Listee Features — Advocacy

Sylvia Haydash


Initially considering a career as an English teacher, Sylvia Andersen Haydash ended up switching paths after she accompanied her husband on his first tour of duty in Thailand not long after the Vietnam War. Learning the local Thai and Lao languages, she decided to pursue coursework at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center, where she achieved a certificate in Thai language proficiency in 1978. She then began her career as a refugee coordinator for the Thai-American Women’s Organization from 1978 to 1979. Returning to the United States in 1979, Ms. Haydash became the director of the refugee resettlement program for CARING, where she helped to resettle and acculturate over 700 individuals from the Indochina Peninsula. In 1983, Ms. Haydash

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Olivia Ferrante


Olivia Ann Ferrante was drawn to her career as a teacher for the visually impaired as a result of her own disability, a visual impairment that was the result of her being born four months premature. While studying at Regis College, she took a summer job as an aide at the Perkins School for the Blind in the summers of 1968 and 1969, during which time she learned about the school’s program for a master’s degree in teaching blind students. Following the completion of her Bachelor of Arts in 1970, she joined Boston College, where she earned a Master of Education in 1971. From there, she served as the chair of the braille department of the National Braille Press for

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Amany Abouelkhir


Fluent in American Sign Language, English and Arabic, Amany Abouelkhir was born premature and deaf and spent much of her childhood undergoing various surgeries and therapies to help her both hear and speak. She was one of the first individuals to receive a bone-anchored hearing aid at just 3 or 4 years old. Entering the public school system at 7 after extensive speech therapy, she excelled at her schoolwork despite the fact that her learning ability had been delayed and that she had several teachers doubt that she would be able to complete her education and graduate. Following high school, Ms. Abouelkhir began her career in advocacy in 2014 as an office assistant with Beth Israel Medical Center and an

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Charmain Bogue embarked on her studies at Morgan State University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, before obtaining a Master of Education from Hofstra University in 2006. She has furthered her studies over the years through completing coursework in various leadership programs at the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School, the George Washington University, and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, as well as certification as a Lean Six Sigma black belt. Achieving a position with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, she became the senior analyst in the Office of the Deputy Undersecretary for Economic Opportunity in 2011 and the deputy director of operations and education services in 2014. Serving

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Earning a Bachelor of Arts in political science and criminal justice from the University of South Carolina, Marquita M. Booker, Esq., went on to earn a Doctor of Jurisprudence from the College of Law at Florida A&M University, a Master of Public Administration from the Pennsylvania State University and a Master of Laws from Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School. Certified by both the Florida Bar and the State Bar of Texas, she was inspired by her passion to eradicate discrimination and began her career as a lead equal opportunity compliance specialist in the Office of Equal Opportunity of the Palm Beach County Board of Commissions in 2002. She went on to serve as an employment and education discrimination attorney in

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Margaret Chase Hager

Motivated throughout her career by her care for others, Margaret Chase Hager began the first part of her career in 1963 as an assistant registrar and assistant curator for the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts following the completion of her Bachelor of Arts from Wheaton College. After spending some time traveling through Asia and completing graduate studies in Asian art in Tokyo, she returned to the United States and entered the field of international banking in 1965 as the assistant to the director of the International Monetary Fund. She then joined the international division of the First National City Bank, now Citibank, in 1970, where she ran the Saudi Arabian desk in New York until she took a break from

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Kimberly Kaczmarek


Kimberly Callihan Kaczmarek, MS, knew that she wanted to be a special education teacher by the time she was 12 years old. She recalls being particularly inspired upon witnessing her community gather to support her best friend’s brother, who was born with developmental disabilities. Earning a diploma from Briarcliff High School, she obtained a Bachelor of Science in education at Syracuse University before achieving a Master of Science in special education from Fordham University in 1986. When she achieved her first teaching position in special education, she was very pleased to have her friend’s brother in her class. Five years into her career, Ms. Kaczmarek joined Sleepy Hollow High School as a special education teacher, where she would stay for

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Kathy O'Keefe


Kathy B. O’Keefe established the nonprofit organization Winning the Fight in 2010 following the death of her 18-year-old son from an accidental drug overdose. Serving as the founder and executive director, she endeavors to provide education, support and other resources to teens and families dealing with drug addiction issues. Through Winning the Fight, she organizes and conducts support group meetings, workshops and various education-based programs, in addition to doing more behind the scenes work with organization marketing and grant writing. Their newest program is called “Better Safe Than Sorry,” which encourages families to get biometric safes for their medications as part of the BetteRx Safe program. Attributing much of her success to her ability to stay on top of everything,

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Shanna Y. Niehaus is a recent graduate of Hawai’i Pacific University. She achieved a Master of Public Administration in 2020, having previously earned a bachelor’s degree in diplomacy and military studies. Driven to pursue an education to break her family’s cycle of addiction and poverty, she is incredibly proud to be the first person in her family to graduate from college and continues to strive to build a better life for herself, her family and others who do not have the same opportunities she has. Presently, Ms. Niehaus is involved in a compassionate city research project, which seeks to make cities more compassionate and easier to navigate for individuals with disabilities. Inspired to this work by her son, Kai, who

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Julie Taylor


First earning a bachelor’s degree in social science and Native American studies, Julie G. Taylor began her career as an intern with the National Indian Child Welfare Association. From there, she held positions in various local schools doing prevention and education and working with children with mental health issues and parents with behavioral challenges. These experiences furthered her desire to work more directly with her community and she obtained a Master of Social Work from Portland State University in 2011. Ms. Taylor subsequently joined the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board, where she remained until 2014. In 2014, Ms. Taylor achieved the position of director of the Department of Children and Family Services with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla

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