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Local AAUW branch underwriting The MAKERS


POTSDAM - The St. Lawrence County AAUW branch is partnering with WPBS-TV in Watertown to underwrite The MAKERS broadcast. Interspersed with the three hours of national Maker profiles that begin at 8 pm on Tues., Feb. 26 will be short interviews with North Country women “Makers” filmed recently in Canton. These local profiles will also be aired during Women’s History Month programming in March.

The MAKERS series tells the story of exceptional American women — both famous and heretofore unknown individuals — whose pioneering contributions continue to shape virtually every aspect of American culture

The local Makers are Potsdam’s Barbara Gordon, the former president of SLC Literacy of Northern New York Coordinator, and Donna Seymour, a long-time community activist, and Canton residents Nafeesa Johnson, the SUNY Canton Student Government President, and Ashley Keys, of Renewal House/Crisis Intervention

The strength of a community can be measured by the strength of its women. Barbara “Bobby” Gordon, like many other women of her generation, is a strong, smart, highly capable and humble woman. Typical of women who have derived life satisfaction from serving, first, her family and, second, her community, she has made a difference by rolling her sleeves up and demonstrating skills that reflect the ability to be resourceful, improvise, and fill niches in the lives of others in her community.

Arriving in Potsdam 34 years ago, Gordon substitute taught in area schools until she began part-time teaching Basic Literacy skills program in a grant-funded Adult Education program. Her efforts eventually led to full-time work in a program at BOCES with a GED night course, the External Diploma Program, a NYS rural pilot site program. She retired in 2000, but soon returned to post-“retirement” work as the Program Director for Literacy of Northern NY, a position she only recently left.

In her role coordinating volunteer literacy tutors, Gordon assisted women in particular (approximately 75% of the organization’s served population is female) who might otherwise be isolated in their homes in northern NY, as many of her clients at Literacy of Northern NY are from the Middle East, Korea, Eastern Europe or other places where English is not the first language spoken.

A life-long resident of the North Country, Donna Seymour has spent her adult life as a volunteer with local and state-wide organizations. Her “alphabet soup” resume includes AAUW, PTA, and LWV, just to name a few of the groups she lends her time and energy to. Collaborating with people and groups to pulling together diverse ideas and build coalitions is a personal strength.

With a background in history, her wide-ranging interests in education and children’s issues, women’s public policy issues, sustainably, energy and environmental issues, and advocacy training over the years has put her in a position to facilitate change. Her goal is always to make that positive societal change.

She currently serves in her “dream job” as the public policy director for AAUW-NYS, the American Association of University Women. She is serving with the coalition to support the NYS Women’s Equality Agenda, a 10-point set of legislative initiatives to improve the economic and legal status of women here in the state.

As more recent transplant to Canton, Nafeesa Johnson wasted no time diving into the life of her college community and making a difference. Born in Brooklyn, she is a senior at SUNY Canton, majoring in Law Enforcement Leadership with a minor in Homeland Security. During her years at SUNY Canton, she has served in many roles from a Resident Assistant, College Activities Board President, to the current president of the Student Government Association (SGA).

Johnson is completing her second year on the executive committee for the Student Assembly of the State University of New York, the governing body for over 400,000 students within the SUNY system.

Last fall, she very effectively mobilized students on her campus to “Rock the Roo” with a voter registration blitz initiative to encourage new and experienced voters to register to get out and vote. Over 300 students were registered, many for the first time. On Election Day, she volunteered to drive a shuttle van to and from the polls.

Her constant activism and innovative ideas on campus have led to many positive changes. She is responsible a monthly discussion forum entitled “Diverse Discussion,” a safe haven for students, staff and faculty members to discuss many real life issues without concern for ridicule or criticism. She has become bridge between the students and administration. Johnson is a driving force for positive change on campus, serving as a role model to her fellow students, and has earned the lasting respect of the college community.

Gifted with high energy and a powerful drive to help others, Ashley Keyes started her volunteer work at age 16 at a small veterinary office until she graduated from Beaver River Central School. After high school, she settled in Richland, NY where she volunteered at a small animal shelter/rescue organization.

Returning to Lewis County in 2009, she began training and volunteering with Lewis County Opportunities for the Domestic Violence Rape Crisis Department, where she takes hotline calls on her shifts, totaling more than 1900 hours to date.

She began volunteering with Canton’s Renewal House in June 2012, while continuing to volunteer with Lewis County Opportunities. At Renewal House, Keyes is an on-call advocate for domestic violence and rape crisis. She is a dedicated volunteer, offering her evenings and weekends to be on call, averaging about 100 hours per month.

Another SUNY Canton student, Keyes is currently working on her business administration degree while working full time with Community Bank NA and maintaining her full volunteering schedule with both Renewal House and Lewis County Opportunities.

The MAKERS premiers on WBBS-TV on Tues., Feb. 26 from 8-11 pm. Visit to look for stories from MAKERS including Judy Blume, Carol Burnett, Katie Couric, Ellen DeGeneres, Geraldine Ferraro, Billie Jean King, Maya Lin, Condoleezza Rice, Faith Ringgold, Gloria Steinem, and many, many more.

Membership in the St. Lawrence County Branch is open to anyone who supports the mission of AAUW. AAUW advances equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, and research.

AAUW, with its nationwide network of more than 100,000 members, more than 1,000 branches conducting programs in communities across the country, and 500 college and university partners, has been a leading advocate for equity and education for women and their families since 1881.

For more information about AAUW in St. Lawrence County, contact President Jennifer Ball at 268- 4208 or or Public Policy Chair Kathleen Stein at 386-3812,, or visit the branch website,

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