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Women's History Month Panel 2023: Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories

Making meaningful connections, support and encouragement for self-improvement, and how to build resilience were all topics on the table when Nonotuck’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEI&B) committee hosted our Women’s History Month panel this March.

DEI&B Committee co-chair Nichole Bourke hosted the panel, featuring performer Ezzell Floraniña, writer, researcher, and teacher Jennifer Welborn as well as dancer, singer, and actor Karen Weneczek.

The presenters spoke about their unique careers, including facing discrimination (ableist, sexist, and otherwise), allies, mentorship, advice for other entrepreneurial women, and how they find inspiration.

“What an honor to have Ezzell, Karen and Jennifer share stories of their lives and career,” says Nonotuck CEO/President George H. Fleischner.  “They were interesting and inspirational and came with a powerful message for us as we celebrate Women’s History Month.”

Watch the full session below:


Presenter Bios

Ezzell Floraniña

Ezzell Floraniña, living in the Valley since 1994, performing as a stilt dancer and clown around the area is also a certified Teacher of the Deaf.  She went on to get her Master’s degree at Lesley University in Social Justice Theater.  She founded the theater troupe, The Rainbow Players in 1999 with the first original show in 2000.  She has involved many local artists and organizations through project grants to enrich the training of this company of actors.  The focus has always been "inclusion" in the truest sense of the word.  In the early years, there were always individuals and artists joining to create that year's show.  The Rainbow Players has traveled to International Theater festivals to Ireland (2004/2005); Social Justice theater conferences as presenters to Chicago and Omaha, (2008/2009); as international partners invited to perform in the UK during the London Summer Olympics (2012).  Ezzell has also explored other company practices in Wales and in New Zealand, learning how other companies work toward truly inclusive practices in professional companies in the areas of dance, theater and visual arts. (2016/2018). She brings all of these goals to Western Massachusetts as The Rainbow Players are the core performing arts company for Empowerment Through The Arts, a nonprofit established in May, 2020.  Like the companies visited in Cardiff, Wales and all across New Zealand, she sees the Brilliance in each person with a Lived Experience of Disability.  Empowerment is the key.

Our website:  www.etta-international.org

Jennifer Welborn


Jennifer Welborn, a member of SCBWI, is an award-winning educator who has written numerous articles, plays, labs, and activities that have been published in scientific journals and textbooks. With a B.S. degree in wildlife management and an M.Ed. in science education, she has been involved with STEM for over thirty years as a writer, researcher, and teacher. One of her professional goals is to increase representation in STEM fields through access and education. 

When she isn’t teaching or writing inspiring and thought-provoking children’s books, Jennifer is a mother with many interests including participating in triathlons, sewing quilts, playing the flute and piano, and open water swimming. She lives with her family in Western Massachusetts where she enjoys going on hikes with her husband, a veterinarian, and their Italian water dog, Bari. Learn more about Jennifer at jenniferwelbornauthor.com

Karen Weneczek 

Karen Weneczek:  Karen is a dancer, singer, and actor. She worked at Hampshire College in the library for 44 years and is now retired.  She continues to enjoy acting and singing in a local chorus.  She began learning the art of performing through a program at Jericho in which she excelled in sacred dance.  She continued on to join the Rainbow Players in the year, 2005, just in time to join the company in its 2nd trip to perform in a festival in Ireland. In 2008 and 2009, she traveled with The Rainbow Players to Omaha and Chicago to present at a Social Justice Theater conference, Pedagogy and Theater of the Oppressed.  In the summer of 2012, she again traveled with her troupe to the UK as part of an invitation to join a theater company performing for the 2012 London Olympics.  The performances took place in Coventry and later parading through London.  She is an accomplished Improvisation artist and continues to explore other performing opportunities.



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