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The Woman of the Year awards have been given annually since 1983.

The "LaFrance Muldrow" Woman Making a Difference award has been awarded since 2014. Muldrow—a retired County social worker, community activist and longtime member of the Commission—made enormous contributions during her 40-year career. In both professional and volunteer capacities, she served to improve the welfare of socially and financially disadvantaged children and families, always promoting social, educational and cultural opportunities. She passed away in July 2013.

2021 Woman of the Year

Sharon Yvonne Blake, 2021 Woman of the Year

Sharon Yvonne Blake, who was born July 5, 1950, in Washington, D.C., attended the March on Washington in 1963. Having participated in the 1963 demonstration, she was one of the African American students who integrated Frederick Sasscer Senior High School in Prince George’s County. Later, when Sharon attended Morgan State College (now University), she, along with her siblings, participated in demonstrations in Annapolis, Maryland for more funding for Morgan. Upon graduation, Sharon began her 43-year professional career as an Educator. In the year 2000, Sharon became the voice and face of 6,800 Baltimore City Public School teachers as President of the Baltimore Teachers Union, where she continued her lifelong fight to create a more equal and just Maryland and nation.

An Advocate for Education

Viewing education as critical, Sharon has served as a Commissioner on the Governor’s Commission on Service and Volunteerism and, in 2018, was a Candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Maryland. Concerned that Maryland’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) would not be awarded the remedy they were seeking, she joined in protest marches and worked closely with the “Save Maryland HBCU” leaders. Today, having educated citizens, via town hall and other meetings, about the more than 14-year-old federal lawsuit, Sharon serves as the Spokesperson for the Maryland HBCU Advocates. Sharon’s leadership and efforts led to a successful campaign securing the passage of legislation by the Maryland General Assembly to resolve the litigation favorable to the HBCUs. This result helped to ensure that a significant number of the citizens of Baltimore County will have an opportunity to continue their education at a Maryland HBCU.

Active in the Community

Sharon has also benefitted Baltimore County directly, through her volunteer efforts and service in the community. As a member of the Julian Branch of Baltimore County Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), Sharon has been a part of the annual Voter Registration Drive. In addition, during the 2020 Census count, even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Sharon walked the community, knocking on doors and speaking to residents, to ensure every Baltimore County citizen was counted, thereby obtaining more federal funding for schools, roads, bridges and programs for its residents. As important, Sharon testified before the Maryland Senate’s Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee in support of a bill that would give the Baltimore County Executive an additional appointment to the school board, a member who would be accountable to the County Executive. In addition, Sharon worked the polls in 2018, passing out, on election day, campaign literature supporting Baltimore County candidates for the School Board, the House of Delegates, and county Sitting Judges.

Sharon’s awards and recognition include: Coppin State University Eagle’s Award (2020); Instructional Leadership Series Certificate of Appreciation (2006); Baltimore City Community College Teaching Excellence Award (1993, 2004); Kathleen Kennedy Townsend Women in Government Service Award (2000); Maryland Student Service Alliance Fellow (2000); Baltimore City Council of PTA’s Teacher of the Year (1999); Finalist, The Kurt L. Schmoke Award (1992); Distinguished Fellow, American Federation of Teachers (1992); The Angelo Fortunato Award Northwestern High School Alumni Association (1988); Community Service Maryland Bar Association and the National Conference of Christians and Jews (1986); Resolution of Excellence Award Northwestern Alumni Association (1986); Certificate of Merit Office of Social Studies Baltimore City Public Schools (1978,1980,1986); Phi Alpha Delta Law.

LaFrance Muldrow Woman Making a Difference Awardee

Wannetta Renee Thompson, 2021 Woman Making a Difference

Wannetta Renee Thompson was born in Saint Louis, Missouri, and moved to Baltimore when she was 2 years old. She lived in various parts of Baltimore City and graduated from Patterson High School in 1971. She worked at Goucher College, USF&G and Union Trust Bank where she met her late husband, Ramon Thompson. In 1977, she married and stayed at home to raise her four children. She and her family moved to the GardenVillage Community in June 1980. As her children began school, she became involved with the PTA at Elmwood Elementary and later at McCormick Elementary, where she became the PTA President. She later earned honorary life membership of the State PTA.

Unwavering Commitment to the Community

She began volunteering with the GardenVillage Community Association and in 1990, became the Executive Director. During her tenure, Wannetta made many substantial and long-lasting marks in the community and local schools. Notably, she created the annual GV Food Basket Program, Community Clean Up (Dumpster Day) Event, the annual Christmas Event, and many other community events and programs, providing a safe and fun environment for the youth and families in the community. Only a few of the many programs are listed here! In her tenure, she created and ran the infamous GV Steppers program, the Annual “Stepping Out Against Drugs and Violence” step squad competitions, the Youth Military Drill Team and GRMS Step Squad (both formerly at Golden Ring Middle School) and the FTTA program (From Teens to Adults—formerly at Overlea High School). All these programs contributed to the betterment of the community, namely the youth, and is a direct reflection of Wannetta’s unwavering commitment to the community.

Wannetta’s dedication to the community is long-standing. From the age of 12, Wannetta has directed gospel choirs, starting at United Baptist Church in Baltimore City. Her last run ended at Saint Matthew’s Catholic Church where she directed the gospel choir there for 25 years. She also was an active member of the Saint Vincent de Paul’s Society. Her love for youth and the community comes naturally for her. Through her humble service, all that connect with her have heard her say her favorite saying: “To God Be the Glory!”

Among many awards and recognition, Wannetta has earned the Honorable Benjamin L. Cardin Certificate of Special Recognition in 1994, the Bridge Builder Award in 1998 and the Verizon Community Innovator Award in February 2015. She has also received three Baltimore County Executive Citations, a Governor’s Citation, a Senate of Maryland Official Citation and a Maryland General Assembly Official Citation. She also earned her Associates of Arts degree and Bachelor of Arts degree, both in Business Administration from Strayer University in 2008 and 2012, respectively.

Young Woman of the Year

Michelle Sobambo, Young Woman of the Year 2021

Michelle Sobambo is a graduating senior at Overlea High School and Sollers Point Technical High School. She has acquired her CNA certification, CPR and First Aid certification, OSHA certification, and is working on her Pharmacy Technician License. She is a straight-A student, earning a 4.6 Weighted Grade Point Average while taking three dual enrollment classes. 

She is a member of several clubs including the Sollers Point Student Government Association, the National English Honors Society, National Honors Society, National Technical Honors Society, Overlea’s Helping Hands, Book Club, World Language Club, Girls Who Code, Yearbook Club and Health Occupations of America. She has also held multiple positions in a variety of clubs which include the President of Overlea’s Student Government Association, Secretary of African Society Association and Historian of National Science Honors Society. Participating in these clubs gave Michelle an environment to grow as a person. They taught time management skills, teamwork skills and, most importantly, responsibility.

A Passion for Volunteer Work

As a second generational student, Michelle found it hard to adapt to certain situations, such as finding a place to fit in, but with the help of her family and mentors, Michelle, during high school, found her passion for volunteer work. She has volunteered at her church’s Sunday school for the past six years, but these last few years, with the help of her teachers, she has been able to fulfill her passion on a much bigger scale. In this year alone, she helped organize a food, clothes and pet drive, created a mentoring group for underclassmen, and presented a slideshow to inform students about domestic violence. She plans to continue volunteering after high school and inspire those around her to volunteer also.

Sports has always been a positive outlet to express herself. It gave her the confidence to believe that she could do anything if she believed in herself. In Michelle's High School career, she has obtained the position of captain for Varsity Girls Soccer, Varsity Girls Softball and Allied Bowling. With this mindset, she was nominated as Overlea’s McCormick Unsung Hero.

Michelle had an interest in medicine since elementary school, but in the Summer of 2019, she had the opportunity to intern at Johns Hopkins Hospital. During this time, she found out what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. In the future, her goal is to pursue a career as an Orthopedic Surgeon. To aid her in her career goals, next fall, Michelle plans to attend the University of Maryland College Park while majoring in Biology on a Pre-Med track.

Learn More

See more past winners below. Contact the Commission to learn about previous award winners for years prior to those listed below.

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