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WOMEN OF DISTINCTION Naomi Marie Omi Preheim Spiritual Teacher Mentor and Metaphysics Consultant Founder and Principal at OMI Consulting 1 Women of Distinction Chelsea Szabo Life Coaching Life and Career Coach CPC Verbal Courage 2 Women of Distinction Naomi Marie Omi Preheim Spiritual Teacher Mentor and Metaphysics Consultant Founder and Principal at OMI Consulting Acton MA F ounder and Principal at OMI Consulting Naomi Marie Omi Preheim is a highly specialized Spiritual Counselor Teacher Astrologer Energy Healer Feng Shui Consultant Designer and Mentor. She is an expert in spiritual mentoring and metaphysics consulting with a national client base. A sought after public speaker Omi has shared her knowledge with captivated audiences at various conferences lectures on radio and television. Omi founded OMI Consulting more than 25 years ago with an initial focus on architectural design using Feng Shui principles. The company now serves as an umbrella for her expanding business which focuses on a multitude of metaphysical subjects. In 1992 she developed a spiritual vibrational healing practice utilizing ancient healing techniques. Her passion for architecture and design led to Feng Shui design and teaching. Since becoming a professional consulting Astrologer in 2001 she has taught professional astrologers to combine Western astrology natal horoscopes with Feng Shui. As Founder and Principal Omi works both as solo practitioner and in collaboration with fellow industry leaders to offer a range of workshops and courses reflective of her areas of expertise. Her primary role is to envision design and develop approaches to incorporate her knowledge of esoteric and metaphysical practices into accessible tools and trainings aimed at helping individuals become their best selves. In doing so she draws upon three decades of intensive study combined with application of these methods. Omi holds a BA in American Cultural History from Carleton College in Northfield Minnesota and is currently completing her MSPR in Mass Communication from Montana State University Billings (MSUB) in Montana. In 1984 she left a professional position as Business Services Manager at the MIT Libraries to raise her young children while re-considering her career goals. She began studying with Margo Schmidt (now Margo Mariana) a highly skilled psychic and spiritual counselor and became fascinated by the subjects such as chakras meditation and channeling. Margo s teachings were invaluable for life navigation and showed me a peaceful way to be in the world. A lifelong learner Omi continued her studies in various fields of esoteric and metaphysical practices. During her career she has developed and delivered numerous courses workshops presentations and lectures for adults in her areas of expertise. In 1997 Omi was an invited expert on ancient Egyptian mysteries of Isis and Osiris on an excursion up the Nile River. Her practice has been featured in the Boston Globe Improper Bostonian TV Channel 56 Boston Channel 6 Billings in magazines and on radio. As a non-traditional reverend Omi also performs weddings and funerals. Connecting with and supporting others in who they might become is my ultimate joy and inspiration for staying on this career path. As I integrated my learnings and they became a part of me I found I wanted to share and that I am a natural teacher. I love to disseminate information I find fascinating and helpful as a service to others. Omi s accomplishments have not been achieved without defeat suffering and loss. She credits finding her way out of these depths as evolutionary gifts which provide treasured insights of compassion gentleness and sensitivity to life that serve her well as a spiritual teacher-counselor-mentor. She encourages others to be true to their own voice to triumph over challenges of life. At multiple junctures of life I have chosen to change direction. Both the process of change itself and the acquisition of new knowledge and skills in a variety of work environments and industries require a deep dive into knowing self. As I began navigating from conventional work in 1984 I was a suburban mom captivated by esoterica simultaneously running PTA meetings and keeping a household smoothly functioning. My movement between these worlds was a huge challenge so I mostly kept my interests and burgeoning metaphysical work under the radar. Yet it is these very changes and challenges that have fueled my consulting work in transformation and personal growth. A committed community member Omi has served as a member and volunteer with organizations such as Big Sky Hospice Billings Peace Seekers Wild Women of the West Professional Healers Group of Arlington Lexington Pops Chorus Masterworks Chorale Boston Mennonite Church Continuum Board of Directors Lexington Public Schools PTA Boston Computer Society -- and many other institutions. Omi s 50 in 52 Journey Interview by documentarian Daphna Michaelson provides an excellent window into Omi and her work. In 2009 Daphna set out to find real people dedicated to making the world a better place by contributing to their communities by visiting all 50 states in 52 weeks. Omi was honored to be asked to find for Daphna interviewees in Montana and Daphna s video interview of Omi can be accessed on YouTube. In her free time Omi loves spending time with family and friends. 4 Women of Distinction I love stories Which means I love reading conversation and movies. I enjoy movies even more when I m watching with someone because it s fun to share movies. I love being with people I care about delighting in good food and drink taking walks together going out and exploring nature traveling all of which allow for sharing stories and creating new stories. Theatre and performance arts continue to provide free time fun and fulfillment. Some of Omi s recent roles include Ms. Darbus the High School Musical theatre teacher Ousier in Steel Magnolias and Mickey the Cop in Neil Simon s The Odd Couple Female Version. 2016 has been a banner year with the birth of Omi s fourth grandchild in May plus Omi was deeply honored to officiate as the reverend for her daughter s June wedding in Montana. I ve told my children that I want to be a bridge from the past into their future to provide a foundation for them to go further than I have gone. And I feel that is true of for my friends and clients as well. We can all help each other bridge from where we ve been to where we want to go to a better world of harmony abundance and peace. And this better world is being created in our thoughts right now. To paraphrase Gandhi I want to be the change I want to see in the world. 5 Women of Distinction Q&A Q Why is what you do relevant in today s world A It s a mad yet beautiful world that is changing rapidly exponentially seeming more chaotic. All of us seek a place to be safe to be authentic to think and talk things through and to intuit our navigation of change. This is what I do what I provide. Q How does a Mennonite farm girl get to the world of metaphysics A I grew up on a small Kansas farm within a Mennonite community. My Mennonite roots gave me a foundation in a religious tradition and provided a fair command of the Bible that has been incredibly helpful in my work. Being of service is a theme for Mennonites that resonates deeply with me. Q Would you say that some of that initial focus on service within the Mennonite religion was a step on the path to your spiritual consulting career A Absolutely. As Lao Tzu said The journey of thousand miles begin with one step. Throughout my life I have continued to study with amazing teachers who asked the age-old questions Who am I Why am I here What is the purpose of my life The connection between my Mennonite heritage and spiritual consulting makes sense to me when I put it in the light of becoming . My Dad would often speak of his current learnings and taught that we are continually in the process of becoming who we are truly meant to be. I am who I am today because of my search for that truth and my desire for calm and peace which I find through spiritual energy connection with my soul and with my Creator. Q What do you mean by spiritual energy and is it the same thing as Reiki A I think most people are aware of the concept in the science of Physics that we are made up of energy thus our dysfunctions and dis-ease have to do with energy imbalances. There are many energy-healing methods of which Reiki is only one modality. A skilled energy healer provides the connector for people to rebalance energies on physical emotional mental and spiritual levels and as a spiritual energy healer I facilitate the connection of the individual with their divine healer within. In his book The Celestine Prophecy James Redfield suggested that when we combine the best gifts of our father and mother we integrate our inheritance with our life purpose. Because my father was a medical doctor and my mother had a Masters degree in Education education is another strong value and my spiritual consulting work combines healing with education. Q How does astrology relate to spirituality A Remember that the wise men traveled by reading the stars to find the baby Jesus. Also in ancient times astrology was a source of wisdom. Today astrology can provide an amazing map of consciousness and spiritual growth. We get to choose whether to use maps or not we are not forced by fate. When we see our blind spots and accept our gifts we can make life course corrections. A major focus of my astrology practice is supporting clients with understanding of their life experience as it relates to their soul purpose map. A useful map does not just list cities (Sun signs) although knowing the cities can be useful. A complete horoscope needs to be examined in order to provide depthful information. You cannot know your purpose unless you know what you truly want and you cannot know what you want until you know yourself. Astrology and other metaphysical modalities such as Feng Shui are tools to self-understanding that lead to authentic expression of your spirituality and life purpose. Q Explain Feng Shui as spiritual practice A You may heard the saying As above so below. Feng Shui works on the physical or Earth level the interpersonal level and the celestial level. When you move furniture you open up new space and enhance energy flow which require internal adjustments in how you walk through your space. When you clean and de-clutter your physical environment you also clean and de-clutter your mind and spirit. Personal spiritual practice manifests the best Feng Shui with lasting results. In practical terms you cannot derive benefit from Feng Shui remedies applied on top of dirt and clutter the potency of spiritual energy magnifies the dirt and clutter not the desired peaceful environment. A new client once said to me You mean I hired you to tell me to clean my house The short answer is Yes Cleaning your house is metaphor for cleaning all levels of your being from physical to spiritual. For decades I have taught clients that an ultimate Feng Shui goal is for everything you see use and encounter within your personal space to make you smile. Material possessions should be useful and or make your heart sing. Marie Kondo s best-selling 2014 book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up speaks to this beautifully. 6 Women of Distinction Q It would seem that Feng Shui is one example of an ancient wisdom tradition. How do you see the broader array of resources in ancient wisdom traditions as having relevance to today s world A The dictum you hear in almost any ancient wisdom tradition is Know Thyself. How can you authentically relate to another if you have something inside of you that you feel is unworthy or that you are afraid to share It reminds me of pre-flight instructions on airlines to put your own mask on first before helping others with theirs. You have little to give unless you deal with self first. You may be aware of negative spin on self-improvement as being selfish or that such self absorption needs to be replaced with action. Knowing self is not small s selfish rather it is big S Self Awareness which leads to maturity and wise action in relation to others. Acting without awareness leads to unintended consequences and increased difficulty. Q Difficult conversations are your topic for your MSPR final project. What are difficult conversations exactly and why should we care A Anything we find hard to talk about leads us into difficult conversations these are conversations people dread avoid find unpleasant or are forced to engage in by difficult circumstances. Achieving communication without fear and anxiety may be unrealistic but reducing fear and anxiety while learning to manage tough situations is obtainable. Why we care about managing difficult conversations is that the cost of avoiding them includes damaged or lost relationships productivity and personal fulfillment. When you speak the truth of your lived experience others hear your heart. This is turn creates possibility for authentic heartfelt connection between people. Q How do difficult conversations relate to your work professional life A In the tumultuous and chaotic time we are living so many people are overwhelmed and stressed--and the overwhelm takes a toll on their ability to communicate effectively and to even face up to the difficult conversation they need to have in order to reduce stress. Fear of emotional vulnerability is a big issue as are threats to ego and self-identity. I address these with my clients in our work together. Since 9 11 Americans have been living in a combat mentality which has winners and losers so I support people in seeking win-win solutions in conversations. Q What curiosity are you currently exploring A I am looking at all of life as conversations and am realizing that all conversations with others are really conversations with self and all conversations with self are fundamentally conversations with Spirit or God. Such conversations can also be held in complete silence. Perhaps this may be part of why meditation is a universally regarded as primary spiritual practice. Humans are hardwired to be in social relationships--no one is an island--and we suffer when we are disconnected from others. My happiness is enhanced by conversations with family friends and clients which result in their finding their happiness. I am all about connecting with others and having amazing conversations. 7 Women of Distinction Carolyn Goodman Marketing Business-to-Business Business-to-Consumer President Creative Director Goodman Marketing Partners San Rafael CA 8 Women of Distinction B orn in England but raised in Canada Carolyn Goodman has spent the last 30-plus years living and working in the San Francisco Bay area. A recent empty nester you d think she d have even more time to dedicate to the business that she built from the ground up but instead she has found more work life balance. Founded in 2002 Goodman Marketing Partners (GMP) is a full-service brand response marketing agency that grew from 0 to 7.5 million in revenue in its first four years. By assembling a proven team of experienced senior level marketing professionals who have been there and done that she and her team have designed and executed projects for a variety of clients including Microsoft JP Morgan Chase AAA Autodesk ADT (now TYCO) and local worker-owned cooperative Rainbow Grocery. Carolyn did it all without borrowing a single penny to get the business started. How many entrepreneurs can say that Can t keep a lid on em. When you open a jar of Lindsay Spicy Jalapeno olives get ready for an explosion of flavor. Pop a few into your mouth for a snack that will wake up all five of your senses instantly. Or plant them in your favorite recipe for a zesty change. Open a jar and stand back. Way back. Look for our fun new packaging at your closest retailer and visit www.lindsayolives.com for recipe and snacking ideas. Savor olive life. As President the buck stops with me Carolyn admits. From business development and client satisfaction to human resources management billing and collections I make sure the company operates in a fiscallysound manner and with the highest degree of ethical standards. As Creative Director I am responsible for the ideas we develop and execute on behalf of our clients - ideas that deliver on the client s marketing goals and actually stimulate the target to take the desired action. To help companies meet and exceed their marketing goals Carolyn only hires professionals that are the absolute best at what they do. Every employee at GMP has a minimum of 20 years of experience which means there s no learning curve on the client s dime. ORGANIC NATURAL SAN FRANCISCO S ORIGINAL I love every aspect of this business - from the discovery process where we dig deep into an organization s business to identify what s working and what s not to the brainstorming and execution of marketing solutions I can t get enough Carolyn admits. My right brain thrives on the challenges of conceiving the actual marketing messages themselves from copywriting art direction and photography management to casting for commercials editing and music selection the process is stimulating and quite frankly intoxicating. It s exciting to see fresh ideas brought to life and with new channels opening in the digital frontier it keeps me on my toes as we discover new ways to reach out to target audiences and test and learn new techniques to engage and lure prospects and targets in taking the desired behavior. Meanwhile my left brain is constantly challenged with database design and data mining techniques plus the methodology required to implement a complex marketing campaign that has thousands of moving parts. Every day brings a new and exciting opportunity. YES. WE RE & HEALTHY FOOD STORE. those PEOPLE. A WORKER-OWNED COOPERATIVE EXTRA FREE PARKING om ALWAY OPEN TO THE PUBLIC 9 9 EVERY DAY 12th St. AT THE CORNER OF 13TH AND FOLSOM 13th St. 14th St. 101 RAINBOW GROCERY (415) 863-0620 RAINBOW.COOP Home delivery via 9 Thankfully Carolyn is blessed to be doing something she now loves which makes up for the long hours and hard work she must put in every single day. As a woman beginning her career in the 80 s it wasn t always easy. She was often told she wasn t experienced enough for a promotion or was excluded from opportunities to advance because she wasn t in the boy s club . She admittedly put up with unwanted sexual advances from both male clients and superiors having to stomach maintaining professional relationships with them in order to keep her job. Over the years she has been yelled at pushed to tears been sent abusive and passive aggressive emails and dealt with many less than professional encounters with colleagues clients and vendors Kis Fo ls sli ng I always found a way to pick myself up and tell myself to rise above she said. I wish I were better at brushing off personal attacks but it s a part of the job description unfortunately and has probably made me a stronger and better person as a result. My biggest strength today is my ability to develop deep long lasting and mutually respectful relationships with clients colleagues and suppliers and I am blessed to work with them again and again over the years. He and Carolyn meet virtually for an hour each week and work on his resume LinkedIn profile and develop strategies for finding and landing that perfect entry-level job. As the Deacon Moderator at Sleepy Hollow Presbyterian Church Carolyn manages a team of dedicated Deacons who create and manage opportunities for fellowship and communitybuilding among congregational members. As part the church s commitment to feed the homeless she volunteers her time by providing food and fellowship at both the men s and women s shelter once per month and finds time to sing in the church s choir. Carolyn maintains an extremely active lifestyle. She swims five times per week whether it s at her local high school pool or with her Master s Swim team she boxes twice a week and recently took up mountain biking. She loves to hike and has gone on several week-long and 10-day treks including the challenging West Coast Trail of Vancouver Island and trekked 100 miles round trip to the ancient city of Lo Manthang in Nepal. Most recently she and her husband hiked to Machu Picchu in Peru. Lucky enough to acquire a job in her field immediately after graduating from college Carolyn was hired at CFCNTelevision in Lethbridge Alberta Canada. Six months later she landed a job in Calgary at a very large Toronto-based advertising agency Cockfield Brown. After the company experienced a merger three years later Carolyn was out of a job. Relocating to the United States she planted her roots in San Francisco talking her way into a position at one of the hottest ad agencies at the time Chiat Day. It was 1983. She spent the next 18 years working for various major advertising agencies including DDB Needham Ogilvy & Mather Direct and Cohn & Wells and client side for Bank of America and 1st Nationwide Bank. The last seven of those years were spent serving as the Vice-President and Director of Strategic and Creative Services for 360 Group in San Rafael California. Finally in 2002 Carolyn opened GMP. It s been a blessing ever since. Tapped to write a bi-monthly marketing blog for Target Marketing Magazine Carolyn started The Power Punch in 2012 where she provides commentary on a host of marketing topics. Invited regularly to speak at events and participate in webinars for marketing she has made appearances at the US Postal Service Direct Marketing Association San Francisco Art Institute National Association of Women Business Owners The Women s President s Organization and at her local Rotary Club. Most recently she was invited to speak to seniors at her alma mater Carleton University on the importance of personal branding. GMP was included on the Inc. 5000 List as one of the Fastest Growing Private Companies in the United States and was named one of the Top 100 Woman-Owned Businesses by San Francisco Business Times four years in a row. She and her team of creative professionals have won dozens of awards that include the International ECHO Awards ADDY Awards Communicator Awards Stevie Awards and Caples Awards as well as the prestigious Package of the Year from Fundraising Success for her firm s work with public radio station KCSM-FM. A campaign for the sister TV station was profiled as an example of a successful non-profit case study in the book Successful Direct Marketing Methods written by Authors Bob Stone and Ron Jacobs. Carolyn uses her down time to participate in organizations that are near and dear to her heart. She is currently serving as President of the Northern California Chapter of the Carleton University Alumni Organization where she helps support local events that bring alumni together. She s in her second year as a Mentor for Carleton University mentoring a Senior who wants to pursue a career in sports marketing. Life is simply too short to not make the most of it Carolyn added. I work hard but I also play hard I m fiercely competitive. Whether it s a card game Words with Friends playing a sport or participating in a volunteer activity I strive to give it my absolute best every single time but have a little fun along the way too. I love to laugh. Carolyn earned her BA in Sociology and Anthropology at Carleton University in 1977 followed by a Diploma in Creative Advertising at Algonquin College in 1980. Married to her husband Peter for almost 27 years they have three sons Robert a University of California Davis graduate who now lives and works in San Diego for a surfboard company while pursuing a side career in photography and twin sons Jack and Christopher who are freshmen in college. Jack is currently attending Cal Poly Pomona studying computer science and engineering (although he hopes to transfer to Carolyn s alma mater to study game design) while Christopher attends Sonoma State University studying acting. Carolyn s husband also owns his own business Triplegood Promotional Marketing where he provides personalized promotional gifts and apparel to clients across the country. Pe r h c o m fo r ta a p s to o b le. McRoskey owners will go to great lengths to ensure they get a sumptuous night s sleep. Discover what makes our hand-crafted mattresses so irresistible that owners refuse to sleep on anything else. Schedule a consultation with one of our comfort specialists Palo Alto Showroom 650-327-1966 220 Hamilton Ave. at Emerson San Francisco Showroom 415-861-4532 1687 Market St. at Gough Locally made. Universally adored. 10 www.McRoskey.com Q&A Q Is working in an ad agency like what we see on the TV show Mad Men or has the advertising world completely cha nged A Despite Mad Men being set in the 1960 s my experience was somewhat similar when I first started my career in the 1980 s although women had slowly moved up the food chain by then. We did still have three-martini lunches although that s certainly fallen by the wayside (thank goodness ). And with so many virtual employees we don t necessarily all physically sit in the same space fewer and fewer of us have offices but work in a more open space environment. Q How did you become interested in the field of advertising and marketing Was one of your parents in the business A My father was a civil engineer in the Canadian military and my mother was a nurse. Neither one pointed me in any specific career direction although my mom thought I d make a great secretary considering I could type 90 wpm. Being more than a little bossy I immediately rejected that idea. Instead I discovered a love of writing and of problem solving (my dad was an original do-it-yourselfer so I got that skill from him). While flipping through college calendar options after finishing my BA I discovered a two-year program in advertising and after reading the description I was hooked Q What is the most challenging part of your business day A Running a smaller agency means having multiple clients on our roster who have daily demands. Juggling a large todo list while still finding time to relax in order to think outside the box can be somewhat challenging. My brain really never shuts off and I often come up with a fresh headline or marketing idea while in the shower. Q Do you think recent college grads armed with degrees in marketing are ready to work in an entry-level job at an ad agency A The short answer is unfortunately a resounding NO Most traditional colleges do not prepare students for work in this field. From a practical standpoint many are missing some of the business basics like Microsoft Excel (which we use every single day) nor have they been taught some of the marketing basics basics that would be a main part of their job responsibilities as the low man on the totem pole. Colleges that offer degrees in marketing would be wise to invest in bringing in a myriad of guest speakers who are working full-time in the industry so that students could be exposed to current marketing concepts like SEO SEM re-targeting email best practices media planning etc. as those are in the skill sets required for most entry-level marketing jobs. Q Do you get to travel a lot in your job A Over the years I ve worked with clients that have been located all across the US and Canada and I have enjoyed attending meetings or industry conferences in 40 out of 50 US states. We were on a TV shoot for a client in Hawaii once which required me to be there for three full weeks but I also had to be in New York on one of the coldest days in their history. Since I grew up in Canada I wasn t entirely familiar with US geography and when I got on a plane to fly to Little Rock Arkansas I spent a good 20 minutes studying the map in the back of the inflight magazine trying to find my destination Q Have you met many famous people in your line of work A Advertising campaigns often use spokespeople so I ve met a variety of celebrities from actors to sports stars. I got into an elevator at work one day with Joe Namath and the next day it was with Susan Lucci. In my experience most are gracious and fun to be around but they all recognize that this is work so there is little time for idle chit-chat. Q What are the most important skills someone would need to have in order to succeed in an advertising agency A The best skill is the right attitude. Having an innate curiosity and positive outlook with a willingness to listen and learn followed by perseverance to do whatever it takes to get the job done right is important. Very few people will take the time to mentor or teach new skills ideas so you need to have a thirst for gaining new knowledge but still be able to research and educate yourself through reading webinars and by attending conferences. Q What should a recent college grad do to get a job in your industry A First it s critical to have a strong LinkedIn profile. Any employer will take a look at your profile first (and pass judgement ) before they contact you for an interview. Next make sure your other social media is marked Private to ensure that a potential employer cannot see anything that could preclude you from being considered. Read the job description carefully and make sure you match your resume to the skills required don t make the employer try to connect the dots. Finally use LinkedIn to try and make a connection with somebody inside the company so you can have an insider who is rooting for your success. Agencies would rather hire somebody who has been referred to them than take a risk and hire blind. 11 Women of Distinction Q Why did you give up a successful career at an established agency to go out on your own A I spent seven years at my last agency building a department from scratch. I was being groomed to take over the agency after the owner retired but when the dot bomb hit we lost many clients and revenue fell dramatically. That s when the owner lost faith in my ability to rebuild the company and he hired an outsider he thought might be able to save the day (against my advice). But as I suspected he turned out to be all smoke and mirrors and since I felt that I was no longer respected I voluntarily left. After only two days one of my longstanding clients called me at home handed me a large budget and said he wanted my thinking and creative smarts to solve a marketing problem. I quickly put together a team of folks and the rest is history. Q Is there anything you dislike about running your own business A I am not particularly fond of managing people who expect a traditional employment experience regular review sessions performance evaluations formalized training programs etc. I prefer to work with more senior professionals who work collaboratively and don t need constant reassurance that they re doing a good job. Once I figured that out about myself I reorganized my agency to have fewer employees and more senior contractors who are paid to do a job and we are all much happier. 12 Women of Distinction Irene Dolnick Education K-12 Grammar and Reading Founder Chief Executive Officer and Author of Book Series El Paso TX I ntroducing revolutionary ideas in her children s book series that uses phonics pronunciation in text a dictionary on each page rhyming words likeable characters moral lessons and a text that appeals to students from kindergarten through grade twelve Irene Dolnick Founder CEO and Author of the Phonics with Kurt Gert Jazmine and Bagel book series is proud of how successful her books have become. This series utilizes concepts used in most reading programs even though there will always be the argument between Phonics and Whole Word instruction Irene admitted noting that she also developed a Teachers Edition for parents and teachers. My staff continues to improve our innovative ideas so we can include all struggling or dyslexic readers in both children and adults. We keep on developing developing and developing and I owe students the best in innovation from Kurt Gert Jazmine and Bagel. Residing in El Paso Texas with her family Irene now works as a substitute teacher. Twenty years ago with her husband Peter s blessing she had gone back to college to earn her Bachelor s in Psychology in 1996 at the University of Massachusetts when she was at the time working in human resources and insurance for Boston Financial Data Services. Once completed she was further encouraged by her husband to complete her graduate work but due to unfortunate circumstances that dream was placed on hold after he was struck by a hit and run driver in a parking lot in April 2000. While he spent a year-and-a-half living in hospitals and nursing homes Irene had to step up as the primary wage earner of the household. It wasn t until 2005 that Irene was able to go back to school. When she finally did complete her Master s in Education with a Specialization in Reading and Literacy she was unable to obtain her teaching license in Rhode Island where she was working and living at the time because the certification wasn t approved by the state. Inspired to write after witnessing just how difficult a time students were having with basic reading concepts the ability to pronounce high frequency words dividing words into syllables and pronunciation Irene knew she wanted to do something to help beginning and struggling readers. Using her four furry friends from home to help develop a story line (her Beagle buddies are actually pictured on the cover of her first book) which was released in October 2013 she has since received much praise for her work from classroom students of all grade levels and teachers alike. In fact several local high school students illustrated the cover of her first book and contributed illustrations for her second book. As a thank you Irene donated money to the students high school toward cap and gowns and yearbooks for seniors and made gift boxes at Christmas time for them. To this day I don t know how I pushed and continue to push forward Irene said. Then in 2013 the Kurt Gert Jazmine and Bagel book series was born. Finally in 2014 my business idea painted its face in my mind. With each idea I must be subconsciously seeking justice for all including some for my lovely daughter. Good does prevail over evil doesn t it Busy busy busy is now the name of the game for Irene these days and that s a good thing. But lately spending time with family has been a struggle for her. She must often remind herself that weekends are for me and my family . Irene literally has to shut off her phone just to make it stop ringing and tempt her to answer the unending emails that come in. When she does break away from her work she often reads classic pieces like The Spectacles by Hawthorne. She s also since started a webinar on writing and reading at imeet.com KurtGertJazmineBagel Irene. The proud mother to one daughter now 28 Jessica is a Certified Nursing Assistant who cares for her father fulltime despite having a having a BS in Paralegal Studies and Law Enforcement. Irene also has a father Apolonio Rivera 91 who lives nearby in El Paso. Growing up in a household with a very abusive mother Irene only discovered recently just how bad it was while working on her Honor s Research Project during her BA program. She still has painful memories of her mother beating her with a belt long ago making her feel like a worthless human being. Luckily Irene was able to defeat her mother s ideas and voice in time. With the first two books in the series now complete Irene hopes to leave a message of friendship jealousy and adventure leaving readers with something to learn from and cherish as they turn each page. Irene is eagerly looking forward to completing the next book in its series. 14 Women of Distinction Q&A Q Why are substitute teachers neither given pay raises covered by insurance nor included in staff development courses A A lot of schools have restrictions. SISD has gone further to mandate a work schedule of 16 days each month with which I obviously disagree. I believe an investment in SISD personnel is an investment in the organization consequently all staff (principals teachers students) can feel more comfortable that their needs are being met when substitute teachers know curriculum expectations. Finally discipline problems would diminish because everyone is working as a cohesive unit with credibility and students would know that substitute teachers are valued as educators. Their inattention to teacher instruction in the classroom would not increase except for those students with severe emotional issues. Q Are substitute teachers familiar with the methodologies or use of technology used in the classroom today A It s not that a substitute doesn t know Word PowerPoint Excel etc. If the school or classroom has a no technology policy except for its use in projects students can tell you our teacher allows us to listen to music or use the phone to look up vocabulary when this is not exactly true in that high school . This can become enabling when students do not complete the assignments left by the teacher. Q What problem do you see the most at various schools A I see some children that can read and comprehend my book in kindergarten (the gifted) yet some fifth graders can t read it. Some students belonging to the WINN or other after school program use these or other acronyms as a motivational and psychological conditioning to maintain student focus however I see high school students showing their dislike for reading and their inability to focus on the task the teacher left. Occasionally I see some of the same students years later don t see even incremental improvement in their behavior or interest in class work. Q What are your suggestions for improving the educational system A First I d restructure the salaries so those at the top make less. Second teachers would get an increase their lounges would have microwave ovens that work substitute teachers would be included in trainings along with teachers and inappropriate student behavior would be resolved by serving the abused (teacher student substitute etc.) through community projects. Q Would tying school performance to principal evaluations help A Only if the Department of Education rated principals and assistants on the development of new programs that track the development of misguided students cured a social ill such as global warming etc. Kurt Gert Jazmine and Bagel have developed a piece of equipment that may help global warming when developed and implemented. I d like to work with the talented students teachers at Americas High School El Dorado High School and Americas to produce a film about our creation and endeavor to develop student ideas social ethics and commentary. Q What contributions have Kurt Gert Jazmine and Bagel made to schools A First this series helps students attach themselves to the character of choice one that meets their needs or identity. Next reading about others problems and adventures draws them in. Unless the book is difficult for a student to read they love the characters even those students in high school. With the Teachers Edition teaching across content areas becomes easier. If I wanted I could even develop a high school curriculum from my book. Finally my book segments blends word families teaches rhyming words and literary themes. Q Do you love what you do A I love meeting students especially those with reading difficulties. I ve made proposals to various schools to assist these students. This isn t about a narcissistic need but something I did in Rhode Island before our last car accident. I worked at Tides School developed their library and helped impoverished students love to read. If it weren t for this second accident and my husband s more fragile health I d be there. 15 Women of Distinction Kristin Guglielmo CIC Insurance Owner Insurance Agent Penny-Hanley & Howley Co. Inc. Stafford Springs CT T iming is everything something Kristin Guglielmo discovered more than 20 years ago. Graduating from college in 1992 her father was in need of help with the family business after being chosen as an elected official in the Connecticut State Senate. As the owner of his own insurance business there were many needs to fill one of which was getting up to speed in computer technology. Very computer savvy Kristin pursued her insurance license and became a Licensed Insurance Agent in 1993 in Property and Casualty and Life and Health ready to help her dad and the business any way she could. Every day when I pick up the phone to talk to a customer I must be prepared to answer their every question in a professional manner but also be able to explain it in plain English so that they completely understand their options Kristin added. When I graduated I needed a job and my dad required help in his business Kristin explained. At the time insurance companies were investing hundreds of millions of dollars in computer technology and they wanted their agents to be able to tie in. I had a significant background in computer technology so it was a perfect fit. Penny-Hanley & Howley Co. Inc. is an independent insurance agency that partners with more than 30 insurance carriers to bring clients the best coverage and price combination to fit each individual family or business need. Originally founded in 1865 Kristin is proud to be able to carry on the company s tradition of providing professional service just as her father did as well as helping make her community a better place. And although it is certainly a necessity that she maintain a profitable business she is always thinking of her clients to protect their assets. Loyalty honesty and consistency are qualities she values most. A 1992 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Connecticut Kristin recently earned her Certified Insurance Consultant designation and is more than halfway through completing her Certified Risk Manager designation. Currently active as a member of her local Rotary Kristin also enjoys giving back. This past Christmas 2015 she adopted 125 veterans delivering a present to each of them at the Veteran s Hospital along with cards that the children of Stafford Springs had made for them. She is also the former President of a Computer User group which consisted of a group of agents who taught other agents the functionality of computer software specific to the insurance business. Kristin grew the membership from 20 to more than 100 agents in the few years she spent in that role. Married with three children Kristin s husband has been working alongside her for the past 11 years as an insurance agent. They have two sons ages 13 and 8 and a daughter 11. Their eldest son was adopted from Guatamala their daughter was adopted from China their youngest son is their biological child. All three of Kristin s children are loved equally and they keep her very busy with school activities soccer baseball and basketball. And while she thoroughly enjoys being involved in all of her children s activities when she has a quiet moment to herself she will escape to relax on the beach in good weather. It gives her a chance to catch her breath slow down a bit and appreciate everything she has to be thankful for. Kristin has never left the business it is the only company she has ever worked for. Now as the Owner and Chief Executive Officer of Penny-Hanley & Howley Co. Inc. she and her team sell and service all types of insurance from property and casualty to life and health. As CEO she is also involved in every aspect of the sales and services of their products. It is a very challenging field one that never gets boring. My father helped me learn this business and prepared me to take over the reigns she said. He was wonderful and encouraging to work with for all those years. Equally involved in her community as a small business owner Kristin works in the same small town where she was born and raised. Striving to make a difference in Stafford Springs Connecticut means the world to her. She is invested both personally and professionally in her hometown to help to continuously make it a better place to live work and raise a family. A complicated business to learn it s important to master all of the coverages to properly advise those you she is insuring. As an agent Kristin and her employees main job is to help customers protect their most important assets. The only way to do that is to study and work to increase their overall product knowledge. After 23 years in the industry Kristin is still taking courses and trying to improve her knowledge. For her every day is a school day. 17 Women of Distinction Q&A Q What advice would you give to someone taking over an established family business A I would say to go slowly and blend in with your changes and improvements. It was fairly easy with my dad because he was busy with his State Senate duties so I had a great deal of autonomy from the start. Q What are the major changes you have seen in your industry over the past two decades since you became involved A The major changes are in technology and communication. You need to stay in step with the insurance companies that you represent because they have invested heavily in technology Q What type of future do you see for a family-only local insurance agency going forward A I think the future is very bright especially in small communities where individual service and attention still counts. As agents we also need to make sure we are catering to the younger generations since they are more technologically savvy. Q Are there advantages to being a women-owned business A The only minor advantage to being a woman owned business is that you have instant rapport with other women and women are usually the decision-makers in the purchase of insurance for the family. Q Are there disadvantages to being a women-owned business A Almost none because there are so many women professionals today that it is fairly standard and comfortable for most clients. I would love to see more women as the CEO of their insurance agencies since that number is still quite low. Q What plans do you have for perpetuation of your business A I have three small children and obviously it would be great if one of them decided to run this business if it was right for them. It worked out well between my dad and I and I think it would be successful with one or more of my kids as well. Q Where do you see the competition coming from in the future in your industry A I don t think it will change much in the future. The competition will come from other independent insurance agencies and the direct writer insurance companies. I do think that there will be more competition from the large national independent agencies in the commercial area of insurance. I believe they will be more aggressive in coming after commercial accounts even in the small towns which are a good distance from their offices in the major cities. Q What is the secret to success in today s competitive environment A I don t think it s too much different than it s ever been. You have to work hard stay up to date with changes in your industry and have good quality employees. Q How do you manage operating your business having a family with small children and having a little time for yourself A With some difficulty. It s not easy and sometimes it s frustrating but I tried to incorporate my personal enjoyment with the kid s fun. For example when one of them plays youth basketball I volunteered to be one of the coaches. I enjoyed that and I think my children have also. Q Do you think that operating your own business while raising a young family is the ideal situation A I don t think there s any ideal situation there are plusses and minuses to any situation. If I worked for a large insurance company it might be less pressure but it would have the drawback of not being as flexible. It s a trade-off. 18 Women of Distinction Susan Tridle Education Nodaway Valley High School and Middle School Special Education Teacher Greenfield IA S usan Tridle is the type of person who looks out for the underdog. She has a talent and passion for finding those in need of kindness compassion and understanding and helping them reach their full potential. As a special education teacher at Nodaway Valley High and Middle School in Iowa Susan has the opportunity to improve the lives of children each and every day. Susan embarked on her new career path in her early 40s. Both of her children were in special education classes and were often the subject of mean-spirited and negative comments from their teachers which inspired Susan to help change the culture of special education. In 2001 she began as an associate teacher in fourth grade. After two years plus one year of student teaching in special education she took a job as a middle school functional teacher teaching students with moderate to severe intellectual disability. Susan s role is to reduce the gap between students in special education programs and students who are not. She believes education is about teaching kids to become thinkers and problem solvers. Her students as well as her own children who were both in special education classes continuously inspire Susan. My son Jordan is a 25-year-old who attended the University of Iowa R.E.A.C.H. (Realizing Educational and Career Hopes) program. At one point in his life he was never going to move out of my home nor was he going to get a job. Both of those milestones have occurred and he is beginning to set his sights higher. Today Susan holds a number of degrees and certifications related to her work including a masters of arts in teaching and a bachelor s degree in psychology. In her personal life Susan continues to provide the opportunity for individuals with Intellectual Disabilities. She has been a coach for Special Olympics since 1999 and is an active member of Autism Society of Iowa Council for Exceptional Children. She has recently begun working toward her master s degree in mental health counseling and has joined the American Counseling Association. In her spare time Susan enjoys swimming waterskiing softball bowling bicycling walking basketball fishing and boating. She is also an avid reader who loves puzzles and brainteasers. Music and art are two more important areas in her life. She is learning to play the guitar and piano and continues to work on art projects with her daughter as well as calligraphy. Above all Susan puts family first. My children would have to be my greatest professional inspiration she said. Despite their disabilities they have overcome and are now successful. My daughter Whitney is a 24-year-old professional artist and graphic designer after graduating with some accommodations from Creative Center College of Graphic Design in Omaha Nebraska. At no time in my life has anything ever just been handed to me Susan said. I was raised to believe I need to work hard to get where I want to be to accept responsibility for my own actions acknowledge my talents and areas needing improvement be kind to others give what I can to help others continue to learn and put family first. 19 Women of Distinction 20 Women of Distinction Q&A Q How much if at all should the government be involved in the field of education A Politicians are currently trying to change the educational field without coming into schools and looking at what is being done to increase student achievement. Educators are teaching kids to be critical thinkers and learn to work together even using the Internet to open them to other school cultures across the world. Politicians want to improve test scores which doesn t necessarily equate to student success after graduation. Q What do educators need in order to be able to provide all students with an appropriate education which will prepare them for the world outside of the school walls A Technology is ever expanding and increasingly more expensive. Schools are unable to provide the amount of access to technology that is needed for each student due to money. In the state of Iowa our current governor does not fund schools accordingly but expects achievement rates to increase along with technology use. Educators need the support of funding especially for technology and salaries which equate to the educators level of schooling in order to prepare ALL students. Q Right now the education system seems to be geared toward testing and more testing rather than educating young people. What needs to be done to change this system A Constant testing does not show learning understanding generalization and application. What it does show is that a student either is a good test taker is a very knowledgeable individual has test anxiety or simply doesn t care (they just make patterns out of the bubbles they fill in). More global education through connecting with other schools across the world and or putting kids in situations with people already in the workforce and having the students learn on the job while helping with ideas and problem solving would certainly help kids show what they know much more than a standardized test would. Q How can educators get the community and parents more involved in the local school systems A There is no way possible in my opinion to get everyone involved because not all parents and community members want to be part of the local school systems however we can certainly involve as many as we are able. Sporting events carnival fund-raisers plays that involve students of all ages and community members of all ages volunteer readers inviting in speakers more money to fund field trips parents community members employed as paraprofessionals or volunteering their assistance with anything a teacher might need parent or community visitor s day community school sponsored events recognition of outstanding students (not just academically but through character) job shadowing experiences and so much more. A good education needs parents and the community involved it takes all of us to provide this for each child. Q How do you reach all children in a classroom when there are so many different levels of understanding students might be on A Differentiated instruction which is the interventions put in place for Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) which was formerly referred to as Response to Intervention (RtI). This is easily done but does require some training. Unfortunately not all schools have provided that training. It also requires documentation and regular meetings which often doesn t happen. Due to funding issues it would be great to have volunteers come into these classes if they are proficient enough to understand the content area being taught. Students need to be taught at their current academic achievement level and then challenged to increase their ability and hence close the gap. Q There have been several school shootings in recent years from students who feel bullied or just different. What can we do to help alleviate this issue and eventually stop it from occurring A The bottom line is mental health counseling. Yes schools have guidance counselors however they are not trained in mental health counseling. Schools need mental health counselors to help deal with these situations. More teachers administrators and students need to be aware of what is going on around them. I believe most of these shootings can be avoided. We need to be talking and actually watching what is going on around us on a daily basis. There are also programs which can be implemented to assist with a positive school environment. At Nodaway Valley we have implemented the Olweus Bullying Program. One program that would enhance Olweus is to combine it with Positive Behavior Intervention Supports. In this program the same positive rules for the district begin in Kindergarten and continue all the way through senior year. It has had an amazing impact on several school districts successfully decreasing bullying and improving student interaction. For students who need more support or are sometimes excluded because of diversity or disability reasons Circle of Friends is an easily implemented program which starts with the school guidance counselor. Using any research based program in schools can only have a much more positive effect on the school environment and decrease the isolation some students feel successfully helping them become part of the school community. 21 Women of Distinction Debra Vines Non-Profit Founder Executive Director The Answer Inc. Autism Awareness and Support Agency Forest Park IL C reating her own path as a community servant Debra Vines has been bringing autism awareness to her community for the past eight years as the Founder and Executive Director of The Answer Inc. Autism Awareness and Support Agency located in Forest Park Illinois. Founded on September 27 2007 in honor of her son Jason who was directly impacted by autism Debra s agency serves other families in need of guidance and support. I wanted to use my expertise to help other families suffering in silence Debra said whose community had very little resources at the time. I also wanted to bring the much needed awareness to the community-at-large. To see a family that we have serviced grow in their journey to help yet another family is worth all the effort. The Answer Inc. was founded with a tremendous amount of passion and hard work. And while Debra understands that her vision and passion is not everyone else s she has made great strides in bringing awareness and resources to those in need and those that want to get involved. Debra has served on the 4th District Assistant Majority Leader Senator Kimberly Lightford s Women Committee as a Co-Coordinator for Operation Safe Child as a Peer Reviewer for the Department of Defense for Autism as a Committee Member of Autism of Illinois TASC FORCE has served on the board for Youth On The Move and as Founder and Facilitator of Bullying is Not The Answer all of which either directly or indirectly affect children or children with autism. Debra has been so instrumental in her community that she was named the first African American woman to start an agency for autism in Proviso Township Illinois. Her agency has been so successful that they were able to write and pass a bill in 2015 relating to the Priority Urgency of Needs (SB226) or PUNS a statewide database that records information about individuals with developmental disabilities who are potentially in need of services. The State uses the data to select individuals for services as funding becomes available to develop proposals and materials for budgeting and to plan for future needs. As Founder and Executive Director Debra s job scope is quite broad. Advocating for families in the Capitol and the community are just a small part of what she does. One of the biggest and most important aspects of running a not-for-profit organization has everything to do with raising funds to keep their doors open and their resources available. Planning and executing various fundraisers throughout the year Debra also handles case management creates programs for participants by autism developmental disorders builds policies and provides resources training courses for first responders and IEP support. Every aspect of the agency s ability to run efficiently falls under Debra s direct guidance. Awareness for the PUNS list was needed Debra said. There are so many families in the community were not even aware of the list. 22 Women of Distinction They also created the first Autism Resource Room at the Broadview Public Library in Proviso Township. It s an opportunity for families and the community to have all the resources in an area specifically for autism special needs. It operates during regular library hours. Having partnered with several renowned agencies over the years to help break the stigma that is often attached to autism Debra and her team have worked with TAP Seguin Services Provison School for Exceptional Children and Opportunity Knocks to name a few. With her leadership and guidance The Answer Inc. was able to host the very first Autism Walk-A-Thon in Proviso Township to sponsor program participants to a weeklong horseback riding camp and raise awareness an event that she hopes will continue to live on for years to come. To date The Autism Inc. has sponsored 250 children and adults from ages 7 to 50. The Autism Inc. has appeared on Comcast Community Essentials in segments on Channel 7 News on the Tom Joyner Morning Show as well as many other local radio stations promoting autism and in numerous newspapers including the West Suburban Journal the Pioneer Press the Suburban Journal the Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune. Debra s achievements have earned her a lot of recognition over the past near decade. She has been honored with The Fred Hampton Scholarship Award Women Ambassadors of Christ Award Women s Treatment Center Rising Star Award Proviso Community Crisis Committee Award Keiche Caf Mother of the Year Award and Hillside Commission Dr. Martin Luther King Dream Award. Recently Debra began hosting The Answer Inc. Show a monthly show on Public Access Television to publicize resources and education from guests specifically in the autism special needs field. I am a very loyal passionate and supportive person Debra said who has been married to her husband James for 32 years. I thank God every day for knowing what my purpose in life is. Involved in more than just autism awareness Debra has served as Director of Marketing for Interfaith Inc. as Board Director of Broadview Chamber of Commerce and as Board Member for the Illinois State Library Board. Debra and James share two sons together Mark and Jason. Mark is married with two children of his own Mark Jr. and Makayla. Her grandchildren are one of her greatest joys in life and she loves to spend quality time with them. She also loves to dance Steppin read occasionally and share laughs with great friends. 23 Women of Distinction Judith Flandreau Dievendorf Accounting - Tax Preparation President of Ellis Alexander Consulting Inc. d b a Dievendorf and Company Delmar NY I n the early 1980s with a degree in music composition Judith Flandreau Dievendorf s only career options were as a choir director or piano teacher. While those weren t bad choices she was looking for something more satisfying so she enrolled at the State University of New York at Albany (SUNY Albany) and earned a Master of Science in Accounting in 1984. Judith originally started in public accounting for the 1984 tax season as a part-timer in 1985. This mother of three started with that practice when her youngest son was 7-years-old. After my experience with a big regional firm I realized that it wasn t for me. I almost left the field all together because I didn t think I fit. Although I m capable of being a team player I found that the concept of team ended after you were hired. Praise was never given only blame. You can t expect to have people working with you when they re afraid of being yelled at or humiliated in front of others because they re tired or frustrated. I found that style of management deeply distressing and realized that I couldn t be a part of a world like that. I contemplated leaving the accounting field altogether. However I passed my CPA exam in 1986 and in 1987 when I was looking for an accountant to do my own taxes I met the man whose practice I eventually worked in and purchased. At that time I was laboring under the whole super mom mentality where I had to be good at everything but particularly at my business. I had to accept the long hours and going back to work at night so that deadlines didn t interfere with family events. I had to prioritize activities so I could be there for all the baseball games concerts and other important things. My sons are now grown up and each either owns their own business or works in the field of taxation. In 1994 Judith incorporated her practice as Dievendorf & Company Tax and Business Consulting. Later in 2008 she sold that business to one of her sons who worked with her but missing the autonomy and work she repurchased the personal and trust tax practice in 2010 thus Ellis Alexander Consulting Inc. d b a Dievendorf and Company was born. As President of the company she does everything from cleaning the office to training the staff. 24 Women of Distinction I believe if my staff sees that such tasks aren t beneath me they ll see that we all have a common purpose of getting things done and having the office run smoothly. This is my concept of team we all work together toward a common purpose and help each other along the way. Judith has an interesting take on her tax work. It may seem odd but the preparation of tax returns is akin to writing music. Each return is its own story. I enjoy working with the people for whom I prepare taxes so I find the work supremely satisfying. While taxes can be scary for clients it s my goal to provide accurate and professional tax preparation at a reasonable price in a relaxed environment that puts my clients at ease. Her greatest professional inspiration was her father John Flandreau. She offers the following advice for anyone looking to get into the business of tax preparation As a management consultant he loved working with people and encouraged me to purchase the business I was working for in 1991. He came to work with me and supported my efforts until his death in 2001. It was his concept of building a team that influenced me most of all. It can be long hours with cranky people. Be sure that you understand the time commitment and the stress that people are under when they re doing their taxes. You need develop good listening skills and be confident and loving even if your knees are knocking under the desk. Also don t be defensive. That s hard sometimes because people have pre-conceived notions about how taxes are supposed to work. Remember there are two sides to everything. Also if you make a mistake own up to it and fix it. In her free time playing in her garden after a long tax season is something that helps Judith relax and forget about work. She is also part of a small nonprofit that helps people in need. I m so proud of our little group Founded in 1974 we helped people with food drops before there were food pantries we paid for heat bills before there was HEAP and we formed an association to get health insurance for people who d been laid off before there was COBRA. We do things that other charities cannot. 25 Women of Distinction Keri Brye Publishing Elementary Education Author Educator - S.L. Jones Christian Academy Pensacola FL K eri Brye has been writing since the age of eight but her professional career as a writer began in 2000 followed by a teaching career that began in 2006. As an author Keri answers questions that others may have been too afraid to ask providing insight and a fresh perspective on various subjects. And as a teacher she educates and inspires her students in all aspects of their lives in order for them to reach their full potential. For this she was awarded Teacher of the Year in 2012-2013 and 2013-2014. Keri has also had the opportunity to work as program coordinator for former Florida Governor Jeb Bush s mentoring program Teen Trendsetters and has written for publications that include Capitol Outlook Pensacola News Journal New American Press and Pensacola Voice . In addition she is a song writer and poet. Keri wrote a song titled Blessed for gospel recording group Pensacola Men of God. And as a poet she has performed on various multimedia platforms. Her book For You A Collection of Love Poems inspired saxophonist Frank Morton to form his musical group The Jazz Sensations. Her advice for aspiring or novice writers is to build your dreams live your dreams expand your comfort zone and go with your instinct. Knowing that education is the foundation of our children s lives and being able to help build future leaders in our world has captured me. I m honored to have helped other writers succeed over the years. I taught high school English and journalism and launched the first ever student-run newspaper at Ruby Gainer High School. I also helped young writers at S.L. Jones Christian Academy by launching their first school newspaper. I even taught my first grade class the writing process and helped them utilize the skills to publish a classroom book titled I Can Give Now . Sometimes the seemingly nonsense ideas lead to the greatest success. And for beginning educators she advises that no challenge is too big. 26 Women of Distinction Believe in yourself and your students will believe in you. This married mother of one spends her free time reading writing taking long walks on the beach crafting listening to music taking pictures of nature and playing with her daughter as well as traveling with her competitive cheer team. Keri is also a member of Smart Sexy Successful Women a local group that inspires women to continue with success and encourages them to improve in their fields of work. Despite her seemingly demure presence she has been dubbed Unbreakable Brye . Q&A Q What inspires your writing and where do you get your ideas A My ideas come from songs commercials personal experience the experiences of others and wishful thinking. Q When and where do you write A I write at all times whenever an idea comes to me at work at a party or even awakening from a dream. Q What do you hope that readers will gain from your writing in general A I want people to gain a fresh perspective on topics and a common ground with others. Q Where did you get the concept for your collection of love poems and what did you hope readers would gain from this book A I was affectionately called the love doctor among my friends and would help them with romantic ideas for dates surprises and proposals (being compensated at times). I hoped to create a guide that would give readers the gift of romance. Q Where did you get the concept for White and Proud and what did you hope that readers would gain from this book A The concept came from being bullied about my differences. I wanted readers to gain a respect for the individuality of others and a declaration of self-worth. Individuality should be respected not ridiculed. Expect to be accepted for who you are. Q What poem or idea has been the greatest hit in your book A Most readers seem to enjoy the Principles of Individuality and Self Endurance (P.O.I.S.E.) sections philosophies that teach them to value their self-worth. Q What projects have been significant to you in your career A The Campaign for Change an initiative to reach voters across Northwest Florida was significant because I was able to interview Senator John Lewis. I was also involved with the Reggie Evans softball charity event aimed toward providing resources for academic athletic and extracurricular activities for youth. Q What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses A My greatest weakness is perfection and my greatest strength is creativity which usually overcomes my weakness. Q Who has had the greatest influence on your life A Definitely my mom She was the driving force behind all of my success constantly reminding me of my capabilities and encouraging me to pursue my dreams. Even when I m broken I m still blessed. I m calm like a duck on the surface but always fighting underneath. But ultimately Keri would like to be remembered for her belief in God in herself and in others. 27 Women of Distinction Nicole Ta Real Estate Realtor Royal Lepage Nanaimo Realty Nanaimo British Columbia Canada ward-winning realtor Nicole Ta provides tailored services that ranging from home styling and photography to color consultations. Nicole has a unique ability to have a shared vision with clients. Their goals become her goals. Since becoming a licensed realtor in 2010 she has earned a reputation as being an agent her clients can count for personal attentive patient service while providing excellent knowledge of the area great negotiation skills and expert selling strategies. Nicole s passion for real estate stems from her love of design and for North Nanaimo Vancouver Island British Columbia Canada where she resides. She earned a Diploma in Interior Design at The Vancouver Island University 2005. As an interior designer she had the opportunity to work on both residential and commercial projects in Nanaimo and the surrounding areas which gave her experience in putting together sales centers and show suites for real estate sales. Real Estate seemed like a natural next step in her career. Nicole attended the Sauder School of Business Real Estate Division University of British Columbia and graduated in 2010. A In 2015 she was featured in Top Agent Magazine and received The Director s Platinum for exemplary sales in 2015 Royal LePage. Nicole has been nominated and selected as finalist for the Top 20 under 40 Business and Achievement Awards Vancouver Island 2016. Her clients continue to be Nicole s greatest professional inspiration. She tells newcomers to the industry to always be prepared. Have a written business plan Nicole recommended. Set realistic goals. Find a mentor and ask questions. Listen and learn daily. Trust in yourself. Every day is an opportunity to either succeed or learn. Best way to pick up after a disappointment (in this industry there are many) is to get up dust off and in the words of my mentor Gary Ford get to work . Nicole is deeply passionate about serving the community in which she lives. Her mother s side of the family has called the Harbour City home since 1854 when they arrived from England on the Princess Royal to work for the Hudson s Bay Company. She is proud to be a 7th-generation Nanaimoite. Nicole is a current member and past Treasurer of The Harbour City Photography Club Supporter of Habitat for Humanity Raise the Roof Campaign Nanaimo Supporter of Nanaimo Women s Resource Society Supporter of Royal Lepage Shelter Foundation - Haven House Society Nanaimo Supporter of Nanaimo Loaves and Fishes food bank Supporter Salvation Army holiday kettle volunteer member of Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce and member of Vancouver Island Real Estate Board. Real estate is exciting and constantly evolving as an industry she said. I love helping people achieve their goals whether first time home buyers or seasoned sellers. Nicole is a highly specialized sales professional helping help people buy and sell residential real estate. She uses her background in interior design to help buyers visualize opportunities and sellers style their properties for market. In March 2011 she earned the Top Sales Award for Coast Realty Group Nanaimo and Ladysmith offices and was voted Most Professional REALTOR 2012 by Coast Realty Group Ltd colleagues. Opportunities are endless. Anything is possible with a little hard work and a plan. This is the message I would leave the world Nicole said. 28 Women of Distinction Q&A Q Do you use social media platforms as part of your business A Absolutely Social media is fantastic and fun way to share information and connect with both the local and global community. Q What social media sites do you use A Pinterst I ve created boards for buyers and sellers with marketing tips advice on owning a home space planning and curb appeal. YouTube to showcase listings Instagram and Tumbler I post daily images of my day to day adventures in real estate LinkedIn to connect on a business referral level Twitter and Facebook to promote and connect. Q Do you have a website A Yes in today s modern world of real estate both buyers and sellers begin their search online often well in advance and are able to connect and send information through email text and mobile in addition to the corporate website and the board MLS I have personal real estate websites at www. finelytailoredliving.com and www.nicoleta.ca. Q Why choose to live in the Harbour City of Nanaimo A Nanaimo is Vancouver Island s 2nd largest city and continues to grow while remaining an affordable and friendly community to live. Located central on Vancouver Island with stunning beachfront 880 hectares of city parks home to the Vancouver Island University and offers a wide variety of cultural artistic historic and recreation opportunities for all lifestyles. Vancouver is just a 20-minute flight by floatplane downtown-to-downtown or 1 hours by BC Ferry. Q What is the Harbour City famous for A The Harbour City is also known for its delicious no bake dessert the legendary Nanaimo Bar. Nanaimo is also the home of the world famous Bathtub Races that started in 1967 with a start in the Nanaimo Harbour brave competitors would race across the Strait of Georgia to the finish line at Fisherman s Cove in Vancouver. The start and finish of the race is now solely in the Harbour City and tubers continue to compete here on the world scale every year. Q How has technology enhanced your business A Able to conduct business from anywhere. Information can be sent quickly and documents deals done out in the field all from a mobile phone. Q Where do you find the balance middle ground between the traditional and the modern real estate business model A I find the balance middle ground is in customer service customer service remains as the constant in both traditional and modern business world. Personal service cannot be replaced with technology. 29 Women of Distinction Pamela Gezell HamptonGarland Higher Education Adult Education Assistant Professor of Adult Education - University of the District of Columbia Washington DC T hrough her work as an Assistant Professor of Adult Education at the University of the District of Columbia Dr. Pamela Hampton-Garland has a passion for helping her adult students reach their goals using androgogical principals that are indigenous to the field of adult education. I do believe I am working in my calling and therefore remaining in the field of Adult Education is not an option -- it is a choice that nourishes me daily. Adult Education found me long before I knew it was a field of study I was always passionate about access to education particularly for adults who wanted to attend college but needed some guidance. To this end I began working with anyone who inquired then people referred others to me and finally I started a nonprofit 501c3 organization Scholar Bound Inc. and continue to guide anyone (adults and parents of college bound young adults) who ask through the college access process. This work led me to Adult Education and I continue to be excited to be in the field. Dr. Hampton-Garland was a non-traditional aged college student when she began her higher education journey. She was married with two young children and a desire to return to college. Pamela received her BA in Psychology in 1998 and her MS in Adult Education in 2003 both from NC A&T State University. She also received her PhD in Educational Leadership & Cultural Foundations with concentration in Curriculum & Teaching with Cultural Studies from UNC Greensboro in 2009. I would tell anyone preparing for or already in college to let your passion drive you. Be prepared to Push Past Quit because quit will come many times on the journey but joy will always be your reward if passion is behind the wheel. In her role of assistant professor Pamela s responsibilities include teaching adult education courses academic advising and recruitment. In addition to her teaching responsibilities Pamela also supports her university s vision To be a University System that is student centered and demand driven that empowers its graduates to be critical and creative thinkers problem solvers effective communicators and engaged service-driven leaders in the workforce and beyond. I am a possibility thinker completely optimistic about life and full of FAITH (God is my everything). I want people to understand that because Jesus died for me I know that I am not alone. In her leisure Pamela enjoys reading traveling hiking and spending time with her husband and daughters. She is a member of the Adult Education Research Conference American Association for Adult Continuing Education American Educational Research Association and RAINN. I would like to leave the world with a sincere laugh. This sounds simple enough but a genuine laugh is a gift that should be shared because life s not that serious. 30 Women of Distinction Q&A Q What is Adult Education A Malcolm Knowles states that the term Adult Education refers to at least three different phenomena. ...To a set of activities...to the intellectual process by means of which adults seek or are assisted to learn things...[and] to the social system which is made up of individuals and organizations concerned with the education of adults (1989). Q What kind of job can you get with an Adult Education degree A The field is often misunderstood because most people think of it as only Adult Basic Education GED etc. And while yes those are critical areas for the field it is also critical for Training and Development Organizational Development Leadership Advising Health Care Specialist Human Resources and many other careers including Military. Q How is an Adult Education degree different from Higher Education A Adult Education specifically focuses on the concept of Andragogy or the teaching of adults which according to the Father of Adult Education Malcolm Knowles has very specific criteria that are not considered in traditional education programs (see Knowles 1989). Q How long does it take to receive a Master s Degree in Adult Education A The program can last from 18 months to two and a half years depending upon the number of credits a student takes per semester average program is 36 credits. Q Is there a licensing process for Adult Education like there is for K-12 education A The Office of the State Superintendent of Education in the District of Columbia has implemented a credentialing process for Adult Educators. It includes successfully completing 18 hours of core curriculum and passing the Praxis Core exam. This is groundbreaking for the field and will potentially be adopted in other states because Adult Education has grown at such a rate that many facilitators have been teaching in the field without having the foundation of andragogy or any pedagogical education thus opening the field to scrutiny from participants and funders. Q Do you have to earn a Master s Degree or is there a certificate option A You can receive a certificate in Adult Education from UDC and other institutions offering such. You can also earn a Bachelor s Degree. In addition you may take the core courses and develop a concentration for the Masters (ex. Concentration in Art English TESOL etc). Q What is the best part of your job A The best part of my job is that I chose it I do what I love and I love working with adults. I believe if you do not like working with children then do not become an educator. Or if you begin to hate your job find another. With this philosophy I like working with a population of people that can make choices for their lives and I like being able to help them reach their goal. Q What is the worst part of your job A The most challenging part of my job is trying to help people push past quit when life happens. Adults have to make choices every day and some are quite difficult and when this happens standing by is hard. Q When did you know that Adult Education was for you A I always wanted to be a teacher because I had great teachers however I lack patience for young children and therefore I knew I would not teach K-12 learners. But I honestly did not know about adult education as a field of inquiry and major until I was searching for something that met my goals after I completed my undergraduate degree. After interviewing one of the instructors and a student in the program I decided that it was perfect for me and have never regretted my choice. 31 Women of Distinction Sharon K. Roberson Insurance Corporate Law SVP General Counsel and Secretary Direct General Corporation Nashville TN S haron K. Roberson has always enjoyed the financial side of corporate America. While attending Vanderbilt University School of Law she concentrated in the areas of corporate transactions and finance. Prior to attending law school she held a number of prestigious positions in banking analyzing financial statements and the management of financial institutions. She became licensed and began to practice law in the same year she graduated from law school 1983 and started her career in the insurance industry in 1987 as an insurance regulator. Today she is at the top of her career. Sharon serves as SVP General Counsel and Secretary at Nashville-Based Direct General Corporation a privately owned financial services company. Insurance is one of the most highly regulated industries in the world most aspects of what they company does require approval at the state and federal level. This includes the rates charged forms used with consumers as well as investments and accounting practices. As the General Counsel Sharon is responsible for all legal and compliance matters including litigation intellectual property contracts advertising consumer privacy acquisitions employment matters company holding company matters as well as regulatory and government relations. Additionally she is a member of the executive management team. Previously Sharon worked as a General Counsel and then COO of one of the operating insurance companies of a company effected by the financial crisis of 2008. This was a challenging time for all of the company s employees. Managing people in crisis can truly be an enlightening experience Sharon explained. I believe the ability to stay calm and focused sustained me. I also believe that regulating the business that I later worked was an extraordinary training experience. Having worked in the insurance industry from both perspectives has been an unparalleled experience. With few exceptions it has been Sharon and the boys club in the legal and insurance world. As she moved up in the insurance business typically she was the only woman in the room especially in the executive suite. At one time Sharon was the highest-ranking African American female in the large public international company. Being the only African American or female does not bother her. I have had to constantly let the boys know that they need to be aware of the like thinking that can come from too many men in the room and let my voice be heard she said. Diversity is a smart business imperative for the 21st century. Sharon is passionate about using her position to give back to the community. She has chaired numerous industry organizations and committees including serving several terms as President of the Tennessee Life Insurance Association and Chair of the Tennessee Life and Health Guaranty Association. Both positions enabled Sharon to better the industry as a whole and to make sure that the promises the industry makes to those that purchase products are kept. I hope that my legacy is of optimism especially for my mentees young and old she said. I want them to realize that if I can do it so can they and that there are those willing to be their champion. Don t cut corners work hard and be genuine. 32 Women of Distinction Q&A Q Would you advise young women to go into the legal profession A The legal profession is the most empowering profession I know. Where else can you gain in just three short years the knowledge of a lifetime that can be used in so many ways to bring order from chaos Is it no surprise that lawyers make up a majority of legislative bodies The law gives you the tools to change the world. Q How do you keep you mind body and spirit intact in a stressful corporate environment A For my mind I read and always try new things for body exercise and eat in moderation and for sprit participate in good acts give of yourself to others and surround yourself with positive energy. Q How do you handle business setbacks A Any disappointment is an opportunity. I once knew a sales agent from the former Soviet Union. When has was asked how he handled rejection he would always respond that first of all every day in the United States of American is a good day and then that each rejection is an opportunity for future success. You got to love it. Q How do you balance life and a challenging career A In order to take care of all your business you have to take care of yourself. I tell my young mentees and my professional mentees to make sure they make healthy lifestyle choices. It really pays off in the long run. Q How has the insurance industry changed A The insurance industry continues to be one of the most exciting and dynamic industries in the business sector. We sell protection legal protection. Some people do not see the merit in having insurance until they need it. When you need it is a beautiful product. Q What mistakes do you think young professionals make A The first mistake is not to get the best education you can. The second is somehow equating effort with compensation. Not working hard when you are not getting paid much is a huge mistake. When you start your career you should see it as an extension of your poor student days and learn as much as possible. Then you will be fully prepared for the more lucrative positions. Q What were your parents like A My parents are both 85 years young and they are two of the toughest people I know. Who goes from a segregated society to an integrated society and become leaders on both sides. They continue to have faith and joy in their lives. If on a desert island and needing to survive I would choose these two to get me out alive. Q If you could choose another profession what would it be A I would be either a personal trainer or a musician. Exercise keeps me sane. Music was a great part of my life from age 5 through college. Playing music for so long helped me appreciate the nuances of all forms of music. 33 Women of Distinction Allison Burden Motivation and self-help Founder Be Still...And MOVE Dallas TX . I n 2014 domestic abuse survivor Allison Burden was going through a very difficult breakup. She took to Facebook and began posting a series of status updates as an outlet. It was not long before her followers began sending her private messages expressing how they related to her words and encouraging her to start a blog. Shortly after the blog was created Allison decided to turn it into fullfledged organization. She took the blog down and launched her website Be Still...And MOVE in February 2015. The organization is designed to help women heal and live beyond their relationship status. Today Allison is the Founder Facilitator Blogger Presenter Promoter and face of the organization. She is constantly thinking of new ways to reach people who are hurting find artists who can convey the positive messages of healing and purposeful living and continuing to use her own experiences as a means to help others see that living after having your heart broken is possible. One of biggest lessons Allison has learned along the way is that living for the approval of others is a losing game. She believes it is imperative for women to learn who they are and the skills they bring to the table in all of their relationships. Doing this isn t easy and there are some periods of loneliness but Allison knows first hand that it is the only way to truly experience living and be comfortable taking chances Allison holds a Bachelor of Science in Management Information Systems from Winston-Salem State University and a Master of Arts in Adult Education from East Carolina University. She has a 9-year-old son and lives in a small village of close friends whom she calls her family. Allison is also a strong supporter of the spoken word and indie artist scene in Dallas. She believes it s important to not just talk about the talent that is around you but to also support it with your time and your money when you can. Looking to the future Allison hopes to leave a legacy of videos books and workshops that can be used to keep helping other women. She is currently writing her first book. I know from experience that someone reading this is either dealing with the effects of being abused or knows someone who is dealing with the effects of being abused she said. I want them to know that I understand and my only goal in the creation of this organization is to show you that you can get out of that relationship stay out of that relationship live without that man or woman who hurt you and learn how to do all of this in a way that makes you BETTER not bitter. I want the world to remember me as someone who never let pain change her and instead chose to love harder and more deeply she said. I want to leave a legacy of healed women who went on to heal other women. 34 Women of Distinction Athena Duncan Optometry Owner Optician of Kahoka Family Eyewear Kahoka MO I n 2013 Athena Duncan was attempting something not many people had done before her. As an optician she wanted to open an optical company and hire an optometrist to work with her where as most optical companies are owned by physicians and optometrists. Athena knew she would need to secure a loan in order to make her dream a reality. On a Friday in October of 2013 I turned in my loan application papers a business plan and power point to the loan officer at the bank. The following Monday I received a telephone call from the loan officer who told me that he and the president of the bank discussed my proposal in great length but they regretted to inform me that I was asking for a loan on a business that didn t exist they weren t comfortable extending the loan to me. Devastated confused and angry Athena found herself in a deadlock unable to secure a loan that would facilitate her business. However through the grapevine Athena heard of a local businessman who had helped many of the local business owners finance and open their own companies. It all paid off and I opened the doors of my practice Kahoka Family Eyewear on August 18th 2014. As the owner and optician of Kahoka Family Eyewear one of Athena s largest responsibilities is staying current on product knowledge so that her patients can receive the most current technology and up to date practices and services possible. Opticians in most offices are the jacks of all trades. We help work the front desk work retail work side by side with the doctors we are a sounding board for our patients and literally do everything in between. Most of Athena s days are spent repairing eyewear helping fit customers with frames that will work with their lifestyle and the demands of their optical prescriptions helping the customers to choose the best lenses possible teaching them to wear and take care of contact lenses and handling all of the clerical duties that come along with owning your own company. I brushed myself off gathered the business plan power point and to the best of my ability an estimated sum of how much money I would need to purchase land build a new building buy equipment and inventory and presented it to this gentleman. With no contract and just a handshake the businessman agreed to help Athena. Over the next few months the property was secured and the facility began to take shape. To help keep costs down Athena s husband worked on the building every day after his full time job as a logger and saw mill operator. He worked on the wiring plumbing drywall flooring painting countertops and cabinetry while Athena worked on state licensure city merchants license tax ID numbers and a long list of other necessities when starting ones own business. 35 This job can be so very rewarding to see a child put glasses on for the first time and see things clearly for the first time just helps to resonate that what I chose to do with my life has significant meaning and that I am truly helping others. Women of Distinction Chelsea Szabo Life Coaching Life and Career Coach CPC Verbal Courage Santa Monica CA s a Life Coach and Founder of Verbal Courage Chelsea Szabo helps professional women get crystal clear about what they want and help them use the natural power of their voice to create exciting opportunities that empower their vision. A Q&A Q Who do you coach and what type of challenges do they bring to you A I coach success career-driven women. These women range from lawyers and physicians to advertising and marketing professionals. Some of the challenges these women experience are centered on confidence life and work balance speaking up navigating a fulfilling career path and building meaningful relationships. Q What is the biggest challenge to someone finding their voice A The past. Typically after a session or two my clients connect their inability to share their truth to limitations their past has created for them. Common threads have been clients learning as children that if they speak up they are being rude or disrespectful. Others were taught to put others before themselves. I give women tools to reprogram their wiring (or conditioned personality) and speak up in a way that respects others and honors their own needs and wants. Q How do you differ from a therapist A I take my clients from functional to optimal versus nonfunctional to functional. wanted to work with functional people and help them become optimal. I don t diagnose my clients I view them as whole perfect and complete. The last distinction is rather than serving as an expert my coaching sessions are about collaboration and tapping into the client s wisdom experiences and knowledge guiding them from that space toward the change they deeply desire. I take clients on a 360-degree journey to heal their voice confidence and sense of self. Additionally my clients experience increase feelings of inner peace and a sense of calm about making clear decisions Chelsea said. It takes courage to create personal change. Lasting courage and confidence requires going deep and freeing yourself from the past. It s a process of revealing what already exists within you versus learning and forcing unnatural and uncomfortable behaviors that don t feel aligned with your values or personality. Verbal Courage is about honest and smart speaking. It s about getting to the core of what clients really want to say and then sharing their message in a way that others feel respected heard and valued. Chelsea s 10-year journey as a sales and advertising pro (with significant health obstacles along the way) and experiences as a sought after personal life coach give her deep insights into the minds and hearts of professional women who are overcoming challenges trying hard to have it all. Receiving her certification through the International Coach Federation accredited training program at the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching Chelsea is also a Certified Energy Leadership IndexTM Master Practitioner. She lives in Santa Monica with her husband and toddler son who are the center of her world and the reason for her coaching success. 36 Women of Distinction Daphne C. Blue Williams Education and Beauty Teacher Assistant III for Buffalo Public Schools After-school Tutor and Mary Kay Beauty Consultant Co-Chair on Infinity Parent Group at Nichols School Buffalo NY D aphne C. Blue Williams excels at helping other achieve their goals. As a Teacher and Mary Kay Beauty Consultant Daphne applies her talents and passion to inspire others to achieve their dreams and live their best lives. Daphne started her career in 1989 attending Erie Community College (City Campus) and majoring in Elementary Education. She later transferred to D Youville College for her undergraduate degree majoring in Secondary Education and minoring in English Literature. She graduated in 2011. In May 2016 Daphne will graduate with a Master s in TESOL. Today Daphne is a Teacher Assistant III for Buffalo Public Schools in New York. She finds great joy in assisting students with their academic success. With Mary Kay Daphne offers others an opportunity to become a business owner providing financial empowerment to like-minded Christian woman. Daphne takes pride in imparting that wisdom onto others. Additional to being a dedicated teacher for more than 20 years she is the owner of Williams Tutoring Group which provides after-school tutoring services and serves as the CoChair on Infinity Parent Group at Nichols School. She is also deeply involved with community and social issues. Both industries requires hard work and dedication with some passion towards excellence and helping other achieve their goals being diligent and always have a plan B she said. The legacy that I would like to leave the world and my children is one of grace class and service but more importantly one of philanthropy in the field of education and to minority entrepreneurship. Completing all of the New York State teaching certification requirements and trying to complete graduate school while parenting three teenage boys was a challenge but it helped Daphne learned her greatest lesson -- that once you have acquired the knowledge and education no one can take it away from you. I am a victor of many things over my life such as rape domestic violence financial abuse I am a living testament to God s grace and mercy and the prayers of my mother she said. It has not been easy and I truly believe that if my mother had not prayed over my life while living I would not have been able to survive many of the things that life has thrown my way with grace and mercy. I am grateful to be able to lead by example for my own children and the children I teach. Daphne is a divorced mother of three teenage young men Kenneth G. Williams II (18) who attend Oberlin College and recent graduate from Nichols School and Latin Scholar Emanuel (17) who is a Co-Captain of the Varsity football and basketball team and David (15) who is a sophomore at Nichols School who plays on the Varsity football team cross country track and theater. All three of children are graduates of the Buffalo Prep. 37 Women of Distinction Debra Caine Owner & Founder Pink Petals 2 Wigs Birmingham AL W hen two of her childhood friends received devastating cancer diagnoses Debra Caine wanted to bring back the joy to their lives. Her friends had lost hope. They suffered from hair loss due to their treatments. Debra wanted them and other people in their position to feel strong and beautiful. In 2009 Debra began making beautiful custom fitted wigs -- putting a smile on the faces of her friends. Today Debra is the owner and founder of Pink Petals 2 Wigs. The organization is on a mission to reach those from all walks of life who are or have suffered from mild to severe hair loss due to cancer or any other medical or health reason. The team is extremely dedicated and committed to the cause which is to help every one of their clients feel beautiful. They make wigs both women and men as well as for children ages 11 years old and up. Debra knows losing their hair is one of the most difficult experiences a woman may have to go through. She takes the extra time to listen closely to her clients needs and concerns. The process starts with a one-on-one private consultation to discuss exactly what the client is looking for in their undetectable hair system or cranial prosthesis. She walks the client through step-by-step helping them decide a hair texture color and style. Pink Petals 2 Wigs also offers makeup consultations foot care nail care facials wig parties hats scarfs padded hat liners cool comfort wig liner caps mesh caps wig styling kits and more. My greatest professional inspiration is to see anyone with cancer smile and fight back against this disease Debra said. I would like people to know that I am compassion about what I do. I love life people and I am a hard worker. Debra gives back to her community in more ways than one. She is a member of the Black Chamber of Commerce. Debra also is a proud member of UAB Hospital Cancer Resources and Cancer Resources Online which help connect cancer patients with resources. Family means the world to Debra. She resides in Birmingham with her husband children and four grandchildren. 38 Women of Distinction Elizabeth Moore L. Omaka Psychology Inventions Chief Executive Officer Inventor - Omaka Ideals Los Angeles CA T hrough her work as CEO and Inventor with Omaka Ideals Elizabeth Moore Omaka is dedicated to creating new inventions that can benefit people in the future. She also works in Psychology. Psychology is a field that keeps you knowledgeable and wise. My mindset keeps me growing more as an inventor as well. In her role of inventor Elizabeth researches her inventions until she earns the right opportunity to license them. She has invented the Clip It Lap Top Paper Holder which is used to clip papers to the side of one s laptop screen to make reading easier after being inspired by the Potato Chip Clip. The clip s design is useful for college students business offices people with disabilities and any laptop users. I am the architect of my own dreams. I just keep building the foundation and they will come true. Believe create and accept your conditions your conscious mind and your subconscious mind. A favorite quote What I have discovered is that life is like a remote control. If you don t like it then change the channel. Ask yourself this question -- what works for you Regarding her education Elizabeth has an Associates Degree in Psychology and has studied Entrepreneurship and Human Services at Los Angeles Southwest College and East Los Angeles College. She is also a certified Recovery Specialist a Chemical Dependency Specialist in Criminal Justice and a LINCS Supply Chain Management Design Consultant under Los Angeles Urban League. I give thanks to the world for reading this article and using my inventions for the future. Know the realness as there will be some detours in our lives. Greatness comes from detours so get to know thy self-greatness. When one door closes another will open for greatness. Knowing what you want out of life and keep pushing for it -- Mentally Spiritually and Physically. My legacy is believe in your greatness. I also give thanks to the SER Jobs for Progress training programs in Inglewood CA and Los Angeles Urban League for giving me the opportunity to share my skills and experiences in education along with my working experience on how to overcome barriers in life. Know that dreams do cost but you have to spend to win. Just believe in yourself and your product. Don t give up. You can do whatever you put your mind to. Be patient and keep believing no matter how many let downs or setbacks are encountered on your journey. You can make a comeback with the right mindset. Some of Elizabeth s biggest professional inspirations have been Lori Greiner Stephen Key and Steve Harvey whose books including Act Like a Success Think Like a Success by Steve Harvey have motivated her to continue her dream of being an inventor. Elizabeth recommends that those looking to patent and license any of their products read Stephen Key s book titled One Simple Idea. 39 Women of Distinction Elsa L. Fridl Travel Blogger Blog Developer and Writer Elsa s Travel Blog on Paris Silver Spring MD Elsa s Travel Blog on Paris Cultural understanding better foreign relations better travel experiences. fter Elsa L. Fridl lost virtually everything she owned -- furniture wardrobe family documents and pictures -- she decided to take charge of her destiny. Her misfortune served as a catalyst for a major life change. Only after losing everything did Elsa return to what truly gave her joy being involved with France in any way she could. French culture runs deep in Elsa s veins. Her paternal grandparents were between them German Czech and French. Though she didn t know about the French element until becoming an adult her grandparent s mixed heritage has been a great influence in Elsa s life. A elsablogonparis.com elsa elsastravelblogonparis.com Elsa L. Fridl cell 301-549-8129 That phrase originated in 13th century England during the Hundred Years War between France and England when the English considered everything vile to be associated with France. I want to tell people since relations have been restored and every language has its curse words let s stop putting down the French this way. If Elsa could possess a superpower it would be to speak any language upon command because of the way it validates people to speak to them in their own language. In her limited free time Elsa is learning French and attending programs at the French Embassy in D.C. most notably about climate change. Elsa said The toughest part about blogging on Paris is keeping straight French terminology that is similar to ours. If a French word for something is totally different from English it s easy to keep it straight. But for example their term square refers to a small urban green space not large enough to be a parc (grassy) or a bois (wooded) and not formal enough to be a jardin. Native English speakers in contrast refer to certain concrete areas as squares (such as Times Square). To further confuse things such a concrete public space would be called a place in Paris our square. Confusing I knew the world was bigger than my neighborhood because they often spoke to me about the old country -- their homeland she said. Even as a child France fascinated Elsa. She loved French style French architecture everything about the culture. After a few devastating blows in her life Elsa received a windfall in 2014 and used it to live in Paris for a month. The trip restored her hope. While there she decided to develop a website and blog on traveling to Paris and French culture. Elsa runs her website like a magazine. She has numerous stories in different stages of development making sure to also leave room for spontaneous time-sensitive posts such stories about sales on airfare or lodging. I believe I stand out because while I want to help travelers get to and enjoy Paris. I also hope to encourage U.S.-Franco relations by starting a conversation on cultural myths and stereotypes Elsa explained. For instance how many times have you heard people say Pardon my French before uttering a curse word Elsa encourages aspiring travel bloggers to be fearless. If something starts to feel overwhelming try to break down the problem into small steps she said. Don t let a roadblock stand in your way Go around it go over it or underneath it but don t let it defeat you. 40 Hafeezah W. Abduljaami Education Art Founder Director - Art Alive Teacher - DeKalb County Public Schools DeKalb County GA T hrough her work as a Teacher for DeKalb County Public Schools Hafeezah Abduljaami loves to share her passion for education with students. As Founder and Director of Art Alive since 2000 she also finds joy in introducing art education programs to new communities. She has also earned a Certificate of Customer Service a Knitting Certificate and a Teaching Certificate in Early Childhood Education and has been awarded as a Summer Teaching Scholar of the Landmarks of American History and Culture Program from the National Endowment for the Humanities. I truly believe in the power of education to change and influence people. The global world we now live in connects us and reiterates this fact. Hafeezah has been passionate about teaching since childhood. In 1973 she worked at a youth agency teaching cooking and crafting to young mothers and continued using her skills in various programs within the community until beginning her professional teaching career in 1988. As a teacher her main role is to influence and inspire the generations that will build create and develop future industries. She has also lectured for various organizations to expose them to new and creative ways to develop their arts and design programs. Education is very complicated unlike the myths that people have about a teaching career. You need to have customer service training marketing skills public relation skills and a good sense of audience development. Teaching is much more than pedagogical -- it is nurturing tough love compassion and intuitiveness. Technology is an asset and you need to be able to use it cooperatively. Also never give up on the students. Regarding her education Hafeezah has received a BFA in Textile Design and an AAS in Fashion Design from the Fashion Institute of Technology a Certificate of Arts Administration from NYU and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Lubbock Christian University. I believe knowing oneself is the best way to be successful. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses allows you to grow and achieve. I believe you are your own competition. I strive to be better than I was the day before. In her leisure Hafeezah enjoys reading listening to world music and contemporary jazz Zumba designing textiles and knitted objects studying African art and spending time with her family. She would love to become an Ambassador of Education in the future. My legacy is the development of my Arts in Education Program. My program mixes textiles mixed media cooking and fiber arts. This fusion brings about a new thinking that allows people to become empowered. Secondly I feel my spirit of love joy and optimism for education is a dominant legacy. 41 Women of Distinction Heather Michelle Gibbs W Health Fitness Personal Trainer Fitness Instructor Team 85 Fitness and Wellness Instructor The MAX Challenge of Hamilton Herbalife Coach Independent Bordentown NJ eighing in at 205 pounds in 2003 Heather Michelle Gibbs finally decided that enough was enough. She started simple by eating healthier and moving every single day. Losing 55 pounds she knew she was headed in the right direction and that her hard work was paying off. As the weight continued to drop off Heather quickly became hooked on this new lifestyle she had created for herself. She couldn t be happier with how far she had come. As an Instructor Heather assisted clients feel better physically mentally and emotionally. Recently Heather was taken on board with Team 85 Fitness and Wellness in Bordentown New Jersey as a Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. Bigger and better opportunities continue to present themselves she said. I m so excited about my new role with Team 85. I m helping my clients reach whatever goal they have whether it be building muscle losing weight or maintaining their current weight. I m also making sure they stay on track with their nutrition which is key. Heather also became an Herbalife Coach a stepping stone not only for herself but for her community. Seeing great results after using their products she was amazed and wanted to share it with the world. She promotes herself and her products on Instagram (fittchick12) and on Facebook. The mother of a teenage daughter Jazmin Heather wants to be a role model for her by demonstrating to her that health matters. It s what motivates Heather every day in the gym to be a better person both on the inside and the outside. After losing so much weight and seeing results fitness became addictive Heather said. I don t see working out as a chore any longer but instead a motivation to get me through the day. Attending Mercer County Vocational School Heather became certified in cooking baking and catering management in 1998. By 2003 she had become more focused on the science behind good health and she became National Academy of Sports Medicine certified. The following year she became a certified Insanity Instructor and certified PIYO Strength Instructor. It was clear where Heather s career was headed. In November 2013 Heather s career reached new heights. Acquiring her first position in fitness she was hired by Super Gym in Jackson New Jersey. Her boss was very inspiring and taught her a lot about the very complex field of fitness. The following year she began working for Retro Fitness teaching Insanity and PIYO Pilate classes and taking on clients as a Personal Trainer. By 2014 Heather is working for The MAX Challenge of Hamilton as a Class Instructor teaching a 10-week program that is focused on challenging individuals to make a complete lifestyle change by helping them lose weight build muscle and focus on nutrition. I ve learned through my own struggles from being overweight and unhealthy that hard work can change your life Heather added. It s since become my passion to help those who want to be better but don t know how to do it on their own. I just give them the right tools to succeed. 42 Jo Ann H. Kuharske High School Education Personalized Blended Learning Coordinator at Morse Marshall High School for the Gifted and Talented Milwaukee Public Schools. Milwaukee WI E ducator and author Jo Ann H. Kuharske loves working with her students and watching them grow academically. As a Personalized Blended Learning Coordinator at Morse Marshall High School for the Gifted and Talented in Milwaukee Jo Ann enjoys nothing more than when students make connections between the content being taught and real life. In her role Jo Anne coordinates the school s Personalized Blended Learning Lab. She oversees online classes during the school day to help students meet their high school graduation requirements and receive their diploma on time. The program Jo Ann manages is now in its second year. The course allows students to retake classes they failed or to need in order to graduate that are not offered on an annual basis. In her 25 years of teaching Jo Ann as contributed significantly to her industry. In 2014 she published her first book Character Building Writing Prompts. The novel is based on concerns Jo Ann witnessed at school. She wanted to address manners and positive character building traits with her students however there was nothing out there for the middle and high school level which prompted her to write her book. Character Building Writing Prompts is currently available on Amazon. Jo Ann is truly concerned about the youth in our nation. She is sincerely worried about the lack of compassion students have toward each other. She is planning to author another book in the future that focuses on these issues. It is very moving when students come back and tell you what a difference you made in their lives said Jo Ann who started teaching in January 1992 after graduating from Mount Mary College. I was like many students who could not decide what to do when I first started college she recalled. I took a class which had field work in a school nearby one morning a week. I was hooked after that semester. I really enjoyed working with students. Jo Ann went on to earn a Masters of Science in Administrative Leadership and an Alternative Education License from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. I see many students struggling with being able to communicate with others she said. I would like to help students gain some of these social skills and think about their actions and how they affect others. Jo Ann resides in Milwaukee. She is married with two sons ages 12 and 8. In her free time she loves to hunt fish camp and hike with her family who loves spending time outdoors. 43 Women of Distinction Dr. Jody Love Hancock EdD RDMS RVT RT(R) D Healthcare - Diagnostic Medical Sonography Director and Professor of the Sonography Program - Chattanooga State Community College Chattanooga TN r. Jody Love Hancock found herself without a strong female role model to look up to after losing her mother to multiple myeloma at the age of 10. Out of necessity her single father worked well into most nights as a coach leaving Jody without much personal guidance. She ended up pregnant at the age of 17 and completely orphaned by the age of 21 after her father drowned in a boating accident. However she was fortunate enough to begin her career as a sonographer by that time and held on to one important piece of advice from her father that became her driving force Don t ever expect a man to take care of you. Be able to do that for yourself. Jody decided that if a man was giving out this advice about other men she d better take heed. She eventually got married and worked long hours to raise two boys. However her marriage was tumultuous with little support. Jody suffered the humiliation of marital abuse and affairs as well as the loss of a stillborn child. Despite a longterm separation the marriage did not end until the day she arrived at her husband s home to return his sister s son of whom they both shared custody. I talked to him about his partying lifestyle and the importance of him making better choices because sons always want to emulate their fathers. But as I was leaving he stopped me at the door saying he had a solution to all of our problems. It was then that he pulled out a gun and took his life in front of me and our two-year-old. Jody was left with the emotional confusion of two teenage boys and a two-year-old who she wasted no time in adopting as her own. She knew it would take the power of love and stability to heal everyone s wounds the loss of her own parents emphasized the importance of that. Because of my life experiences I recognize the importance of women serving as positive role models for one another while actively encouraging men to value women daily for their multitude of worthwhile contributions. Today as the Director and Professor of the Sonography Program at Chattanooga State Community College a former youth leader and wife of a pastor Jody cherishes the opportunities she has been given to speak positive blessings and provide instruction on caring for other peoples lives. She even traveled recently (February 2016) to South Sudan to perform sonograms in the hospital and villages and was also involved in school wellness screenings and nutrition training. It was a life-changing event for me one that emphasized the importance of sharing our gifts and passing on our legacies for the betterment of others. Jody s mission is to make a positive impact in the lives of others in all undertakings whether it be the legacy of over two decades of sonography graduates the emergence of at least five church leaders from the youth group she once served the reduction of ergonomic injury rates from the latest sonography research she s been conducting or any future inspiration she might provide to others through her hoped-to-be-published novel writings that cheer women on through life s challenges. 44 Women of Distinction Kijana LeTasha Harris Healthcare Medical Assistant BGS Student Doctor of Philosophy PUBH Receptionist at Parkwest Staffing Temp- Arrosti Rehab Centers Houston TX I n May 2000 Kijana LeTasha Harris was a young uneducated woman five months pregnant with her third child. During her unborn son s ultrasound it was determined that he had developmental issues. As the tears streamed down her face Kijana vowed to complete her schooling and learn as much as she could to care for her son. She started by taking the GED examination and applied for college within three months of his birth. She graduated in January 2003 with a diploma in Medical Assisting. Kijana began her career in the healthcare industry working as a Medical Assistant at Council Bluffs Community Health Center in Council Bluffs Iowa. Two years after she transferred to Charles Drew Health Center in Omaha Nebraska. In 2014 Kijana relocated to Houston Texas where she works through a temporary service Parkwest Staffing. She is positioned at Arrosti Rehab Centers as a receptionist. Her role is to greet patients process payments collect new patient and insurance paperwork as well as register them to be seen by the doctor. My quest for knowledge has kept me in the healthcare industry for so long she said. I had set a goal to work as a Medical Assistant and take Pre-Med classes in the evening then transfer to a Medical School and graduate as a MD. However through my journey I had some minor changes. I did complete all of my pre-requisitions but I wanted to be more hands on with the community. Working in the community allowed me to learn about people and the way they think. It also helped me to learn more about me. Kijana is not one to rest on her past successes. She keeps her eyes laser focused on achieving her long-term goals. Kijana who had four children by the age of 24 works tirelessly to inspire them to accomplish their dreams. During my educational journey I have watched my peers start and quit over and over again because they didn t have a vision she said. I have not stopped and now I am at the peak of my career. Kijana is currently studying to earn her doctorate in Public Health and her children have learned that success is received through perseverance. She inspires others to follow the same advice she gives to her children Never give up. I know that sounds clich but the reality is sometimes you will fail situations will come up that are unexpected but that doesn t mean stop she said. Every time that I faced adversity it made me stronger. I started college with a ninth grade education three children and became pregnant again towards my graduation. I did not stop I delivered my son on Tuesday and was back in class on Thursday. I was determined to succeed and did not allow my circumstances to stop me. 45 Women of Distinction Lifase Bilima Publishing Nonprofit Author - Returned To Restore Experiencing and Giving Back To My Roots Director - Agape Africa Foundation Berrien Springs MI T hrough her work as an Author Lifase Bilima has a passion for helping people and hopes her life experiences can inspire others to help make the world a better place as well. She is also the Director of Agape Africa Foundation which is a nonprofit organization that was created by Lifase to help provide supplies and scholarships to students in schools in Malawi and other countries around the world. She is currently an honor student at Lake Michigan College where she majors in Early Childhood Education and is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. This career has opened up many doors for me. I love writing and sharing my life experiences with the world. All of these experiences have shaped me into the woman I am today. Lifase began her writing career in May 2015 when she released her first book titled Returned To Restore Experiencing and Giving Back To My Roots which is about her first trip to her family s home country of Malawi and the lessons she learned while spending time there. I m a young woman with ambition a woman who has so much passion for helping with the improvement of schools in Africa and elsewhere around the world. My career is not about bringing myself fame and money but about helping others who are in need. Within the next five years Lifase hopes to publish at least two more books. She plans on continuing her mission to empower the youth and hopes to travel to Africa at least once a year to further her cause. Lifase will also continue sharing her experiences by coaching other authors and encouraging others to write as well. My advice to someone starting out in this field is to focus Writing a book is not easy but if you are focused then you can do it. Discipline and organization are major keys to writing. Become good at networking as well. Also you can achieve anything no matter what age you are. It s never too late to pursue your dreams and goals. In her leisure Lifase enjoys singing blogging traveling around the world working with children mentoring youth and volunteering in churches and schools. I would like to leave a legacy of passion. I want people to remember what I did for others not my personal accomplishments. I want people to remember me as a person who was always building relationships and bridges with people of all colors and backgrounds. My heart is for the people not I. 46 Women of Distinction Mallory Yake Agriculture Commercial Swine Industry Management Systems Auditor - Smithfield Foods Hog Production Division Warsaw NC T hrough her work as a Management Systems Auditor with Smithfield Foods Hog Production Division Mallory Yake displays her passion for agriculture by making sure her company exceeds all industry guidelines and requirements. Mallory began working with Smithfield over five years ago starting on the farm as a production trainee. After spending a little over a year and a half on the farm she was able to land her current position. Regarding her education Mallory has received a Bachelors in Science of Agriculture majoring in Animal Sciences from Ohio State University in 2010 along with a Master s Degree in Agriculture Extension Education from North Carolina State University in 2013. One of the parts of my job that I love is that I get to go to a different place and meet different people every day. In her current role of Management Systems Auditor Mallory s main responsibility is to complete compliance audits for her company s management systems those systems being environmental safety and animal care for all company owned and managed farms. She also audits all of the company s supporting operations including feed mills garages truck-washes warehouses labs etc. Smithfield Foods Hog Production Division has always been a leader in the industry and with her job Mallory makes sure the company goes above and beyond the industry standard for compliance in all areas of safety environmental operations and animal care. The advice I would offer to someone starting out in this industry is not to be afraid to work in different areas. Learning the big picture of the industry or even your company will give you a better perspective as to where you see yourself at. Don t be afraid to learn new things. If you want to be successful in whatever you do you have to keep up with what s going on in the industry -- meaning trends innovations and information. Also be open to working with others. If you are younger and just starting out use co-workers or fellow employees as resources. I am a very focused and determined person who loves her job. What started out as a passion for pigs as a little girl has turned into an amazing experience so far in my career. I really do love my job and the people I get to work with. In her leisure Mallory enjoys outdoor activities including fishing camping hiking and going to the beach as well as reading watching sports and spending time with her friends and family. She is also a member with the North Carolina Pork Council a member with National Pork Board and a member of Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization. I would like to be remembered as someone that tried to make a difference in the agriculture industry focusing on the Swine Industry. The career that I have will give me the opportunity to do so. I would also hope that other women become inspired by me to try and get involved in whatever their passion is. 47 Women of Distinction Marisa L. Martin Philanthropy Founder and Operator of the We All Have Two Hands Giving Circle of Western New York Sanborn NY O There are no words to describe the difficulty and torment involved in grieving the loss of a child. n November 14 2004 after two years of infertility treatments Marisa L. Martin gave birth to her first three children triplets. However at the gestational age of eighteen weeks each infant measured less than six inches and weighed only a few ounces each. There was simply nothing doctors could do to save Marisa s children. As the first anniversary of my children s death their first birthday approached an idea flooded my mind and embraced my heart. Marisa s idea was to use the short lives of her firstborn children their devastating deaths and turn it into a way to help those in need specifically children in need. From 2005 until 2013 Marisa held birthday parties at the cemetery guests were asked to bring a new unwrapped toy non-perishable food items and or winter clothing items such as scarves hats gloves or coats. Over this nine-year period almost 2 000 toys hundreds of food items and hundreds of winter clothing items have been donated in memory of Marisa s children Messiah John Meadow Anne and Marshall Jude. In 2014 in celebration of their 10th birthday Marisa had a fundraising event and donations were used to fill over thirty shoeboxes with gifts. These shoeboxes were then distributed to children around the world mostly in orphanages through Samaritan s Purse Operation Christmas Child. This year hundreds of dollars have been donated to Book Trust in my children s memory. Now Marisa serves as the founder and operator of the We All Have Two Hands Giving Circle of Western New York where she plans organizes and carries out all fundraisers and events scheduled by her organization. Marisa s current objective is to turn We All Have Two Hands Giving Circle of Western New York into a not-for-profit foundation. Receiving a not-for-profit status would open more doors for the organization making it easier to fundraise and obtain financial support to support the organizations mission of raising awareness for and supporting children in need. I try to live my life in such a way helping those in need as a way to make my deceased and living children proud of me their Mom. I envision those that are at the receiving end of all of my efforts. The smile on the children s faces the love they feel in their hearts. The world is in dire need of people to care for those less fortunate. 48 Women of Distinction Monica Carson Consulting Child Support Mediation Private Process Owner Carson s Child Support Consultations Austin TX W orking for the Texas Attorney General s Office in their Child Support Division for 20 years Monica Carson decided that she would be able to better serve others by forming her own child support consultation business. Founded on January 13 2012 Carson s Child Support Consultations which is located in Austin Texas has been the best decision she has ever made. When I start talking to people about child support issues you can really hear and see my passion for the topic she said. I m a great listener and really do my very best to help clients understand how the process works and resolve all issues. Attending Career Centers of Texas Inc. Monica received her Paralegal Certificate in 1991. She previously worked as a Court Liaison Financial Specialist and Paternity Child Support Officer prior to forming her consulting business. A member of Austin Texas Association of Mediators and National Association for Private Process Servers she also serves as a Board Member on Texas Process Servers Association. Volunteering her time with the Bastrop County Texas Sheriff s Office Alumni and with her daughter s school Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders an all-girls school in Austin Monica is passionate about her community. Monica maintains a Youth Enhancement System (YES) business on the side another great interest of hers which combines breakthrough sciences in a product system that enhances youth by working at the cellular level. By focusing on the health longevity and renewal of cells through these products she helps customers enjoy vibrant youthful results that last. Married for 17 years to Benny Carson they share one daughter Haley who is now 16-years-old. Benny is also selfemployed and is a Professional Household Furniture Mover with 27 years of experience in the industry. I really enjoy helping parents through the child support system. I m a big Dad advocate since they need the most help in understanding the system Monica said noting that the moms usually have the system and state working for them for free. Unfortunately not all mothers end up being the best custodial fit for raising their children. I have seen many fathers become the better parents putting their children first. As Owner of Carson s Child Support Consultations Monica runs the entire business from child support consultation to serving as a Private Process Server Child Support Mediator and Notary. When a client first sits down with her they are usually frustrated and upset about the system but after they are finished talking he she has a much better understanding as to how the system works and feel much more confident about going to court and representing themselves. It s Monica s job as their consultant to put their minds at ease. Monica s business is very unique and one of a kind. Usually acquiring her clients through referrals she explains to each of them that hiring an attorney is often not the answer to their child support issues. Explaining to them that you are your biggest advocate most issues can and will be resolved without an attorney with proper consulting. 49 Women of Distinction Rose IrbyWilkins Personal and Professional Coaching President and Principal Coach of The Irby Wilkins Group Smyrna GA Q&A G Each one should use whatever gifts he has received to serve others faithfully administering God s grace in its various forms. Peter 4 10 rowing up Rose Irby-Wilkins saw this ideal in action through her grandmother and parents. It didn t take long for her to understand that community is not only where one lives but also where one serves. It is with humility that I honor that legacy with continued service to others. Since 1975 Rose has served as a teacher principal forensic psychologist and behavior specialist. Today she serves as President and Principal Coach of the Irby Wilkins Group a consulting and coaching firm that focuses on personal and professional coaching training and performance enhancement products for organizations seeking support to facilitate positive changes in culture and performance. We create paths to progress by training coaching associates as well as facilitating change strategies for clients. Our firm functions at its greatest capacity when clients recognize change. The Irby Wilkins Group blends the extensive experience of some of the nation s leading experts in strategic planning culture building and interventions executive coaching program design and professional development offering a range of services and products that can be easily adapted in any environment. Q What is the focus of your work A The Irby Wilkins Group provides personal and professional coaching through the use of innovative models. However our primary focus is on enhancing positive change in youth and young adults through sitebased or virtual coaching in our creative School Scrimmage Model. Q How does coaching differ from counseling A Counseling typically focuses on examining the past looking for solutions to emotional concerns as opposed to coaching which provides a distinct service that helps clients work on their goals for the future and create a new life path. Q What makes personal development coaching a good fit for youth A Since many youth participate in organized sports the concept of coaching is non-threatening. Parents also tend to view coaching as a palatable approach for family support. We chose to use School Scrimmage as the name for our model and align coaching activities with sports so that it s an engaging and easy fit for students. Q What is unique about the School Scrimmage model of coaching A The use of sports and technology significantly influences our efforts to reach youth and young adults in a fingertip-driven society. Q Is there special training for coaching A Coaches typically get a range of specialized training based on models. Many complete requirements with the International Coach Federation (ICF) the noted global organization dedicated to advancing the coaching profession through standards certification and credentialing. Q What time commitments are required for coaching A Time allotments vary but on average most people find coaching more beneficial than they realized and stay on longer than they initially anticipated (typically nine months to a year). Allowing adequate time for development is especially critical for adolescents teens and even young adults because life is bombarded with social dynamics. I ve found that students require a broad spectrum that encompasses much more than traditional classroom environments can offer. Remaining cognizant of the ever-changing needs of organizations drives my interest and desire to make a difference in lives. 50 Women of Distinction Sandy Honeycutt Wholesale food products BBQ Sauce Owner of Sandy s Sauce Mounds OK F or more than the last thirty years Sandy Honeycutt has been making and perfecting her own BBQ sauce out of her home in Mounds Oklahoma. It was never my original career path. My sauce was something I had always made from scratch at home altering it through the years and sharing it with family during holidays. After years of her friends and family pushing her to put it on the market Sandy finally took the leap of faith and started her own brand of BBQ sauce in the fall of 2009. People need to know how delicious it is. So many people will by-pass my product because they haven t heard of it before which is the exact reason why they should try it because it is unlike all the others. As a certified Kansas City BBQ Judge Sandy s seasoned palate has tasted and sampled an extremely wide variety of sauces and rubs. In the face of this she still strongly asserts that her BBQ sauce brings something new and different to the literal and physical table. Although she doesn t get very much free time Sandy enjoys having her family over for her famous cookouts. Spending time with her children and her family is Sandy s favorite past time. When I was just nineteen years old my late brother Steve was the first one to tell me to put my sauce on the market and I thought he was absolutely crazy. Since then my mother has inspired me to keep going because she s the hardest working person I know. Now Sandy serves as the sole owner operator manager and shipper of her namesake and company Sandy s Sauce. Her daughter Amy handles a lot of the typing computer work and has also become a master sales-woman. I m the backbone of this company through and through and I m determined to succeed with this business so I can leave something behind for my four children. Sandy s Sauce features two flavors of sauce Original and Hot and Spicy. Sandy is a firm believer that she has created the best BBQ sauce. Ever. She also created a spice rub which was originally created for chicken but is now used on absolutely everything including fish meat potatoes and even eggs. 51 I raised four children as a single mother two boys and two girls Alex Allison Austin and Amy. My kids have given me a combined six grandchildren up until now and my youngest child is still in school to become a nurse. I m so proud of all of them and the support they ve shown me in this BBQ endeavor has been more than appreciated. Dr. Shawnee Green-Tucker Education Interventional Behavior Specialist Cleveland Metro School District Cleveland OH I mparting knowledge onto future generations is the driving force behind Shawnee Green-Tucker s 20 plus years as a teacher. As an Interventional Behavior Specialist in the Cleveland Metro School District Shawnee is responsible for teaching environmental science and statistics. Teaching these two subjects prepares students for real world experience after high school graduation. Shawnee started teaching in 1991. She was single mother fresh out of college unemployed and in need of a job to support her family s basic needs. She took a position as a substitute teacher and never looked back. Working in an urban school setting presents its challenges. Education supplies are scarce inspiring Shawnee to be creative with teachable moments and allowing her innovate skills to come forth. Shawnee holds several degrees and administrative certifications related to her field of education including a Bachelor s Degree from Dyke College and Master s Degree from Cleveland State University. She was actively pursuing her doctorate in Educational Administrative Leadership from Capella University and recently obtain her PhD in December 2015. Additionally Shawnee is a budding author. She recently published the children s book Fatou and the Great Pursuit. Education is not Shawnee s only passion. She started her own company Glorious Natural Hair Care Products. The company is known for its hair oil Maximize Grow which helps clients grow their hair faster. The oil doubles as moisturize and prevents hair shrinkage after shampooing. Shawnee invented the organic oil to be used on all types of hair. Shawnee resides in Cleveland with her husband. The couple has six children combined and 14 grandchildren. Q&A Q How did you invent your product Glorious Maximize Growth A After years of struggling with unmanageable hair Maximize Growth was created. Q Why did you name your company and product Glorious Maximize Growth A The name Glorious came as a tribute to God for giving me the knowledge and ingredients to invent the hair oil. And the name Maximize Growth was invented to express one of the greatest features of this hair oil to maximize ones hair growth. Q Do you have any other products like shampoos or conditioners A No not at this time. I wanted to perfect the hair oil before moving into another product. However I am looking to make a shampoo and conditioner. Q What makes you hair oil so different from other hair products on the market today A My hair oil is different because it has an all-purpose use. For example Maximize Growth is great for clearing up eczema and dandruff. If can be used as an all over body application to moisturize skin. And it helps promote rapid hair growth as well as eliminate excess hair shrinkage making hair easier to manage. Q What would you like to do when your company takes off and becomes more successful A I would like to use the proceeds to develop a holistic program for foster care children. I would like the program to be comprised of mental and spiritual healing counseling parenting courses apprenticeships job placements financial education and tutoring services. 52 Women of Distinction Theresa Gordon Duggan Ministry Licensed Minister Licensed and Ordained Pastor Licensed and Ordained Prophetess Ministry Saving Souls Published Poet and Author Macon GA B orn in Macon Georgia as the eldest of three brothers and two sisters Theresa Gordon Duggan began to discover her many creative talents as a young girl. She started drawing painting and sewing in the late 1960 s and by the late 70 s she was writing poetry words of wisdom and encouragement and creative stories. Her creative side gave way for her to serve as an inspiration to others especially in her writings. Becoming a published writer through the International Library of Poetry and on Poetry.com Theresa was published in the book of Immortal Verses with her poems Spirit and Unity. On July 8 2015 she finally published her first book Inspiration for Your Soul after working on it for nearly two years. It is now available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com and will soon be available in stores and on audio. Learning to never give up no matter the struggle Theresa has always leaned on her God and Savior for strength. Having struggled most of her life she was the victim of multiple rapes and abusive relationships and has gone hungry and homeless. By encouraging others through her writing she hopes to free others and help them find Jesus as she has. Working hard at what God called me to do and trying to get people interested in sharing what I m doing is most important to me Theresa added. Attending Macon State College and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh Theresa is now working toward her Bachelor of Business Management at Miller Motte College anticipating a 2017 graduation date. She also holds a Certificate of Completion through the Dunwoody College s Graphic Arts Program. Unable to have children of her own Theresa does however have a step-son and step-daughter and five stepgrandchildren. She also has many nieces and nephews great nieces and great nephews. I started sewing drawing and doing arts and crafts when I was young and by the tile I was about 16 I realized that I could write Theresa recalled. But it wasn t until I was about 25 did I really pour myself into my writing once I started I couldn t stop. It was a true talent and gift from God. By 1999 Theresa began reading her poems while praying for people through her ministry work. A year later she became a Licensed Minister and was preaching while praying and laying her hands on the sick through Jesus. About five years later she became a Licensed and Ordained Associate Pastor. A few years after that Theresa became Licensed and Ordained as a Prophetess. Theresa s role in the ministry is to pray and preach the Gospel and teach young women how to become women of virtue and to have morals. When God called me to ministry I began working with young people preaching teaching and continuing in my poetry while attending school Theresa said. I try to lead by example in a positive way so that others will follow as I follow Christ. 53 Women of Distinction Women of Distinction Team WDM Jennifer Hardy EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Holli M. Narvaez EDITOR LAYOUT GRAPHIC DESIGN Jill Mongonia Anne Silar SELECTION COMMITTEE SELECTION COMMITTEE Diane Barry Women of Distinction 560 Broadhollow Road Ste. 310 Melville NY 11747 Phone (631) 465-9024 Fax (631) 465-9035 www.womenofdistinction.net Debra Vines Non-Profit Founder Executive Director The Answer Inc. Autism Awareness and Support Agency Dr. Jody Love Hancock EdD RDMS RVT RT(R) Healthcare - Diagnostic Medical Sonography Director and Professor of the Sonography Program - Chattanooga State Community College