In honor of International Women's Day, we have chosen to celebrate women's history by looking forward at the next generation of Berkshire County women change-makers. Learn about how these women, and others who were all nominated by prominent women in the community, are shaping the world around them.

Answers are lightly edited for length.

Name: Anita Nana Nredah Akor

Age: 24

City: Pittsfield

Title: Acting Airport Manager

What motivates you to help to create, or make changes in your community?

Growing up, my family has always been my motivation. As of now, I am a mentor for Rites of Passage and Empowerment (ROPE) for high school girls — these girls motivate me to do better each and every day. I was once like them. I was shy, quiet and always in my bubble and I want them to know that everything is possible regardless of all the stigmas.

What is one thing you are working on, or are excited about, in the coming year?

I recently applied through American Airport Executive Association (AAAE) to become a Certified Member for Airport Operations and I am excited about this. This has been my extracurricular activity since the beginning of February.

If you could go back in time and tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?

Everything is possible regardless of where you come from, your race or religion.

Which women in your life helped shape who you are today and why?

Two women have shaped me to become who I am.

My mother: She watches me make my own decisions and when it's a bad one, she points them out and I learn from it. Maya Angelou: There is something about her that motivates me. The way she speaks her mind in her poems, especially "Phenomenal Woman" and "Still I Rise." One quote that I've always loved from her poem "Still I Rise" is, "You may shoot me with your words, you may cut me with your eyes, you may kill me with your hatefulness, but still, like air I'll rise."

Nominated by Shirley Edgerton: "Anita is a brilliant, confident and determined woman. ... She has chosen the STEM field as her career choice. A field of study that doesn't have a heavy presence of women of color, particularly in leadership. 'The National Science Foundation reported that in 2016 alone, Black women earned more than 33,000 bachelor's degrees in science and engineering, and 24 percent of doctorates awarded to black women were in STEM. But that same report showed that in 2017, only 5 percent of managerial jobs in STEM were held by Black women and men combined.' Anita is truly a trailblazer and role model."

Name: Sabrina Allard

Age: 42

Town: West Stockbridge

Title: Deputy Director at Railroad Street Youth Project, community artist/organizer

What motivates you to help to create, or make changes in your community?

Knowing that in our shared humanity, we are all working through something and have valid needs to be met. I'm motivated to name and uncover the systematic barriers oppressing the often invisible and unheard voices of, specifically, people of color and youth in our community.

What is one thing you are working on, or are excited about, in the coming year?

I'm excited to continue working with programs, coalitions and collectives that bring empowerment to community and youth voice to the table.

If you could go back in time and tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?

I would tell my 16-year-old-self "you are enough just as you are." There is no need to change to fit in with a crowd or become smaller to be accepted. I would also tell her that the racism she experienced is real and no one deserves to experience it.

Which women in your life helped shape who you are today and why?

I was shaped by a long line of strong, hardworking women in my family, namely my mother and two grandmothers. As a single mom, my mother taught me what compassion, care and resilience is. Both my maternal and paternal grandmothers role-modeled a strong work ethic and quality of work. Each raised kids while having careers they were passionate about, living with both purpose and determination. How I approach work in the community is a continuation of their legacies and lineage.

Nominated by Pamela Tatge.

Name: Becky Cushing

Age: 35

Town: Lenox

Title: Director of Mass Audubon's Berkshire Wildlife Sanctuaries

What motivates you to help to create, or make changes in your community?

At the heart of my work is the belief that it is our responsibility to recognize our influence on the environment and take action to mindfully steward it. In turn, we benefit from the powerful mental and physical benefits that nature provides. We depend on healthy, functioning ecosystems to sustain life - that's pretty motivating!

What is one thing you are working on, or are excited about, in the coming year?

Next month, I'm giving a TEDx talk called "Hack your brain with nature" that pulls together a lot of what I've been working on for the past six years. The science supports what many of us intuitively feel - that nature is good for us. I'm eager to share some of the ways people can tap into the power of nature in their everyday lives and build a connection that supports personal well being and nature for the benefit of both.

If you could go back in time and tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?

Ask more questions.

Which women in your life helped shape who you are today and why?

My grandmother was a protector of all living things, great and small, and nurtured my love for the environment. My mom supported me in everything I aspired to do academically, athletically, professionally. Several women in leadership roles at Mass Audubon recognized my passion and encouraged my growth within the organization from unpaid intern to my current role of director.

Nominated by Susan Wissler.

Name: Sarah Margolis-Pineo

Age: 37

Town: Dalton

Title: Curator at Hancock Shaker Village

What motivates you to help to create, or make changes in your community?

Museums are for everyone! They are spaces to learn, engage, consider, and respond to our shared history and what that legacy means today. There is so much to draw from the Shaker way of life, from sustainable farming practices and high-quality craft and design, to living communally and upholding the equality of all races, genders, and backgrounds. At Hancock Shaker Village, our exhibitions, programs, and events are inspired by the history of the Shakers at Hancock, but our work is meaningful because it reflects the diversity and vibrant cultural life of the region now. As curator of the historic buildings and exhibitions, my task is to ask: what might this mean, and why does it matter? How can this legacy inform where we are today, and who we may be in the future?

What is one thing you are working on, or are excited about, in the coming year?

I am thrilled to be opening "By Design," (May 24 - Nov. 1), an exhibition highlighting significant works from the permanent collection in dialogue with furniture, domestic objects, tools, and garments created by contemporary designers. This exhibition will be installed throughout the campus in a number of our historic buildings and, in many cases, the contemporary pieces will be replacing Shaker objects in our period rooms, which will be a significant change to our displays this coming year! Too, we are welcoming five artists-in-residence between May and August, who will be working out of a newly created studio in our historic Ministry Shop.

If you could go back in time and tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?

Ask questions! Be open to other perspectives, diverse experiences, and different ways of thinking about the world. Hustle hard, and do great work!

Which women in your life helped shape who you are today and why?

I've been very fortunate to come from a long line of badass women engaged in political activism and community development. I grew up holding signs at rallies and affixing address labels for mass mailings - my grandmothers and mother taught me that politics is a part of everyday life. Professionally, I've had mentors who have shaped my approach to curating, which I think of as a conversation between objects, audience, and ideas. In Portland, Ore., I worked with Namita Gupta Wiggers, who taught me to build exhibitions around two frameworks: reflect and respond, and engage and use. Reflect and respond are moments of personal introspection, whereas engage and use are platforms for tactility and social interaction. These two concepts create a truly rich museum experience, opening up myriad points of access for visitors who each learn and draw meaning from exhibitions differently. Too, working with Namita I learned to leverage community partnerships with libraries, cultural centers, municipal bureaus, and even restaurants, as a way to bring visibility, new voices, and dynamic community participation into the museum.

Nominated by Jennifer Trainer Thompson: "Sarah moved to the Berkshires from New York a year ago (she came from Brooklyn, where she was a curator at the American Folk Art Museum) and she is taking us by storm. She's wildly creative, collaborative, and community-minded."

Name: Ariana Massery

Age: 30

City: Pittsfield

Title: Producing Director at Jacob's Pillow

What motivates you to help to create, or make changes in your community?

The Berkshires is such a tight-knit community of people who care; when you get involved you can actively see how your actions affect people, don't go unnoticed, and perpetuate more positive action. I can feel the vibrant energy of reciprocity when I work to share a new dance experience with unexpected audiences or the appreciation from parents when creating a safe and fun place for their kids to play at my husband's business The Infield.

What is one thing you are working on, or are excited about, in the coming year?

I am working on realizing much of Jacob's Pillow's free public performances that are happening with frequency all over the county in surprising places and are often immersive. I am progressively interested in creating experiences for people to interact with art and dance outside of a proscenium theater space.

If you could go back in time and tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?

It's difficult to plan your life, one must respond to life; it is the way you embrace and persist that matters. I would never had imagined my love of dance would bring me to the Berkshires, show me a career path I didn't even know existed and is so fulfilling to me, and meet my husband Mike Massery, a Berkshire native.

Which women in your life helped shape who you are today and why?

My mother is such an important and close figure in my life; I am guided by conversations with her daily even though she lives so far away. She is independent, deeply caring, hardworking, and tough as nails; spending her days on our horse ranch in Montana. She has always supported me in my pursuits and offered candor when I have lost my way.

There are too many to name who have contributed to my professional identity; opening doors, providing opportunity and allowing me to make a few mistakes along the way. Jacob's Pillow has been a beautiful environment to grow up professionally surrounded by all types of strong, kind, and creative women.

Nominated by Pamela Tatge: "She is the glue that holds our organization together ... She's a force and a rising star in the dance field."

Name: Maizy Broderick Scarpa

Age: 30

City: Pittsfield

Title: Playwright, director, performer, teaching artist/educator

What motivates you to help to create, or make changes in your community?

I don't think of it as "making change" necessarily, although I guess that's what it is. I just have a vision of community, equity, and support that I try to manifest in all my actions, whether it's running rehearsal room or buying groceries. It feels intrinsic to me. Some of the motivation might come from growing up female, being a member of the LGBTQ community, or having struggled with anxiety and depression. Those experiences expand my empathy, but I don't think they are the origin of my motivation. Maybe it's the campsite rule of leaving things better than you found them. Some of it is self-serving; I strive to create a world and a community that I want to live in.

What is one thing you are working on, or are excited about, in the coming year?

I'm launching a business, Bloom Creativity, that offers script consultations, writing classes, and coaching in person and online. Bloom's motto is "Cultivate craft, unleash creativity." I love creating spaces that help people reach their creative potential, and Bloom is a manifestation of that. More information: bloomcreativity.com and on Facebook at facebook.com/bloomcreativityinc

If you could go back in time and tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?

"You can't get where you are going without being where you are." I stole that from Amy Poehler. And also probably Buddhists and/or Thomas Merton.

Which women in your life helped shape who you are today and why?

There are so many: family, friends, teachers, role models. Two big ones are my mom and my sister. My sister is four years older than me and when we were kids, I wanted to do everything she did. I was extremely motivated by her approval which I'm sure had a major impact developmentally. She is the reason I became interested in theater. Our games and our favorite stories are still influential in my imagination. She found her passion in public health and I am so flippin' proud of her and the work she is doing.

My mom is a natural artist, having grown up throwing pots in her mother's pottery studio (shout-out to my grandmother, the only mom in her 1950s suburban neighborhood teaching pottery out of her basement!). Throughout her career in education and human services, my mom has always cultivated creative practices including gardening, sculpture, and painting. She shared these with us from a young age. She loves and believes in each of her kids (I also have a brother who's working towards an advanced degree in neuroscience). She instilled in me the conviction that I can do anything I set my mind to, even when the pathway isn't immediately clear. She's not afraid to apologize if she goofs up, and she creates welcoming spaces for friends, family and strangers with joy and ease. When I was a teenager, it was not uncommon for her to house friends and neighbors who were going through a rough time at home, or temporarily did not have a home. She has also been active in local history and civil rights advocacy over the years. She isn't afraid to reinvent herself and to follow her joy.

Nominated by Kristen van Ginhoven.

Name: Pooja Prema

Age: 37

Town: Mount Washington

Title: Artistic Director of The Rites of Passage Project + The Ritual Theatre, performing artist & activist, ritual guide

What motivates you to help to create, or make changes in your community?

I want to live in a world that's more whole, more real, more life-giving, and where all belong. I am guided by the things I love and the things I grieve the loss of, which are one and the same: innocence, justice, green fragile things like moss and flowers, the shared vulnerable experience of being human, love and loss, the cycles of life, the diversity and infinite perfection of the natural world. These things deserve my total devotion to serve, protect and love them as myself.

What is one thing you are working on, or are excited about, in the coming year?

Rites of Passage 20/20 Vision this summer! It is my whole heart and focus. Rites of Passage is an entire house of art and ritual performance about women's initiation, and specifically women of color. I think it is time that we as Women of Color take our place in the center - with our art, our stories, our grief, our remembrance, our celebration. It's going to be incredible. I believe the world needs this as much as I and we do. More information: ritesofpassageproject.org/2020vision or @ritesofpassage.project on Instagram.

If you could go back in time and tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?

Don't let the world convince you that good things are impossible, or that your dreams are too ambitious or utopian. Take time to rest, be selfish in cultivating solitude, and keep opening your heart. You have everything you need, and your ancestors are very proud of you.

Which women in your life helped shape who you are today and why?

So many women in my life have shaped me. These are friends and teachers who've encouraged me to come into my gifts by loving me, seeing me, teasing out my magic by sharing theirs with me. Some of the women writers who've informed my life: Audre Lorde, Bell Hooks, Eve Ensler, Susun Weed, Tami Kent and Sark.

Nominated by Kristen van Ginhoven: "She is a performance artist with incredible vision."

OTHER PRAISEWORTHY WOMEN

• Danielle Steinmann, Director of Visitor Interpretation of The Trustees

Nominated by Laurie Norton Moffatt: "While her office is based in Stockbridge, she travels the entire state to offer guidance and program development for visitor interpretation at all Trustee properties and regions statewide. Danielle possesses a rare combination of deep art historical training, knowledge and expertise combined with museum education. She has passion for history and object-based experiences, from a visitor perspective. She has confidently led the development of the visitor programs at all of her previous positions, which included leadership with the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Her intelligence, creativity, professional expertise, and joy imbue everything that she does. In addition to her Berkshire County and Commonwealth of Massachusetts roles, she has been a leader in Pittsfield for the creative economy and for inspiring artistic engagement for younger adults in the Berkshires. She is widely traveled and is a citizen of world cultures. She is my idea of an accomplished emerging leader who has worked diligently for the betterment of the art community and the world."

• Jess Evans and Emily Gabriel, both work for Annie Selke Companies

Nominated by Kelley Vickery: Both women have risen up through the company to top positions because of their creativity, professionalism, intelligence and inspiration. They are dynamic women who also balance family and community. They ARE the next generation of leaders in the Berkshires and our community is all the richer for having them here!

•  Margaret Cherin, Manager of Marketing and Business Operations at Chesterwood

Nominated by Donna Hassler: Margaret has been with Chesterwood for two years and has the passion and interest in the work of America's foremost public sculptor, Daniel Chester French, Chesterwood, and interpreting this historic artists' home and studio in the Berkshires for visitors near and far. Margaret grew up in the Berkshires and was a former intern at Chesterwood. She returned to the area after her college and various employment opportunities in the art and cultural history fields in London, New Mexico and New York. Margaret has that "can do" attitude in everything she does and is an invaluable asset to the organization.