Empowering women of color!

Community leaders united and honored as they shared experiences at Women of Color Leading Change event.


ST. PETERSBURG — More than 200 women filled the Student Center Ballroom at the University of South Florida-St. Pete with one goal – to eliminate racism and empower women. The YWCA Tampa Bay led the charge by hosting the Women of Color Leading Change earlier this month.

The organization dedicated the evening to honoring St. Petersburg College’s (SPC) beloved leaders Myrtle Williams and Maria Edmonds, for their outstanding contributions to the community. Leaving a great legacy, Williams passed April 18, 2016, and Edmonds on Jan. 19 of this year.

Leza Ries, left, and Evyan Gordon

Leza Ries, left, and Evyan Gordon

YWCA President and CEO Yvonne Ulmer welcomed the vibrant and diverse crowd and reflected on her 25 years at SPC and her friendship with Williams and Edmonds.

“We served as associate provosts together at St. Petersburg College for many years,” said Ulmer. “They taught me lessons in leadership and mentored and encouraged me throughout my career.”

As a compassionate leader in education, Williams spent 28 years at SPC, nurturing and caring for the college community and beyond. During her tenure, she received numerous accolades including:

  • 2016 Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American History Museum’s First Ladies in African American History recognition

  • Phi Theta Kappa National Hallmark Award for Distinguished College Administrator

  • Ida S. Baker Distinguished Minority Educator Award

  • 2015 Golden Soror of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority

Moving to the same beat, Edmonds made her mark as a dynamic leader for women.  More than 30 years ago, Edmonds, alongside two other women, founded Women on the Way (WOW) at SPC. This program provides support dedicated to helping women succeed in college by addressing challenges such as time and resources.

With a standing ovation, Edmonds’ daughter Leza Ries and Williams’ daughter Evyan Gordon, were presented with bouquets of flowers in honor of their mothers.

Keeping with the event’s theme, City of St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Dr. Kanika Tomalin candidly shared her personal experiences of leadership growth as a woman of color.

In closing, Gypsy Gallardo, CEO of Urban Market Analytics, moderated a panel of esteemed leaders including:

• Jessica Costello, Assistant Statewide Prosecutor, Florida Attorney General’s Office

• Liana Fernandez-Fox, Math Professor (Retired), Community Leader and Philanthropist

• Liz Gutierrez, Founder of Enterprising Latinas

• Major Cheryl Johnson, St. Pete Police Dept.

• Katie McGill, Executive Director of Dress for Success

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