A Brainerd High School student spoke through tears about how Uneva Shaw helped her overcome homelessness and earn a high school diploma.
"Anytime I needed her to get me or to take me, she's been there for me," said Janelle Tonge, who is scheduled to graduate in May. "People talk a lot, but they haven't been there like she was for me."
Shaw, director of total health management for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, was one of 10 women recognized Friday by Girls Inc. at its seventh annual UnBought and UnBossed Awards.
"It only takes one life to make a difference; blessed is the person who lives it," said Tonge before calling Shaw to receive the award.
More than 150 people attended the event. A Girls Inc. participant introduced each honoree and told of the winner's contribution to Chattanooga.
Chasity Edwards, a 10th-grader at Ivy Academy, said she did poorly in school in earlier grades. She thanked honoree Marie Daly for founding Ivy Academy, where she is a straight "A" student. And Alexis Eaton, an eighth-grader who aspires to become president of the United States, said the city's human resource administrator, Donna Kelly, has been like her "other mother."
Judy Vredenburgh, Girls Inc. international president and CEO, spoke at the event to highlight the local organization's 50th anniversary. Vredenburgh said the organization's goal in the coming year is to recruit more partners so it can help more girls.
"Girls Inc. is a program that actually works," said Vredenburgh. "It helps girls achieve educational outcomes, good health, not to get pregnant as teenagers and to go on to live really self-sufficient lives."
The Unbought and UnBossed Award is named in honor of the late Shirley Chisholm, the New York congresswoman who became the first major-party black candidate for president and the first woman to run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972.
"It (the UnBought and UnBossed award recipient) is somebody who is courageous, who stands by their convictions and who is not afraid to be themselves," said Girls Inc. Executive Director Bea Lurie.