HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP)– Girls Inc. of the Valley will be adding a new award during their Spirit of Girls event in May.

This year will be the introduction of the Dream Maker Award. The organization is honoring nine recipients, including WWLP-22News. The award recognizes people and organizations in the community that supported Girls Inc. in the past two years with high-quality learning opportunities, advocating for funding for Girls Inc. programs, volunteering, and donating funds.

The Spirit of Girls event will be held Thursday, May 5 from 7-9pm at the Big E fairgrounds in West Springfield. For more information on the event,  use the Girls Inc. of the Valley website here.

Below is a list of all the Dream Maker Award recipients:

Mary Kay Brown is the Director of Partnerships at John J. Duggan Academy, a Social Justice Magnet School, Kennedy Middle School and the Academy at Kiley. She has been the liaison to get Girls Inc. programming in Springfield schools and has advocated for funding from the district for Girls Inc.’s healthy sexuality curriculum.

Angelina Cicerchia graduated from UMass Amherst in 2021 with a bachelor’s degree and currently works at Mass General Hospital. She has been an incredible champion for youth, which includes her dedication as a mentor in Girls Inc.’s College Access Now (CAN) Mentor Program. Her favorite part about the CAN Mentor Program has been getting to know the scholars, as their hard work always inspires her.

Dr. Cady Coleman is a former NASA Astronaut and Air Force Colonel with more than 180 days in space, accumulated during two space shuttle missions and a six-month expedition to the International Space Station (ISS), where she acted as the Lead Robotics and Lead Science officer. Dr. Coleman is a vocal advocate for inclusion in STEM fields. She has hosted workshops to energize youth about space and science careers, and inspired girls to dream bigger and pursue a career as an astronaut.

Rep. Patricia Duffy represents Massachusetts Fifth Hampden District, which consists of Holyoke and is expanding to include Chicopee Ward 3B in January 2023. She continues to advocate for state funding for Girls Inc. and hosted the press event at Girls Inc.’s new home at 480 Hampden Street. Rep. Duffy’s weekly resource meetings for organizations during the height of the pandemic were also incredibly impactful.

Sarah Etelman has been a part of the Girls Inc. family for more than 12 years (which includes nearly a year as a consultant before a full-time position opened up). During that time, she’s excited to have been witness to the many transformations that Girls Inc. inspires. The past few years have been especially tumultuous, and Sarah is grateful to have had the support of her Girls Inc. friends and family. During the pandemic, she helped keep girls creatively engaged with felting workshops, and outfitted Girls Inc. staff with handmade masks.

Nikai Fondon is a recent graduate of the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst, and now works at a woman-owned marketing agency. She hosts her own podcast called She Did That!; a podcast dedicated to highlighting women of color leaders in our community. She has lent her voice to the Girls and Racism Town Hall, and worked with Girls Inc. teens to develop their own Zine

Jean Mendoza currently serves as the Director of Marketing & Communications for Auxiliary Enterprises at UMass Amherst, where she facilitates and leads high level marketing projects and strategic plans for the campus community and beyond. A proud Springfield native, her commitment to enrich, empower, and engage her local community has been a priority throughout her career. She has shown up for youth in incredible ways, most recently as a mentor in the CAN Mentor Program.

Senator John C. Velis represents the 2nd Hampden and Hampshire district in the Massachusetts State Senate, which includes the City of Holyoke and 10 other cities and towns in Western Massachusetts. He has been a champion of the Eureka! Program, secured a $50,000 earmark for Girls Inc.’s new building on 480 Hampden St., and continues to advocate for state funding.


WWLP-22News, an NBC affiliate, is the area’s multimedia leader and the most watched television station in the market. The station and its reporters have participated in important conversations that center and elevate girls’ voices in the community, like Project Red to bring awareness to the inaccessibility of period products during the pandemic, and Project TEAL, to shine a light on the hyper-sexualization of girls and women of color.