed those efforts. Graham said the leadership team felt stalled until they pivoted to the virtual event.

“COVID cannot stop progress, especially social progress that is really focused on woman empowerment,” she said.

Ian Davis-Leonard: 425-339-3448; idavisleonard@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @IanDavisLeonard.

Ian Davis-Leonard reports on working class issues through Report for America, a national service program that places emerging journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues. To support Ian’s work at The Daily Herald with a tax-deductible donation, go to www.heraldnet.com/support.

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