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Trailblazers share their stories during Women’s Center event

Celebrating 20 years of service, the Tidewater Community College’s Women’s Center hosted a Women’s History Month luncheon to recognize the milestone. “For the last two decades, the Women’s Center has grown from an idea to an office, from an office to four campuses, and from TCC to a model program for women’s centers,” said Jeanne Natali, coordinator of the Women’s Center.
Daun Hester, Jeanne Natali, Gabriela Toletti and Laura Soulsby
Daun Hester, Jeanne Natali, Gabriela
Toletti and Laura Soulsby

Laura Soulsby, educational programming and communications coordinator for the center, added, “Over the last five years, we have charted new territory by expanding programs aimed at increasing students’ readiness for leadership and careers.” New programs include a leadership program that uses national best practices, as well as Instant Career Coaching and an annual Women’s Leadership Speakers Series, which recently featured TCC President Edna Baehre Kolovani.

Guest speakers Del. Daun Hester (D-Norfolk) and Spanish Professor Gabriela Toletti also shared stories of success.

Hester spoke of her lifelong dream of serving in public office. “My goal was to serve in an elected capacity by age 40. I wanted to be at the table and in those rooms where decisions are made,” she said.

Today, Hester is a delegate for the 89th District. “It has not been an easy road, and I lost plenty of races before landing here,” she said. Hester served on the Norfolk City Council from 1996 to 2010 and was Norfolk’s vice mayor from 2004 to 2008.

Del. Daun Hester shares her story
Del. Daun Hester shares
her story

Passionate about education, Hester began her career as a teacher for troubled youth, and today she serves as principal of the Calvary Christian Education Center.

“I have learned by experience that you don’t know what life holds for you,” Hester said. “You have to share the knowledge that you have and help each other grow.”

Toletti spoke of growing up in Uruguay and her dedication to her studies, especially English as a second language. “My mother insisted that I learn English, because she wanted me to have the tools I’d need if I ever wanted to live in another country. So while the girls I knew took ballet and art classes, I studied English,” Toletti said.

Toletti earned her bachelor’s in clinical psychology from the University of Uruguay and a degree in teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) from the Alianza Cultural Uruguay – Estados Unidos de Norteamérica.

Toletti travelled to the U.S. for her graduate studies. “I came to the States to find myself and be free from my parents,” Toletti said with a laugh. “I left a beautiful home on the sea in the summer to come to Buffalo, N.Y., where it was so cold that one day my car door froze, and I had to crawl out of the window to get to class.”

Professor Gabriela Toletti speaks about family roots and success
Professor Gabriela Toletti speaks
about family roots and success

She received an M.A and a Ph.D. in Latin American Literature from the State University of New York at Buffalo. After graduation, Toletti found her calling in teaching, and has been sharing her knowledge of Latin American culture, history, literature and language with students since that time.

“I tell my students to remember that you are not alone,” Toletti said. “You carry the genes of your ancestors.”

Toletti and her American-born husband travel to Uruguay to connect with her motherland every year.

“It was my dedication to education that served me so well,” Toletti said. “And through it all, I was determined to be a competent world citizen.”