March represents Women’s History Month and the Department of Women and Gender Studies and the Office of Alumni Engagement at Youngstown State University are recognizing some of our fabulous female graduates.
YSU is celebrating the accomplishments of five alumnae who were selected to be featured in our sixth annual display entitled, Penguin Women on the Move. As the narratives will show, these women have gone above and beyond with their personal, professional, academic and/or philanthropic endeavors. We are pleased to highlight these alumnae for truly being “Y and Proud.”
While working toward her degree at YSU, Kimberly spent much of her time volunteering and serving her community. She successfully planned and led philanthropic campaigns for Youngstown Hearing and Speech, through her sorority, Delta Zeta. Kimberly earned her BS in Human Resource Management in 2009. She began her career in payroll and has continued to excel and develop as a leader. Kimberly has a passion for recruiting and developing young talent within the Youngstown community. She stays active on campus by participating in career fairs, mentoring upcoming graduates, and developing career and internship paths for students. She has been employed by the Cafaro Company since 2010 and currently serves as their Human Resource Manager, where she manages employee payroll and leads all recruiting efforts for the company. In addition, she has helped lead several projects including the selection and implementation of a Human Capital Management system. Alongside all of her professional achievements, she and her husband Joe are the proud parents of two little boys.
Lekeila Houser embarked on her professional path at an early age. After going on a civil rights journey in the tenth grade, she grew a passion for helping others and fighting for social justice. Lekeila graduated in May 2019 from Youngstown Rayen Early College, where she took both college level courses and high school courses at the same time. The day after her high school graduation, she graduated from YSU with an Associate of Liberal Arts in General Studies. Houser then enrolled at YSU to begin her Bachelor of Social Work degree. In December 2021, she obtained her degree and went on to become a behavioral intervention specialist at Youngstown Community Schools, providing counseling to students. Houser also works as an administrator with the nonprofit Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past. With this position, she organizes voter registrations, presents the Be A Difference Maker: Anti-Racism Workshop, and helps organize and speak at protests, rallies, and vigils, as well as numerous annual Nonviolence Week activities. She is constantly looking for opportunities to advocate for social justice in her community and help students gain the tools needed to be successful.
Grimilda Ocasio Santiago
Grimilda Ocasio-Santiago graduated from Youngstown State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Telecommunications and a minor in Psychology in 2016. After graduation, Grimilda worked as the Resource Coordinator at YouthBuild Trumbull County, a program that addresses core issues in low-income communities. She then went on to work as an Associate at Merrill Lynch. Currently, Grimilda serves as a Director of Community Impact at United Way of Youngstown and Mahoning Valley. Grimilda’s perspective as a woman of color helped her to realize the significance of income inequality and the economic gap within her own Latin community, as well as in other minority communities in the Mahoning Valley area. Grimilda also serves as a “Big Sister” with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mahoning Valley, is on the YWCA International Women’s Day Committee, and previously served on the Organizacion Civica y Cultural Hispana Americana board. She previously completed the Raymond John Wean Foundation Emerging Leaders Program and is a recipient of the YSU Hispanic Leadership Student Award.
Nelda Sims graduated from Youngstown City Schools, then went on to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Education. She graduated from YSU Cum Laude in 1998 and later went on to become a special education teacher and earn a Master of Education. She became the only black female high school principal in Howard County Public School System, one of the top performing school systems in the USA. Nelda eventually retired from the school system in 2020 and became an author. She is one of ten authors in a book titled “Discovering Strength, Hidden In Sight – An Educators Perspective”. Her chapter, “Unlimited Possibilities” shares her journey as an educator. In honor of her parents, she also established the TJ and Annie Ruth Rushton Legacy Scholarship, awarded to minority students at Youngstown State University majoring in Education. Nelda attributes much of her success to adhering to her parents’ principles and strong foundation. Now, Nelda is a travel agent and enjoys traveling and spending time with her family and friends. Her goal in life is to be a positive role model, encourage, inspire, and motivate others.
Molly Toth graduated Magna Cum Laude from Youngstown State University in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology. During her time at YSU, she was the President of the Anthropology Colloquium, a co-founder of Students for Social Justice and Ohio Lady Advocates, and was involved in planning Women’s History Month programming. She was awarded the Edna K. McDonald Cultural Awareness Award and the Diversity Council Leader of Tomorrow Award while at YSU. Toth has worked for the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, PA since 2019 as the nonprofit bird zoo’s Communications and Content Specialist. She works to highlight the Aviary’s leadership in avian medicine and conservation through storytelling and media relations, and has helped the Aviary gain national and international press attention. Previously, she was the Public Relations and Advocacy Manager at YWCA Mahoning Valley, where she helped to develop and deliver advocacy programming that was nominated for a YWCA USA Excellence in Advocacy Award. Toth is currently a Master’s student at Miami University, studying science writing and researching ecological grief and conservation psychology.