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CARMEL, Ind. (WISH) — Firefighting is a field dominated by men, but as Women’s History Month comes to a close, the women of the Carmel Fire Department are showing they’ve broken barriers and can do the job, too.

Stephanie Yoder is one of only three women in the Carmel Fire Department. She says every day is different, but she enjoys the work and has looked up to strong women her entire life.

“I wanted to become a firefighter after watching my aunt. She is a firefighter over at Pike (Township),” Yoder said. “I grew up watching her manage this really awesome career and raise a family and be an absolute rockstar with it.”

Yoder says she has faced community members that have questioned her ability to be a firefighter.

“We get that a lot. I really hope that in some point in time, maybe in my career, I will see that not become such a surprise. People look and they say, ‘Well, what do we call you? You’re not a fireman.’ And I said, ‘Well, how about just “firefighter”?’ It doesn’t have to be specific and I don’t want people to be surprised that there are women in our career field.”

Joining Yoder on the fire department is a mother of two, Arielle Morgan.

“I got hired on Carmel and I was going through recruit class. I was still pumping; I was still breastfeeding my daughter,” Morgan. said “Just being on the safe side, we went through a three-day period where I wouldn’t keep any of my milk.”

She did that because of possible contaminants she might encounter when battling fires.

Rounding out the group of three ladies is Renee Butts. She’s moved up the ladder, going from driving fire trucks to being an engineer and paramedic, to now, working in more of an administrative role.

Butts thinks this male-dominated field will soon see more women.

“I do think it’s changing. When I first got hired, there was one female on, and then Stephanie and Arielle have come along, and they’re amazing! My kids hate it when I say this, but they are the bomb-dot-com! They’re strong and they’re empowered,” Butts said. “They’re not throwing the ‘girl card’. They’ve earned their spots.”

Yoder chimed in, “Obviously, being in a male-dominated industry, you can’t have feelings that are hurt super easily, but operate in a house with a bunch of brothers.”

Morgan says that if women are interested in becoming a firefighter, they should come to talk to them.

“Most fire departments do have females, there’s just not that many at this time. If you’re interested, come on out,” Morgan said. “We need more girls. If I can do it, you can do it!”

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Theatre innovators in Indianapolis are building on the foundation of the arts, hoping to expand access for Black and other artists of color.

One of these institutes on the frontline of this artistic expansion is the Asante Art Institute. The Asante name holds a lot of weight in the theatre world, and it’s because of Deborah Asante.

Deborah Asante is a vanguard in the field, helping lay the foundation for what is now the Asante Art Institute. The current generation is backing up Asante’s work and helping carry the torch.

Asante says she’s an artist first, but through her work, she’s realized facilitating growth in others is another special talent that she has honed for over 30 years.

Asante says the Institute was a proofing ground for a lot of people, and said she is “very proud to say that they are all over this country doing things, moving and shaking.”

Asante founded the Asante Children’s theatre in 1990, building children’s confidence through the arts. Asante believes confidence is a healthy trait for everyone on and off the stage, in understanding their worth.

Asante also says that pointing out the value of having a safe space centered around Black people and the Black experience builds this confidence.

“It’s a place where your culture is not incidental. It is dominant. It is a cushion that you sit on. It is the cannon from which you are propelled,” Asante said.

Asante also says it is important to be able to establish that confidence in children.

“Their message is ‘no, you can’t go higher, you don’t have what it takes, you don’t have enough.’ And we have to find ways to wipe that message clear for our children,” Asante said.

The theatre’s work has spanned 30 years, ultimately expanding from the Children’s Theatre to the Asante Art Institute. The theater also includes growing programs for teens and the community, as well as a creative writing program.

LaKesha Lorene is part of Indy’s next act. Her team created the Naptown African American Theatre Collective (NAATC), building on Asante’s foundation.

“What Asante has been able to do, what they have been able to do for us for decades in this space. What they’ve been able to do as a Black-owned organization in our city has just been phenomenal. The Asante brand is worldwide,” Lorene said.

Lorene is centering NAATC around opportunities for Black and other creatives of color to address what she calls a gap at the equity level.

“Traditionally, for a lot of Black artists across the country, there are only a few times a year that you can possibly work at a lot of these larger institutions. That’s usually during Black History Month or in the winter time,” Lorene said.

Part of this work is a curtain call for artists, Lorene says. Lorene says she had been lucky to have opportunities she’s had locally, regionally, and nationally, but that is not everyone’s story.

“We wanted to better equip our artists for work in the professional space, in particular, work in the union space,” Lorene said.

Set to premier four shows in Indianapolis, the seed funding from the Central Indiana Community Foundation has been key in helping to further support programming and workshops with schools and other partners of the NAATC.

“I see no reason why Indiana can’t have its own 51st Street and have all of these wonderful options of theatres to come to. With a focus on telling the humanity, beauty, and power of Black stories,” Lorene said.

51st Street is a reference to the famous theatre district in Manhattan, 51st Street serving as home to several famous Broadway theatres.

Asante says she’s honored to be a part of Indy’s theatre foundation and has used her life experiences to guide her work. She is excited to see how this new generation uses their experiences to keep telling stories.

“Abundance is what we should be shooting for,” Asante said.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Colette Pierce Burnette has only been at the helm of Newfields for eight months but says she knows it’s where she’s meant to be.

“That was part of what drew me here was the fact that we were founded by a suffragette and we were founded by a woman because she had a vision and she saw the power of art in people’s lives.”

Burnette followed in the footsteps of May Wright Sewall, the founder of the Art Association of Indianapolis, which one day became the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields.

“When I reflect on it, I realize I’ve been coming here for all my life.”

Burnette, an engineer and educator, brings a new perspective to running a large art and nature institution.

“I went back to school very late in life at the age of 55 to get my doctorate because I wanted to be a president. Most of my education has been informal in my life experiences. My whole journey has been to put me in a place to be able to lead a very complex intricate organization like Newfields.”

Burnette says she believes in the mission at Newfields: to use the arts to enrich people’s lives. That’s what drew her back to the Midwest. After she retired from higher education, she was chosen to manage the Indianapolis institution, which includes the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the historic Lilly House, the Virginia Fairbanks Art and Nature Park, and the Garden at Newfields.

“Everything you’re experiencing in your life you’re learning about where your passions are and what brings you joy and I find great deep passion in seeing people really blossom and bloom as a result of some experience they’ve had.”

Burnette says the art museum is in a renaissance; curators are offering more art from women, encouraging people to reflect and learn about those long been ignored.

“Now what we’re doing, we’re unearthing the parallel at that time there were also women doing phenomenal things at that time despite the odds of the experiences they were having during their own personal lives. The excellence just continues to flourish.”

Reflecting on her life, it’s clear Burnette has been in male-dominated fields for most of her career.

“I’ve been in these, people call them ‘trailblazing positions,’ my entire life. I’m a first-generation college student, but I was always in an environment where I was never told what I could not do. I was only told what I can do.”

She says she credits some of her success to the support from those around her and is ready to be the person encouraging others in this role.

Burnette says she mentors young people, specifically young women, and reminds them that our own negative thoughts make them their worst enemies.

But Burnette encourages them regardless.”When people say to you ‘Oh, you’re a girl,’ I say tell them ‘Yeah, try to keep up with me.'”

All of these life experiences have brought Burnette to a place to continue to push Newfields in the future.

“I’ll know my journey, this chapter of my life as serving as the president and CEO of Newfields is coming to an end when I hear two people talking and one person is telling another person ‘I’m going to Indianapolis’ and that person says to them ‘Oh my gosh, you have to go to Newfields because it will change your life.’ Then I’ll know I put us on this grand, national scale.”

Burnette brings years of interdisciplinary experience that she plans to use to grow the mission at Newfields and continue to push Newfields in the future.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WISH) — The Indiana University women’s basketball team’s historic season is done.

However, for the program, the momentum made this year in women’s sports is just the start. And it all starts with the head coach, Teri Moren.

“The word work has been really, truly, how we built this thing,” Moren said.

No one knows that more than Moren. Despite Monday’s devastating loss in the NCAA Tournament at Assembly Hall, the regular season success is proof that the hard work is paying off for the program.

“All of a sudden, now, there is something going on in Bloomington with Indiana women’s basketball,” Moren said.

The fan base is booming in Bloomington. Throughout the season, families, students, and fans of all kinds flocked to games at Assembly Hall. The players were making shots and making headlines.

“One of our goals was, when people talk about Indiana basketball, it wasn’t just going to be men’s basketball, right? We are going to talk about men’s basketball tradition — national championships — but there is also this terrific women’s basketball program at Indiana as well,” Moren said.

The IU women’s basketball team had 28 wins in the regular season, was crowned the Big Ten regular season champion, and was selected as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Receiving a No. 1 seed was one of many firsts in the program’s history accomplished this year.

When Moren was asked what it felt like to sell out Assembly Hall for the first time, she said, “For me, my experience has only been this line is for men’s basketball. When I drove up on that Sunday afternoon to play Purdue and that line was down the sidewalk — (it was) just one of those incredible moments where you are like wow, we are doing something really special here.”

For the first time ever, all 17,222 seats were filled with fans ready to see women play ball.

When asked, “What do you think that means for those young girls in those seats, watching the game?” Moren replied, “That anything is possible they want to be a part of.”

And Moren is proof. This year, she became the all-time winningest coach in IU women’s basketball history. Moren was also named the Big Ten Coach of the Year for the second time, having won it back in 2016 as well.

“That young girl was me growing up, right? Watching men’s basketball. So, now, you fast forward to what we have been able to accomplish – it’s like, oh wow,” Moren said.

Moren grew up just about 45 minutes away from Bloomington, in Seymour.

“We grew up Indiana fans and a typical Sunday morning or afternoon for us was to go to church, have dinner at grandmother’s house, and then turn on the TV. Martha the Mop Lady came out and got us excited about watching Indiana men’s basketball,” Moren recalled.

Back then, the women’s program wasn’t even talked about. Moren went on to play basketball at Purdue University and coached at other schools in the state before taking the top spot in Bloomington.

She was always rooted at IU with her family.

“They are all in, the Moren family is all in and we get, the highs are the highs and the lows are the lows,” Moren said. “My father is 88 years old and sits on the baseline of every game. And has plenty to say.”

Over the last 9 years, with her dad’s help, Moren has reshaped the women’s program and how Hoosiers think of Indiana basketball.

“We have gained a lot of fans because of what we have been able to do here,” Moren said. 

Moren, when asked if the change is going to be sustained, replied: “That’s the goal. but that is also the challenge. Because it is one thing to build it, as I said. But it is another thing to sustain it.

There’s still more work to be done — for both her team and the league.

“As a female coach, it is part of my responsibility always to tell our story, you know, in terms of trying to challenge those out there as to what other changes can we make,” Moren said.

In November, Moren spoke out after the team’s trip to the Las Vegas Invitational Tournament had the top-ranked Hoosiers playing in conditions a men’s team would never face, including a lack of on-site paramedics. 

At the time, Moren said it set back women’s basketball. The situation came not long after the NCAA was criticized for providing different — and unequal — playing and training facilities and equipment for men’s and women’s teams at the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

“At least we are talking about it, right?  And I think that has been the first big step,” Moren said.

The next big step? 

“Every year we sit down and we have the goal. The goal of winning the Big Ten —  the goal of winning a national championship and I am a firm believer that you have to talk about those things if you want them to happen,” Moren said.

While making shots and winning games matters, what’s most important to Moren is making sure the young women who play for her know they matter.

“You just hope you’re impacting them every single day, not convincing them, but making sure they realize they can do anything,” Moren said.

Moren is their example. She says that after almost a decade at IU, it feels surreal walking through the candy cane-striped hallway that connects their practice facility to Assembly Hall.

“I was just walking on the floor and it dawned on me that I am the head coach at Indiana,” Moren said as she stepped onto the court. 

Teri Moren, head coach of IU women’s basketball, in the candy cane-striped hallway. (WISH Photo/Hanna Mordoh)

While the team fell short in the NCAA Tournament, perhaps the players and their coach won something greater.

“(It’s) an opportunity for those young girls that are sitting up in those seats right now to have the dream of one day playing for Indiana…” Moren began.

“And they can,” News 8’s Hanna Mordoh suggested.

“They can,” Moren agreed.

Moren is proving that girls — and women– can fight for the Cream and Crimson, for the glory of old IU, and for their dreams.

“To be able to sit here at Indiana and be the head coach of a Big Ten team in the state that I grew up with, I mean dreams — no doubt — come true,” Moren said.

IU women’s basketball head coach Teri Moren (left) and News 8’s Hanna Mordoh on the court. (WISH Photo/Hanna Mordoh)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — One of the world’s most well-known opera stars is an Indianapolis native.

Indy-born soprano Angela Brown’s multigenre career spans six continents. Brown has graced the world’s leading opera and symphonic stages.

Brown’s passion and purpose are leading others to the tune of their own life’s music.

“To then come back after off some of the stages of the world to come back and feed into the community and really become part of it,” Brown said.

Brown takes pride in being rooted in the circle city.

“As far as music is, you know I grew up here in Indianapolis. My grandfather was a Baptist minister. Started singing when I was five years old,” Brown said.

Her classically trained voice bellows with soul, something that has been instilled in her from a young age.

“My parents, Walter Clyde and Freddie Mae Brown encouraged me all the way to pursue my goals and my dreams and encouraged me in music,” Brown said. “I sang at the opening of an envelope here in the city. And I had the opportunity very young to sing with all the arts organizations here like the symphony and the Philharmonic and the opera company back in the day before I started singing solo things, you know, with opera company

Being a citizen of the world, is how Brown defines using her gift that continually fills and unites spaces.

“When you come back home, you’ve got to reintroduce yourself. reinvigorate yourself and reinvent yourself.” Brown said.

Brown is doing that one note at a time, from teaching at her vocal studio, teaching at IU, and even spreading the gift of art through her foundation, Morning Brown.

“I have to always go back to Freddie Mae. She would always say ‘Angie, thoughts are things and if you want it, you can have it. It might not happen right away. But these are dreams. These are things that you have put into the universe you have spoken it, you have thought about it, you have written it down and then put it away. And then before you know it, it has sprouted through the ground.’,” Brown said.

From being invited to sing at the Washington National Cathedral by President George W. Bush to creating interfaith experiences like a community-wide prayer service at the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church of Indianapolis, Brown said success is about the depth of the notes that serve as a legacy in these spaces.

“The biggest accomplishment that I have garnered is the fact that I have, I know I’ve made my parents proud. I know I have made my parents proud of me,” Brown said. “Believe in yourself. Believe in yourself. Follow your mother wit. All women have it. Every man has a tip is called your intuition. Follow it that gut feeling is something’s not right. Or something feels real right? Go with it. Because it will never let you down.”

Brown plans to continue pouring into the next generation. Her Morning Brown foundation is picking up speed. Brown is focused on finding endorsement and sponsorships to continue what she calls “The Good Work” in the city.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A Colombian-American woman is taking education to new heights at Marian University.

Manuela Salazar is leading Marian University’s Latino Initiative that is helping Hispanic students succeed.

Salazar is a proud immigrant from Colombia.

She’s a community leader who’s paving the path for many Latinas in Indiana.

Salazar says she is passionate about uplifting Hispanic families through education.

“Being able to see the students, see them graduate, achieving higher education, it really makes a difference,” Salazar said.

Salazar is Marian University’s first executive director for the Latino leadership program. Her focus is to increase access to higher education for Hispanic students, especially first generation college students.

She says it’s important to communicate in their language. “For them to feel welcome here, that this is a safe space for them and that they can ask all the questions that they have. If the parents didn’t have the opportunity to go to college, this is new for them.”

Salazar started working at Marian University in 2019 after working at the Girl Scouts of Central Indiana for three years. As the organization’s director of community engagement, she led a nationally recognized effort that supports Latina women empowerment.

“To be able to see that they are doing it in different cities in the U.S. is, like, I feel so proud I worked on that and I think that was the step I needed to get into Marian.”

“That’s where I found my passion basically just working with the Latino community.”

At the university, Salazar has hosted multiple events for Hispanic students.

Last September, hundreds of students and their families attended the Dia de la Familia event that focused on navigating college applications at no cost.

“It’s a big responsibility. You know, the Latino community is growing in the United States in general and just having the opportunity to do something intentional, this job is not just a job where you go and get paid. It’s more like a mission.”

She has some advice for Latina immigrants who want to reach their dreams. “It can be very scary to move to a different country, to learn a new language, but you have to trust yourself and leave those fears behind.”

Salazar says she’s excited about what’s to come for her students at Marian University.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — In October, Taylor Schaffer became the youngest president and chief executive officer of Downtown Indy Inc., an organization focusing on the economic success of downtown Indianapolis.

But, her journey started over a decade ago in Terre Haute where Schaffer grew up. “Same thing was true with my mom. My mom grew up in Terre Haute. She graduated from the same high school I graduated from.”

Schaffer graduated from Indiana State University in Terre Haute with a degree in journalism, and then ended up working for an advertising firm in Indianapolis. “Working for big, major brands, working in the retail and real estate space.”

In 2015, she joined the election campaign for Democrat Joe Hogsett, who won the mayor’s job. Later, she took on the city government roles of communications director, deputy mayor, and chief of staff.

WISH-TV is celebrating Women’s History Month with interviews of locals.

Taylor says city government has a direct impact on people’s lives, even more than she had realized. “Knowing the neighborhood groups that are impacted when violence occurs in their community, knowing the challenges families face in Indianapolis.”

Taylor’s former boss said her time in city government made her the perfect fit to lead Downtown Indy Inc. Hogsett said, “At this period of time as we’re coming out of a once-in-a century global pandemic, she’s very well positioned. She understands the city’s challenges.”

Taylor took on the role because she has a passion for living and working downtown, and is proud of how the area has transformed over the years. “It was a sense of connectivity and culture and place that, as a kid who came up here for back-to-school shopping, I don’t think I ever experienced.”

Although she never envisioned herself becoming the CEO of Downtown Indy Inc., Taylor says she wants to make the most of that role by working with businesses and corporate partners to make Indy a safer and cleaner city. “I often say downtown is the reason that I stayed in Indianapolis. Candidly, that wasn’t the life plan either. I was going to come here, I was going to work for advertising agencies for a couple years to get enough experience and to go move to a bigger city.”

Taylor’s advice to anyone aspiring to be in a leadership role is never be a afraid to say “yes” to a new opportunity.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A Hispanic organization is pushing to get more Spanish-speaking students and professionals to shape Indiana communities.

The woman leading this effort is the president and chief executive officer of the Indiana Latino Institute. Marlene Dotson, a Latina, is passionate about serving her community.

The Indiana Latino Institute is the oldest statewide Hispanic organization.

“We want these students not only enrollment, but also complete whether it’s a two to four years and successfully connect them to good jobs,” Dotson said.

Dotson has turned her struggles as an immigrant from Peru into opportunities that elevate Hispanic students statewide.

“With no language I didn’t know how to speak. I didn’t have financial resources, no family. I didn’t understand the system. Basically, I started from zero,” Dotson said.

She was inspired by the American Dream.

“Until you arrive here you realize that it’s totally a different world in every aspect that you can think,” Dotson said.

Since 2011, under her leadership, the Indiana Latino Institute has received more than $17 million to provide educational opportunities for Hispanic students.

Each year, the organization hosts a statewide education summit and college and career fair where thousands of students find help with financial aid and college application processes.

Dotson also created the Indiana Latino Leadership Circle program. It identifies and mentors emerging Hispanic leaders by connecting them with influential community professionals.

“We have rising star Latinos today and with so much pride I can say we have Latinos, we have professionals in different fields that happen to be Latinos and they are ready to be placed in different c-suite levels,” Dotson said.

On top of that, the organization recently received a $1 million grant from IU Health to support college enrollment, internship opportunities, and workforce development for Hispanic students.

“One of the priorities is health care, but also we will be providing internships to other fields, supporting fields, other careers. So, this is another milestone that has not been seen, but we will be connected with other partners to do this work.”

“Today, I can call myself successful, but that successful is not only for myself. It’s also how we can pour that success into our community and those that need it the most.”

This year, Dotson was honored with the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper and Indiana Minority Business Magazine’s Champion of Diversity Award and while Dotson has had many successes she says there’s still a lot of work to be done.

March is Women’s History Month and, each week, News 8 will be highlighting stories of women who are making a positive impact on the community.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Throughout March, WISH-TV has been celebrating the contributions that women are making right here in our community.

These are the history makers of today and tonight we introduce you to a group of women who are blazing their own trails and leaving a clear path for future generations to follow.

Watch the video above to see our complete Celebrating Women’s History broadcast.