Highland's Women of Distinction

Left to right, Senator Mike Morrell, Yolanda Davis-Smith, Anne Viricel, Laura Smith, and Assemblyman Marc Steinorth.

For 11 years, the annual Women of Distinction Awards Ceremony has recognized special women. Highland, as part of the 23rd State Senatorial District, celebrated and honored three women on Oct. 16 at the University of Redlands’ Orton Center.

The ceremony, which celebrated women from 14 cities across Southern California, emphasized how important contributions of women are to the state.

“We want to thank you for giving your time to our community, and making the Inland Empire a better place to live for everyone,” said State Senator Mike Morrell in his opening remarks.

Highland recipients:

• An advocate for the mentally ill and homeless, Yolanda Davis-Smith has provided shelter, food, clothing, and community resources to women suffering under such conditions. Smith, as a veteran of the United States Air Force, has a soft spot for those who serve our country, and has become the Vice Commander of the National Association of Black Veterans. This motivational speaker and writer dedicates and devotes her life to encouraging and empowering fellow women, and has created a wonderful role model in herself for her children.

• Anne Viricel, known for her position as Executive Director of the San Bernardino Symphony, was at right home as a professor at the University of Redlands. While she serves on the board of multiple committees, Viricel makes her devotion to the city evident through her support of many nonprofits organizations such as the Bonnes Meres Auxiliary and the CASA of San Bernardino. The U of R has recognized her heart and devotion, and has honored her with the Excellence in Teaching Award.

• The final Highland Women of Distinction is the lead teacher and driving force for Arroyo Valley High School’s Educators for Tomorrow program. Laura Smith is making a difference on campus through the Best Buddies Group and Rotary Youth Leadership Association, where each of these programs educate youth on leadership roles in their community as well as encourage the students to pursue them. Smith’s active enthusiasm for teaching has led her to receive multiple awards, such as the Crystal Apple Award and the Smaller Learning Community Teacher of the Year Award.

The final award was given to Yolanda Davis-Smith for her work with U.S. veterans.

“You all have a story such as these,” concluded Morrell. “That’s what makes the Inland Empire great. The work you do here is more important than the work in Sacramento, and for that we want to thank you.”

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