Women in Leadership of Central Illinois (WILCI) was founded in 2003 with seed money of $250 each from six women—including current members Carol Hultgren, Barb Mishler and Kathy Schaeffer. Their mission was then, and remains today: To promote leadership among women by providing mentoring, networking and education opportunities.
Studies show that 67 percent of part-time students are non-traditional, single parents with families—and a majority of them are women. In 2006, the WILCI Scholarship Fund was established to assist women in the Tri-County area who are pursuing college/university, post-graduate or accreditation/certification for business management/professional or entrepreneurial education. The scholarship is funded by monies collected from various activities at each meeting and the annual Pathways to Success conference. The first $1,000 WILCI Scholarship was awarded in 2007.
With the ongoing dedication of WILCI’s board of directors and its members, the WILCI Scholarship Fund became an endowed fund in 2015. As an endowed fund, it will continue to help women in the community indefinitely into the future. And with a continuous focus on “feeding the fund” over time, WIL plans to increase its impact by eventually awarding annual scholarships ($1,000 or higher) to two, three or more women each year.
“One of my primary goals, along with the board, is focusing on continuing education,” says the organization’s current president, Betsy Bladel. “Mentoring and networking with women having had or experiencing similar situations in the workforce is a vital part of Women in Leadership. We want to encourage women—especially those applying for our scholarship—to ‘do the thing that you think you cannot do,’ as was so powerfully stated by Eleanor Roosevelt.” PM