Southwestern Michigan College First Lady Sarah Mathews’ sixth Mentoring Dinner Oct. 28 featured a “Defining Women” panel.
State Sen. Kim LaSata, R-St. Joseph, just-retired Michigan State Police Lt. Mindi Logan of Baroda, the Dowagiac mother-daughter social-work duo of Rita Reed and Deborah Hackworth and SMC professor Dr. Mary Young-Marcks of Edwardsburg defied traditional expectations, defining themselves by their own dreams.
“The potential in this room is endless,” said Mathews, deputy Cass County Friend of the Court, “but it accomplishes nothing if we do not have courage to own that potential and walk in it in our daily lives. Sometimes we need another woman who has gone before us to help us find our courage, to tell us we can do it. Sometimes we need to simply see what they did so we are inspired to try ourselves. Forty women from the community showed up to volunteer to mentor because they believe in your potential.”
Mathews created the dinner in 2015 after being invited to speak to students and addressed the first two, “Climbing in High Heels” and “Being a Lady Roadrunner,” followed by Kim Gravel of Lifetime on “Believe in Your Own Beauty,” author Erin Leonard on “Breaking the Chains of Emotional Terrorism” and Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget McCormack on “How Women Can Show the World a Better Way.”
LaSata’s parents divorced, so “don’t let your circumstances define you” resonates. Her mother taught beauty school, so LaSata earned a cosmetology credential, then a Western Michigan University education degree while working fulltime. She married and raised four children. One is in law school, one in college and two in high school. While teaching at Lake Michigan Catholic she knocked on doors for political candidates, overcoming “painful shyness.”
LaSata is one of only three female Republican State Senators in Michigan.
Hackworth serves on the SMC Foundation board. She has been Director of Advocacy Services since 2016 for Domestic and Sexual Abuse Services (DASAS), which she joined in 2011. With the Foundation, “I am excited about the opportunity to help young people reach their academic and life goals in a significant way” through scholarships it provides.
Hackworth’s previous positions spanned Taco Bell, H&R Block, graphic design and running an apartment complex, but providing respite care at 18 “dropped into my spirit a glimpse of my destiny. The seed was planted. Keep watering. Volunteer in many different capacities to learn what your passion is. My career chose me.”
Logan retired Oct. 7 as Niles Post assistant commander. “My mom was my biggest role model. She was a single mom,” she said. “I always saw her doing things women didn’t typically do. She was a service writer in the early ’80s, teaching me I could do whatever I wanted,” which Logan thought would be aerospace engineering until finding law enforcement.
“Don’t have too much pride,” Logan said. “I hear, ‘I don’t want to work in fast food.’ If you have no skill set, degree or certificate, you have to start somewhere to learn to communicate, how to clean, how to count money. I had four jobs at one time in Texas — a video store, a pizza place, selling roses in a bar and ironing clothes for a family. There’s no law enforcement background in my family. That job chose me. Experiences working multiple jobs teach you what you don’t want to do.”
Young-Marcks teaches political science, social work and criminal justice.
“Whatever you do, follow your passion. You can’t do something for years unless you love it. I also worked in domestic violence as a social worker” then added a master’s degree in public administration to better help “clients who don’t know the system.”
“Your destiny is not just what you go to school for, sometimes it’s greater than that,” said Reed, married for 46 years. “God has a plan for each one of us, but you’ve got to listen.”
Reed’s “passion for what I spent my life doing was born out of not having what I needed as a young person” in Chicago. “My mom was married, but had children too soon. She did the best she could, but she wasn’t ready to be a parent. I had wonderful mentors who believed I had something to give. I told God at 18 I wanted to give my life to serving other women and helping them see their potential. God opened doors throughout my life to do that. My pastor used to tell me, ‘You need to learn to hold your piece and let God fight your battles for you.’ I had to learn not to be angry.”
Panelists, from left: Deborah Hackworth, Rita Reed, Sen. Kim LaSata, Mindi Logan and Dr. Mary Young-Marcks
First Lady Sarah Mathews with Ester Stanley, mentor and retired Dowagiac teacher