Women Who Make America
The program tells the remarkable story of the most sweeping social revolution in American history, as women have asserted their rights to a full and fair share of political power, economic opportunity and personal autonomy.
The program brings this story to life with priceless archival treasures and poignant, often funny interviews with those who led the fight, those who opposed it, and those first generations to benefit from its success. Trailblazing women like Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ellen DeGeneres and Oprah Winfrey share their memories, as do countless women who challenged the status quo in industries from coal-mining to medicine.
Makers captures with music, humor, and the voices of the women who lived through these turbulent times the dizzying joy, aching frustration and ultimate triumph of a movement that turned America upside-down.
Each year, WCNY invites the community to nominate women who make a difference in the community for the local Makers: Women Who Make America awards. Nominations are collected from throughout WCNY’s 19-county broadcast area; Cayuga, Chenango, Cortland, Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, Ontario, Oswego, Otsego, Schyler, Seneca, Tompkins, Wayne and Yates.
WCNY hosted an awards ceremony for “Makers: Women Who Make America” honorees March 7 at the Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls. Honorees were evaluated on how they impact their communities and shape today’s America in arts, business, community activism, education, medicine, sports and volunteerism.
The awards also represent a local collaboration with the AOL and PBS national documentary, “Makers: Women Who Make America”, to be broadcast at 8 p.m. March 2, 9 and 16 on Plus, at 7 p.m. March 9, 16 and 23 on World and at 10 p.m. March 17, 24 and 31 on WCNY. WCNY’s local public affairs show “Insight” will feature the honorees in a special program. The show airs at 9 p.m. Fridays on WCNY (24.1) and is available online at www.wcny.org/insight.
Winners will be featured on WCNY radio and television, social media, WCNY’s website and in an upcoming issue of The WCNY Magazine.
Award Area: Community Activism
In 1987, Mary Alice Bellardini was elected the first female Mayor of the Village of Homer, a position she held for 14 years. Her administration was responsible for new water and sewer lines and economic development efforts prospered. She initiated weekly summer concerts in the Village Green, reopened the Water Street Bridge walkway and beautified the business district. She was ahead of her times, championing causes like sustainability and historic preservation long before they were popular. She was a co-founder of the Landmark Society of Cortland County Inc., a non-profit organization that has facilitated much of the restoration efforts in Homer’s historic district of more than 200 structures, the largest such district in New York State. In 2000 Governor Pataki appointed her to the State’s Quality Communities Interagency Task Force. She also served as President of the NYS Conference of Mayors and the Boards of Directors for many organizations including the Cortland County Business Development Corporation – Industrial Development Agency. She continues to serve an active role in the Landmark Society and is a volunteer with several organizations including the Garden Club and the Center for the Arts. Mary Alice “makes the road by walking” ahead of the rest of us with her signs set on “preserving the past, rejuvenating the present and enriching the future.”
Award Area: Education
Margaret Buckley has dedicated her life to education, with nearly 50 years of service in the field. She learned at an early age the importance of reading and education, through the example of her mother, who after a long day at work as the Naturalization and Immigration Clerk for Oneida County, would welcome immigrants to America into their home. She tutored them in preparation for citizenship testing. Buckley was a longtime principal of the national award-winning General Herkimer Elementary School, was an advisor to the State Department reviewing curriculum at the American School in Istanbul, United Way director, President of the Junior League and President of the Utica Symphony. She is a member of the Utica Board of Education, serves as a member of the Oneida Herkimer Madison Cooperative BOCES Board and is a member of several school district committees including the Channel 3 Advisory Committee. What distinguishes BUckley, beyond her outstanding organizational skills and great in-depth educational experience, is her commitment to children, learning and helping others.
Award Area: Business
Glynis Hart is in charge of nine weekly newspapers, the Finger Lakes Community Newspapers in three counties. The mission of these publications is to report on small-town civic life, an important factor in preserving small towns as sustainable, functional and independent entities. Hart has long lived in rural small towns and understands them. She brings a principled perspective to the political and governmental issues and an informed curiosity to her coverage of the cultural issues. Small-town life is traditionally the bedrock of American society. Hart writes stories that both preserve a sense of community history and purpose and spotlight the efforts of individuals who are trying to move a community forward. Almost every story she writes is a gem. People who have been interviewed by her have loved the time spent with her. Somehow Glynis finds the thread in people’s lives that draw in the reader. She has done all this while working part-time as a health-care provider, raising three children and doing volunteer work, including teaching English to Tibetan immigrants. Glynis accomplishes all that she does with a sense of humor while retaining her idealism.
Award Area: Medicine
When Dr. Leslie Kohman began her medical career as a thoracic surgeon, she was one of the first females to pursue that path. Today she is nationally recognized as one of the top 100 practitioners in her field. She excels as a medical educator of students and residents in training at Upstate Medical University. She has been a tireless advocate for cancer patients, a role further enhanced by her appointment as Medical Director of the Upstate Cancer Center. Dr. Kohman’s medical achievements are balanced by the high level of skillful surgical care and expertise she gives her patients, her research work in cancer prevention and her dedication to cancer quality measures to ensure patients receive the highest level of care possible. She has been active in focusing attention on women’s health and wellness, emphasizing the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle that includes managing stress and making time for daily exercise. She has a keen interest in nutrition and nurtures a large organic garden. Kohman supports the arts and culture in our community in both word and deed, including service as chair of the Board of the Syracuse International Film Festival. Her entrepreneurial spirit and is highly regarded by colleagues and patients who have benefited from her care and concern. Our community’s new Cancer Center is an embodiment of her continuing vision, tenacity, experience and care for the health of Central New York.
Award Area: Community Activism
For more than 60 years Sr. Monica has been serving communities in Central New York. She has been an educator, a school principal in Endicott and Syracuse, a member of the Labor-Religion Coalition and a parish outreach coordinator working to help those in need. She is a member of the Board of Unity Acres, a home for men who have no home and helped found the Rural and Migrant Ministry of Oswego County, a free medical clinic for those who don’t have medical insurance. Sr. Monica led a committee that tore down and rebuilt ten homes on the Near Westside of Syracuse, where she also organized efforts to help women who were being abused or experiencing difficulties in pregnancy. Whatever she does, she does with great vigor and compassion.
Award Area: Arts
Rebbecca Oppedisano is a local business owner, teacher and mother of three. For five years she has taught music to young children through Green Lakes Music Together, which she now owns. The business provides services to 130 families, bringing children (infant to pre-K) and their families together with other families to experience the love and joy of making music. Oppedisano shares her passion for music every day, fostering family bonds, musicality in children and a strong sense of community. She also teaches music to children at two local preschools, is a member of the Syracuse Opera Chorus and has organized local community events to raise money for Music Together scholarships. Oppedisano makes music, priceless memories and our community stronger.
Award Area: Volunteerism
These sisters are two of the original founders of a private non-profit organization, Clear Path for Veterans, founded in 2011 and dedicated to helping military veterans and their families transition back into their communities. As the number of veterans returning home continues to grow in the U.S., Clear Path for Veterans is a “one-stop shop” for both social and economic programs, services and resources. Through private funding and support from the community, their goal is to lead efforts to establish a model of partnerships, engagement and collaboration for other communities to follow. These civilian women used their own funds to purchase and renovate a building on a beautiful piece of land with many recreational uses. They created several noteworthy programs including one for those veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder giving them the opportunity to train their own service dogs; a Wednesday Canteen offering free lunch to veterans; The Wingman, a Vet-to-Vet mentoring service; and the Warrior Reset, a weekly gathering offering veterans and their families the chance to try alternative health options to manage pain, stress and sleep problems. All programs are free. They volunteer ceaselessly to provide services for veterans of all eras. They collaborate with other service agencies including the VA and expand programs as the need arises. Spicer and Sorrentino have never taken a penny for their many hours of dedicated work. There is always a hug for veterans from these two awe-inspiring women.
Award Area: Volunteerism
Patricia Sullivan has a long list of public service accomplishments. She originated the idea and secured the funding for the Elks Dictionary Project, personally distributing a free dictionary to every third grader in Mohawk, Herkimer, Richfield Springs and the St. Francis School District. Sullivan secured a grant for $10,000 distributed to the eight food pantries in Herkimer County, including one where she volunteers several times a month. Sullivan also chaired and found funding for a bike rodeo where youth participants receive new bikes and helmets and complete a bike safety course; hosted a free luncheon for veterans; took needy families to day at the beach in Sylvan Beach and to go on the Christmas Polar Express train ride; chaired a children’s Christmas Party, and gave the Syracuse Veterans hospital $800 worth of model vehicles for use in its therapy recreation program. Sullivan is a wife, mother and grandmother than goes above and beyond to make life better for local children, the less fortunate, the hungry and veterans. And she has been doing all this while battling cancer.