Assemblymember Steck Announces 2024 Women of Distinction Awards Honorees

Celebrating extraordinary women of the 110th Assembly District

Assemblymember Phil Steck (D- Colonie) held his second annual Women of Distinction Awards ceremony on Friday, May 24th at Niskayuna Town Hall to honor women whose work makes our community a better place to live. Many times, those who selflessly contribute the most to our society do not receive the recognition they deserve. To remedy this, Steck asked constituents in the 110th Assembly District to nominate local women who have gone above and beyond to help improve the lives of others and nine were selected to be honored this year.

“My annual Women of Distinction Awards recognize the many exceptional women whose unwavering dedication help our district to thrive,” Steck said. “Their passion and often thankless pursuit of giving back is inspiring to so many. I am grateful to be able to celebrate their work and cannot wait to see what they accomplish next.”

Steck extends his congratulations to this year’s Women of Distinction honorees, which include:

Arielle Roberts (Latham)

Arielle dedicates her formidable talents to assisting local students with disabilities as a learning skills specialist at RPI and has enjoyed considerable success as a real estate agent. Arielle is ranked among the top 10 first-year agents in the Capital Region and has helped home buyers navigate a difficult market with integrity and honesty. Arielle works tirelessly to promote community service initiatives, including the annual Breast Cancer Walk and school supply drives.

Azra Haqqie (Loudonville)

Azra is a writer and advocate promoting interfaith understanding and collaboration while working to support her community and vulnerable populations. She settled in Albany in 1980 after immigrating from Pakistan and began working at the Times Union newspaper in 1991, regularly writing the “Faces of Faith” and “Caring Community” column. Azra is a member of the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, which works to promote peace while fighting antisemitism and Islamophobia.


Deanna Wicklund (Loudonville)

Deanna is a cancer survivor and has dedicated herself to serving the blood cancer community in the Capital Region as the president of Wicklund Warriors. Wicklund Warriors ensures individuals can access the necessary resources to navigate cancer treatment effectively. Wicklund Warriors continues to uphold its mission, assisting more than 170 families and distributing over $200,000 in assistance over the past decade.

Kelly Mateja (Loudonville)

Kelly is the founder of Morning of Kindness and is a champion for children and education. She spent more than a decade involved in leadership roles in her children’s schools’ Parent Teacher Associations. Kelly has held numerous esteemed leadership positions, including Director of Programs and Services for Colonie Senior Service Center, worked on leadership teams at the New York State Office for the Aging and the New York State Human Services Call Center and served as a town planner for the Town of Colonie for nearly a decade. She is the founding member of the Development Team for Farmers’ Market at the Crossings, and she worked with the Capital District Farmers’ Market on their strategic plan.

Linda Molina (Colonie)

Linda worked as an Early Intervention Service Coordinator for babies discharged from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) while living in Charlotte, North Carolina. Since returning to the area, Linda has served as a Health Home Care Manager for Children’s Health Network, focusing on working with medically fragile children in the Capital District. Linda advocates for the New York Family Complex Care Assistants Bill, which would establish a program that allows family members of medically fragile children to be trained and paid to provide care as a complex care assistant.


Meghan Regan (Latham)

Meghan founded the Tulip Project as an initiative to connect nursing home residents to the outside world during the COVID-19 pandemic by delivering greeting cards, crafts, and flowers to residents. The Tulip Project, under Meghan’s steadfast leadership, has blossomed into a hub for community outreach, serving numerous facilities throughout the Capital Region and broadening its focus to help more people. Meghan is also helping shape the next generation as an educator at St. Gregory’s School in Loudonville.

Sonya Ward (Niskayuna)

Sonya started training veterans with post-traumatic stress injuries (PTSIs) in 2015, and in 2020, she started Ibi Semper Training, a non-profit that trains veterans and first responders with post-traumatic stress and their dogs in small, guided groups to become PTS Service Dog teams. Sonya is a passionate advocate for veterans, mental health and service dogs, Sonya is committed to educating businesses about how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to service dogs.

Susan P. Casey, Esq. (Schenectady)

Susan is the Director of the Schenectady County Child Advocacy Center, expanding the Center’s resources, programs, and staff since becoming Director. Prior to that, she served as an Assistant District Attorney for Schenectady County, prosecuting sex crimes and child abuse cases. Susan then went on to work on the Schenectady County Panel of Attorneys for Children for nine years. She also served as president of the Friends of Schenectady County Child Advocacy Center Board of Directors and reinvigorated the board in her short time there.

Wei Qin (Schenectady)

Wei’s innovative leadership as president of the Chinese Community Center (CCC) has greatly enhanced the organization’s popularity and prestige, building it into a major platform for community outreach. Most recently, under Qin’s leadership the CCC announced a building renovation fundraising campaign, aiming to raise $100,000 to update their facilities and better serve the thousands of people who participate in CCC activities each year.