Women Of Color At Penn honors student, staff, and community leaders

Women Of Color At Penn (WOCAP) recently announced the honorees for this year's Women of Color Awards, given annually to individuals from Penn, Penn-affiliated hospitals, and the wider Delaware Valley who have positively impacted their communities and enhanced the quality of life for other women of color. The award recipients will be recognized at a luncheon held in their honor during the 27th Annual WOCAP Conference on Friday, March 21, at the University City Sheraton.

Executive Planning Committee Chair Kuan Evans describes the awards as “a wonderful way to honor exceptional women of color who have uncommon, uncompromising spirits, and who, in their own unique ways, teach us the importance of striving for a life without limitations.”

Each year, WOCAP selects five women—an undergraduate, graduate student, staff member, local resident, and lifetime achievement honoree—whose community service and leadership merit special acknowledgement.

This year’s undergraduate honoree, Melanie Young, is a Philadelphia native who has worked for years to improve public education and advance social change in her home city, as well as joining international efforts to eliminate cultural and interethnic violence in Ghana and Rwanda.  

WOCAP’s graduate student honoree, Leah Seifu, is in her second year at the Perelman School of Medicine, where she serves as funding director for the Penn Human Rights Clinic. Seifu’s extensive volunteerism has included clinical and public health projects, and social advocacy work for organizations in New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., and Chile.

The 2014 staff honoree, Valerie De Cruz, is director of the Greenfield Intercultural Center, where she has worked since 1997 to develop and co-sponsor programs in support of minority communities at Penn. De Cruz has invested more than 25 years in advocating for first-generation college students at Penn and beyond.

This year’s community member honoree, Theresa Shockley, is the executive director of the Community Education Center, a nonprofit performing arts center and self-described “artists’ incubation space” in West Philadelphia, where she has worked to empower women, children, and marginalized groups for the past 15 years.

The Helen O. Dickens Lifetime Achievement Award, given to an individual with more than two decades of service to women of color in the Penn and Delaware Valley communities, will be presented this year to Winnie Smart-Mapp. Now retired from her position as a senior associate director at the Barbara and Edward Netter Center for Community Partnerships, Smart-Mapp has been a crucial WOCAP supporter, leader, and mentor for more than 16 years.

WOCAP is a community of volunteers who work to promote causes that impact women and celebrate accomplishments of women of color. The group formed shortly after the National Institute for Women of Color held its first National Women of Color Day in 1988, and has presented awards to inspirational women of color every year since.

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