Local News

Monday, Oct 11 2010 09:47 AM

OLIVIA GARCIA: Local Girl Scouts honor three inspiring women

By The Bakersfield Californian

They have been there for you when you were down. They've built hope in you when life seemed unsure. And they gave you courage to do things that fear kept at bay. They are your role models, your source of inspiration.

The Girl Scouts have their role models, and three were recently recognized at the Women Inspiring Girls Luncheon. Organized by the Girl Scouts of Central California South and held at the Stars Theatre Restaurant, the honorees were Wendy Wayne, community activist and former First Five Executive Director; RoseMary Wahl, Kern County Sheriff's Department undersheriff; and Stella McMurtrey, Bakersfield philanthropist and co-owner of Southern Auto Supply. The Girl Scouts couldn't have picked better role models.

I have known Wayne for many years. Every time I see her, I know the world is a better place. She not only has a way of making you feel like you can make a difference in what you do, but she walks the walk. Wayne has been involved in just about every community effort although issues of education, health and children have always topped her list. She has traveled the world and helped children in need. She's done all of this and battled cancer with the most spirited, optimistic attitude.

"If I can do anything to inspire others, then I will have somehow given back to what I have gotten back in my life," said Wayne, thinking of those who have supported and comforted her as she underwent a few rounds of chemotherapy and remission and a stem cell transplant.

Wayne is a proof that, together, we can make things happen for the best.

I've also known Wahl for a number of years, and she is definitely a trailblazer:

She was the first female sergeant assigned to the Sheriff's Department's patrol division in 1998. Three years later, she became the first Latina promoted to commander -- one of the top figures in the department that has more than 500 deputies. (Of those, about 35 are women.) In 2008, she became the first woman chief deputy, and this year, she received the rank of undersheriff, the first woman to hold that title for the department.

Her mentor was her mother, who believed in her even when she decided to enter a profession where women were far and few in between. Wahl's wish is to see more women consider a law enforcement career.

"If I could be a part of a team" to recruit more females into the profession, "it would be very satisfying for me," Wahl said.

I don't know McMurtrey personally, but her record speaks for itself. She's a leading member of the Assistance League of Bakersfield. She's also been a key financial supporter of the McMurtrey Aquatic Center and helped with the capital campaigns for Bakersfield Memorial Hospital and Bakersfield Museum of Art. Touched by the recognition, McMurtrey was at a loss for words at the ceremony.

Cathy Ferguson, CEO for Girl Scouts of Central California South, said, "It is truly an honor to recognize a woman who has continually looked to her own backyard to see how she can make a positive difference in the lives of many. Stella McMurtrey is the gold standard to which we all should set our sights."

Lights on for students

I grew up in poor, high-crime neighborhoods, so I'm always happy to hear of group efforts helping youth living in similar circumstances of our community. The Greenfield Foundation for Success is one example. The organization helps support an after-school program operated at 11 schools by the Greenfield Union School District. I had a chance to chat with board members Ed Taylor, Esther Torres and Lacy Siliczk, and they are looking forward to Lights On after school, featuring a school carnival, child performances, food booths,and more from 5 to 8 p.m. at Horizon Elementary School in south Bakersfield. Lights On is a national effort rallying for after-school programs. Around for 11 years now, the Greenfield district's after-school program reaches 2,000 students, kindergarten to eighth grade, board members said, and many are from low-income neighborhoods where crime is all too familiar. "The program has helped kids improve on grades and attendance," Torres said. "They're motivated to stay in school."

Siliczk added some tutors have gone on to become teachers. Another nice note: Some of the students, who have benefitted from the after-school program, have returned as tutors.

"Just to see a smile on the kids' face for being in the program is wonderful," said Taylor, foundation board president. "To know that they are getting tutored and having fun in a safe environment, I think that's why many of us are doing this."

For more information, visit the website at foundationforsuccess.net.

Talk on terrorism

Tickets are still available for an 11 a.m. Oct. 28 luncheon featuring an expert on terrorism. The Kern County Law Enforcement Foundation will be featuring Randy Cook, executive director of the Counter Threat Institute International, LLC. Cost to attend is $20 per person. It will be held at the Stockdale Country Club. This should make an informative session. If you'd like to know more, call Pauly Wren at 861-7911 or e-mail pwren@youngnichols. com.

These are Olivia Garcia's opinions, not necessarily The Californian's.

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