Partners for Peace Celebration
“… people would remember about me was that I had been a loyal company employee and a hard worker. Sadly, I hadn’t done much of anything else, other than working in the church. That didn’t sit well with me.
I started InStepp Inc. so that I could leave behind a different type of legacy…”
– Gilda P. Womble
Gilda P. Womble is the Founder and CEO of InStepp, Inc.
For more than a decade, Gilda Pettiford Womble has worked to create a more socially just society as an advocate of women’s rights and social justice issues. A native North Carolinian, Gilda was born and raised in Durham. She earned her undergraduate degree in Mathematics and MSPH in Biostatistics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Gilda worked for 30 years as a biostatistician in the pharmaceutical industry. At the time of her retirement in December 2006, she was the Director of Statistics and Programming, Biomedical Data Sciences for the US Neurosciences Medical Development Center at GlaxoSmithKline and its legacy companies in the Research Triangle Park.
Following her career in the pharmaceutical industry, Gilda founded InStepp Inc., a Durham-based nonprofit company that offers gender responsive services to women with individual challenges to self-sufficiency. Under the umbrella of InStepp Inc., Gilda has worked tirelessly since 2007 to help provide long-term support and training to justice-involved women and female victims of domestic and sexual abuse. In 2010, she added culturally- and linguistically-specific services to InStepp’s portfolio of programs to address the unique needs and issues of Hispanic-Latino immigrant women in our community, and in 2016 began offering low cost, affordable immigration legal services to low-income immigrants after the organization was recognized by the Department of Justice as an authorized provider of Immigration Legal Services. Gilda is currently the CEO and Managing Director at InStepp Inc. and is a Department of Justice Accredited Immigration Counselor at the company.
Gilda has also participated in coalitions and grassroots organizing and messaging campaigns aimed at educating and engaging the public around issues that impact the quality of life of women. She was an active participant in the Ban the Box initiative that kicked off locally in Durham in 2011 that advocated for reforms that would end job discrimination against people who were formerly incarcerated. She was a member of the Durham County Women’s Commission from December 2012 to June 2016 and served on the Durham County Criminal Justice Advisory Board from 2012 to 2016.
Gilda embraces the philosophy that respect, acceptance, appreciation and compassion are essential to our existence in a socially just society. She believes that each of us “must be the change we want to see in the world.”
Amy L’Esperance is the School Social Worker of the Year working at Glenn Elementary School.
Mrs. L’Esperance received her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Hope College in Holland, Michigan, and her Masters in Social Work from Indiana University. She moved to Durham, North Carolina in 2015, and has been a School Social Worker with Durham Public Schools for 4 years.
Mrs. L’Esperance was the Durham Public Schools Social Worker of the Year for the 2018-2019 school year. She loves the joy and excitement that children offer, and is grateful for the opportunity to build relationships with students and families year after year.
Mrs. L’Esperance enjoys working with a multi-disciplinary team in the school setting, because she believes the holistic needs of children are best met when teachers, administrators, parents, counselors, social workers, psychologists, and community partners all have a voice at the table. She has a passion for implementing Trauma-Informed practices in the school setting, and enjoys doing counseling with students on a daily basis. Her practice is shaped by the foundational belief that children and families are extremely resilient, and that all children have the capacity to make a positive impact on their communities. In her spare time, she loves going to Duke Gardens, gardening, spending time at Reality Ministries, and having dinner with friends.