International Women’s Day event celebrates achievements of local women

Community members inspire each other through storytelling


The Washington and Lee Repertory Dance Company performs in honor of women. Photo by Mary Alice Russell.

Mary Alice Russell

The city of Lexington celebrated International Women’s Day by highlighting the stories of local women on Friday, March 6.

The event was the second International Women’s Day event sponsored by Project Horizon and was hosted by Lexington Presbyterian Church.

Residents of Lexington came to the event to celebrate seven women who spoke for a few minutes each. Southern Virginia University student Grace De Gruccio, ‘21, emceed the event.

“This was a beautiful, beautiful event and I am so grateful that I got the opportunity to listen to all these incredibly strong women of all different backgrounds and ages and careers,” she said. “It’s just so uplifting to know I am one of many, many strong women in this community.”

De Gruccio works at Project Horizon and is majoring in psychology and art. She said she hopes to one day help people by becoming a therapist who helps people through art.

Each of the women who spoke had a different and unique story to tell.

The women who shared their stories with the community pose for a photo. Photo by Mary Alice Russell.

Ellen Wheeler, the first speaker and director of community outreach for Project Horizon, shared lessons that she has learned on her own or from her 11-year-old daughter.

Rachel Jones, the second speaker, incorporated group activities by asking everyone in the audience to make a circle and hold hands. Three people that had not been included in the circle had to try and disconnect the community that was created, but the group did not change. Jones really wanted to show the importance of community which is essential to her job as an ordained minister.

“Titles are temporary, careers are temporary, but people are lifelong,” Jones said.

Gabriella Vazquez, an art major with a concentration in digital illustration at SVU, talked about how both her and her faith helped her out of her shell and become a leader at SVU.

Another speaker, Viridiana Garcia, talked about her grandmother’s influence on her life since she moved to the United States.

Ann Olson, a retired journalist who spent most of her career interacting with women, remembered women that she helped that have become some of the top people in their respective fields. Even in Lexington, Olson has found women to help build up as women who have helped her.

Dr. Ayesha Kelly reflected on experiences when she faced both racism and sexism in her profession. She said she believes that women need to be strong role models for their daughters and their sons.

Finally, Elaine Poon, who is the president of the board of directors for Project Horizon, reflected on the famous quote, “Nevertheless, she persisted.”

That theme was present in all of the speeches, and carried through the music at the beginning of the event, accompanied by the dance performance by Washington and Lee’s Repertory Dance Company.