Senator McConnaughay Joins ECC to Welcome Women to the Second Annual Women’s Conference

Vanessa Passo, Staff Writer

Elgin Community College held the second annual Women’s Conference hosted by Senator Karen McConnaughay.

On Oct. 6, a crowd of over 100 women gathered in ECC’s dining room, room E121, to listen to Senator McConnaughay, and six other female guest speakers. Guests ranged in occupation from the Illinois Secretary of Education to occupational advisers at ECC. The conference began at 4:30 p.m., including group meditation, keynote speaker, fitness and health tips and a panel discussion Q&A.

“Women need to mentor each other. Being mentored is incredibly important for building a career,” said Senator Karen McConnaughay to begin the conference.

The conference held by McConnaughay is a way for women to connect with each other, similiar to her own experiences “[being] blessed with wonderful mentors and colleagues who have been invaluable, so I recognize the many benefits of connecting working women and organizing a form where they can engage in a respectful dialogue,” said McConnaughay, in a post-event press release.

Women of such high regard and similar qualities share their enthusiasm for empowerment, as made evident by McConnaughay, who recognized all attendees and allowed each woman to introduce themselves, as well as their position in the work force.

McConnaughay began her conference on a positive note, by introducing Jackie Kold, PT, RYT, CSST.

Kold lead the women through about a five minute meditation “to help [the women] come into a focus. This time of year too, you know, your immune systems can be a bit compromised; getting flu shots is a good idea, but also to approach a holistic way of thinking about your health care.”

Kold stressed the importance of good health as working women who always take care of their families.

“As working women, who work a lot, myself included, we need to find time to breath, to focus, and through that, we will have better clarity,” said Kold.

McConnaughay reiterates the importance of maintaining proper health as working women.

“In order to be the women that we are, and face the challenges that we face, we have to take care of ourselves,” said McConnaughay.

The event’s keynote speaker, Illinois Secretary of Education Dr. Beth Purvis shared insight about her journey to becoming the secretary of education for the state of Illinois, and what the state has in store in terms of education.

“I’m incredibly humbled to be here, because when I hear what all of you [attendees] are doing, I start thinking about ‘I’m probably the least interesting person to stand up here,” said Purvis. “And I think that what has been done to bring all of these folks together, I really hope there is an opportunity for all of you to network here and outside of this room.”

Purvis then acknowledged her career path as an educator, explaining how at the age of 14 she volunteered at a camp for individuals with disabilities, which was where her passion to teach was rooted.

Purvis recognized the profession of teaching as “the most important profession of the United States and it is more true today than it is in any time of history.”

Her following statements regard her ‘political’ job title of serving as the Illinois Secretary of Education.

“My job is, as Secretary of Education, actually close to what we’re trying to do job is to network and connect the dots,” said Purvis. “My job is to… do what probably every one of you do and I think what women do incredibly well… to take all the pieces and try to make them fit together, not necessarily perfectly.”

Purvis then shared how the state of Illinois stands apart from the rest of the nation in terms of education and programs for individuals, of varying ages, in the state.

“My job is to work with the 16 state agencies that oversee programs for children in youth. We’re the only state in the nation that has three post-secondary agencies, we have adult-ed in four different agencies, early childhood in three different agencies,” said Purvis. “We have our department of juvenile justice separate from our department of corrections.”

More specifically, a child’s success is in the forefront of Purvis’s objective in her occupation. “. . .My job is to go wide [in the agencies]. My job is to take those 16 agencies and help them to have a more coherent and cohesive educational experience for kids,” said Purvis. “ . . .No matter where a child enters the system, we make sure they get the supports they need to be successful.”

Purvis finished her speech in regards of addressing “one of the things we are going to be talking about at the funding commission, the first week of November, is how do we look at the funding of individuals, be their kids have disabilities, be their kids are gifted, be there districts where their bussing costs are very hard. So we need to think about how we are looking at funding for special education and other issues around the state.”

In her final regards, “We don’t want to solve just one problem with the new funding formula, we want to see how many we can [solve],” said Purvis.

The end of the conference included a panel discussion, including a question and answer portion,  from local female leaders.

Of the female leaders included Executive Director of CASA Kane County Gloria Bunce, President of CT Mechanical Catherine Tojoga, and Executive Director of Community Crisis Center Gretchen Vapnar.

The ladies shared their experiences as females in the workplace, as well as highligted their own mentors and inspirations as they discussed how they continue to balance womanhood, health and a career.

The second annual Women’s Conference deemed a success in the eyes of McConnaughay, recognizing familiar faces from the very first conference held at ECC. A post-event press release gave McConnaughay insight to the success of the event.

“We had many repeat attendees, which I think demonstrates there is a strong desire within our community for more personal and professional development opportunities,” said McConnaughay. “Whether you’re pursuing success and advancement in the workplace or trying to find balance in your personal life, someone in this room is on a journey. Learning from each other can help make that path a little easier.”