The Zonta Club of Sanibel-Captiva has chosen Ekaterina (Katja) Pedersen-Diaz, a junior at Estero High School, to receive the 2021 Young Women in Public Affairs Award. This award, which recognizes superior leadership skills and a commitment to public service, was established by Zonta International to address the disparity in the representation of women in legislature, and emphasizes the importance of women having equal participation in decision-making processes.
Katja, almost 17, is very involved in both her school and home communities. She is the vice president of Estero High School’s chapter of Key Club, a public service organization, and participates actively in many student organizations and the school’s Gender Sexuality Alliance. Due to COVID, her plans to play the part of a public defender in a community teen court program have been curtailed for now. Within the greater community, Katja volunteers at Hope Hospice and the Hope Chest Store.
She plans to pursue a degree in biological engineering as a first step toward the possibility of a career in medicine or pharmacology with an emphasis on women’s health.
Upon learning about the award, which includes a check for $1,500 from Zonta, Katja thanked the Zonta membership, saying that she had enjoyed writing in her application about her interests, experiences and goals, and seeing that there were others who agreed. “Sometimes,” she commented, “I feel like I am somehow not following the traditional gender role that society too often dictates for girls to follow, and I question myself, but just for a brief minute!” She added that she is committed to doing her part to ensure that her future will follow the wider path.
The club plans to recognize Katja virtually at their May 5 club meeting, held via Zoom. Under Zonta International guidelines, YWPA recipients become eligible for further recognition and awards from Zonta, regionally and nationally.
The Zonta Club of Sanibel-Captiva empowers women through service, advocacy and funding. The club applauds young women like Ekaterina who exemplify the Zonta ideals of justice and the importance of promoting women’s voices in public affairs. For information on the Zonta Club of Sanibel-Captiva, visit www.ZontaSanCap.org.