While the list of nominees was impressive, only four women could be awarded Arlington County’s 2006 Person of Vision Award. “All candidates were worthy of the award, but there were only so many we could give the award to,” said Jennifer Fioretti, staff liaison for the county’s Commission on the Status of Women, which presents the award.
AT THIS year’s event, held at the Clarendon Ballroom on March 15, Marjorie Hobart, Mary Hynes, Virginia Schneider and Dama Vasquez received the award for their efforts to improve the lives of women and girls in Arlington. The keynote speaker was Marjorie Sims, vice president of the Washington Area Women’s Foundation.
Three out of the four awardees — Hobart, Hynes and Vasquez — have worked for the Arlington County School system. Schneider works for Habitat for Humanity.
Marjorie Hobart, now retired, was executive director of the Arlington Education Association for 28 years. “It’s illegal and unconstitutional for Virginia teachers to engage in collective bargaining,” she explains. She advocated for a living wage for Arlington teachers and lobbied for political candidates that would recognize the needs of teachers. Although she says that “support for school funding is very good,” there are still challenges facing new teachers such as affordable housing.
Mary Hynes, who has served on the Arlington County School Board since 1994, said she was “very honored” to be included in such an impressive list of awardees. “I was quite surprised to get the award,” she said. Among other achievements, she had a strong influence in the school system’s Capital Improvement Plan, resulting in many upgrades for Arlington County schools.
Virginia (Ginna) Schneider has volunteered for schools, the community, and the homeless throughout her life, and has spent the last nine years with Habitat for Humanity of Northern Virginia. Not only does she help to provide housing for people, she brings together residents for workshops and classes to create stronger neighborhoods. She said that in order to address problems like affordable housing, it will “require a concerted effort by politicians, county staff, and all of us who live here to be sure that we consider it a priority for us to be an inclusive community.”
Social worker Dama Vasquez helped to establish the annual Latino Youth Leadership Conference through her work at Washington-Lee High School. She has supported the Latino community in Arlington through teenage parenting programs, participation in and leadership of the Domestic Intervention Program, and establishment of the first Spanish-language GED program available to Arlington residents.
BOTH HOBART and Schneider cite affordable housing as the biggest challenge facing women and families in the county. Hobart said that it is important “for middle income people such as public employees to be able buy a home,” a dream that is becoming increasingly unattainable. Schneider said that she sees fewer children than before during her drive to work — an indication that families “are not really able to live here.”
In January, the Commission on the Status of Women sent out requests to the public to nominate women who make a difference in the community. The selection committee consisted of volunteers who sorted through the nominations and judged them based on residency, contributions and community impact. Members of the Commission made the final selections. The awards are annual, and any resident can nominate another. The Commission itself was established in 1974.