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Five Women Who Changed My Life | Debra Hettleman

hettleman-debra-2Debra Hettleman

Executive Director

Building Steps


My mother Elayne Hettleman and our sisters

My mom continues to be an unwavering guide in both my professional and personal life. She was a small business entrepreneur, political consultant and nonprofit executive. Like my mom, I am one of four daughters.  Being surrounded by remarkable women, starting with my mom, I have been gifted with extraordinary role modeling and mentoring.

Clara Barton, Founder, American Red Cross

I had not given Clara Barton much recent thought until my daughter selected her as the subject of a research paper. I am fascinated and thrilled that my daughter identified with a woman who broke barriers in positions that were dominated by men; and through her passion, devotion and persistence established an institutionalized mechanism for providing supplies and services to soldiers and disaster victims. I often think about Clara Barton’s accomplishments in terms of possibilities.

Rabbi Deborah Wechsler

Every year, I look forward to holiday services for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. I know Rabbi Wechsler will guide me to reflect, to think and to consider the possibilities for the year ahead. She will inspire me to make the year ahead notably more meaningful, purposeful and inclusive of community and loved ones.

Walman Optical Baltimore Team: Margie, Nancy, Bernice, Gwen and Sherry

These women from Walman showed me the magic of giving back. As part of a national employee owned company, they were allotted $30,000 to distribute in their community. After interviewing three Building STEPS students, they granted the entire to sum to Building STEPS. They explained that if Building STEPS had been available to them, their lives would be completely different; they wanted to help others benefit from the opportunity they didn’t have.

Building STEPS Young Women

The young women in Building STEPS inspire me every day. In high school, they experience challenges I can’t begin to imagine; daily, they are taking the steps succeed in college and in their careers. They are smart, resilient, determined and ultimately successful in ways they have yet to imagine.  As first-generation college graduates, these young women are changing the course for their families, for Baltimore and for future generations.