ALUMNA OF THE MONTH, NOVEMBER 2009
Phyllis Fishman Bernstein N'64
When Hurricane Betsy struck Louisiana in 1965, Phyllis Bernstein felt compelled to help New Orleans. She answered phones at city hall while leaders dealt with the billion dollar damage. This desire to serve her community has been a part of Bernstein's life since she was a child, and she is still deeply invested in it today. After marrying her husband and having two children, Bernstein devoted her life to volunteering.
Bernstein has served as President of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), ex-officio board member of the United Way, and on the boards of many other non-profit and community building organizations. Teen pregnancy is a cause that is particularly important to Bernstein. She worked with young mothers at Health Special High School in Dallas, offering them support for over 10 years. She encountered mothers as young as 11 years old in this school.
This experience led Bernstein to work with girls before they got pregnant, in hopes of giving them a better future. She worked with a program called Baby Think It Over, another teenage pregnancy prevention program run through Girls, Inc. Bernstein says, "seeing girls graduate from high school and go on to college without getting pregnant is an accomplishment. They then lead productive lives and become better parents." Bernstein also volunteers with WACHS, another program of the NCJW that promotes women's access to health care. In this role, she works with young women in the foster care system. This program "deliver[s] a curriculum on healthy relationships, communications and safer sex [that] we created."
Newcomb College inspired Bernstein to be "curious, to research and gather knowledge." She has traveled to all seven continents and has been on two trips around the world. "I have learned many things about different cultures, people, the environment, and animals on our travels. It has been one of the most fun ways to learn," she says.
After all of her travels and all she has done to benefit her community, Bernstein says that having two wonderful children is her biggest accomplishment. She loves "to play with her granddaughter, read, travel, work logic problems and visit with friends."
She offers the following advice for women today:
"Keep fighting for your rights. I was in an era where women were not treated as equal to men, and unfortunately, it is still going on today. It is better in this country, but not good in other parts of the world. Learn to appreciate your womanhood and demand respect and equal treatment in the workplace and at home."
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