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City woman from Jamaica honored for her support of women in self-employment
City woman from Jamaica honored for her support of women in self-employment

Latest In a series of stories about Worcester County residents who were recently honored by the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women.

Since Raquel Knight moved to Massachusetts and settled in Worcester during her studies, the residents of her home country of Jamaica have known where the “heart of the Commonwealth” lies.

This is thanks to Knight’s own generosity and the work of the nonprofit organization For One Child Foundation, which she founded while studying at Becker College, part of Clark University.

This nonprofit organization, founded in Jamaica to give schoolchildren a chair to sit on and focus on class, has provided about 620 students in 15 rural schools with more than just functional chairs—the youngsters have also received laptops, backpacks, school supplies and, yes, chairs.

On the foundation’s website, Knight recounts her daily search for a chair to sit on when she went to school as a child. She vowed that other children would not have to endure the ordeal of sitting on wobbly furniture, balancing a chair on three legs or sitting on their backpacks.

Knight is one of 14 Worcester County women nominated by lawmakers for the 2024 Class of Commonwealth Heroines, a recognition of the state’s unsung heroines sponsored by the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women.

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While her work with the community in Jamaica is close to her heart and has expanded to schools in her Massachusetts community, Knight was nominated by Senator Robyn Kennedy, Democrat of Worcester, for her work as director of the Central Massachusetts Center for Women and Enterprise. This work to empower women, especially women of color, is also work she is proud of.

A recent course offered by the center, a guide to entrepreneurship for women of color, enrolled 10 women. Seven completed the program and four registered with the state as businesses, including an e-commerce company, a yoga studio and one woman opened a beauty salon.

In her role, Knight helped connect the aspiring business owners with resources in the community and overall, she helps get businesses up and running.

“The work the center does is very important to me,” Knight said.

In her role, Knight’s paths often crossed with Kennedy’s.

“We meet frequently in similar networking spaces,” Knight said, explaining her connection to the senator. She also served as moderator in the debate between Kennedy and Worcester Mayor Joseph M. Petty when they ran for the seat vacated by the retirement of Senator Harriette Chandler in 2022.

“I have admired her work ever since,” Knight said of the new senator.

Knight was surprised by the nomination, but said, “I am very grateful for the recognition.”

In her nomination, Kennedy called Knight a “dynamic leader who is passionate about promoting entrepreneurial success and community enrichment, with a focus on women entrepreneurs. As director of CWE of Central Massachusetts, she is driven by high-impact programs focused on empowering underrepresented business leaders, particularly women of color.”

The Senator praised Knight’s ability to leverage strategic partnerships while increasing resources for corporate growth and innovation.

“Beyond her professional activities, her commitment to global citizenship and educational equity is evident through her philanthropic work with the For One Child Foundation,” Kennedy said.

This nomination was more than just recognition for Knight’s work and commitment to community service.

“It makes me feel like I’m part of the Massachusetts and Worcester community,” Knight said.

Knight left Jamaica in 2011, first going to Delaware before moving to the Worcester area in 2014, where she settled and has lived ever since. Knight is alone and part of a large family of nine siblings, nieces, nephews and godchildren. Now, when she returns to the island nation, everyone who knows her knows Worcester.

“They used to only know Boston, but now they know Worcester better,” Knight said.

By Aurora