Paving the way
Retired career women encourage a new generation of female scholars
By KATIE VanBRACKLE
Judy Seidner is not one to sit still for long. After 30 years of working in government relations in the Miami area, she retired but still felt a strong need to be useful.
Her two children were both married with kids living in metro Atlanta, and she knew she could be helpful to her daughter and daughter-in-law, both of whom worked full-time in the medical industry.
So Seidner and her husband moved to Georgia six years ago, settling in east Roswell and taking on babysitting responsibilities for their five grandchildren.
Feeling the need to connect with other women, Seidner looked around for a volunteer group where she could use her energy and can-do attitude to help the local community.
She found a perfect fit with the American Association of University Women (AAUW), a 100-year-old organization working to advance equity for all women and girls through education, philanthropy and research.
“I believe strongly that women need to support other women,” said Seidner, who now serves as president of AAUW’s North Fulton branch.
“Women must be well educated in order to earn a good living and support themselves and their families,” Seidner said. “Here in North Fulton, AAUW works very hard to raise funds for scholarships for local women who have the drive to earn a higher degree, but are struggling financially.”
Each year, AAUW’s North Fulton branch awards scholarships to young women pursuing degrees from institutions of higher learning located in North Fulton, such as Georgia State University’s Alpharetta campus.
In 2011, Klaretta Young received an AAUW scholarship to complete her Master’s of Arts in Teaching (MAT) from Reinhardt University in Alpharetta. She graduated with a 3.95 grade point average and is now a kindergarten teacher at Dunwoody Elementary School.
Young says it was an “honor and a pleasure” to receive the scholarship, which allowed her to focus on her academic goals instead of worrying over the financial needs of attending school.
“I will be forever grateful to AAUW for their part in making my dream to become an educator come true,” she said. “It is a great joy to be able to pursue my passion for teaching children and creating lifelong learners.”
Seidner says scholarships like Young’s are made possible with funds from AAUW’s annual fundraiser, a large book fair held each fall at Perimeter Mall. This year’s book fair will be held Sept. 26-30 during mall hours and will offer more than 75,000 gently used books at bargain prices, most for $2 or less.
Book lovers in the know eagerly await the AAUW sale each year.
“People show up with little red wagons and empty suitcases,” said Seidner. “And they feel good knowing that their purchases are helping to improve someone’s life.”
Scholarships are just one of the many ways AAUW supports women and girls, said Carolyn Garfein, a Johns Creek resident who serves as AAUW’s national president.
“One of the biggest issues women face today is the lack of pay equity in the workforce,” Garfein said.
“Today’s female college graduates earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts,” she said. “Same education, same job description, different salary.”
AAUW provides “$tart $trong” workshops on college campuses to teach women how to be more effective when negotiating a salary. There are also programs designed to encourage female students to consider non-traditional occupations and take an interest in math, science, technology and engineering.
“It’s about making sure women and girls reach their full potential,” said Garfein. “Giving them access to the skills and leadership training they will need to support themselves, and working to remove any barriers that stand in their way.”
Whether working nationally or locally, Garfein and Seidner agree they are proud to be spending their retirement years volunteering for an organization that is working hard to make the world a better place for women.
“We enjoyed our careers thanks to other women who paved the way,” said Seidner. “And now it’s time to give back.”