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Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders drops out of the race for president, though he assured supporters yesterday his movement will continue. A federal judge ruled this week a lawsuit in Florida awaiting trial will apply to all people with former felony convictions, not just the 17 plaintiffs.

AARP Contest Finalist from KY Helps Women Find New Opportunities

October 31, 2011

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Education and empowerment sum up the life's mission and work of a Lexington woman who's one of seven national contenders for a $10,000 prize to benefit their charity. AARP is sponsoring the "Create the Good Win and Do Good" contest honoring older Americans' community volunteer stories and efforts.

Kentuckians are rooting for Jane Stephenson, who founded the New Opportunity School for Women (NOSW) in Berea nearly 25 years ago. It's a free three-week career and leadership development program that teaches essential workplace skills for low-income women in the central Appalachian region.

"It's about 80 percent now of the women who have been through our programs who have had family incomes of less than $10,000 a year. So, it's important for them to become educated, trained and get a job."

The NOSW is no stranger to national attention, as it was once featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

Communications Director Scott Wegenast of AARP Kentucky says the sweepstakes isn't just another online gimmick, but shows the group's commitment to bring resources to nonprofits delivering critical community services.

"Jane's vision and her work with low-income women of Appalachia is touching lives every day. She's served and the school has served more 700 students over these last 25 years, and it makes a real difference."

Waco resident George Ann Lakes is a case in point. In 1988, Lakes was staring at $300,000 in medical bills racked up by her late husband's illness. After filing for bankruptcy, Lakes, a high school dropout, realized another change was necessary: getting her GED. A graduate of the NOSW program, Lake eventually earned her master's degree in social work at the age of 61. Now aged 68, she credits Jane Stephenson for empowering her to keep growing.

"No one had ever said, 'George, you're smart, you can do things.' I was a second-class citizen all my life. So, someone took me under their wing, like Jane, and the people that work there, and said, 'You can do this.' And I did."

Jane Stephenson says success stories like Lake's are the real reward. She believes that even if she doesn't win the $10,000 grand prize, she'd count it a bonus if she inspires others to "create the good" in their communities.

"You know, there may be people that hear about it, and are intrigued by it, and would want to start a similar program where they are. And we're glad to help people that want to do that."

Stephenson has already won $5,000 in AARP's regional volunteer contest.

The public is now invited to cast ballots for the national grand prize winner; online voting ends November 18 and is available at

Renee Shaw, Public News Service - KY