Linda Dzialo, an educator, child advocate and founder of Lawton Food 4 Kids, was named Outstanding Woman of Comanche County Thursday. The finalists for the award were, from left, Vickie Spurgeon, Cecelia Solano, Tonya Wright, Dzialo, Cathy Caccioppoli, Karen Halverson, Jane Mitchell and Kelley Hahesy-Bass.
By Kim McConnell
Lawton Constitution Staff Writer
An educator who spearheaded the effort to feed the city’s hungry children on weekends was named Outstanding Woman of Comanche County.
Linda Dzialo, who founded the Lawton Food 4 Kids program, was one of eight women honored Thursday for her volunteer efforts in the community, during a reception sponsored by the Mayor’s Commission on the Status of Women. The award, which designates the 2012 Outstanding Woman (who also is the group’s nomination for inclusion in the Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame), was created to recognize the efforts of women who go above and beyond in their efforts to better the community, commission members say.
Dzialo, a long-time educator and administrator with Lawton Public Schools, said she was honored to be included in a group of women whose efforts ranged from creating a ballfield for disadvantaged children, to those who are foster parents and mentors. She said the group illustrates the importance of volunteers and the importance of giving back to the community.
“Thank you for calling attention to volunteerism,” she said, urging those in the audience to serve their community and to make it their mission to mentor a young person.
Much of Dzialo’s work has centered on young people. She is the founder of Food 4 Kids, was a co-founder of the Fit Kids Coalition and is a leadership team member for Success by 6. The CEO of Great Expectations, a professional development program for educators, Dzialo’s activities range from the United Way board of directors, to serving on the Oklahoma Education Lottery Commission and the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy.
Finalists for the award also included Kelley Hahesy- Bass, Cathy Caccioppoli, Karen Halverson, Jane Mitchell, Cecelia Solano, Vickie Spurgeon and Tonya Wright.
Women’s Education – Women’s Empowerment, was the theme of the evening and for the commission’s observance of Women’s History Month, and it also was the theme of the speech by Cameron University President Cindy Ross, the reception’s guest speaker.
“Every day, I see lives change due to education,” Ross said, noting the importance of education in all lives and offering statistics that indicate women are gaining ground, in terms of a greater number bettering their lives through education.
In Oklahoma, women account for 50.2 percent of the student populations at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University, 59.2 percent of the population in regional colleges such as Cameron, and 61.5 percent of the population at community colleges. Nationwide, women account for about 52 percent of students, compared to 13 percent in 1970. But, while more women are going to college and bettering their earning potential, Ross said there still are disparities.
She quoted a United Nations study that said women account for half of the world’s population, twothirds of its work hours, one-tenth of its income and one-one-hundredth of its property ownership.
“Economic equality is not yet a reality,” Ross said, citing statistics that show women still are not adequately represented in technical fields, don’t make as much money and don’t make it to the top of their professions as often as do men.