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PennDOT Organization Receives Rosa Parks Diversity Leadership Award

February 18, 2020 12:00 AM
By: Dave Thompson

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​The District 8 TRUSS organization received the Women's Transportation Seminar (WTS) 2020 Rosa Parks Diversity Leadership Award. The award was presented during a WTS Central PA Gala at the Harrisburg Hershey Sheraton on January 30.

The award recognizes people or organizations that made significant contributions in promoting diversity and cultural awareness that supports the goals and mission of the WTS organization.

District 8 Executive Mike Keiser, P.E., accepted the award on behalf of TRUSS members and gala attendees Nexa Castro, Christa Newmaster, Sheila Hromadik, Fritzi Schreffler, and ADE for Design Chris Drda. The award was presented by Karen Munro and Fawn Cassel of the PA Turnpike Commission's Women's Network, which received the award last year.

"It is an absolute honor to share in receiving this award with our friends in PennDOT's TRUSS District 8 Women's Group," Ms. Munro said upon presenting the award.

Ms. Munro noted the organization was founded after District 8 highway designer Nexa Castro job shadowed then-PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards and was inspired by the secretary's focus on diversity and inclusion.

Inspiration turned to action. Nexa brought her idea of forming a women's organization to the attention of others in the district and found there was plenty of support. With encouragement from Mike Keiser and Chris Drda, a committee was formed and bylaws and vision and mission statements were written.

The group's vision is to advance women through workforce development and support.

The mission is to challenge and motivate oneself and others, inspire others to set and reach goals, share work­ life balance experiences, embrace being comfortable while being uncomfortable, welcome change, and actively listen.

TRUSS is built on five values, each standing for a letter in the organization's name: 

  • Team Building- Collaboratively work to enhance social relationships
  • Role Model- Inspire others to continue their career path
  • Uplifting- Encourage and motivate each other to achieve success
  • Support - Advocate for each other through sharing skills, experiences, and lessons learned
  • Success- Employ, retain, and support leadership roles while navigating any detours

Plans were put in motion to reach out to employees in the district and county maintenance offices. Feedback from these meetings allowed the committee to learn what employees needed and expected from the group.

The committee also set as its primary goal its first annual women's conference, where employees could come together, support one another and enjoy a day of motivational speakers and uplifting activities.

Within a few short months, the committee, in collaboration with employees from WTS and the PA Turnpike Commission, planned and designed the November conference. Held at the PA Farm Show Complex and Expo Center, the conference attracted more than 70 percent of the district's women employees.

The event was a great success. Karen Munro and Fawn Cassel were among the featured speakers. The event also included keynote speaker Krystal Turner-Childs, director of the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Forensic Services.

Although the organization was founded to provide support for women, TRUSS is an inclusive group that fosters the needs of all individuals throughout the district and welcomes men to become involved and support the group.

"It all started because of a kind gesture from the (former) secretary to let a district employee shadow her," Mike Keiser said. "It doesn't take an incredible amount of effort to encourage or uplift your employees and coworkers. In fact, it benefits everyone when others are encouraged to do their best and reach for the stars."

PennDOT's Potters Mills Gap project also received the Innovative Transportation Solutions Award for its innovative design techniques, including resolving space constraints, creating a wetland and stream mitigation site, and adding interchanges in place of at-grade intersections.

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