YWCA recognizes outstanding Pueblo women
By Jon Pompia | The Pueblo Chieftain | May 23, 2019
Twenty four women were honored for their contributions to the community, and the betterment of the lives of its citizens, during the 18th annual YWCA Southern Colorado Tribute to Women, held Thursday at the Pueblo Convention Center.
As nominated by colleagues and associates, the honorees were recognized in four categories — professional achievement, young leader, triumph over adversity and community service.
From each category, one woman was selected to receive the Anna Taussig Award, named in honor of the longtime volunteer for the YWCA, League of Women Voters, the Sangre de Cristo Arts and Conference Center and other agencies. Taussig died in 2006.
This year’s Anna Taussig Award winners are Jordan Cruz, Michelle Garcia, Teri Wiseman and Dominique Mundt.
Rachel Appenzeller. A scholar-athlete, she is an active volunteer at Centennial High School and within the community. Appenzeller is a strong advocate for girls in the field of information technology and technical design and is the co-captain of the Cyberdog Team at Centennial. She overcame a closed-head injury as a second grader to become a bright, academically gifted student and young leader.
Jordan Cruz. An accomplished student, athlete (golf), mentor and leader, Cruz maintains a 4.77 GPA at Pueblo West High School. She is active in DECA (two-time state qualifier, national champion), mock trial (regional team champion) and speech/debate (national qualifier.) A mentor to classmates and 4-H students, Cruz has gained academic all-state and all-American status.
Kyla Garcia. A high achieving student and dance academy teaching assistant, Garcia is a JROTC first sergeant who volunteers at many community events. As a sixth grader, she struggled with depression due to bullying. But through dance, she was able to work through it. Based on that experience, Garcia works with her school counselor to mentor students being bullied and is known for her encouraging nature and hard work ethic.
Myriah Johnson. A multiple title holder in the Miss Pueblo County Scholarship Pageant Court, Johnson founded and is president of the African American Club at Pueblo West High School, where she is social media director. She also is a 2019 DECA state champion and competed at nationals. Her nominator described her as “passionate about equal opportunities for all people, being an African American and Latina female. She is compassionate, mature and strong.”
Donna Austin. Priding herself on being the most educated realtor in the industry, Austin earned a 2018 “gold” award as best realtor in the Best of Pueblo event. She is an advocate for Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society and has a passion for animals, supporting local shelters and efforts to place animals. With a focus on the family, Austin is actively involved in the activities of her niece and nephew.
RoseAnn DiSanti. Having served on the Pueblo County Farm Service Agency Board, DiSanti co-sponsors the Monster Run 5K with the Junior League of Pueblo and is a longtime advocate for the March of Dimes. She operates a diversified agricultural business and serves as a role model and mentor. Throughout her career, she has overcome hailstorms, volatile markets, the challenges that come with production agriculture and the recent loss of her husband.
Gina Heath. Beginning in 1973 as a part-time loan processor, Heath went on to become the first commissioned loan officer in Pueblo at Pueblo Title Company. She has dedicated her life to helping the community, especially children. She is described as a “very kind person who is always willing to help and assist in any way possible. She is always ready to lend a hand to those around her, and continually demonstrates her professionalism and ethics.”
Roxanna Mack. Mack has worked to better the lives of underserved people and ensure diversity and equality. For 26 years, she worked with the Bureau of Prisons, a position that allowed her to influence many lives. A former YWCA volunteer coordinator, Mack serves as president of the local branch of the NAACP. “She is a strong God-fearing woman of convictions, a community activist and an ordinary woman trying to leave her community better than she found it,” wrote her nominator.
Sandy Taylor. Taylor retired in 2013 after a 37-year career with Girl Scouts and within six months, became postmaster in Beulah, a position she held for more than three years. It allowed her to meet the members of the community and connect more closely with the activities and events that make Beulah a special place. Taylor’s “understated manner, backed by well researched facts, makes her a credible source for information, leading to positive community action,” her nominator wrote.
Dana Walsh. While raising two children, Walsh worked full time and pursued a bachelor’s degree, which lead to her current position as a child protection case worker/certified supervisor in Huerfano County. Additionally, she has spent the last 22 years helping and supporting at-risk children and families for Head Start. In her free time, she volunteers for Advocates Against Domestic Assault and attends a variety of community meetings.
COMMUNITY SERVICE HONOREES
Jennifer Chavez. Since 2011, Chavez has worked for the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office in the ACOVA unit as program supervisor. In that role, she responds to crime scenes to assist and support those who have been victimized. She is known to engage in positive interactions through a “calming tone and genuine compassion” and has spent countless hours with victims, treating each with dignity and respect.
Kristyn Dunsworth. In her first year, Dunsworth received the Court Appointed Special Advocate of the Year Award for going above and beyond what was required of her. She commits numerous hours each month, visiting CASA kids in Pueblo and Colorado Springs. With her own money, she has provided them with clothes, presents, diapers, bottles, lunches and jackets, and more importantly, serves as a positive role model during difficult times.
Michelle Garcia. “She is one of the most driven and inspirational members of the community and has dedicated her life to serving those around her in every way possible,” wrote her nominator. As a hospice nurse, she cares for the terminally ill and provides support to families. As assistant coordinator of House Bill 1451, Garcia has focused on raising youth awareness, serving on board of the Pueblo Child Advocacy Center and Youth Advisory Council Steering Committee.
Teah Miller. Director of crisis services for Health Solutions, Miller has worked to deescalate emerging mental health crises, including the provision of suicide prevention training. She has a passion for the homeless and tirelessly works on projects to augment and improve services for them. “Her passion for the underserved is infectious and inspires those who work around her to try harder and love broader,” wrote her nominator.
Antonia Phillippi. As a survivor of domestic violence, Phillippi was inspired to train as a counselor and support women working with survivors. She is co-founder and president of Beulah Area Support Effort, a new community-wide group organized to support caregivers in the effort to keep the elderly living independently. Phillippi also is a YWCA volunteer. “Her positive attitude is contagious and she finds joy in everything,” wrote her nominator.
Blanche Podio. An award-winning photographer, Podio has volunteered within the community for more than 20 years. In this role, she has helped support children, teens, abused women, the elderly and the poor. Her most impressive work is with the Magic Hour Foundation, photographing those with cancer to create lasting memories. Said her nominator, “In a world of many fine women, Blanche stands out as a true inspiration and leader.”
Lindsay Reeves. Recipient of a Pueblo Hero award and other accolades, Reeves serves on boards for a local school and the Pueblo Latino Chamber of Commerce and has service experience with a number of committees. Diagnosed at a young age with muscular dystrophy, Reeves displays “courage, strength and dignity as she continually goes above and beyond that many think she is capable of: an integral part of moving the community forward,” wrote her nominator.
Velma Romero Roybal. As CEO and director of several ballet folkloric and dance groups, Romero Roybal has mentored hundreds of girls and women, inspiring them to set and reach dance and personal goals, and become confident and powerful leaders. Her nominator said she’s “always been a hard-working woman and because of her diligence, common sense and intelligence, always rises to leadership level in all instances of her work and volunteer activities.”
Pamla Sterner. A veterans specialist for Volunteers of America, Sterner’s duties include identifying veterans’ needs and fulfilling them, whether the need is housing, clothing, furniture or help with utility bills. She was the driving force behind the Stolen Valor Act and Sterner and her husband implemented efforts to recognize Pueblo’s four Medal of Honor recipients, leading to the designation of Pueblo as the “Home of Heroes.” Sterner is praised as a woman of courage, compassion, support and innovation.
Amanda Suddoth. Suddoth is the founder of My Neighbor’s Kids, which brings boys and girls together in the name of healthy relationships and works to instill confidence and leadership qualities in young women, encouraging them to celebrate their achievements. Her nominator said the personal obstacles Suddoth has experienced have helped her spiritual growth and personal development, and have inspired her to persevere against the odds, allowing her to focus on the positive aspects of things.
Teri Wiseman. Wiseman began giving back to the community while still in high school and has continued this benevolent trend throughout her life, through monetary donations and countless hours of donated time, including on the YWCA board. Overcoming many life-altering tragedies that created stressful situations, Wiseman held her family and herself together. “She embodies the spirit of the incredible Anna Taussig,” wrote her nominator.
TRIUMPH OVER ADVERSITY
Katie Ledbetter. Described as genuinely sensitive to vulnerable people that have a desire to improve their situations, Ledbetter is a co-guardian of her mother and sister is a caretaker for her niece. “She is their biggest advocate while working a stressful and demanding job,” wrote her nominator. “Through a lifetime of hardships, Katie never complains or has a ‘woe-is-me’ attitude. She lives every day with conviction and the drive to take care of those around her.”
Dominque Mundt. A motivated self starter, Mundt is described as her nominator as “contributing insight as well as ideas to challenges that face a small organization built around a very difficult societal challenge. A particular strength is her ability to approach each person with care, non-judgmentally and with attentiveness. She knows first-hand the harm that comes when people around us don’t listen and pay attention.”
Dawn Yengich. For her work at Health Solutions, Yengich has received numerous awards for leadership and service. She structures “Healthy Inspiration” classes, which stress empowerment, educational topics and accomplishments. Having overcome many relationship challenges, Yengich “has inner strength, fortitude and courage,” raising her children while she returned to earn her high school diploma and later attending college.