Women’s Initiative Announces 2016 Awards

Women’s Initiative Announces 2016 Awards

The Women’s Initiative is excited to announce the 2016 recipients of the Lois B. Green Leadership Award and the Meridith D. Wesby Young Leader Award.  Each year the Women’s Initiative honors two local women that embody leadership and values of our co-founders Lois Green and Meridith Wesby and whose deep commitment and dedication make a meaningful difference in our community.

This year’s recipients of the Lois B. Green Leadership and Meridith D. Wesby Young Leader awards are recognized for their personal achievements as well as their contributions as role models for women and girls.

Lois B. Green Leadership Award – Maureen Gray


Maureen Gray holds a life-long dedication to motivating young people to learn and achieve, to community service, and to financial empowerment for women and girls.

After earning her BA from Mercyhurst University and Master’s from Assumption College in French and Education, she launched a 21-year career as a teacher and administrator at Bancroft School, teaching foreign languages and English.  During her time there, she co-authored the textbook, The Phenomenon of Language, an exploratory language skills program for Middle School students.   At her retirement from Bancroft, she was awarded the school’s Carpe Diem Award for excellence in teaching.

In 1990, Maureen prepared to pursue a second career in financial planning.  For the last 26 years, she has advised clients on investments, retirement savings, insurance and budgeting in her profession as Senior Wealth Strategist for the Gray Group at UBS Financial Services, downtown Worcester.

Maureen has served on the Boards of several non-profit organizations, including Seven Hills Foundation, Junior League, Worcester Historical Museum and Girls Inc. She is a Trustee of Seven Hills, a Corporator of the Worcester Art Museum and a member of the Financial Literacy Committee for the Women’s Initiative.  She has enjoyed speaking at conferences and events designed to teach young women about finance, careers in finance, fund-raising and governance.

For these and other efforts, in 2015 she was awarded the Robert W. Stoddard Award for Outstanding Community Service by Bancroft School.

Maureen is known as someone who works behind the scenes connecting people to organizations to help make our community thrive.  In her mind so many have latent leadership talent and are ripe for mentoring in order to be effective on boards and committees.  She has a personal and professional mission to help others make well-informed financial and philanthropic decisions.

Maureen lives in Worcester with her husband, Bob Gray, and is the mother of three sons and the grandmother of seven, six girls and a boy.

Meridith D. Wesby Young Leader Award – Katherine Esparza

KatherineEsparza Photo

Katherine Esparza is the Community Organizer and Main South Youth Corps Coordinator for the BYRNE Grant – youth violence prevention initiatives at the Main South Community Development Corporation. Katherine is originally from Quito, Ecuador; living in Worcester since the age of 16.   During that time Katherine was involved in the fields of youth development work, public health, social and racial justice, community development, community organizing, and journalism. Katherine also worked in Honduras and Ecuador with a focus in human rights, gender equity, and environmental justice.

Katherine graduated from Clark University in 2015 with a Bachelor’s Degree in International Development & Social Change and Women’s and Gender Studies.  Katherine remained at Clark for an additional year receiving a post-graduate certificate on Youth Development Work. While pursuing her education at Clark, Katherine worked at the Latino Education Institute as a co-facilitator and mentor for Latina Achievers in Search of Success (LASOS), ELL focused programming, and service-learning. During this time, Katherine also was as a work-study student at the Main South CDC in partnership with Clark University. Through that partnership, Katherine was part of the MSCDC’s teams that served Worcester families through the First-Time Homebuyers Program, VITA, Bilingual Computer Classes, and Neighborhood Community Meetings.

In recognition of her accomplishments serving girls, Katherine was hired by the YWCA as a Program Coordinator for their Young Women Leadership Program where she developed and implemented curriculum focused on leadership and community engagement through the lenses of social and racial justice.

Katherine continues to grow in new directions including social and racial justice activism through filmmaking.  She believes in using media as a venue for social change and to amplify voices that are often unrecognized.  Katherine is also a lead organizer for the Worcester Youth.

Please join us in congratulating Maureen Gray and Katherine Esparza at the 14th Annual Stepping Up for Girls Event, which will take place Thursday, September 22, 2016 at Mechanics Hall.



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