Two women were named Women of Distinction at an event at Washington State University Vancouver this week.
Marina Reilly-Collette, who studies mechanical engineering at the Vancouver campus, and Gaylene Smith, the founder of the Café Feminino Coffee Project and Foundation, received the honors.
Reilly-Collette has provided shelter for 10 women in the last few years, all of them relative strangers. She let half of the women stay for free and the rest on very manageable terms. At the same time, Reilly-Collette balances a challenging course of study and a job. She does this alone, without family support, using only financial aid and her small income.
In her engineering work, Reilly-Collette studies the environmental consequences of using carbon-fiber nanotubes and their potential to cause cancer.
The second honoree, Gaylene Smith, saw the impoverished and disenfranchised status of women in the coffee-growing communities of Peru during a visit there. She founded a coffee import business called the Café Feminino Coffee Project and a foundation to support the needs of women and children around the world.
Working with farming cooperatives in 12 countries around the world, Smith supports programs and small grants that improve the social status and health of families and whole communities.
Maya Muller, principal of Muller Design Studio, delivered the keynote speech, in which she shared her path from being a teenager without a high school diploma to becoming a teacher and business owner.
“It’s possible to take your own path and still succeed,” Muller said.