My Minerva Moment



Since 2004, The Women’s Conference has honored extraordinary women with the annual Minerva Awards. These Remarkable Women & Remarkable Legacies have recognized a problem, identified the solution, and pursued it with strength, courage, perseverance and compassion.

Each one of us has experienced that moment when we first realized that we have the ability to make a difference and transform the life of someone we love, someone less fortunate or someone in need. That's your Minerva Moment!

So tell us –

When did you realize for the first time that you could make a difference? What was your Minerva Moment?  

Share your story in 200 words or less in the comments section below.


My Minerva Moment
  • Many years ago before I Had kids and I was in my twenties I use to work for a summer youth program. My job was to help place kids in summer jobs including kids with disabilities. There were many kids with great needs but there was one child in particular who was very special to me. He was on a wheel chair, could not talk and seemed extremely disable in many ways. He would make loud, aggresive sounds when he would try to communicate especially when he was upset. The purpose of the program was just to help the kids feel valued and give them an opportunity to earn a little money while working and helping them feel valued.
    One day when I went in to check up on him, I was recieved by a very upset "boss". She said he was aggresive, not cooperative and would just throw things when he got mad. She went on and on and said that she was thinking of firing him. I could hardly believe my ears!! I thought, aren't these programs here to help them??? I asked her to please give me a minute with him and not make that decision just yet and give him one more opportunity. She agreed with hesitation. I was not sure how to communicate with him since he couldn't communicate verbally and had many limitations. I figure that the only thing I could do was just talk to him like I would talk to any other person and pray that he would understand what I was trying to tell him. I looked at him in the eyes, held his hand and said "Listen, I know it's tough here. Sometimes we have to deal with difficult people and it's not easy when we have a hard job. It does not mean because you are disable that you are not smart and I really need you to hear me out. Having a job means following directions, doing your best and trying to remain calm even when things get difficult. You only have a couple of weeks left and I really want you to finish this program. I want you to feel proud of yourself and I want you to get paid for your hard work. Will you please do that for me..more importatnly will you do this for you? He just nodded slightly and made a loud sound. I said "Thank you". I was not sure if he had understood me or not but I could only hope. At the end of the two weeks I went back with a paycheck and a certificate of completion. When I saw him, he was sitting there with a whole different look in his eyes, he seemed happy, calm and doing his job. I went up to him gave him his check and certificate and said " I am proud of you, here you earned this." Hi boss said to me "I don't know what you said to him but he was a whole different person after that meeting you had with him. I walked out with tears in my eyes. "I got through to him I thought. I actually got through to him and he understood everything I said". It was at that moment that I knew I could make a difference. No matter who it is, if you just take the time and talk to them like a human being and let them know they deserves to have dignity, respect, and that you believe in them, amazing things can happen. To this day, It brings tears to my eyes and warms my heart when I think of him.

    Posted by Lucy Kramer, 31 May 2010.

  • My partner and I (intentionally) have never had children. Both of us are school teachers; giving to many local kids over the years and then enjoying our "kid-free" lifestyle after hours! I remember the afternoon my niece called like it was yesterday... It was a Sunday in September, 2005. She called to say she was living in a van with her drug-addicted mother and hadn't started her freshman year of high school. She reminded us that we had told her her entire life, "If you ever need anything, just call." So needed us. She needed a home. With little discussion or contemplation, we drove the 4 1/2 hours that next weekend and picked her up. She enrolled in our local high school and lived with us for the next 4 years. Those 4 years were a mixture of pain, joy, stress, hormonal rages, sacrifice, dysfunction, love, compromise, and several bottles of wine on a regular basis! She graduated top of her class in 2009 with a GPA of 3.9, and received a full-ride scholarship to UCSC (A California University) where she is currently majoring in Feminist Studies. Although there have been few "thank you's," I feel I helped my niece soar to a sky of possibilities, and I reaffirmed how happy I am to be childless!

    Posted by vfern58 (Valerie) 31 May 2010

    Posted by vfern58, 31 May 2010.

  • Michelle Fischer
    Age: 20

    I first realized that I could make a difference a month ago when I finished up a community nutrition project for school. I am a nutrition student finishing up my third year of college, and know that I want to help make this nation into a healthy one. In my community nutrition project, I worked at an after school program with low income children. I helped these children, age six thru ten, with homework and taught them about nutrition and physical activity. I mainly talked to these children about the food pyramid and about healthy food choices, and for physical activity, I taught them some basic exercise moves. Overall, these children loved it so much, and this is where I realize that this is what we need for our nation. Our nation is becoming more unhealthy, yet we still do not look at what our children are taught about nutrition growing up, between fast food and food served to them at school, etc., how do we expect them to be healthier and live a longer life. Yet, I totally believe that if these children grow up with the correct information about nutrition, then our nation could eventually become healthier. This is where I realize that I could make a difference, I know where I need to be after I graduate college and finish up my internship to become a Registered Dietitian. I need to be the voice for the children because they deserve to have knowledge and accessibility to healthy foods, I could make a difference because I know that change is possible, and I have direction and I’m ready for the challenge.

    Posted by Michelle Fischer, 31 May 2010.

  • I was sitting in the Basic workshop and I was there for ME. I was there to learn and grow. Yet looking at the trainer and the team of staff members devoting their time and energy for our personal growth and self actualization made me realize "I want to do that too!" I went through the remainder of the program with that one powerful goal in mind ... "I want to staff! I want to support people in their own breakthroughs!" Several workshops where I coached between 6 and 8 people in a group, and a year and a half later, I am living my dream ... I am a life coach. I get to fan that fire in people's hearts, to live their best life ever, to get them to see that they have that power and choice. My passion is connecting others to their OWN passions!

    Posted by Natalie, 31 May 2010.

  • Just planting the seed:

    Giving began at a very young age for me, being the only”social butterfly” for one of the first special needs elementary school classes in West Hartford Connecticut. I befriended them and to their joy, began connecting my new friends with friends in the “main stream classes”. This early act of giving and the satisfaction of helping others would prove pivotal.

    The Launching Pad
    After several injuries as a jazz dancer, I earned a Masters in exercise physiology specializing in cancer rehabilitation, addressing the emotional and physical challenges for the individual and family.

    My Pivotal Minerva Moment –2006 began when I became the Executive Director of a Cancer Foundation in Downtown Long Beach, CA. Championing two programs, Women to Women Campaign - committed to alleviate financial hardships of treatment and “ARTIST WITHIN” - art workshops providing a visual vehicle for expressing the personal cancer journey. Every day I continue to work hard to make a difference; infusing quality of life to patients and their families and giving a sense of hope that comes from them knowing that they are not alone.

    The more I give, the more I receive. May the art of giving be contagious!

    Jann Buaiz, MS (jannie) Long Beach, California May 31, 2010

    Posted by jannie, 31 May 2010.

  • My Minerva Moment came just three short weeks ago while doing research for an MBA project. While researching charter schools and education reform my team mates & I had toured some local charter schools & met with the people that started them; interviewed school administrators and interviewed local and national policy makers. The most moving experience during this project was interviewing the new President of the local school board. This school district has been embroiled in turmoil for many, many years and has lost over 40% of its scholars. I was bowled over with his message: "This battle has been a battle between the adults when it should be a battle for our scholars". At that very moment Hillary Clinton's words rang through my head, "It takes a village". We can no longer rely singularly on teachers, on parents, on school requires the participation of our entire community! Never before have I felt that I can make a difference. I am now volunteering in the school district to help make change happen.

    Posted by hbeheler, 31 May 2010.

  • We live in a society where perception is misguided about a woman’s appearance. According to this stigma, a woman has to be skinny, tall, young, and beautiful in order to be successful in life. With those facts in mind, I did not fit the "stigma" look. I was a 50-year-old single, overweight, not exactly tall and beautiful, and on top of all the unfortunate blessings I’ve gotten from my Creator, I speak with a heavy Hungarian accent. What would be my chance to find a partner/husband, when everyone is looking for the “stigma” wife?

    It is very hard out there for single 40-50ish ladies, who are too busy building their fabulous careers, and who are too tired to socialize after a long day or week of work. They soon realize that what they had wanted, a great career, money, fame, does not completely satisfy. They come to realize that they are missing something greater, a partner or a husband with whom they can share things.

    I was one of them, desperate to find a partner; not just any partner, but one which fits my age-related needs and standards.

    After a long journey, I did find that partner at age 50. I am happily married and I decided to help others do the same thing. (My Minerva Moment) I gave up my real estate job, opened a matchmaking and coaching service a few years back. The main reason was to coach and build hope for so many single women, showing them that it is not necessary to be young, skinny, and beautiful in order to catch a great husband. I am passing on my knowledge/experience to hundreds of women, young and old, making a difference in the community by coaching them on how to be confident, how to make the right choice when choosing a partner, and ultimately what matters in a relationship.

    If only one woman succeeds, I feel that I made a difference.

    Posted by ilona becker, 31 May 2010.

  • It was a cold snowy January evening and my husband and I were all tucked in our warm home with a pot of chili on the stove. The local news was on and they announced that the homeless shelter was full and not enough breakfast food to feed them. We both looked at each other and knew we had to do something. We jumped in the truck and drove the the Sam's store. We noticed there was another couple there buying the same large amounts of breakfast food too. I approached them and sure enough they were buying for the shelter too. We loaded it all up and delivered to the shelter that night. They said they would have enough now to last for several days. I then started having food drives for the shelter several times a year at my business. I also started delivering Subway sandwiches to the shelter on Memorial Day and Labor Day week-ends. The director told the people living there so much looked forward to this because this kind of food was such a treat.

    I have since sold my business and went to work for someone else and my husband and I both have lost our jobs. Unemployment is about to run out and I wonder if we may be living at the shelter soon...and if someone else will bring food on a cold winter night.

    Posted by MeMe4u2, 31 May 2010.

  • Being in an abusive marriage, hiding behind lies and not telling anyone because I felt ashamed; I took this energy to help others. One day at work a supervisor came to me and pleaded with me to help one of the female worker's who had been out "sick" for several days by asking the owner not to terminate her. She was getting out of the hospital after her husband abused her. She did not want to press charges because she had two small children and was afraid. I went to my car and brought a handful of domestic violence brochures in Spanish that I helped create with the Los Angeles DA's office explained that she needed to be safe for her children and her was a list of programs and shelters. The next week the supervisor asked for more brochures. She wanted to hand them out in her neighborhood and she found out there was another lady at work who was also being abused. I gave her a box of the brochures and later learned that the female worker was in one of the shelters and getting help for herself and her children. I decided to start a program "Refuse to Abuse" for high schools along with celebrities, the Los Angeles DA office and people who had been effected by abuse to educate kids and make them accountable to stop the abuse and don't become part of the cycle.

    Posted by Joanne Coghill, 31 May 2010.

  • My moment, sadly, came about as many do: of personal tragedy. On February 9, 2008, I found my brother, Michael, and three of his friends, dead. They were all 20 and under and succumbed to carbon monoxide.

    Had I known even the slightest bit about the dangers CO presents, I can only hope I would have spoken to my brother. i would have had a detector in the house. The sad truth is that I didn't. I never discussed it with him; I never worried about protecting anyone because I never knew there was a risk.

    Michael was 19. He was working on the house with the other boys. They were running a generator outside in a mudroom. They were on the second floor, 60 feet away, and the fumes took them. They had no warning. They had no chance.

    CO is odorless, colorless, tasteless. It's symptoms are not unlike those a mother can have on any given night: a headache, exhaustion, even nausea. Our first reaction--to go to bed and it will be better in the morning--is often the final one of its victims.

    Carbon monoxide suffocates its victims. That knowledge alone should be enough for every person in America to install a detector. The thought that we can protect our loved ones from such a heinous end should encourage us to visit a home improvement store and install $20 detectors on each floor of our home. We have smoke alarms, yet fire gives us so many indicators- we see the flames, smell the smoke, feel the heat. Why don't we protect ourselves from what we can't see, smell or touch?

    I am happy to say I have worked since 2009 to educate and prevent this tragedy from affecting another family. Through Four Friends Memorial, I ask people to first protect themselves, and then donate detectors to their local fire companies, protecting someone else.

    I have spoken in a spot for Consumer Reports, distributed nationally, and communicated with legislators from my state and others.

    I am one person, but I can create change, one action at a time.

    Meg Watt

    Posted by megawatt, 31 May 2010.