Local celebrities share “Aha!” moments that have helped them feel more empowered.

Casey Claypool

Marketing and Development Manager, Citilink

“My ‘Aha!’ statement is the more I’m me, the more I’m enough- showing up fully authentic, using my voice, and experience has led me where I was meant to be.”

Melanie Hall

Retired, Fort Wayne Community Schools

“I used to take things personally and get my feelings hurt. My 'Aha!' moment was when I realized that how people act is usually a reflection of what is going on in their lives and may have nothing to do with me. This made me think more about others’ feelings and what I can do to help them, as opposed to what is wrong with me.”

Kim Carpenter

VP of Client Experience, Ash Brokerage

“I felt empowered when I changed my mindset to promote other women versus comparing myself to them. Everyone has their own unique and special gift. My 'Aha!' moment was when I realized I don’t have to be like others but I can instead celebrate them!”

Carla Kilgore

Director of Mission Advancement, YWCA Northeast Indiana

“It is one thing to know there are racial disparities in health and life expectancy, but it is another to experience a colleague suffering from diseases related to stress or having parents pass away young from preventable diseases. I really feel the privileges bestowed upon me based on the zip code where I grew up and the education my parents had access to. These insights have been an 'Aha!' for me, as well as the amount of work still needed so that everyone in our community has the same opportunities for good health, access to a quality education, and affordable housing.”

Randy Rusk

Community Affairs Manager, Do it Best Foundation

“I’ve found that most people are willing to give their time, talent, and treasure when you can clearly articulate the why and then provide a path towards action.”

Kathy Gaines

Happily Retired

“Empowerment can come when someone sees an ability in you and trusts you to do something you never would have dreamed of. This happened for me, and because of this, one of my 'Aha!' moments was when I learned from Fort Wayne Community Schools leadership that 'hope is not a strategy.' If we are looking to have different results, we will continue to receive what we always have received if we continue to do the same things. For change, empower others. See the ability in others. Trust in others.”

Ginny Clark

Founder of Bookstart and Community Volunteer

“In 2000, I knew it was important to select books that showed minority children in the illustrations so that the families of color could see themselves in the books. My 'Aha!' moment was when Jennifer Hayes, who was helping with the Read to Me program, pointed out to me that it was equally important for White children to see others in lead roles in the stories. This 'Aha!' moment changed my book selection process and my understanding of racism ever since.”

Kara Densmore

Community Executive Assistant, Old National Bank

“My daughter teaches me every day to be flexible and to treat everyone with kindness. She may only be three years old, but she shows me the importance of having fun in everything we do. My ‘Aha!’ moment is that learning can come from people of any age.”

Joyce Armstrong-Brown

Co-Owner, Aegis Sales & Engineering

"My 'Aha!' moment was realizing that we all want the same thing—to know that we matter. I love Maya Angelou’s words: 'People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you make them feel.' I strive to make the people I encounter feel seen and heard."

Kim Murphy

VP of Shared Services, Ruoff Mortgage

"I've had micro 'Aha!' moments throughout my entire life...a lot of them probably subconsciously! But every time I volunteer, or donate, or read a book or article, or have a conversation with someone, or attend an event, etc; I am actively aware of an 'Aha!' moment. And those golden nuggets are what keep me engaged and inspired to be more and do more!”

Marsha Smiley

Community Advocate

"While teaching third graders, I witnessed a child express fear of Asian people when I informed the class that Chinese guest speakers were coming to share their culture. My 'Aha!' moment was when I saw how engaged this child became with our guests while learning to use chopsticks. False perceptions can change with exposure to real experiences."

Steve Sullivan

Retired Educator

"We all have an opportunity to learn from others. I feel empowered when others look to learn from me. An 'Aha!' moment for me is when I elected to speak up at a Fort Wayne City Council meeting, which is when I discovered just how empowering speaking up on something I believe in can be. We all have a voice, and we should feel empowered in using it."

Harini Bonam

President, Sangam Fort Wayne
Young Women & Girls Committee
YWCA Circle Steering Committee
Community Advocate

"My 'Aha!' moment happened when I became a part of YWCA's Circle Steering Committee. It was the realization that my voice advocating against domestic violence, as an Asian American and Brown person, might encourage victims (men or women) to come forward and seek help. They don’t have to live in shame and fear. I feel it is my duty to continue to bring awareness, including my friends and family."

Hannah Shoue

Grants Manager, YWCA Northeast Indiana

"Before working at YWCA, I didn't know much about domestic violence or addiction. I applied to YWCA Northeast Indiana to use my skills to help women and further their mission. In my time here, I've greatly deepened my knowledge of how domestic violence and substance use affect women in particular, in addition to systemic barriers such as racism and misogyny. My 'Aha!' moment is that now, knowing that 1 in 3 women in our community have experienced domestic violence and understanding the clinical nature of substance use disorder, I have greater compassion for the variety of challenges facing women and survivors. I am honored to be able to make a slight difference in the circumstances of others through my role at YWCA."

Cheri Becker

Principal, Becker Consulting

"Leadership is a gift and privilege built on trust. To be a leader in the advancement of women, one must be willing to add your name to bring someone else forward. An 'Aha!' moment is that women cannot afford to stand in the shadows. Look for ways to help advance others. Seek out. Stay curious."

Tamyra Kelly

Public Information Officer, East Allen County Schools

"An 'Aha!' moment for me was when I realized that when we choose to forgive it opens up blessings that are stored up just for us! After you forgive…breathe, smile, and move forward."

Kayla Luithly

YWCA Northeast Indiana Marketing and Development Committee Member

"At times, I have experienced imposter syndrome. It was an 'Aha!' moment for me when someone I admire confessed that they, too, experience these feelings at times. Being authentic and vulnerable can be freeing! The more I practice being me with people I trust, the more I discover the beauty in it, especially during tough times."

Tom Salzer

Principal, Health & Wellness Market Leader
Elevatus Architecture

“Much of what I know about being a professional and a good family man I learned from my father-in-law, Bob Sebastian. He taught me how to set my priorities, with family coming first. My ‘Aha!’ moment is that not everyone has had support from family. I have an ‘Aha!’ moment at almost every YWCA board meeting when I hear what our clients face and how we help them.”

Dawn Clopton

Vice President - Community Development, Premier Bank

"In my spare time, I get the opportunity to coach cheerleading. Over the years, students come and go. Some names and faces I remember, but some I don’t. It wasn’t until my 7th year of coaching that I had a former student return to thank me for setting their life on the right path. While she was my student, she was homeless. But because I made an effort to keep her on my team and on a regular schedule with the others, she was able to build confidence, make the most of her situation, and learn valuable lessons about family and community. She was able to graduate and even attend college. She credits her success partly to me because I didn’t give up on her. My “Aha!” moment is to never give up on anyone because of their temporary circumstances. Help them overcome it!"

Becky Hill

Retired, former CEO of YWCA Northeast Indiana

"Rosetta Moses Hill helped me and everyone else realize how racism affected her on a daily basis. She was the best teacher. My “Aha!” moment is that we need to continually be learning to be good students of those around us."