Five Glendale College United Womyn’s Council Members Revitalize Local YWCA

El Vaquero Staff Writer

From promoting women’s rights to creating a greater awareness of women’s issues, several GCC students are preparing to make a difference for the local community.

Five United Womyn’s Council members will soon take their seats on the Glendale YWCA Board of Directors after being selected by its nominating committee earlier in the summer.

According to GCC student Niki Davis, who was asked to join the nomination committee of the Glendale Young Women’s Christian Association, Jovita Carpenter, Nairi Chopurian, Jennipha Nielsen and Maribel Garavito also accepted their nominations without hesitation. The nominees are scheduled to officially assume their positions on Monday.

“I knew all of them through GCC’s United Womyn’s Council and so I knew they would be perfect for the job,” said Davis. Davis, 43, and Carpenter, 27, are just two of the co-founders of GCC’s United Womyn’s Council (UWC), which they spell with a “y” to show that men are also welcome in the organization.

Carpenter said that the UWC was formed based upon a GCC class on rebellious women in modern America. “I wanted to get involved in something that supported women,” said Carpenter.

Davis said that the UWC, the first GCC club dedicated to women, is active in promoting gender equality.

“Even though things have changed considerably compared to the past, we still have a long way to go,” said 25-year-old Nielsen. “Part of the UWC’s mission is to help aid the many issues that women and children are facing.”

According to the Glendale YWCA’s Web site, “the YWCA of Glendale was founded in 1926 by 15 prominent Glendale women.” The association is “the oldest and largest women’s membership movement in the world.” It was started in 1855 in England, before expanding to the United States in 1858.

The YWCA of the USA is involved in public policy issues such as affordable childcare and health care, women’s reproductive freedom, homelessness, and many other issues.

The Domestic Violence Project, one of two programs the Glendale YWCA operates, has been offering services to abused women and their children since 1979. The program aims to help women and their children become self-sufficient and independent, with a life free of violence.

Services include a 24-hour crisis hotline, emergency shelter, transitional housing, a women’s services center, and a community education and outreach program.

The Glendale YWCA’s other most notable program, Encore plus, provides women who have problems receiving adequate health care with free breast and cervical cancer screening.

The funding for these programs is received through many sources. The association is supported by membership dues, individual organizations, corporate contributions, program fees, United Way allocations, government contracts, grants and gifts.

The UWC has raised nearly $2,000 each year for the YWCA’s Domestic Violence Project through a production of “The Vagina Monologues.” The plays were produced on campus and performed by members of the UWC. It was through these donations that Davis was able to meet Susan Hunt, the president of the board.

Davis said Hunt, who was seeking her assistance in finding new board members, nominated her.

Davis not only accepted the nomination, but also accepted Hunt’s request to be on the Glendale YWCA’s nomination committee.

“A lot of the things we did in the UWC were based on campus, and now we have the opportunity to take it out to the community,” said Davis.
All five women have extremely demanding lives that not only consist of school, work, and family, but also their dedicated involvement in a quest to equalize the world.

“I want to be a part of the board to continue the legacy of the YWCA,” said 23-year-old Garavito, a UCLA undergraduate. “I want to give back to the community.”

With the same goal in mind, Carpenter, who is also a UCLA undergraduate student, said, “I really want to use my resources as a women’s studies major to revitalize the YWCA.” Garavito and Carpenter are still active in the UWC even though they have already transferred from GCC.

The other three members are currently attending GCC.

Nineteen-year-old Chopurian, the youngest of the group, said that she is eager to begin serving her term.

Chopurian attended an Armenian-American private school as a teenager, where she first experienced dealing with women’s rights issues.

“Female students were not allowed to wear pants and were forced to wear skirts,” Chopurian said. “I thought that it was unfair, and so I petitioned to allow all female students the right to wear pants.”

Though it was not the first time a student at the school had fought for the same cause, it was the first time that a student was successful in doing so.

“My younger sister…goes to the same Armenian school,” Chopurian said. “And she’s wearing pants,” she added with a big smile.

The five women are all excited about beginning their terms, which vary from one to three years, later this month.

Their responsibilities as board members will involve maintaining the YWCA’s programs, events and fundraising, as well as the YWCA mission to “empower women and girls and to eliminate racism.”

Not only will the women constitute one-quarter of the entire board, the GCC group will be among the youngest. “What I find amazing about the four women who said yes is that they are also five of the busiest women I know,” said Davis. “I am so proud of them.”

When Davis nominated the four women, she promised to match their “call to civic responsibility” by accepting her own nomination as well.

“Sometimes it takes just one person to inspire everyone,” said Nielsen. “Niki is like that. She inspires people, gives them focus, and the drive to run with it.”

Davis is the oldest of the five women and describes her relationship with them as being a “big sister-little sister support network.” She added, “that is the tradition we will strive to continue.”

She emphasized that although their work is strictly voluntary, it will require each person’s “utmost dedication because there are many women who need us.”