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Amanda Spear-Purchase - Passion
Springfield Symphony Hall

Amanda Spear-Purchase is the Venue & Events Director for Springfield Symphony Hall. Amanda was born and raised in the Springfield area, attending Western New England College, and graduating with a degree in Marketing/Communication. Amanda found her passion for working in entertainment when she worked at Six Flag England. Leaving Six Flags she went to work at the XL Center in Hartford CT, and in 2010 she began her career at CityStage & Symphony Hall, where she fell in love with both buildings. Following the closure of CityStage in 2018 she worked briefly at the Academy of Music before returning to Symphony Hall in 2020. Amanda’s passion for Symphony Hall & the city of Springfield is reflected daily in her work. She enjoys working with various event promoters and organizations that come through the building. She lives with her husband and two children, 3 & 6. She loves sharing her job with them, her parents and extended family & friends.

Dr. Jodi Falk - Authenticity
Director, Rachel's Table

Jodi Falk assumed the role of director of Rachel’s Table program at the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts in 2019. Since then, she has led initiatives that tripled the program’s service area of food rescue, increased the amount and variety of food served, and digitized operations for maximum impact. Along with a dedicated staff and 200+ volunteers, Jodi spearheaded programs such as Growing Gardens, providing sustainable and self-determined food options for RT’s 54+ agencies. Recently, Jodi was recognized as one of BusinessWest’s 2022 Women of Impact. Jodi’s extensive experience in leadership and fundraising for the arts, community engagement, and social justice activism, including creating programs that promote equity and justice in diverse communities in South Africa, Israel, Brazil, and western MA, has earned her a PhD in community activism and socially-engaged arts. Her work as a local leader in a special needs parents’ rights watchdog group and as a developer of projects that serve vulnerable populations focuses on nurturing lives by nourishing bodies.

Vanessa Ford - Advocacy
Trust Transfer Project

Vanessa Ford was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1972 to a Colombian/Nicaraguan mother and Costa Rican father. Her Central American heritage inspired her to embrace her culture and appreciate diversity. She began singing at a young age, first with her father and then in the church choir. Vanessa’s talent matured as she participated in various local services, and she has since sung for many political ceremonies, funerals, and special events across the country. Vanessa has also written and arranged choral and praise and worship songs. In addition to her music ministry consulting work, she has launched worship songs such as “Great Jehovah” and “Stronger Together.” Vanessa has sung The National Anthem at many events, including annual 9/11 remembrance ceremonies and Swearing-in ceremonies for First Responders and Commissioners, as well as Governor Deval Patrick’s Western MA Inaugural Celebration. Vanessa serves on several boards and committees, including the PVPA Board of Trustees and the Public Health Institute of Western MA Youth Mental Health Advisory Coalition, where she focuses on empowering vulnerable and underrepresented communities. She also founded the Springfield CommUnity Chorale and the Trust Transfer Project, a community-based initiative that mobilizes local artists of color to create inspiring works of art that improve community health and wellness. Vanessa’s program model gained national attention for its community impact and response to Covid-19, leading to recognition by Dr. Jill Sonke and inclusion in the CDC field guide. Vanessa was most recently a panelist at the Association for Science and Technology Centers Capstone Convening and featured as a 2022 American Alliance of Museums Conference panelist in Boston, MA.

Jen Howard photo

Jen Howard - Perseverance
Leo's Table / Food For Strength

Food runs in Jen’s family; her grandfather owned a diner in Fitchburg, and she always knew that someday she too would make food her career. At the age of 17 Jen began working in fast-food service while attending college. Over the years, Jen worked with many independently owned restaurants in varied positions from server to kitchen manager around Western MA. After earning her degree from New England Culinary Institute, she opened Food for Strength (a home delivery meal service) in 2014–later expanding her company to include a café (Leo’s Table) named after her grandfather.

Marjorie J. Hurst - Bravery
An African American Point of View

Marjorie J. Hurst is an attorney and the editor and co-founder of the community news magazine, An African-American Point of View. She is a Howard University graduate with a B.A. in Speech Pathology and Audiology, a M.Ed in Urban Education from the University of Massachusetts, and a J.D. from Western New England College School of Law. Before her legal career, Marjorie was an English and Sociology teacher, an Assistant Professor of English and Black Studies, and a director of Financial Aid.

In 1985, she started as an Assistant City Solicitor for the City of Springfield, then became a solo practitioner, partner at Sapirstein & Hurst, P.C., and eventually formed the law firm of Hurst & Hurst, P.C. with her husband. Marjorie served on various committees and boards including the YWCA, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Women’s Leadership Council.

Marjorie was also active in education, serving on the Springfield School Committee for 12 years, as a board member and founder of Division IX of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, and on the Board of Trustees of Baystate Academy Charter Public School and the Judicial Nominating Committee.

Dr. Yadilette Rivera-Colón - Advocacy

Scientist, university faculty member, board member of Girls Inc. of the Valley and MassHire Holyoke; and new mother, Dr. Yadilette Rivera-Colón aka Doctora Yady passionately engages girls and women in STEM, a field in which women are still sorely underrepresented. Born and educated in Cayey, PR, Yady pursued her PhD at UMASS Amherst and has made Holyoke, MA her home. Wherever she is, Yady generously shares, models, and advocates. Her design, implementation and volunteer training for a 13-week Women in STEM service-learning course in collaboration with the Holyoke STEM Academy is one of her crowning achievements. Never a limelight seeker, Yady creatively collaborates with Girls Inc. to provide meaningful and illuminating science-based workshops for girls. Yady brims with excitement as she contributes to girls and women in the Pioneer Valley. Yes, she is a passionate powerhouse!

Dr Sheralee Tershner - Bravery
WNEU - Professor and Founding Chair of Neuroscience

Dr. Tershner earned her doctorate at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the UCSF Center for Integrative Neurosciences. She moved to the Springfield area in 1998 to take an academic position at Western New England University. She created a research-rich undergraduate neuroscience curriculum, where undergraduate students were able to conduct independent research and attend scientific conferences. Dr. Tershner served as the founding Chair of the Department of Neuroscience for over 10 years and now serves as the Director of Neuroscience as she advocated for the program to be repositioned within the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. In the new College, she has worked to create quality programming by combining the neuroscience degree with established graduate programs. Dr. Tershner is a fierce advocate for encouraging women, underrepresented minorities, and first-generation college students to fall in love with the Sciences.

Rosemary Tracy Woods headshot

Rosemary Tracy Woods - Advocacy
Art for the Soul Gallery

Rosemary Tracy Woods is the executive director of The Art for the Soul gallery in downtown Springfield. Her gallery has a purpose: to showcase artists from diverse cultures and backgrounds and to make art accessible to everyone. She’s been managing galleries for over 15 years. In 2010, the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women awarded her the Unsung Heroine Award. Rosemary was appointed by Deval Patrick as an Advocate for the Arts of western Massachusetts. In 2021, Rosemary was a recipient of the Newell Flather Award for Leadership in Public Art. Through her gallery, Woods has brought some of this country’s most renowned artists of color to the attention of Springfield’s art-loving community.

Chia Collins headshot

Chia Collins - Passion

Chia Collins was born in Orange, New Jersey in 1956 to a working class family. She was raised by a single mother who was working three jobs and education was not the focus of their family’s survival, as she had barely graduated high school and never graduated college.Despite having no formal training in business or any other field, Chia developed a passion for both business and organization that propelled her into a career of entrepreneurship and service. Alongside her husband Michael Cohen, Chia built and grew Lightlife foods into a formidable small business with a focus on changing the world by the way people eat, while also giving back to their community and employees.

After retiring from Lightlife in 2003, Chia became involved with numerous nonprofit organizations in the Connecticut River Valley, primarily assisting them in developing long-term, sustainable development efforts. Chia feels incredibly fortunate to be in her current position and is extremely grateful to the Springfield Symphony Orchestra for honoring her with this award.

Beate Bolen headshot

Beate Bolen - Advocacy
Springfield Garden Club

Beate has spent most of her working career as Chief Financial Officer and Chief Compliance Officer of a Manhattan brokerage firm. A proud resident of Springfield, MA since 2014, she now runs her own compliance consulting firm. Growing up with parents that loved to garden, Beate developed an early
passion for gardening. She became a Master Gardener in 2017 and actively volunteers in gardening projects including the Springfield Museums, the Ted Geisel/Seuss House, and several gardens in Springfield’s Forest Park. She is an active member and past President of the Springfield Garden Club and,
currently, has the honor of serving as Treasurer of the Garden Club Federation of Massachusetts and as President of the Forest Park Civic Association. She happily lives and gardens in Springfield.