Thursday, February 29, 2024

From the Desk of First Lady Suzanne S. Youngkin

Women+girls (W+g)

Encouraging Women+girls to Strengthen the Spirit of Virginiae

February 29, 2024

Celebrating Black History Month

Pictured: First Lady Suzanne S. Youngkin with Gwendolyn Steele and guests at the Executive Mansion

This Black History Month hundreds from across the Commonwealth gathered in Virginia’s executive home. Together, the Governor and First Lady welcomed community, faith and business leaders, educators, creatives and change-makers as guests reflected on the incessant strength and resilience of Black Americans.

Seeing History Through Art

Pictured: First Lady Suzanne S. Youngkin with tea and tour guests

In honor of Black History Month, the First Lady hosted remarkable Women+girls for tea and tour at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA). Pulling from across the Commonwealth, female leaders took in 'Elegy' -- a poignant exhibit of photos by Dawoud Bey documenting, among other things, the Virginia slave trail. Discussions ensued and relationships were formed over tea at the museum's new venue, Floris. The First Lady encouraged all staff and community members to see the exhibit during its stay at the VMFA.

Pictured: Women viewing a portrait featured in 'Elegy'

Valentine's Day in Virginia

Pictured: First Lady and Governor Youngkin clinking glasses

In celebration of Valentine's Day, the First Lady and Governor Youngkin welcomed administration cabinet members to the Executive Mansion for dinner, as well as distributing valentine's gifts to staff.

W+g Wellbeing

REVIVE! Training on the Square

First Lady Youngkin, Secretary of Health and Human Resources John Littel and Senator Todd Pillion attended a Rapid REVIVE! Informational session offered to all members of the Virginia General Assembly and members of the general public on Monday. As an important part of the recently launched ‘It Only Takes One fentanyl awareness campaign, REVIVE! provides training on how to recognize and respond to an opioid overdose emergency using live-saving naloxone. The Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) facilitated the training for all legislators and positioned a welcome table complete with the mobile training bike on Capitol Square. Together, community leaders, elected officials and concerned citizens are working to ensure all Virginians are prepared in an emergency situation.

Pictured: The First Lady with Senator Todd Pillion at a REVIVE! training session

Pictured: The First Lady with DBHDS staff and the free naloxone bike

Fentanyl Parent Education Forum 

Pictured: The First Lady greeting a parent at the educational forum

Pictured: Parent education forum panel participants speaking

The First Lady and Secretary of Health and Human Resources John Littel joined Roanoke City Public School (RCPS) Superintendent Dr. Verletta White for a Parent Education Forum at the Charles W. Day Technical Center to address the threat fentanyl poses to students. The event follows the launch of the First Lady’s It Only Takes One campaign against the ongoing fentanyl crisis.

With research and experience showing that young adults are especially susceptible to fentanyl, the event aimed to educate parents and guardians, including members of the RCPS Parent Teacher Association (PTA), athletic coaches and directors, and other community members about the best language to use when discussing the danger of fentanyl with their children.

WATCH: First Lady of Virginia joins Roanoke City Schools to discuss fentanyl safety

Meeting with Mothers Impacted by Fentanyl

Pictured: The First Lady speaking with fentanyl moms

Pictured: Mural of Virginians lost due to fentanyl

The First Lady was honored to welcome a group of mothers impacted by the fentanyl crisis into the Executive Mansion to discuss how to effectively combat this epidemic. Together they reflected on the lives lost and looked forward to the lives that will be saved from increased education and support resources like the Right Help, Right Now, and It Only Takes One initiatives.

Americorps 30th Anniversary

Pictured: The First Lady with Virginia members of the Recovery Corps

The First Lady was glad to join the AmeriCorps teams as they celebrated their 30th Anniversary and showcased the work of Recovery Corps doing national service at CARITAS, Richmond’s active community of caring that provides people experiencing homelessness and/or addiction a safe space for healing and recovery.

To get involved and find ways to give back to your community, visit AmeriCorps - Serve Virginia

Nation's First Spouses Focus on Fentanyl

Pictured: The First Lady with REVIVE! Education Specialists from the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services

In association with February’s National Governor’s Association gathering in Washington, DC, the First Lady participated in a panel discussion about responding to the opioid overdose epidemic. Joining were First Spouses from across the nation and experts from the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment and representatives from Emergent BioSolutions, the manufacturer of Narcan. Following the discussion, the First Spouses were trained to administer naloxone by members of the Maryland Office on Overdose Prevention and REVIVE! Education Specialists from the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services. To find out where you too can learn to administer life-saving naloxone or to learn more, click here.

Pictured: First Lady Youngkin receiving REVIVE! training with First Spouses

Virginia 250 Celebration

Pictured: The First Lady talking to Carly Fiorina and guests at the VA250 reception

Pictured: The First Lady and Governor Youngkin listening to remarks at St. John's Church

As America prepares for its 250th birthday, here in Virginia, the First Lady joined the Governor at St. John's Church in Richmond to witness a reenactment of Patrick Henry’s famous speech ‘Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death'. In conjunction, attendees ranging from former Governors to leading elected officials, learned more about the formation of the VA250 Honorary Leadership Council and the exciting statewide events and initiatives planned for the next three years. Virginia's history is the nation's history, and through the leadership of partners like Carly Fiorina, Virginia's National Honorary Chairperson, the First Lady and Governor Youngkin are committed to showcasing the unparalleled contributions Virginia made to the cause of liberty.

W+g Workforce

Pictured: The First Lady with Girls with Pearls students and Petersburg Mayor Sam Parham

Petersburg Job Fair

The First Lady attended the Crater Regional Job Fair hosted by the Administration’s Partnership for Petersburg, Virginia State University and the City of Petersburg – reaffirming a commitment to growing opportunity for all through sustainable work. Hundreds of job seekers engaged with 49 employers and service providers. 

In an ongoing effort to encourage the next generation, the First Lady joined students from Blandford Academy’s ‘Girls with Pearls’ program to speak to local leaders and accomplished community members about possibilities for Virginia’s Women+girls.

Executive and Legislative Aide Receptions

Pictured: The First Lady and Governor Youngkin with a legislative aide and executive assistant at the Executive Mansion

The First Lady welcomed the Legislative Aides and Executive Assistants of Virginia's 2024 General Assembly members to the Executive Mansion for a night of appreciation for their hard work this session.

As we strive to make Virginia the best place to live, work and raise a family, it is imperative to recognize the efforts of those that support our elected officials and thank them for their commitment to serving Virginia.

Pictured: The First Lady and Governor Youngkin with an executive assistant at the Executive Mansion

Capital One Women's Dinner

Pictured: The First Lady with female leaders in the government and banking industries

In a night of bipartisan fun and togetherness, the First Lady was honored to give remarks at the annual Capital One Women in Banking / Women in Government Dinner.


This bipartisan, bicameral event recognized female legislators from both parties and chambers, female cabinet members, senior administration officials, and the top female executives and rising stars from Capital One for their hard work and shared values of service, community engagement and female empowerment.

A Visit From The College of William and Mary

Pictured: The First Lady with William and Mary students on the Executive Mansion stairs

Pictured: The First Lady talking to William and Mary students at the Executive Mansion

The First Lady welcomed students from the College of William and Mary to the Executive Mansion during their day on Capitol Square. Believing that fostering our next generation of student leaders with opportunities for growth and success are critically important, the First Lady offered words of encouragement and advice to these bright young minds.

Apply for the STEAM-H Essay Contest

Pictured: The First Lady with a 2023 STEAM-H essay contest winner

Governor and First Lady Youngkin partnered with the Virginia Council on Women for the 13th Annual Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics, and Healthcare essay contest and encourage female high school students to enter.  

The STEM Essay contest has expanded to the STEAM-H contest to encompass more career opportunities for women and assist them in scholarship opportunities. The Council will award scholarships to qualifying high school seniors who plan to pursue a STEAM-H career at a community college, four-year college or university, trade or technical school, online, and/or through certificated STEAM-H oriented courses.

The 13th annual contest will award one merit-based and one need-based scholarship in each of five geographic regions across the Commonwealth. Merit-based scholarships will be awarded based on the quality of the essay submitted. Need-based scholarships will be awarded based on the quality of the essay submitted and the individual’s self-identified financial need. Award amounts may vary and are determined by the Council annually.  

The contest is open to Virginia women in their senior year of high school who hold at least a 3.0 GPA for the merit-based awards and a 2.5 GPA for the need-based scholarships. Applications and guidelines are available online here

Boards and Commissions Openings

To explore and apply for opportunities to serve on one of Virginia's Boards or Commissions, please visit the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s website.

Sisterhood Spotlights

Janel Keaton

Rita McClenny

Virginian battling stage IV cancer

As an active mother, grandmother and wife of a successful pastor, Janel’s life was turned upside down by a shock diagnosis in 2020. Since then, Janel has been an outstanding fighter of breast cancer and inspiring leader to her family, community and friends. In the Sisterhood Spotlight series, the First Lady showcases incredible women across the Commonwealth and shines a light on their unique stories.

To share the love this Valentine’s Day and beyond, we learn about Janel’s journey, what keeps her heart and mind strong and hear her advice to Virginia’s Women+girls fighting their own battle with a life-threatening disease. Read on, here.

President and CEO of the Virginia Tourism Corporation

As president and CEO of the Virginia Tourism Corporation, Rita McClenny is the Commonwealth’s leading spokeswoman. Under her leadership Virginia tourism continues to thrive and receive national industry recognition. Recognized as a Virginia Business Top 500 Leader in the Commonwealth for three years in a row, Rita is an outstanding example of Virginia’s Women+girls doing remarkable work in and for the Commonwealth.

Thanks to Rita’s standout work and leadership, the Commonwealth continues to lead as a top destination to live, work, travel, and do the things we love. Read more, here.

Pictured: Girls with Pearls mentee journaling

First Lady Focus on Petersburg

The First Lady celebrated Valentine's Day in Petersburg this year with the Girls with Pearls mentors and mentees. Tackling this month's topic of health and hygiene, the girls learned about the many workforce and educational opportunities in the healthcare field, discussed habits to stay healthy, and engaged in a Q&A session with Octavia Wynn, Associate Chief Nursing Officer at Southside Medical Center. Throughout their meeting the mentees had an opportunity to journal and discuss the practices they implemented from last month's session on how to stay mentally healthy, as well.  

W+g and Me

The First Lady routinely engages with nonprofits serving the needs of Virginians across the Commonwealth. Check out some of the organizations she has connected with recently!

If you are interested in volunteering to serve others, or would like more information on how these nonprofits might be able to provide you with assistance, click on their logos to learn more!

my princess project



Roanoke Valley Collective Response

Bon Secours

Hope's Legacy Equine Rescue

My Princess Project

Pictured: My Princess Project volunteers at dress donation drop-off site

The First Lady spoke with Mary Thumma, Founder of My Princess Project, a volunteer-based organization helping in-need students offset costs associated with prom expenses, this month.

Together they discussed the importance of giving all students the opportunity to experience the joys of community, friendship and relationship-building at school. By providing free shopping experiences for students to pick out a donated prom dress, My Princess Project is making dreams come true for girls all across the Commonwealth.

For opportunities to volunteer or contribute, visit:


Pictured: Swimmer's hand tapping a SwimRVA sign

According to SwimRVA, staggering statistics identify drowning as the second leading cause of accidental death among children under 14 and is a leading cause of death of children with autism spectrum disorder. Because of this pervasive threat to Virginians, the First Lady was glad to speak with SwimRVA leadership on future collaborative efforts.

A top priority of the Office of the First Lady is ensuring the well-being and safety of all Virginians. SwimRVA is doing just that by providing various sport, safety and health and wellness opportunities for individuals of all ages across the Commonwealth.

To learn more about the important mission and work of SwimRVA, click here.

Creatures + Creations

Creature Corner

Pictured: Merrill the horse

Last year, the First Lady and Governor Youngkin adopted Merrill, a rescue colt from Hope's Legacy Equine Rescue in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Founded in 2008, Hope’s Legacy works to rescue equines from a variety of situations including, but not limited to, abuse, abandonment, neglect and slaughter. An all-breed rescue, Hope’s Legacy takes in equines regardless of age or disability.

In July of 2022, the Governor and First Lady awarded one of the first Spirit of Virginia awards to Hope's Legacy, honoring their good works and commitment to caring for all of God's creatures.

Learn more, here

On the Wall

Pictured: "Church Hat No. 32" by Stanley Rayfield

This Black History Month the Executive Mansion highlighted the work of nationally renowned artist Stanley Rayfield. Rayfield made #homehistory in 2022 when he painted Governor Ralph Northam’s official portrait, becoming the first African American artist to paint a gubernatorial portrait in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

In addition to having his award-winning fine portraits become acquired by the United States Pentagon, museums nationwide, including Richmond’s very own VMFA, and private collectors such as director Spike Lee, Stanley Rayfield serves as a member of the Citizens’ Advisory Council on Furnishing and Interpreting the Executive Mansion. The Executive Mansion featured the magnificent “Church Hat No. 32” and “King of the Sea” by Stanley Rayfield for guests to see.

Plan Your Visit

If you haven't signed up to receive this newsletter: CLICK HERE

Enjoying Women+girls (W+g)? Share this email with 10 friends! Click below.

Facebook  Instagram