Rawls to receive Women of Distinction honor

Retired educator Yvonne Rawls, right, passes out FCAT materials during an Eastside Advocacy Group for Youth summer camp.

ERICA BROUGH/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 4:29 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 4:29 p.m.

A retired educator and community volunteer, Yvonne Rawls is one of five women who will be recognized Thursday for her exceptional work in the community.

For 28 years, Santa Fe College has celebrated Women's History Month by recognizing outstanding women during its annual Women of Distinction ceremony, which will be held at 5 p.m. Thursday at the Santa Fe Fine Arts Hall.

Teri McClellan, project coordinator of the program, said the women are nominated by the community and a selection committee reviews the nominations and chooses the women.

The 2014 Women of Distinction include Rawls, Patti Fabiani, Margaret Gilliland, Shelley Fraser Mickle and Dimple Overstreet.

"These women give generously of their time and resources," said McClellan. "They don't boast about what they do in the community. They care about others and their community. They have compassion. That's what makes them stand out."

Rawls is well-known for her contributions to the community, especially east Gainesville.

Born and raised in Ocala, Rawls is married to John Rawls, and they have four adult children and six grandchildren ages 7-14. She holds a bachelor's degree in music education from Florida A&M University and a master's in music education from Temple University in Philadelphia.

She taught music for four years at the historic Lincoln High School, her first job fresh out of college. She also taught music at Williams Elementary School for 28 years until her retirement in 1995. She's a member of Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church, where she sings with the Chancel Choir and serves as a soloist.

Her volunteerism and her love for her sorority are legendary. She is treasurer of the Mu Upsilon Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. and a member of the board of directors of the Twenty Pearls Foundation, the charitable arm of sorority.

"AKA's mission is ‘Service to All Mankind' and I took it to heart," said Rawls. "I just want to help anyone I can."

Rawls said her focus is working with young people. She is head coach of the sorority's Precious Pearls Brain Bowl team. Precious Pearls, a high school community service group sponsored by the sorority, won the regional competition this year and is headed to the Florida Brain Bowl Championships on March 21 in Tampa.

Rawls also serves as the curriculum coordinator of the summer program hosted by the Eastside Advocacy Group for Youth, or EAGY, an after-school program. She is treasurer of the Alachua County branch NAACP, financial secretary of the African American Accountability Alliance, or 4As, and also serves as treasurer and election supervisor of the 4As Political Action Committee.

In addition, Rawls is financial secretary of the Visionaires Inc., a social and service organization for women in Gainesville. She also represents her sorority in the Alachua County Literacy Network and is treasurer of the Gainesville HIPPY program, or Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters, which is a school-readiness program for toddlers and their parents.

She is financial secretary of the Black AIDS Services and Education, or BASE, and a charter member and recording secretary of the National Pan-Hellenic Council of Gainesville, where she also serves as coordinator of Meals on Wheels and chairwoman of voter registration.

Rawls volunteers somewhere every day except Wednesdays and Sundays. Currently, she is busy preparing the Precious Pearls for the state championship.

"Working with kids is one of my priorities," she said. "I have a need to help others and to work for a better world and a better place to live. There is so much work to be done."

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