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SISTEM one-on-one from Washington, D.C. with Ms. Evelyn L. Wright, President of the National Association of University Women (NAUW): Serving women, youth and the disadvantaged in our communities and in developing countries by addressing educational issues, advancing the status of women's issues, and strategically partnering with allied organizations.


Evelyn Wright

During her membership of thirty years, Evelyn Wright has been actively involved in all levels of the National Association of University Women (NAUW). Activities and experiences on the local level include being the Culver City Branch President, First Vice President, Recording Secretary, Corresponding Secretary, and Chaplain. She served as Southwest Sectional Lay Member, Recording Secretary, Assistant Corresponding Secretary, and Corresponding Secretary of NAWU. Most recently she served as Immediate Past National First Vice President, National Recording Secretary, National Publicity Chair and National Position Paper Chair. During the 69th National Convention in New Orleans, Evelyn was elected as the National President. Evelyn Wright has been a resourceful link in broadening cultural and educational relations with individuals, clubs, civic groups and organizations as a member of City of Refuge Church-Bishop Noel Jones pastor, Bereavement Ministry Minister of Music sixteen years, United Negro College Fund, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vets of America, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Agape House (Home for Women/Children with HIV/AID), Red Cross, Calif. Pals, American Cancer Society, Southern Poverty Law Center (Assisted in making film “Rosa Parks Story”), National Audubon Society, Sierra Club and Feed the Children. She is also a member of the National Sorority of Phi Delta Kappa, Inc., Delta Kappa Chapter and the NAACP.
In addition, she is an entrepreneur and has successfully co-founded Slauson Learning Centers #1 & #2, School of Special Education. Along with her partner, Raymond Lewkow, they have provided services to Special Needs children for over thirty-four years.Finally, Evelyn Wright has received awards for her merits and achievements from the National Association of University Women and other groups, such as: Listed in “Who’s’ Who” in Education 2009, “Who’s Who in Phi Delta Kappa”, “Eagle Award” for 22 years as an Educator of Special Education, various certificates of achievement for service to NAUW Culver City Branch, Southwest Section, Woman of the Year 1997 and 2003 for the Culver City Branch, 2003 Southwest Sectional Woman of the Year, National Woman of the Year 2004, Soror of the Year 2006 and 2009 for the National Sorority of Phi Delta Kappa, Inc. Delta Kappa Chapter.
 

Q:  Please tell us about yourself and the path that led you to The National Association of University Women.  Also, please share with us any adversity you have encountered and overcame during your studies.

Wright: I became aware of NAUW through a coulege and business partner.  As a ministers child, I was taught to love, give, share and serve. My educational desires to teach Special Education aligned directly with the educational focus of NAUW for eradicating illiteracy and giving scholarships to help further higher education for minorities.  I was interested in its mission to serve women, youth and the disadvantaged in our communities and in developing countries by addressing educational issues, advancing the status of women's issues, and strategically partnering with allied organizations.

The largest obstacle to my obtaining and completing my studies was having to raise my son while utilizing the work-study program to help finance my education. I am thankful for the assistance of my mother, brothers and sisters who spent countless hours as babysitters so that I could reach my goal. This enabled me to be the first of my immediate family to obtain a college degree.

Q:   Tell us about The National Association of University Women: its creation (who created it and why) and its programs. In addition, who do you serve?

Wright: The organization began as The College Alumnae Club. It was organized March 1910 by Mrs. Mary Church Terrell, Dr. Sara Brown, Dr. Fairfax Brown, and Miss Mary Cromwell in Washington, DC. Twenty university graduates joined elected officers and planned a program. The new Club desired to stimulate young women to attain professional excellence, to exert influence in various movements for the civic good, and to promote a close personal and intellectual fellowship among professional women.  The organization is divided into five sections of the US: Northeast, Southeast, South Central, North Central and Southwest as well as newly formed international branch in Harpers Marymount, Liberia, Africa.

On August 9, 1974 at the biennial convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Association accepted its updated Charter and became known as the National Association of University Women (NAUW). As the years progressed, the organization raised its voice regarding major civic and national issues such as business opportunities for African-Americans, mental health and child welfare, and the improvement of interracial and international relations.

The Association has cooperated with national and local social and economic programs and is affiliated with the National Council of Negro Women, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, United Negro College Fund, the National Coalition for Literacy, and the American Council on Education, National Sorority of Phi Delta Kappa, The Black Women's Agenda, and HOLA.

Q:  In your view, what unique challenges African American girls and women face in STEM studies and careers that are specific to both their gender and race?  

Wright: As an elementary teacher and school administrator, I believe girls and women have not been given the same opportunities to access science and math curriculums. While there is a move to get girls involved in these studies, I believe society still somewhat shuns a girl’s interest to be "unfeminine" or "manly". African American girls/women also face the lack of qualified teachers, current books etc., especially in the inner city. NAUW has made a concentrated effort to push programs in the local branches which address "Girls in Science and Math". The Santa Monica Branch in the Southwest especially has a unique group of girls involved at this time.

Q:   In your opinion, what are the top 3 reasons for the low STEM participation of girls and women nationally?

Wright:

-Lack of Programs

-Not enough qualified teachers

-Low Motivation

Q:  How can we increase the number of girls and women in STEM nationally?

Wright: Begin EARLY. Promote science and math in elementary school. Make them a daily subject, not every now and then. Activities such as Science Fairs, Chess/Checker Clubs, Math Competitions all will foster a keener insight for these subjects. Interest and motivation will increase.

 

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