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
  • About four years ago I was going through a very difficult time in my life. I was a newly divorced mother of two children attempting to balance single parenthood, career, and at the same time rebuild my sense of "self" in the process. One evening after I had put the children to bed, I was up writing in my journal, I began to think of how very blessed and thankful I was to be able to provide and care for my children and myself, because so many single mothers with kids in an challenging situation are not able to do so. Well in Sept 2009, I decided to host a workshop on "Loving the Total You - Mind, Body, Spirit, and Soul" and raise funds/donations for the local Women's Shelter - Act to give back to women and kids of domestic abuse. I am firm believer that it does not matter where we all are in live if we can give a smile, a hug, pampers, most importantly love, we can make a difference.

    Posted by Ladyinbalance, 25 May 2010.

  • In 1995, my husband and I were active in a local church. Our pastor was very dynamic but vehemently homophobic, a trait I found troubling. After working for years in the fashion industry, I had many gay friends and a great compassion for the gay community. Rather than change churches, we decided to confront the issue by spearheading an outreach to AIDS patients. The church wanted no part of our proposal, so we pursued the ministry on our own, launching a weekly Bible study at a nearby hospice. Many of the men we ministered to were wary – they had never received love and acceptance from Christians before. One evening, a very ill young man learned I was going through fertility treatments and offered to pray for me. His sweet, simple prayer touched me – he’d wanted nothing to do with God just a few months earlier. He passed away right before his prayer was answered – I gave birth to my son eight months later. At his memorial, the young man’s family thanked me for making a difference in his life. In truth, he was the one who made a difference in mine. Today, my husband and I are still called to reach out to those the traditional church rejects and have a passion to touch all people with God’s unconditional love.

    Posted by trudiem, 25 May 2010.

  • I first realized I could make a difference when I started to volunteer. I did not believe I had many useful skills or did I have enough free time to make a difference. I first volunteered when a friend asked me to help with a local group. I had a great time and felt like I COULD make a difference.
    This year I have focused my attention on a small independent school. The students come from hard working Blue Collar Families. I am proud to say my daughter now attends the school.
    The school just celebrated it’s 85th Anniversary. It has been a year of tremendous pride and great concern. Recent economical times make it increasingly difficult for small organizations to raise funds. This has not discouraged the school’s dedicated community. They are diligent and industrious. However, this coming year we are faced with a make it or break it situation. It will be challenging but I know we can succeed. We have all learned valuable lessons and we are stronger. I am AMAZED by how much I am still learning and by the many people who teach me daily. Life is a learning experience and I am enjoying it.

    Posted by Donna1, 25 May 2010.

  • I first realized I could make a difference when I started to volunteer nearly full-time. It started with a little time here or there, then it grew and grew but I am not complaining. I am still amazed because I did not believe I had many useful skills or did I have enough free time to make a difference. Volunteering continues to be one of the most meaningful experiences of my life.
    My education background is in counseling and psychology and I have worked in Social Services and at the university level. I have a beautiful daughter and a great husband. I decided to put my career on hold when we had our daughter. My first volunteering experience was when a friend asked me to help with an event for a local group. I had a great time, met wonderful people and felt like I COULD make a difference. I have always tried to be respectful of others and exercise empathy in regards to any individual’s life situations.
    This pass year I have been able to focus most of my attention on a small independent school. Most of the students come from hard working Blue Collar Families and their parent’s work very hard in order for their children to attend the school. The parents are dedicated because they believe in the philosophy of the school and they witness it daily when it is reflected in their child. I am proud to say my daughter now attends the school. She is the 3rd generation from my family to attend this school. I am confident she is receiving a top quality education, just as my father and I did many years ago.
    This year the school celebrated it’s 85th Anniversary. It has been a year of tremendous pride but also a time of great concern. Recent economical times have taken a toll on many families. This has made it increasingly difficult for small organizations, such as our school, to raise funds. This has not discouraged our school’s dedicated educators and community. They are diligent and industrious, always seeking ways to expand our many innovative educational and social programs at the school. You can feel a “courageous spirit” in both the teachers and the administration. It is that “spirit” which has inspired me beyond words. The teachers and children energize me on a daily basis. It has been exciting to help create and implement plans I would have never dreamed of, much less attempted. Everyone has worked hard and we are proud of our accomplishments. However, this coming year will be a make it or break it year for our school. I know it will be challenging but I also know we can succeed. We will be stronger and always ready to work hard so we can continue to grow. It has been wonderful to see how many people have tirelessly “stepped up to the plate”. It has been a true group effort and we have all learned valuable lessons for the future. I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to attend wonderful schools and I value my education. I am AMAZED by how much I am still learning and by the many people who teach and inspire me daily. Life is a learning experience and I am enjoying it.

    Posted by Donna1, 25 May 2010.

  • When I was three, my mother slipped on the ice in the church parking lot. It was just the two of us; I couldn't help her up. Several people, supposedly good people going into the church, walked by and just looked at her lying there on the ice. I realized then that it's the small things that matter. This is one of my earliest memories.

    I have been a community organizer and volunteer every day since. From elementary school through high school, I was part of groups (girl scouts-types of organizations, honor societies, civic clubs, community service clubs) leading service activities in our community. In college, I continued my relationship with several of these groups to provide mentoring and especially, to act as an example of a woman in the physical sciences, math, and computer industry before the web exploded into the public sphere. In college, I revived the professional organization for computer science students and was one of the leading undergraduate women in the department. After school, I continued to organize professional development seminars through the Association for Computing Machinery across two chapters on two coasts. I'm currently the professional member-sponsor for a new chapter forming at a community college locally. This year we organized an event for girls between 7-11 that had nearly 200 people attend and leading women from around the bay area providing giving girls a reason to go into math and science. I've started the first Arbortext User group, a support organization designed to spread knowledge to new users and to make our knowledge less tribal and more accessible to everyone. I do a volunteer podcast, provide logistical and infrastructure support to support open-source development in our niche-community.

    I'm an organizer, it's never been about me but them. This is really the first time I've listed all of these things in one place. I never think about it. I just do it. Honestly, I couldn't even begin to tell you why I do all of this except that i know it's a part of who I am. We all learn from someone else, and I feel that it is my responsibility -- all of our responsibility -- to pass knowledge, experience, and opportunity on to others.

    Posted by lizfraley, 25 May 2010.

  • My Minerva Moment happened in my early twenties with many to follow. First, my defining moment at age 17 was a call in the middle of the night, hearing my sister, who lie sleeping, scream. The news; our mom was killed by a drunk driver. I am telling this not for sympathy, rather, to lend support to those of similar experience. My belief; defining moments set the stage for the impossible to open, beauty to be seen, sensations to be felt and paths to purpose revealed. My MM was clear that I, and God, will create my life, and I will be the one to place value on me! At that MM, my life was never the same. My life path was and is challenging. When you are creating your own way, how can it not be challenging? Where there are challenges, there is glory! Glory in the loss and in the gain! Where I was, exactly, at each defining moment, always consisted of taking the higher road, being the bigger person, and knowing what I bring to each is my unique self! My self, that has the heart to offer and the experience, knowledge and wisdom to share.

    Posted by Brielle, 24 May 2010.

  • The "first moment" I realized I could make a difference was when my 48-year-old mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. I realized that I could make a difference, but the difference isn't always a positive one...

    After Mom's cancer diagnosis, I had flown from my apartment in Maryland to our family home in Massachusetts. My father asked me, as the "educated member of the family" to sit in on the oncology report and then come out and explain the details to him.

    I found out that my mother had six weeks to live. I was hit with the reality of how short life is and how much I suddenly wished I wasn't the "educated" member of the family. I didn't want to have to give everyone the bad news, for the first time in my life, I didn't want to be the one that makes a difference in the lives of others.

    First, know that I had pledged my life (to that point) to educate myself so that I could return home someday and take care of my mother (who had spent her entire life taking care of her children). My purpose had always been to educate myself so that I could make a difference in her life. Now that my purpose was about to die, I went into "academic mode" as a result of emotional shock.
    To top it all off, my father insisted that I not share the news with any of my 5 sisters or brother (or anyone else for that matter). It was a horrible burden knowing that she was going to die and I couldn't share tell anyone.
    I made the most of those 6 weeks by quitting my job and moving back to my home state to spend every possible moment with my mom. For many years after that, I struggled with guilt and resentment for being the "educated member of the family". When I turned 40, I decided that I needed to accept my love of learning and returned to school for my Ph.D. I got that degree in health promotion and education before I turned 45.
    Although my Maneurva Moment at my Mom's cancer diagnosis was a negative moment, I have since realized that my opportunities to make a POSITIVE difference didn't have to die with my fact, sometimes I think that losing her has made my own life that much more purposeful.

    Posted by Mary Ellen, 24 May 2010.

  • I am currently working with students who suffer from severe Emotional Disturbances. Most of these students have very low self esteem and have feelings of self worthlessness. I involved the students in a project of caring by sending holiday cards to for others who are less fortunate than they are during the school year.The cards were sent the the local Veteran's Hospital for patients in extended care and long term care. I explained to the students that many of these men and women had given to their country and no longer had any living family or friends.Many were very ill spending their last days in the medical center. Each month in the beginning the project was met with great resistance. As each month progressed and the students were praised for their empathy for others, little by little they began to walk a little taller, and you could see the pride in their being. When a letter came from the agency receiving the cards, thanking the students for their cards there was an overall sense of self esteem and pride in each and everyone of the students. One month we decided to invite the whole school to participate in the project, and the students became very possessive of their project. Once they understood the value of caring and how it could expand beyond the classroom, the students became passionate in the project and encouraged the other students to also participate. This has been a year long project and for many of these students to be able to take an interest in someone else was a huge milestone for them. They began to realize that they too could make a difference in someones life, and gain some insight into their own issues too. This is a project I have participated in over the years with the different populations and grade levels that I have taught over the years. This year I truly believe had the biggest impact on the students, and hopefully it will be something they will recall and give them a sense of pride in the years to come. Thank you

    Posted by barbara stanoff, 24 May 2010.

  • My Minerva Moment disguised itself at first only to be revealed in a series of events that unfolded before my eyes. I held my 3 ½ year old son in my arms 9 years ago this month as he lay in a coma on life support. It took three nurses to transfer him and all of the tubes, IVs and wires from his bed to my arms. His medical crisis that resulted in severe brain damage, was due to an undetected metabolic disorder at birth. I knew in my heart that life would be different, but I didn’t realize that Stephen would pave the way for me to make a difference in his life and babies around the country. While serving as his primary care provider, meeting all of his medical and therapeutic needs on a daily basis, I have been a proactive advocate for newborn screening to change the laws of my state and others, ensuring that all babies get screened at birth for all recommended metabolic disorders. As Stephen turns 13 on October 26th with his big smiles, I know I have made a difference in his life and all babies that are now being screened properly.

    Posted by JanaM, 23 May 2010.

  • By the time I went to high school, I had attended six different schools in three different states, four different cities, and two different countries, occasioned by my father’s career in the United States army. Despite this, never had I felt so much like an outsider than my first year of post-graduate school.

    The 1996 decision of the UC Regents to revise the law school admissions policy for the 1997-1998 school year resulted in a reduction of African American admits from the 33 to 7. I had the dubious distinction of being the only black new admittee in my first year section.

    At a rally in protest of the law schools admission policy, I heeded a request to share my experience in what I perceived to be a racially charged environment. I summoned the courage to give a speech to express what I felt was a lack of accountability for the resulting depletion of racial diversity at our law school. To my surprise, the LA times quoted a part of my speech in the calendar section. Someone had listened. It was then I believed I had something of value to share, and that my voice could make a difference.

    Posted by Sisterinlaw, 23 May 2010.