Since 2001, the Seaside and Astoria chapters of the American Association of University Women and Clatsop Community College have collaborated to help Clatsop County women of all ages access equal education opportunities and more promising, productive futures through a free one-day conference.
The 2016 WINGS Conference — the acronym stands for Women Interested in Going to School — is Feb. 6, from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Clatsop Community College’s Columbia Hall. Lunch and professional child care are provided to participants during the conference.
The conference provides sessions and workshops led by college staff and other people that help women explore education options, such as certificates, the General Education Development test, degrees, job skills, career direction and financial information.
“We were lucky enough to get a college degree and we want everyone who wants one to have the same opportunity,” said Ane McIntyre, WINGS publicity chairwoman.
During the program, women hear inspirational stories from past participants or other guest speakers, such as State Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, who is a major supporter of the conference. They receive incentives to enroll at Clatsop Community College and the opportunity to apply for WINGS scholarships.
This year, the conference workshops include: degrees, certificate programs and pathways; GED certificate; federal financial aid; lives in transition; scholarships; conquering math anxiety; career planning; support services for students; and living-wage career opportunities.
The conference also features a concurrent half-day program called WINGS Latina, conducted in Spanish, which was a new addition last year.
WINGS started in 2002 and originally was intended as a one-time community service project for the American Association of University Women chapters.
“AAUW’s mission is heavily into equity for women and men and education, so it seemed like a natural thing for us to do,” said Pat Lehman, an association member and WINGS conference co-chairwoman.
In 2011, WINGS was one of the four winners of AAUW’s national Breaking Through Barriers award.
“We feel we are performing an important service,” said Lehman, who is also the chairwoman of the Clatsop Community College Foundation Board.
Over the years, WINGS has served more than 600 local women. After past conferences, many WINGS participants enrolled in one or more classes at Clatsop Community College, such as the free Lives in Transition class, or other institutions throughout the state.
“We have some amazing success stories,” Lehman said.
Community support is an important aspect of the conference. Last year, more than 100 local businesses supported WINGS through direct financial contributions, giving their employees a paid-day-off to attend and donating items for a raffle and gift bags.
“One of the things the participants talk about appreciating most is not just the gifts — which are terrific — but the fact that somebody is out there with a business saying, ‘We think that you can do it and here’s our testimony to that fact,’” Lehman said.