Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver to Speak at Trailblazing Women Awards

03.05.18

In celebration of Women's History Month, the Human Rights Institute at Kean University will host the Eighth Annual Evangelina Menendez Trailblazer Awards, honoring six women of distinction in New Jersey and presented by U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, on Sunday, March 18.

The event at Wilkins Theatre on Kean’s Union campus will run from 3-5 p.m., and is free and open to the public. Members of the Kean community are encouraged to attend. To RSVP, visit www.menendez.senate.gov/WHM-RSVP or call (973) 645-5967.

Giving the keynote address is New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver. She became New Jersey’s second highest-ranking official and the first black lieutenant governor of the state in January 2018. Oliver had previously served as the Speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly, only the second woman in state history to have that title, and on the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders. She began her career in government in Newark, serving as the director of the Office of Youth Services and Special Projects.

“My mother, Evangelina, for whom this award is named, showed me the meaning of courage, integrity and the importance of fighting for what’s right, every single day of her life,” said Sen. Menendez. “She blazed that trail for me, and I will continue to honor her and all of the women whose strength, wisdom and tireless determination to stand up for the people they serve make our country and our state a better, safer, cleaner place to live, work and raise a family.” 

This year’s honorees are Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda Diaz; New Jersey Teacher of the Year Amy Anderson; Eagleton Institute of Politics Director Ruth Mandel; Action Together New Jersey Co-founder Uyen (Winn) Khuong; Valley Health System President and CEO Audrey Meyers; and The Esther Project Founder Reverend Tiffany Williams.

“Kean University educates its students to be active and contributing global citizens,” said Lauretta A. Farrell, D.Litt., director of the Human Rights Institute at Kean University. “The exceptional women receiving Trailblazer Awards remind all of our students that there are many ways to make a difference, if they persevere.”

Wilda Diaz, the only Latina mayor in New Jersey, was first sworn in as mayor of Perth Amboy in 2008 and is the first woman to hold that office. She has focused on expanding programs for children, youth and families with the use of limited resources; creating an open and honest government; business expansion; job creation; and preserving and restoring the city’s history. Mayor Diaz is also the first woman elected president and chair of the New Jersey Urban Mayors Association.

Amy Anderson, an educator for more than two decades, is the 2017-2018 New Jersey Teacher of the Year. She works at Ocean City High School as an American Sign Language (ASL) teacher. Initially hired to teach special education, Anderson launched an ASL program at the school in 2004 that now has a waiting list to enroll. Her goal is to have more deaf teachers at the high school level.

Ruth Mandel has been the director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University-New Brunswick since 1995. She has helped to establish research and education programs for youth political engagement, immigrant political behavior, governor and state executive leadership, science, politics and ethics in government.

Uyen (Winn) Khuong came to the United States from Vietnam in 1980. She is a co-founder of Action Together New Jersey (ATNJ). The organization started as a secret Facebook group and now mobilizes to support immigration, social services, criminal justice reform, electoral reform, financial and economic reform, smart foreign policy, workers' rights, and civil rights protection and expansion. ATNJ has grown to 750,000 people and extends throughout the country.

Audrey Meyers has been with Valley Health System for 38 years and became president and CEO in 2003. She supervises Valley Home Care and Valley Medical Group and remains dedicated to serving the Valley Health System’s estimated 400,000 northern New Jersey citizens.

Reverend Tiffany Williams, founder of The Esther Project, works to empower women to change the world for the next generation of women and girls. To accomplish this, she leads summits, retreats, empowerment conferences and a global leadership academy. Reverend Williams is also currently a pastor of outreach and evangelism at the Upper Room Full Gospel Church in Edison.

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