Community gathers to celebrate women

Maggie Eubanks, News Editor

In 1966, James Brown released a song where he proclaimed, “This is a man’s world, but it wouldn’t be nothing without a woman or a girl.” Women have come a long way since the release of that song, and many women now disagree with Brown, even saying that it is women who run the world, not men. 

But because of the long history that women endured, March is celebrated as Women’s History Month. For the past seven years, women on the Bayou have gathered in March to empower and enrich each other through the Women’s Symposium. 

This year, the Women’s Symposium was held in Bayou Pointe on March 14. The event started with a lunch and keynote speech by Nicole Cross, an Emmy award-winning anchor and reporter for Spectrum News 1 Texas. Cross encouraged the women in attendance to be their own advocates. 

“The word be is active and present,” Cross said. “You have to be your own advocate. Being your best self means taking care of yourself both physically and mentally and acting in your own best interests.”

An award ceremony followed her speech, where several people were honored for their work at ULM and in the Monroe community. 

K’Shana Hall, a social services counselor in the region and winner of the Kristin Chandler Rising Professional Award, said she was honored to win the award and gave credit to the women who helped get her to where she is today. 

“We are all out here trying to pour back into our communities, and even when people don’t tell you they’re looking, they see you,” Hall said. “I’m very grateful for that and to every woman I ever had in my life who poured time into me to help shape who I am today.”

Among the honorees were ULM students Kelly Morgan and Kiara Richard, who were awarded the Emerging Student Leader and Empowering Student Leader Scholarships, respectively. Morgan is a graduating senior in psychology, and Richard is an integrated media and communication student. 

Other award winners included Jennifer Haneline, the recipient of the Lisa Miller Distinguished Leader Award for her work in public office and service to the community, and Kristopher Kelly, who won the Vanguard Award for his commitment to creating spaces for women in the workplace. Lastly, Christella Dawson received a standing ovation as she was given the Legacy Award for her work in education as she served as Neville High School’s first African American principal. 

During her acceptance speech, Dawson reflected back on her career. 

“I learned early in life that if you try to do what is right, you can build a stress-free life because you don’t have to worry about what’s coming up,” Dawson said. “If you just do what is right and live for God, you’ll be okay.”

After the ceremony, Bayou Pointe transformed into an area for three sessions of breakout groups. The groups consisted of three areas: Leading Ladies, Business Insights and Student Focused. During the last session, men gave their perspectives during a roundtable discussion about finding male allies. 

The breakout sessions covered topics ranging from mental health to growing a small business. Members of the community, such as Monroe Mayor Friday Ellis and Sarah Hoffman, director of development at the Food Bank of Northeast Louisiana, got involved. ULM students also got their chance to serve on a panel, with Miss ULM Leslie Hobgood serving on a panel about embracing failure and SGA Secretary Elisa Castillion serving on a panel about self-discovery in college. 

The event also featured local artists such as Gaelin Craighead and Maddie Cason. Those in attendance could swing by the terrace and catch a glimpse of their paintings, jewelry and other various artwork during a break in the sessions. 

The event featured many women from around the region and gave everyone the opportunity to come together and inspire one another.