Click on photo to read article about Elizabeth
Dana Burton, Scholarship Chairman, is pleased to announce that Elizabeth Fitzgerald is the recipient again this year of the Jane M Klausman Women in Business $1,000 Scholarship. The award is given annually to a woman pursuing an undergraduate or master’s degree in business management.
Elizabeth just recently graduated ELMS College with her BA in Accounting and Information Systems along with Business Management & Marketing. This July she is going to start work on her MBA. Her husband has also returned to school and together they are raising their six girls. She also was just offered a job from Meyers Brothers Kalicka PC after completing an internship with them earlier this year. She obviously is doing great and is completely deserving of the award. We will be honoring her at the September meeting.
Presenting the 2014 Jane M. Klausman District 1 Scholarship to Elizabeth Fitzgerald is Karen Duffy, Area 2 Director. They are flanked by Zonta of Quaboag Valley Co-presidents, Janet DaSilva (left) and Krisin Goold.
A Message from Elizabeth from 2014:
First I want to thank all of the wonderful ladies of Zonta International from the Quaboag Valley for their wonderful hospitality at their last meeting in September. Everyone there showed a true interest in my accomplishments and immense support in my endeavors. Being honored by being awarded the Jane M. Klausman Women in Business scholarship from a highly distinguished group of women for my efforts in furthering my education truly is a testament of how hard work and dedication does not go unnoticed. I can only hope that as I mature in my education and begin my professional career that I will too become a lady of the business world and a partner within the local community worthy of such an honor. My hope for my six daughters is that they will live their lives and become strong and moral characters within their local communities and in the professions that they choose as the legacies of the women of Zonta International have set before them.
Over the last 3 years both my husband and I have been full-time students while trying to raise a family. As we both have entered into our senior year of college we are getting ready for the next phase of our lives together. Both of us have faced many struggles and sacrifices but could not have gotten this far without the love we have for each and our family, along with the support and dedication from my parents to see that we become college graduates. Both my husband and I will be the first child of our parents to graduate and for my husband he will be the first graduate in his family ever, and not with just one degree but two.
13 years ago I dropped out of college convinced that it wasn’t for me and it was an impossible task. I entered into the working world and found success in various customer service and sales jobs. I even received promotions to management positions. As a single individual this was perfectly fine for me and I always thought if I ever got married I would be perfectly content with being a “soccer mom”. Little did I know how ignorant that was and that my perceptions of how to be a good mother would soon come to an end.
When I married my husband I became an instant mother of his two daughters and we made plans to continue to grow our family. In 2011 my husband was faced with either taking a 50% pay cut or to be laid off from his factory job with our fourth child on her way. We were at a point where with the commitment of my parents he could go back to school and have something more promising and passionate than walking a production line for the rest of his life, so he went back to school.
I saw his dedication and commitment and I couldn’t be prouder of him. He showed me that I too could go back and be successful, finish what I started. In the fall of 2012 after giving birth to our fifth daughter I picked up the pieces from 13 years ago and sought to do my best and obtain my degree in Accounting. This would allow me to get my CPA license and build a business from home so our children can have the presence of a parent in the home and still have the benefit of two incomes. So many families are broken because children lack the presence that they need from their parents but in this world it is near impossible to make ends meet on one income.
Last summer my husband and I had the privilege of being able to graduate together, cap and gown side by side, with our associate degrees from HCC, with Honors, and that fall we continued our educational journey together. He went to Westfield State while I begin the Elms/HCC accelerated program on Friday nights and Saturdays. We both have continued to set the bar high amongst our peers by achieving academic recognition and have placed on the Dean’s List every semester we have been in school. In my accelerated program at the Elms I am with the same group of individuals throughout the entire 20 month program, we start together we finish together. Even with them I am seen as a leader and a woman dedicated to my studies and family. One of the courses I am taking right now is Business Strategy. It is the most difficult course in both of my degree programs and is the most taxing time wise, mentally, and emotionally. I am required to work with a group of individuals to construct a business from the ground up and each team member is required to play a vital role within the organization. On top of the executive roles we each are responsible for, I was chosen by my group to be the President/ CEO. This nomination from them shows their valued respect and confidence in my leadership abilities to not only lead our group but to be a leader outside of our school’s walls. I am proud to say that our Professor has personally told our group that we are by far the best and most thorough group that she has ever taught in this course. We maintain the top grade possible of a 100% when this course makes or breaks most people. Constantly my peers are telling me, “I don’t know how you do it.” They all know that my husband and I are full time students with six daughters, all under the age of 11, and they too know our path is a difficult road to travel.
As both my husband and I are preparing to graduate this May we are preparing ourselves to enter back into the working world, but not as we once were when we left just a short time ago. This summer we actually came up with a business idea together. Since his passion lies with mentoring the youth and I will be able to handle the finance side of a small business, we would love to start our own group home for troubled teens. We want to get them before they get into the “system”. The success ratios of teens being rehabilitated once they enter into a correctional facility are extremely low. With some intervention I’m confident that we could make an enormous impact on so many young lives. I am completely amazed by the road that we have traveled and how far we have come with just so little left to go before we begin a journey on another path. At our wedding we danced to “God Bless the Broken Road”. It was a true testament of how our lives were brought together to become one. We have and are taking that broken road to build new life together and build a secure future for our daughters.
Since my husband and I were married we have been dedicated to our church and our local community. My husband has been involved in mentoring local troubled youth and for over two years we ran God’s Table as an outreach to our local community through our church. Once a month we held a free meal to anyone who wanted come in, eat, and have fellowship. We did the meal planning, food prep, advertising and had a team of servers. Also, there was the opportunity for an open mic where others in the community could come and share their talents. Not everyone gets to be a superstar in this world but everyone has talents that they truly want to share with others, all they need is a stage to stand upon. As little as it may seem, providing one little corner of the room as a stage, it meant the world to so many.
Before my husband and I married I began a once a month youth event through my church called JAAM, Jesus Arts And Music. I developed a team of adults to help facilitate this event and I did the advertising, fundraising and networked within the New England region to find local bands that needed a place to perform, other than their parents’ garage, and gave them a stage. This event provided opportunity for teens to have a safe haven to bring their friends, hear their peers play music, and not have to worry about being exposed to drugs, alcohol, or peer pressure. There was an open mic, pizza, and games as well as the concert aspect. I still remember one of the bands that we had from New York and their lead singer came and thanked me after the show. He said, “It’s is so nice to come and play at a venue where there aren’t drunk people everywhere and people doing all sorts of drugs. Just thank you so much and let us know when we can come back again.” This talented young man was still only seventeen, I couldn’t believe what he had already been exposed to in his young life. It’s so important to have these types of venues available for teens to help keep them safe and still be able to enjoy being young.
On top of JAAM and God’s Table I have been part of the worship team at our church playing guitar for over ten years. Normally there is a regular rotation of worship leaders and I started to play a little in the background on the Sundays when my dad was leading worship. As my skills progressed I was asked to play with other worship leaders and to sing as well. Soon I became a worship leader as well having my own team of musicians. My husband even learned to play the bass guitar so he could play with me. For a period of two years my husband and I volunteered our time to help provide worship music for our church every four out of six weeks. During this period our church was in between pastors (our pastor retired and filling the pastoral position at a small church in the hilltowns of Massachusetts takes time) and my parents were actually switching churches themselves. Our previous pastor was one of the worship leaders and so was my dad. This left half of the worship leaders gone, there was only myself and one other worship leader to fill the gap. In most churches this might not seem too bad but in our church the worship usually goes for an hour during church and then another thirty minutes after the sermon. There is a lot of prep-work and practicing in order to be prepared to lead worship on a Sunday morning.
There are so many struggles and obstacles we have had to overcome just this past year. Between school, finances, time constraints and family life we had reevaluate our priorities and cut back some. The hardest obstacle was finding out my mother has cancer and trying to be a support to her and my father as she continues to go through chemo therapy. Finding out that there will be no cure for her and her prognosis is less than a year. It is extremely painful to see my mother who I always admired as a courageous woman professionally, strong and powerful, seem so weak and unable to function on her own. She went from working as a receptionist for an insurance company and climbed her way up to where she was a senior project manager, a principal, and just one big money making machine for one of the most prestigious technology companies in the world, IBM. Without her, her work ethic, devotion, and passion I would not be the woman I am today. She told me the one thing she regretting was not finishing school and getting her degree. There were many doors that were closed to her because she didn’t have that degree. Getting my degrees in business and in accounting is like her fulfilling her own goal that she had for herself that she never completed. My only prayer now is that she makes it to see that day.
When I first heard about the Jane M. Klausman, women in business scholarship for Zonta International I wanted to find out what it meant to be a Zonta member and what the club was all about. I came to find that the number one goal was to advance the status of women worldwide. For almost 100 years Zonta International has brought business women together to build upon their strengths to deliver opportunity and advancement for women all over the world. This is the type of organization that would have been perfect for my mom and her many talents. An organization I can only hope to be a part of someday.
I look at the dedication and commitment that women like Jane Klausman had and the courage it took for her to be a pioneer and advocate for women and their professional lives during the 1940s and 50s. I’m sure she faced many obstacles and discouragement from those around her but she continued on as a business professional, writing books to inspire others. Her legacy is truly an inspiration for me not to only be a strong woman in the business world striving for success but to go beyond that. As Ms. Klausman sought to pave the way providing support and reinforcement for women, I too would like to be an inspiration for women of the next generation. Be a woman that my six daughters can look up to and know there is so much they too can do with their lives. They can know that no matter what mistakes you have made it is never too late to try again and push forward.
Being a woman, a mother of six and a striving student for entrepreneurship the odds stand tall against me. Living in the 21st century and trying to instill the values of our mothers and grandmothers of being a “lady” yet educated and powerful enough to stand on your own two feet seems like an impossible mountain to climb. However, investing the time and having the courage to go back and get not just one degree but two degrees, enabling myself to set an example to my daughters, I can show them by my actions and choices, that in our ever changing society, success for women is attainable and should be attained. There can be a balance between a home life as a mother and a professional career. Women don’t have to take a step back or a time out to have a family, they can continue to push forward. As one of 2011’s the most power women in the world, claimed by Forbes Magazine, Sheryl Sandberg stated in her book Lean In, “We can reignite the revolution by internalizing the revolution. The shift to a more equal world will happen person by person. We move closer to the larger goal of true equality with each woman who leans in.” My pursuit of a higher education to pursue my own business and a more stable homestead for my daughters is my “leaning in” to continue the revolution of women seeking a more equal world our mothers before us only dreamed of.
PS: I thought you and the ladies of Zonta might like to know that I have been chosen by the Western Mass Women’s Magazine for their top scholarship award for the Women in Business Scholarship. On October 16, 2014 I will be presented with a check from the CEO of Health New England at the annual “Top 25 Women to Watch” event.