I was born and raised in the Hoosier state. This is a place that I love dearly. This is home. I know what it is like to grow up with a strong woman. My mother has been my rock since day one. She has always supported me and been there for me through the good and the bad. There is nothing like a strong woman. Far too many times women have been put down in our society. The narrative around women has not always been positive, even though often times it is the woman who sticks around and raises the child many times on her own. Now, more than ever, strong female figures need to be normalized. In my state, I want to recognize women who have been champions of hope.
Christel DeHaan – She is an German born American businesswoman and philanthropist. Christel DeHaan is worth an estimated $900 million. She made her fortunate when she sold her Resort Condominiums International (RCI) for $825 million. She went on to found Christel House International. She has given away a reported $220 million of her own money to charity. Her non-profit Christel House International runs four schools serving impoverished children in foreign countries. Not only does Christel House International run schools in countries such as Mexico, India, and South Africa, but it also runs a charter network right here in Indianapolis called Christel House Academies, which has four campuses in Indianapolis: Indianapolis Academy South, Indianapolis Academy West, Indianapolis DORS South, and Indianapolis DORS West. Christel DeHaan has been a Hoosier since moving here at the age of 20. Her generosity can be felt all over the city including her donation to the University of Indianapolis to build the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center. DeHaan’s philanthropy is one that inspires many: to care, to share, and to make a difference.
Tanya Walton Pratt – Judge Tanya Walton Pratt is the judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. Born and raised in Indianapolis, IN, Judge Pratt is a graduate of Cathedral High School. She received her bachelor’s degree from Spelman and her JD from Howard University. She practiced law in Indianapolis as a lawyer from 1984-1996. In 1997, she became a judge in Marion County where she worked in the criminal division. Her focus was primarily major felonies. She was assigned to the Marion County’s probate court in 2009. In 2009, then President Barack Obama appointed her federal judge in Indiana. Judge Pratt became the first African American federal judge in the history of Indiana.
Deborah Hearn Smith – She is the former CEO of Girl Scouts of Central Indiana. She has been involved with Girl Scouts since the age of five when she became a Brownie. Her mother was a Girl Scouts leader. She credits her experience working at an outdoor camp with girls that inspired her to take a path with Girl Scouts. Under her leadership, Girl Scouts of Central Indiana was able to reach out to girls in underserved communities. She was able to recruit girls from Hispanic and African American communities to participate. She led an organization that was committed to inclusion. That focus on inclusion was fundamental in reaching girls from all racial, religious, and ethnic backgrounds. Deborah Smith stepped down as CEO at the end of last year, but her legacy and impact continues.
During Women’s History Month, we lift up the work of these champions of hope.