Kick-Ass Women You Should Know
By Jennifer Myers & Rita Savard
we’d like to introduce you to some extraordinary local ladies doing interesting and meaningful things. All remind us to take risks and never give up on a dream. And if you fall along the way, it’s okay. Just dust yourself off and get back in the game.
Meghan Harrah ~ From Tikrit to Downtown Lowell, Meghan Harrah is a warrior. Before opening the Eyeful Beauty salon on Middle Street, she was a U.S. Air Force Staff Sergeant, running convoys with Army personnel and training Iraqi police officers in a part of the world where women are still struggling to have their voices heard. In Lowell, Meghan has championed another fight. Since 2011, she has been the force behind F*ck Cancer, a benefit that has raised thousands of dollars for Lowell General Hospital’s Cancer Care Center. She has also become a mentor for young women by running an after-school beauty club for students from Middlesex Academy Charter School. Her message to girls: Be yourself, find your passion and don’t take “no” for an answer.
Masada Jones ~ The voice of a youth movement, Jones co-founded Lowell FreeVerse!, an organization encouraging teens to write through their tribulations and find a unique voice. The young slam poets perform spoken word competitively. Jones started writing poetry in the seventh grade and began sharing her prose in high school. But in 2007, when she lost her 23-year-old brother, Andre Young, Jones said writing and performing poetry gave her an outlet to heal. She draws inspiration from the world around her and coaches teens to do the same. “Writing gives me a sense of empowerment because I can write whatever and however I want,” she said. If she had one gift to share with all girls, Jones said “it would be the gift of high self-esteem.”
Franky Descoteaux ~ An entrepreneur long immersed in the startup community, Descoteaux has been a small business owner in downtown Lowell since 2004. But her true passion lies in fashion, and her popular Humanity clothing boutique at 124 Merrimack St. has provided an outlet for women of all ages to get their hands on trendy and affordable designs. In 2009, Descoteaux also served a term on the Lowell City Council. Her work ethic, contagious energy and abundant talent has made her a role model for small business entrepreneurs in the area.
Barbara Gagel ~ If area artists are in need of a sage, they need not look farther than Barbara Gagel. A visionary whose ideas of form, space and spirituality make her a creative force to be reckoned with, Barbara is also a dynamic educator. Having taught art in New York and Massachusetts, including the deCordova Museum School for several years, Barbara believes decisions made from your own gut about life and art are the most powerful. Learning how to trust yourself first, she says, is the secret to everything.
Melanie Driscoll ~ As a kid, it didn’t take Melanie long to find a cure for the blues. She’d turn up the music until it drowned out her troubles. After learning how to play a six string, the local songbird flew south to Nashville where she pursued her dream of making and performing music. Last year, she found herself back home in Tewksbury, battling breast cancer. Using music as her healing medicine, Melanie would pick up her guitar and play out whenever she could. Today, she is cancer free and giving a new legion of local fans a reason to turn up the music.
Princess Chan ~ At just 20-years-old this Princess is the undisputed Queen of the Mill City’s poetry scene. A survivor of abuse, misuse and heartbreak, Princess could have swallowed her pain. Instead, she loaded it into her pen and inspires other young people to do the same. Princess is the Program Coordinator of FreeVerse! and has competed in slam poetry competitions as far away as Toronto. She also self-published a chapbook of her original poetry. Currently, she has a fellowship with the Asian-American Women’s Political Initiative and is interning for Sen. Eileen Donoghue at the Statehouse.
Francey Slater & Lydia Sisson ~ These two women have been helping people all over Greater Lowell find their way back into the garden. Since the 2012 inception of their nonprofit Mill City Grows, Francey and Lydia have turned several abandoned and blighted city lots into lush community gardens and urban farms that improve access to locally grown food and spotlight the benefits of natural and organic healthy living.
Kristin Ross-Sitcawich ~ Unscrupulous developers. Kapow! Homelessness. Bam! Under-performing schools. Whack! Kristin Ross-Sitcawich burst onto the scene more than a decade ago, standing up against a questionable housing development in her Pawtucketville neighborhood. Warned it was not smart to take on powerful people in the city, she fought on anyway. In the process, she brought a huge conflict to light – city developers sitting on regulatory boards. The mother of two daughters, Kristin does not back down. In her personal and professional life, she has been a voice for those who do not have one of their own. As the Director of Homelessness Prevention Services for Community Teamwork, Inc., Kristin spends her days securing assistance for the community’s most vulnerable individuals and families. After hours, she continues that crusade as a member of the Lowell Housing Authority Board of Commissioners and is in her second term as a member of the Lowell School Committee.
Amalia Swiger ~ In 2012, Amalia ranked sixth in state for her jaw-dropping gymnastics floor show. Then one day, she told her dad she wanted to trade in her warm-up suit for boxing gloves. For the past year, she’s been training with coach Jackie O’Neill at Arthur Ramalho’s West End Gym in Lowell (the same gym where retired pro boxer Micky Ward got his start and rose to become a world champion). “It’s hard work but I like the challenge,” says the 13 year old, whose dream is to someday represent the U.S.A. in a ring at the Olympics.
Linda Sopheap Sou ~ If you believe the children are our future, then you can thank Linda for investing her life’s work in making the future secure. A tireless advocate for teens, Linda empowers young people by connecting them to vital services and resources as Program Director of The Lowell Community Health Center. In her other lead role as president of the prolific Angkor Dance Troupe, she teaches and preserves Cambodia’s rich cultural legacy in the arts for future generations. Recognized on a national and world stage, the nonprofit dance troupe was created in 1986 by Linda’s father and Khmer Rouge genocide survivor, Tim Thou.
Molly Millett ~ As a pre-schooler, Molly was a super fan watching in the stands and rooting for her big brother to win school hockey games. These days, she’s the one fans are going wild for as shots zip her way and she stops them like a pro. At 5-foot-6, the senior starting goalie for Lowell High’s Red Raiders boy’s hockey team is a masked marvel exhibiting both mental and physical strength on the ice.
Dacey Zouzas ~ As a real estate agent, Dacey has walked through hundreds of doors and behind them, found countless stories of inspiration. Whether it was a single mom getting the keys to her first home, a woman heading for the frontlines of Iraq, or an entrepreneur embarking on the next big thing, since 2006 Dacey has been connecting the community to extraordinary woman via her local cable show, “Dacey’s Divas.” In 2013, the Chelmsford Center for the Arts established an endowment in Dacey’s name to help support and advance the center’s cultural programs and activities.
Savannah Marshall ~ A whirling dervish on the drums, Savannah combines methodical attention with the freewheeling stick-twirling spirit of a bad-ass rocker. Maybe that’s why she’s a percussionist in demand for area bands, including the UMass Lowell Party Band which often draws crowds of followers like the Pied Piper with their spontaneous live performances on the streets of downtown Lowell. A 2013 graduate of UMass Lowell’s prestigious music program, Marshall is also teaching the next generation of girls and boys to keep time like a pro.
SPECIAL THANKS to Chantilly Place of Chelmsford for donating the dresses for this photo shoot, to Eyeful Beauty salon award-winning stylist Nikki Gauvreau and salon owner Meghan Harrah for hair and makeup assistance; and to hair stylist Kasie Ward. We couldn’t have done this wonderful piece without you!