Many men and women in Blount County are quietly helping women and girls reach their potential and overcome obstacles to achieve self fufilment. The American Association of University Women honors these individuals with the AAUW Crystal Award given to someone whose life or work has created opportunities for the women or girls of Blount County to achieve their greatest potential.
The AAUW Crystal Award will be presented on March 31, at a Celebration Reception at the Blount County Library. The Maryville Branch of AAUW established the Crystal Award in 2004 to honor an individual who has demonstrated outstanding commitment to empowering women and girls through education, research and the promotion of equity. Vandy Kemp won the 2004 award for her support of girls as principal of Heritage High School. The following year Claudia Brady, director of Haven House, was recognized for her assistance to women facing domestic violence.
Despite the progress made in improving education and economic opportunities for women and girls, there is still much work to do for the women and girls of Tennessee. Tennessee women rank 50th out of 51 in the nation in overall economic status. Less than half earn enough to support themselves and their families, and Tennessee women still earn only 73.5 percent of every dollar earned by their male colleagues. Only 15 percent of Tennessee women have a college degree and only 78 percent have a high school diploma.
Teen pregnancy is a high cost. Fully female caretakers headed 95.7 percent of the almost 200,000 families served from 1996-2001 by Families First (our welfare to work initiative). Of those, 42 percent had their first child before age 18. Domestic violence hurts all Tennesseans. The annual cost of domestic violence in our state alone totals approximately $36.4 million in labor loss, child well being, housing, social service, healthcare and criminal justice.
Eight-one percent of girls in Blount County report having experienced some form of harassment during their school lives.
AAUW Maryville Branch celebrates its 65th anniversary in 2008. With the AAUW Crystal Award the group intends to bring light and honor to the women and men of Blount County who have dedicated themselves to the pursuit of education and equity for the betterment of all.
Any individual may recognize an outstanding citizen by submitting a nomination. Forms are available at the Blount County Chamber of Commerce, the Blount County Library, the Tomato Head, on the AAUW Web site at www.discoveret.org/aauwmvil or by calling Autumn Hall at 865-382-2891. The deadline for nominations is January 28. An independent panel will judge the nominees.
The criteria for the AAUW Crystal Award nominees are:
1. A female or male over age 18
2. Lives or works in Blount County
3. Has contributed over time or in a significant way to the educational, physical or spiritual well-being of women and girls
4. Has worked to improve social, economic or political conditions for girls or women
5. Is a person who inspires others
Further information about AAUW Maryville Branch and the AAUW Crystal Award, is available at www.discoveret.org/aauwmvil, or contact Membership Vice-President Christy Walsh 865-379-7904.