Trinity invites public women to push service

? From lawyers to firefighters, Trinity students get the opportunity to see a variety of role models.

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By BILL DWYER

Girls moving from adolescence to young adulthood can always benefit from a good role model?#34;or two.  Tuesday morning Trinity High School provided two dozen. The school, which prides itself on excellence and service, invited 24 accomplished women to speak at a "Women in Public Service" program.

Every year the school hosts an event where accomplished  women share their experiences with Trinity students.

"Last year it was 'Women in Health,'" said Trinity's Mary Tansey. "In past years it's been subjects like technology, and art. It's always very, very well received."

Part of that success is due to the women selected as speakers.

"Most of the women who come here to speak are enthusiastic about their careers," added Sheila Scott, who oversees the career program at Trinity.

No one was more enthusiastic than Tuesday's key note speaker Mary Dempsey Corboy, who extolled the virtues of both all-girl high school education and public service. As Chicago's Library commissioner, Dempsey knows something about public service and dealing with powerful people.

Dempsey, who was born in Austin, grew up in Hillside and said she genuinely loves the Library Commissioner's job. But when Mayor Richard M. Daley reached out to her last month to help straighten out systemic problems in the scandal-plagued City Procurement Department, Dempsey, a lawyer who also has a masters degree in library science, agreed to a six month leave of absence from the library board.

She now finds herself in a city hall office delving through paperwork for some 700 minority- and women-owned businesses, ferreting out possible fraud cases.

Tuesday morning Dempsey's thoughts weren't in city hall, but 35 years ago in high school, and she shared those thoughts with her young, attentive audience.

"We share a bond, you and I," Dempsey told her young audience. "Where you are, I was 35 years ago."

"A great deal of who I am today I attribute to going to an all-girl's high school," said Dempsey, expressing gratitude for the strengths she said her education left her with.

Dempsey acknowledged that she didn't grow up with a "burning desire" for public service, but added that she was always open to the possibility of change. Her high school years, she stressed, helped prepare her for whatever came her way.

Sandra Sokol has been a teacher, community activist and a member of the village's community relations department, as well as a mother. For the past 12 years she's been Oak Park's Village Clerk, and is running for reelection to a fourth term this April.

Sokol said today's young women have many career choices.

"I tell them they can be whatever they want to be," said Sokol. "It takes hard work, and education is important."

Delayne Carson is a woman in what remains largely a male job?#34;she is a fire fighter. Like the other women, Carson wants to serve others. But Carson wasn't satisfied with just being an Oak Park fire fighter. For her, the job was also about proving herself and achieving excellence.

The nine year veteran spent hundreds of hours studying and training to be a part of her department's elite Technical Rescue team, which constantly prepares to tackle the toughest emergency situations, such as rappelling down the side of tall buildings during fires.

She is, she said, willing to do "anything I can do to better myself and become a stronger fire fighter and paramedic."

Firefighters aren't the only people who must confront risks in their job, however. Several of Tuesday's speakers are assistant state's attorneys, who prosecute serious criminals. One of those women declined to discuss details of her personal life with the media Friday, citing safety concerns.

That concern was sadly and chillingly reinforced by news headlines Tuesday morning that Federal Judge Joan Lefkow's husband and mother had been murdered Monday night.

Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy, an Oak Park native whose daughter Mary attends Trinity, said she once worked with Lefkow. Clearly saddened by the news, Kennedy said Judges can't dwell on the risks they assume. "I don't think about it on a day to day basis," she said.

A Trinity alum, Kennedy echoed the comments of her colleagues, saying she was delighted and honored to return to her old school.

 "It's such a great, dynamic place," she said.

Contact: bdwyer@wjinc.com

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