In honor of the women who are driving change, blazing trails and nurturing society, the Berkeley Heights Diversity Council is excited to celebrate Women’s HerStory Month by bringing back our inspiring “Woman of the Week (WOW)” series this March.
The BHDC is celebrating women in the Berkeley Heights community who are often unsung yet are inspiring, motivating and hardworking. WOW will honor the women right here in Berkeley Heights who are impacting the world in their own way.
We are excited to feature Sue Seto as our first WOW in our series.
Sue inspires us with her passion for giving back to our community, but she doesn’t do this alone as she has reached into the community to work with children to teach them her love for community service and helping others. In the midst of the pandemic, Sue creatively and inspiringly founded the “Giving Back 2020” club where children have collected needed supplies, run a food drive and crafted beautiful cards for residents in local nursing homes among other much-needed and giving endeavors. We have loved watching her do so much good, and know you will too. Here’s her story.
How long have you lived or worked in Berkeley Heights?
I have lived in Berkeley Heights for over 15 years. We moved in right before our oldest son started Kindergarten. I grew up and still work in New York City. I love the livelihood and the convenience of the city but moving to the suburbs was the best decision for my family.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by giving back to our community. Over the years, I have encouraged my children to use their skills and volunteer in what was meaningful to them. Tyler volunteered at nursing homes all through High School, and Matthew founded the New Jersey Community Ensemble, where he recruited young children to perform at local nursing homes and hospitals. With older brothers, Jayden knew the importance of volunteering. He is very involved with the Giving Back events.
I realized that I was able to guide other children so this year I started the Giving Back Club. It has been extremely rewarding to work with the children on all the initiatives. Our projects have included making weekly PB&J sandwiches for local food pantries and running food drives. I loved it when the children upcycled election posters and repurposed them to request food donations, and when they collaborated to make a video on world hunger. Over 40 children participated, and we successfully delivered 3 truckloads of food to the pantry in Elizabeth. Over the Christmas and New Year’s, Giving Back made more than 800 holiday cards for our community nursing homes. Other initiatives included a soup and cracker drive for 16 families in need, and filling backpacks with essentials for men and women who were looking to reconnect to society after being incarcerated. I am very passionate about giving back and plan to continue these efforts.
If you were to describe yourself in one word, what would it be and why did you choose this word?
I struggled a bit with this and asked my family, close friends and friends who I have met through my children for advice. Their common synonyms for me include: caring, loyal, determined, driven, dedicated, compassionate, leader…. I am humbled by their responses.
If I had to describe myself in one word, it would be “determined”. When I have my mind set on a goal, I would work very hard to accomplish it.
We can’t imagine you have lots of downtime, but we have to ask, what are you binge-watching these days?
There’s not a lot of time in the day to do everything that I want to do, but I enjoy historical drama, Korean drama and thrillers such as Criminal Minds, Special Victims Unit and CSI.
How has COVID-19 impacted your family?
The pandemic is a national disaster, and it saddens me to hear about the deaths, sicknesses, and the struggles people are having especially now with scheduling appointments for the vaccination. Every family has been affected in one way or another.
I wish the pandemic never happened, but I’ll admit we have found some positives during this difficult time. We now eat as a family, and I am able to spend time with my husband, Jayden (and my older boys when they are not on campus) for more than 2 hours each day. I now have more time and energy to do what I believe is meaningful. At the start of the pandemic, I joined a mask making group. It was my little contribution to the amazing front liners who were tireless working around the clock for those affected by Coronavirus. I have also started the Giving Back Club where I invite children to participate in events to give back to the community.
What do you do for a living? Why did you go into your profession?
I work for a large Investment Bank in the Financial industry. I studied Psychology and Elementary Education with the aspiration of becoming a teacher. As part of the program, we were required to teach in impoverished urban schools for 2 years. Many of the children were homeless, born drug/alcohol addicted and lived in broken homes. They often came to school hungry and dirty. Upon graduation and being barely 21, I realized that I did not have the experience needed to help these children. More importantly, I was not emotionally ready to deal with the sadness. I was relieved and grateful when offered a position in a small investment firm where I had been working part-time. From there, I went back for my Masters in Financial Management.
I have been successful in my professional career. During this time, I also became a wife and mother to three amazing boys. Between working full time and being a parent, there was no time to think about my earlier aspirations. Now that my children are older, I have more time to reconnect with my passion for working with children.
What are key skills that you need to do what you do?
It is important to set goals and be able to adapt as needed. I remind myself to never give up. I continue to learn new things and challenge myself to do better. In addition, I am a multitasker and find myself usually doing more than one thing at a time. To accomplish this, you have to be focused and organized.
Who is one woman everyone should know about? What do you want them to know?
There are too many strong women to name. Some historical figures who have inspired me include Rosa Park, Harriet Tubman, Princess Diana and more recent include Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Kamala Harris, Melinda Gates and Priscilla Chan. I would like to thank them for contributing, making a difference in the world and sharing what is important.
If you could go back to your high-school or college-age self, what’s one piece of advice you’d give?
I always felt the need to do better and work hard because I was never good enough. I did not allow myself to live freely and truly enjoy life. I am a natural worry-wart and an overachiever. Back then, I spent most of my time either studying or working. If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to live like a teenager and have some fun. I am very grateful to my husband, whom I met during freshman year in college. He was three grades ahead of me and really helped me keep balance. He is optimistic, positive and confident. He was, and continues to be, my rock.
Who is your female role model & why?
My Mother-in-Law is my role model. She is smart, determined, strong and selfless. I have heard many stories of how she single-handedly took care of her four young children while my Father-in-Law worked overseas. Over the years, I have watched her selflessly give to her family and friends. I have learned a lot from her.
How can you set an example for young women?
I am a professional working mother who enjoys working. I have been able to balance working over 60 hours a week, spending time with my children and volunteering. Young women and mothers struggle to keep balance. I wish for all mothers to know that whether you choose to work or stay at home, you are doing what is right for yourself and your family. As long as you put your mind to it, you will be successful.
It is 9:30 p.m. and Jayden came in and just asked me what I was working on… I told him, and he said, “I wished you didn’t work so hard,” and gave me a peck on the cheek before heading to bed. I love that my husband and children recognize and support my efforts.
Who inspires you? Motivates you? Leads you? Has impacted your life in a special way? The Berkeley Heights Diversity Council seeks your input as we select local phenomenal women to feature in our series in March. Please nominate one of the local women who inspires you by emailing the BHDC at email@example.com
The Berkeley Heights Diversity Council was founded over six years ago to honor and embrace the diverse cultures and perspectives within Berkeley Heights. Our goal is to spread awareness and foster inclusion. The BHDC is open and welcoming to all who reside in Berkeley Heights wishing to celebrate the diversity of our great town together and can be found at www.BHDiversity.org or reached at BHdiversity@gmail.com