Choice Usa Celebrates Its 21st Birthday by Honoring Young Activists With Jessica Valenti and Gloria Steinem

Generation to Generation Celebration Awards Reproductive Justice Activists

July 18, 2013

Kate Londen

(202) 965-7700 ext. 115


Washington, D.C. — Choice USA, the leading youth-focused national reproductive justice organization, awarded outstanding young leaders in the field of reproductive rights and justice, and veteran activists who make their work possible.  This year Choice USA also celebrated its 21st anniversary with special reflections on the history of the organization.

“Young people bring passion and commitment to the fight for reproductive justice,” said Kierra Johnson, Choice USA’s executive director. “Whether by the lobbying in the statehouse, voting at the polls, blogging online, or organizing on campus – young people are living their pro-choice values and their progressives identities.”

The event featured five awards, one to honor excellent work from a student chapter and four awards to individuals. Nicole Clark, social worker and writer, won the Excellence in Leadership award, recognizing a young leader. Founder and Executive Director of Brooklyn’s Girls for Gender Equity, Joanne Smith, was awarded with the Steinem-Waters Legacy Award. Also receiving that award was Dr. Tracy Weitz, co-founder and executive director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health, a research institution based in the University of California, San Francisco. Honoring a lifetime of contribution to the progressive movement, Mary Jean Collins accepted the Catalyst award.

Among the awardees are student organizers, bloggers, medical researchers, social workers, and non-profit directors. Their issues range from the reproductive rights of women of color, to research on abortion, to after-school programs in urban middle schools.

At the event, two famous feminists made their mark on the crowd. Delivering the keynote address, author and founder of, Jessica Valenti, delivered a powerful speech. Choice USA co-founder Gloria Steinem delivered closing remarks via video.

“Choice USA has had a rich history that should be written about in a book someday,” said Gloria Steinem, Choice USA co-founder. “Thank you to each and every one of you who made these last 21 years possible.”



Choice USA envisions a world where all people have agency over their own bodies and relationships and the power, knowledge and tools to exercise that agency .Choice USA builds this vision by engaging young people in creating and leading the way to sexual and reproductive justice for all by providing training, field mobilization and national leadership for a youth-driven agenda.


2013 Generation 2 Generation Award Winners


Outstanding Chapter Award

University of Kansas

The Commission on the Status of Women is the Choice USA chapter representative at the University of Kansas. The Commission is the longest running student organization on campus. For many years they have collaborated with their campus and community to further the status quo of women in Kansas. In recent years, with the help of Choice USA, the Commission has evolved into a stronger activist group advocating for equality and healthy communities at the campus and state level. Students in the Commission come together every year to hold annual events that promote sexual health and well-being, gender equality, and reproductive rights.

Excellence in Leadership Award

Nicole Clark, MSW

Nicole Clark is a social worker, program evaluator, and consultant for nonprofits, businesses, and community groups dedicated to improving their approach to developing culturally relevant and gender-positive programming, campaigns, and initiatives for youth, women, and communities of color. Nicole creates effective and engaging workshops that encourage critical thinking, discussion, and action-taking to change the narratives that negatively impact underrepresented communities. Nicole is also a reproductive justice activist, recognizing that many aspects of the lives of women and girls of color (including race, gender, environment, sexual orientation, religion, etc.) impact women and girls’ access to adequate sexual and reproductive health services. Nicole has a B.A. in Psychology from Spelman College and a Masters of Social Work degree from the Columbia University School of Social Work, centering on direct practice, program design/ implementation, evaluation and monitoring, and organizational development. Nicole is based in New York City.

Steinem-Waters Legacy Awards

Dr. Tracy Weitz

Tracy A Weitz, PhD, MPA is a lifetime advocate for women’s health.  She is currently the Director of the Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) program of the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) where she designs and undertakes mixed methods research that focuses on innovative strategies to expand abortion provision in the U.S.  She serves on the boards of the Breast Cancer Action (chair) and the Society of Family Planning, having recently completed two terms on the board of the ACLU of Northern California.  She also serves on committees for the California Family Health Council, Law Students for Reproductive Justice, the Guttmacher Institute, and Medicines360.  From 2006-2010, she served as an appointed member of the Women’s Health Council, an advisory body to the California Departments of Health Care Services and Public Health.  In 2009, she received the Felicia Stewart award from the Population, Family Planning and Reproductive Health section of the American Public Health Association, in 2012 was awarded the UCSF Academic Senate Distinction in Mentoring Award, and in 2013 the Distinguished Contribution to Sociological Praxis Award from the Pacific Sociological Association. She has an MA degree in public administration with an emphasis in health care and a PhD in medical sociology from the University of California, San Francisco.

Joanne Smith, MSW

Joanne N. Smith, founder and executive director of Girls for Gender Equity, is responsible for moving Girls for Gender Equity (GGE) closer to its mission through strategic planning, development, and leadership cultivation.

Ms. Smith is a Haitian-American social worker born in New York City. She founded GGE in 2001 with the support of the Open Society Foundation to end gender-based violence and promote gender, race and class equality.

Joanne completed post-graduate training at Ackerman Institute for the Family, providing therapy to families, supporting the family/school collaborative and linking families to community resources. Joanne is an alumna of Hunter Graduate School of Social Work and Columbia Institute for Nonprofit Management.  She has co-authored her first book published by Feminist Press, Hey Shorty: A Guide to Combating Sexual Harassment and Violence in Public Schools and on the Streets, 2011.

Joanne has been honored with a number of prestigious organizations, including the Union Square Award and the Stonewall Democratic Club in recognition of her leadership and dedication to women’s and LGBTQ rights. She is part of the first Move to End Violence cohort—a 10-year initiative designed by NoVo Foundation to strengthen the collective capacity to end violence against girls and women in the United States. Currently Smith is a Young Leader of the French-American Foundation. The program takes up-and-coming leaders in government, business, media, military, culture and the non-profit sector to discuss transatlantic policies, globalization and intersectional issues affecting France and America.   Joanne resides in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.

VIP Tribute

Mary Jean Collins

Mary Jean Collins has devoted her life to progressive issues, including reproductive freedom. She is currently working as a consultant. She formerly served as the Senior Vice-President and National Political Director for People for the American Way and its political action committee. Collins has also served as the Deputy Director and the Director of Public Affairs at Catholics for Choice and as National Vice-President for the National Organization for Women. Collins also served on the Choice USA board of directors from 2005 to 2011.