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WDM Every day is a new beginning. Stay away from what might have been and look at what can be. To quote Zig Ziggler It s your attitude not your aptitude that determines your altitude - Wanda Pearl Thompson October 2015 Aileen Nunez MS Psychotherapy Founder Chief Executive Officer Famwell Healing Center and Famwell Mediation Group Wanda Pearl Thompson Publishing (Specializing in Communication Needs) Chief Executive Officer of WPT Communications Wanda Thompson has been published in newspapers and has written several books among which are Brian - A New Beginning The Mighty Transformer and The Adventures of Princess Jasmine. She has won literary contests and has studied with the Institute of Children s Literature in Redding Ridge Connecticut. She has also attended the Writing with Style (Historical Fiction) residency workshop at the Banff Fine Arts Centre. Wanda is also interested in photography. She is a photographer and works with her own photos. Wanda was published in the local newspaper for her article What Is Love She won Project Read s competition for her short story Inferno in 2011. (403) 308-6681 newreleases.html info features WDM 4 8 Psychotherapy Founder Chief Executive Officer Famwell Healing Center and Famwell Mediation Group Miami FL Aileen Nunez MS Dr. LaRay Imani Price 24 Chemicals L.Clark Britney Health and Wellness Licensed Psychologist Owner of Women s InnerFitness & Wellness Center Founder of Pink Pearls of Hope Breast Cancer Organization Crofton MD 49 KristinEducation - Criminal Justice Ann Pickett Higher 58 Valerie Vicario Beauty and Criminology Department Chair Assistant Professor and Online Program Director at Waldorf College Forest City IA Compound Administration Finance Accounting Analyst Axiall Corporation Madison MS Owner Operator Hair Artistry by Valerie Aston PA Aileen Nunez MS Psychotherapy Founder Chief Executive Officer Famwell Healing Center and Famwell Mediation Group Miami FL 4 Women of Distinction B orn in Brooklyn New York as a child of Cuban immigrants Aileen Nunez s parents made it to the US in the late 1950 s to pursue the American Dream . By the time Aileen was 10 she had already known that someday she would work in psychology. At 17 she had already married her high school sweetheart and was getting ready to enter college. Juggling school being a wife and soon parenthood as a young mother to her first born son Michael Anthony at age 20 Aileen was eager to tackle the world make her parents proud and become the most successful psychologist she could ever dream she could be. Now married for more than 35 years with four beautiful children Michael Anthony 32 Daniel Thomas 27 Katrina Celisse 23 and Gabriel Matthew 19 Aileen is living and working on the opposite side of the country in Miami Florida a place that feels much like her parents upbringing. Living her lifelong dream to be working in a field where she can help make a difference in people s lives Aileen has since founded Famwell Healing Center and Famwell Mediation Group in 2002. Unlike the typical clinical setting Aileen hosts an environment for clients geared at relaxation. The use of aromatherapy and soft relaxing music instills a level of peace that makes treatment plans and goals of therapy more attainable. The atmosphere at Famwell is meant to be inviting calming and welcoming and they want every client to feel as comfortable in the office as they would at home. As a Family Mediator and Parenting Coordinator Aileen relies in the power of the word and using the best language to create a new world for the parents and the children she sees. Finding new ways to connect to that inner peace involves a new method of communication and a new language that includes words of wisdom and empowerment. As a Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator and Florida Qualified Parenting Coordinator Aileen is qualified to work with children who are unfortunately in the middle of what she calls their parents firing line or arguing. She has worked closely with family attorneys and family court judges to implement solution-focused treatments and makes it a priority to keep the children s best interest in mind. Famwell Healing Center offers life coaching services a unique therapeutic and holistic approach that usually includes a two- to four-hour service that can either be done in person or over the telephone where a particular issue is addressed and dissected until a solution has been determined. As the Founder and CEO of Famwell Healing Center and Famwell Mediation Group I have continued to pursue my diverse career of being an entrepreneur life coach and psychotherapist for over 25 years. I have been fortunate to touch the lives of many people in the South Florida area Aileen said who has extensive experience in career counseling and executive recruiting as well as creating corporate motivational programs and workplace mediations. Working with individuals and groups seeking psychotherapy Aileen also takes pride in training interns to be future professionals in the field. The goal of Famwell Healing Center is to empower clients to search for their inner self and the true essence of who they really are and to find from within the greatness that they already have and expand it to different areas of their lives. One technique Aileen believes in and implements in her office is called guided meditation. This technique of meditation assists with providing a serene and peaceful approach to silencing the mind to allow true healing and deep cleansing of past issues. She s seen much success in the use of meditation and hypnosis with clients suffering with trauma panic attacks phobias substance abuse anxiety and depression to name a few. Famwell Healing Center and Famwell Mediation Group s mission statement is that just like a butterfly they help individuals come out of their cocoon to transition into a beautifully transformed new self. At the same time the problem is resolved the client is challenged to understand the root of the problem Aileen said about her life coaching technique to find new coping mechanisms to connect to the solution. It s a very deep healing and cleansing process that creates a life changing experience. This type of coaching session is only recommended when the client is sure they are ready for a new life experience and is willing to follow directives in order to gain maximum results. Aileen is also certified to administer behavioral therapy to special needs and autistic children as well as those with pervasive development disorders learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders. She works diligently with the child and the parent on appropriate parenting techniques to use within the home. After discovering that working with the child only was not giving her the results she wanted Aileen implemented a program that requires the participation of the entire family to acquire therapeutic success. Challenging at first since the parents wanted Aileen to correct their children s issues without their participation her program includes a few family sessions so to include an overall family effort. 5 Women of Distinction The result is very successful and the techniques used not only help the child achieve academic and behavioral success but change the family dynamic and encourage self-confidence for the entire family. Therapeutic divorce is something Aileen also specializes in. At Famwell Mediation they strive to make a client s divorce a peaceful process. Making peace is the success of a respectable amicable divorce that will benefit all parties involved. The technique they use encourages dialogue so that a couple can ease stress work collaboratively and protect their children in the process. The primary goal is to acquire an uncontested divorce. A therapeutic divorce is a technique that implements the need for each individual to verbalize their desire for agreeing to the divorce and focusing on how being divorced will serve them. Aileen holds a Bachelor s in Psychology and a Master s in Marriage and Family Therapy from St. Thomas University is an Applied Behavior Analyst Certified Play Therapist through Barry University and a Florida Supreme Court Certified Family and County Mediator since 2004 and is a Florida Qualified Parenting Coordinator since 2012. She s a member of American Association of Marriage and Family Therapist American Psychotherapy Association Psychology Today American Board of Professional Counselors National Association of Women Business Owners and National Association of Professional Women. Enjoying the outdoors Aileen loves spending her free time on one of the beautiful beaches of Miami. The beach is a place where she can retreat to and reconnect with her true essence and inner thoughts and a place to meditate and be inspired to continue writing her books and blogs. Meditating is a favorite pastime of hers. Finding ways to silence her mind helps her feel more relaxed peaceful and rejuvenated after a long week. The marriage ends but husband and wife remain Mom and Dad Aileen explained. It is with deliberate intention at Famwell Mediation Group that we stress to the clients that divorcing while creating a war is not an option. The success I have witnessed in implementing this approach of a therapeutic divorce has been immense. I hope and strive that more and more families see the benefit and choose this technique if their marriage is irreconcilable. Maintaining a very close family system within her own family has been a big part of Aileen s journey in life. Married now for over three decades and being a mother of four children she has easily been able to transition to accommodate her own family values with her profession as a Marriage and Family Therapist. Her experience lends a hand at implementing her dedication and belief in the family system. She really does practice what she preaches it s the only way. Hoping to spread the word to others on some of the many successful therapeutic and healing strategies she has used in the office Aileen plans to implement her extensive training in life coaching and public speaking by presenting various workshops. She is also beginning to write self-help books in the field titles include Empowering Women of Power It s Absolutely All About You The Worse That Can Happen Already Has and Victims of the Big People. She currently blogs on her website to help people with various issues and is in the process of completing a therapeutic manual to work with families and children of special needs and autism. In my profession the biggest thing I have learned is to be nonjudgmental and empathetic Aileen added. I ve never met anyone in my career path that wasn t trying their best to be better. I have learned to accept people for who they are and decrease expectations I put forth. It s allowed me to see greatness in everyone and help them see the greatness within themselves. It s wonderful to witness a transformation in another person and see how much they accomplish once they can accept the change. My purpose in life is to continue on the journey of guiding those in search of being the best they can be by introducing them to the gift of healing mind body soul and energy Aileen noted. 6 Women of Distinction Q&A Q What makes your approach in treating clients unique from other professionals in your field A It is important to set an environment that is pleasant and soothing rather than cold and clinical. At Famwell it is my goal to help clients feel comfortable in sharing and allowing the process of healing their issues. It is a very subtle process. Q What is the difference between seeing a therapist or seeing a life coach A The difference is mostly in the concentration of the work being done which is the particular issue being resolved and the duration of the session. Therapy is the process of looking at the various aspects in different areas of a person s life and coaching is strictly focused on one area of their life and how to improve in that aspect. Q How can you help children with special needs and their families A As a family therapist and coach different levels of assistance are offered to the child with the special needs as well as to the parents learning to manage a child with special needs. It is important to validate what each member of the family is going through as well as the relationship of the parents. It is a very empowering program. Q What kind of treatment is guided meditation A The technique of guided meditation is very powerful because it allows the client to learn to silence their mind which is very helpful with stress and anxiety. It then uses the visualization aspect of the mind to create new and better results to what the client wants to achieve in life. Q What is the law of attraction A The therapeutic process at Famwell emphasizes the power of our thought and the words we speak. It is a very empowering process to learn about the law of attraction and how to use it. It is a technique and philosophy used to help clients attract what they really want and do away with those things in their life that no longer serve them. Q Why do you feel your variety of services to be beneficial in today s world A The mission of transforming like a butterfly in a cocoon to a beautiful new person is the great success we have seen at the center. I m very proud to say that it is with certainty that clients who choose to do work at the center will come out much better than they came in. Q How many weeks is it necessary to stay in treatment A In the therapeutic treatment process it is typical to start the program with an intake session to evaluate the issues and then 12 weeks of sessions to work through the issue. In the process of life coaching it can be as little as four hours done all in one day or spread out into a month. It is up to the client to decide the route they prefer and depends on the issue(s) being addressed. Q What kind of books are you writing A I ve been reading self-help books for nearly 20 years and I ve transitioned because of the powerful meaning behind the messages expressed by the authors. I want the opportunity to share what I ve learned and help others find the way to a beautiful life that connects them with their true essence and their purpose in this life with my first self- improvement book. Q What kind of experience and background do you have in your field A I have been an entrepreneur for most of my life and believe in the power of combining our thoughts with our words. I have had over 20 000 face-to-face client hours in my career. I love to learn about people and teach others the power of self-love to achieve their life goals. Q What inspired you to create a blog A I wanted to create a blog that would help others realize they are not alone. Even if they will never be able to make it for a session there are very powerful messages of hope and enlightenment being shared through the blog Through My Eyes at 7 Women of Distinction Dr. LaRay Imani Price Health and Wellness Licensed Psychologist Owner of Women s InnerFitness & Wellness Center Founder of Pink Pearls of Hope Breast Cancer Organization 8 Crofton MD Women of Distinction D I alone cannot change the world but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples . Mother Teresa r. LaRay Imani Price became fascinated with psychology during her junior year of high school. Her enthusiasm was obvious to her psychology teacher as he advised her parents that based on her passion for learning how people can be healed the best thing they could do for their daughter was buy her a psychology dictionary and prepare to call her Doctor one day. With that framework in mind Dr. Price set her course towards becoming a psychologist. Dr. Price s concentration on women s psychological health began when her paternal grandmother Mary L. Price-Lee was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998. Her faith caused her to believe she could live a happy life despite breast cancer. Through her faith and eventual medical care she lived a high-quality life for 4 additional years after her initial diagnosis 14 years earlier. As Dr. Price engaged in her doctoral research she discovered that two of her mother s aunts had also lost their battle against breast cancer. This ultimately led to Dr. Price becoming an advocate for breast cancer awareness and prevention. In January 2010 she founded Pink Pearls of Hope Breast Cancer Organization a nonprofit committed to inspiring women of color to take control of their health through informative interactive and entertaining multidimensional wellness experiences. She had actually been diagnosed 14 years earlier but decided not to receive treatment because of her commitment to the welfare of others (husband children grandchildren church members co-workers etc.) before herself. However once her grandmother s condition was discovered Dr. Price s family rallied together to help Mary get the care she needed. I was in the second year of my Master s program at Clark Atlanta University and wondered how many other women made their health a secondary priority to the needs of their families. As I discovered many women with physical and mental health concerns delay treatment for fear it will disrupt the routines of their homes and families. Dr. Price s grandmother said she coped with her breast cancer diagnosis with faith and constant prayer. This insight started Dr. Price on a journey to discover more about what psychosocial facts women use to cope with breast cancer especially the role of spirituality in their treatment and recovery. It became the focus of her research at Purdue University for her doctoral dissertation Spirituality and Psychological Well-Being in Women with Breast Cancer . She earned her doctorate in 2006 and recently used that dissertation as the basis for a poster presentation at the 2015 World Congress of Psych-Oncology in Washington D.C. Her next project is to submit an abstract for a chapter to be part of the American Psychological Association s Division 35-1 (Society for the Psychology of Women) upcoming book Black Women s Mental Health Expanding the Discussion . Mary s fears were comforted by her prayers which gave her the mental strength to continue pursuing most of her weekly activities (i.e. church choir). She believed her journey with breast cancer was improved because of her faith in God. Faith provided her with the courage to live life to its fullest hoping her life would make a difference in the lives of others. My passion for breast cancer awareness and prevention has resulted in speaking engagements and participation at several breast cancer awareness events around the United States. I have also facilitated forums programs and projects geared towards the promotion of breast cancer prevention and awareness. I am ultimately interested in the psychological wellness of women with breast cancer and helping them to increase their quality of life by assisting them in creating and sustaining good mental health. While working on her Ph.D. Dr. Price was commissioned as a Captain in the U.S. Army s Clinical Psychology Internship program. She completed her internship at the Dwight David Eisenhower Army Medical Center (Fort Gordon GA) in 2005 and was an active duty Army Clinical Psychologist for six years with assignments at Dwight David Eisenhower Army Medical Center Winn Army Community Hospital (Fort Stewart GA) and the United States Military Academy West Point (West Point NY). She completed her Army commission while assigned to West Point in 2010 but spent an additional three and a half years working as an Army Reserves Psychologist. Following her military service Dr. Price worked at the United States Coast Guard Academy (New London CT) Christian Counseling Center of Annapolis (Annapolis MD) and Joint Base Andrews Mental Health Clinic (Andrews MD). 9 Women of Distinction Dr. Price s advice to anyone exploring a career as a psychologist is to locate a variety of practicum experiences in order to learn about mental illnesses and gain experience with different patient populations. Dr. Price currently lives in Maryland with her 9-year-old son and loves spending time with him traveling and exploring the various museums and historical sites in the Washington D.C. area. About Women s InnerFitness & Wellness Center Most schools train us as generalists but psychologists often develop areas of interest or patient populations that they prefer working with. And that s exactly what Dr. Price did when she opened the Women s InnerFitness & Wellness Center this past April where she works as an interactive and collaborative psychologist who combines spirituality with cognitive behavioral therapy. Her therapeutic approach is to provide support and practical feedback to help clients effectively address personal life challenges. She integrates complementary methodologies and techniques to offer a highly personalized approach tailored to each client. With compassion and understanding I work with each individual to help them build on their strengths and reach the personal growth they are seeking. Her Christian faith gives her the inspiration to help others while her mother encourages her to listen to others without judgment or condemnation. Dr. Wayne Dyer and Dr. Deepak Chopra also taught her that people are resilient and can heal from difficult conditions when they believe they can do so. She feels that being a psychologist isn t a career that one chooses. Women s InnerFitness & Wellness Center is a practice where women are free to explore emotions and feelings in a supportive and positive environment that offers hope We believe the psychology of women differs greatly from that of men because of the many unique experiences and concerns we face as women. We believe there are more things that we have in common as women than things that make us different. Women s InnerFitness and Wellness Center seeks to build a collaborative professional relationship with each client. We help guide women through issues such as self-esteem self-development family work concerns physical and sexual trauma in addition to coping with the emotional stress associated with medical hormonal and reproductive difficulties. Our expertise is in caring for a wide range of emotional and behavioral concerns of women. Our services are provided in a comfortable and supportive atmosphere that encourages healing. We offer a highly personalized approach tailored to each of our client s individual needs towards personal growth. Our philosophy for psychological health is that the strength to overcome obstacles is inside you but it is our job to help you discover and maintain it. We want you to rewrite the stories from your past that prevent you from living the life you desire. Collaboration between a client and therapist is the essential link in our approach to therapy. That means we will work together to find resolutions to your problems. We are committed to providing a positive experience while you start or continue your journey to a healthier and happier you. As a client you ll receive comprehensive expert and highly individualized care in a compassionate intelligent and active environment. We value the complete health of women. To support your journey we offer a free consultation service. It chooses you and when you stop to answer your calling you re blessed with a sense of joy that can only come from the help and hope you provide to others. The more I give to others the more I give to myself. I believe it is the relationship between me and my patients that help encourages them to face some of the most difficult challenges one could imagine that the human spirit is strong and that people can find the strength to heal after difficult circumstances. This is why society should give the same awareness and platforms to women s mental health that are given to physical health. 10 Q&A Q Why did you want a practice focused on women A Women are often the emotional and physical caregivers for nuclear and extended families. Additionally women often take on the concerns of their friends neighbors and communities. Therefore it stands to reason that anyone spending much of their time taking care of others would have difficulty finding time to care for themselves. My clients often wonder how this Superwoman phenomenon happened to them but let s face it many women define their self-worth by the number of activities and social obligations they can manage at once. For many women putting their needs first makes them feel guilty because self-care can feel selfish. However self-care is necessary because taking care of yourself allows you to be physically and mentally healthier thus better capable of helping others. Q Why do you believe that a greater focus on women s mental health is important A Women are disproportionately diagnosed with anxiety and depression than men. Despite the high rates of diagnosed psychological conditions in women they still may not seek counseling to help manage these conditions. There are a variety of factors that may act as barriers to help-seeking behaviors including gender culture stigma severity of symptoms religion and social implications. Untreated mental health problems can have a significant impact on the health and development of the client as well as the client s family members. Q What are some of the concerns for women diagnosed with cancer and how can you help them A Women diagnosed with cancer experience a variety of stressors such as depression anxiety body image and femininity concerns medication side effects (i.e. nausea vomiting healthy cell compromise etc.) declines in cognitive and physical functioning difficulties in sexual functioning financial concerns and chronic pain. I help women diagnosed with cancer navigate their emotional and physical cancer experience by offering assistance with various stress reduction techniques encouraging them to ask questions of their doctors and stay actively engaged in their treatments. Stress reduction techniques and mindfulness interventions increase treatment compliance and reduce side effects from the various treatments. Additionally these interventions increase their quality of life with higher self-esteem better interpersonal relationships greater satisfaction with their body image and more pleasure with intimacy. Q What do you say about the stigma associated with mental health A According to the CDC stigma is defined as the prejudice avoidance rejection and discrimination directed at people believed to have an illness disorder or other trait perceived to be undesirable . The stigma of mental health is primarily the result of societal misinformation. Some people are uncomfortable being around individuals with a mental health disorder because of the belief that the person has a serious mental illness (such as schizophrenia) that significantly interferes with how they function limits major life activities or cause them to behave violently towards others. Many of these misconceptions about people with a mental health diagnosis being violent have increased over the past few years with the increase in mass shootings and the shooter often being identified as having a mental health disorder. Additionally many people with mental health problems hide their diagnosis or are in denial of having any problems because of the societal shame and misconceptions about mental illnesses. The truth is that most people with a mental health disorder can be effectively treated and their symptoms managed so that they live a normal life. Q How does women s mental health differ from men A Women are disproportionately diagnosed with both depression and anxiety than men over their lifetime. Q What is the prevalence of mental health disorders in the United States A Depression and anxiety are among the most common diagnosed mental health disorders. According to Mental Health America (MHA) anxiety disorders are among the most common mental illnesses in America with more than 40 million Americans affected by these debilitating illnesses each year. Clinical depression affects more than 19 million Americans each year. Q Should people with mental health problems use medications or psychotherapy A Medication and psychotherapy combined are very effective for treating mental disorders. Medication can often provide individuals with stability and help them feel well enough to work through their problems through psychotherapy. Instead of just treating the symptom therapy addresses the cause of our distress and the behavior patterns that curb our progress. You can best achieve sustainable growth and a greater sense of well-being with an integrative approach to wellness. Working with your medical doctor you can determine what s best for you and in some cases a combination of medication and therapy is the right course of action. Q If I see a psychologist can I expect my information to remain private A The ethics of a psychologist is that all information shared during the counseling session is confidential except for the following situations (1) If you are a danger to yourself or threaten to harm a specific person. (2) Suspected past or present abuse or neglect of children adults and elders to the authorities including Child Protection and law enforcement based on information provided by the client or collateral sources. Q What are the differences between Psychologist Psychiatrists Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) and Licensed Clinical Professional Counselors (LCPC) A The term Psychologist is a protected name and can only be used once an individual has completed a doctoral degree in an area of psychology and passed a national and state examination. Psychologists perform counseling however they are trained in psychological intellectual personality and cognitive testing as well. Psychiatrists are medical doctors with specialized training in psychiatric medicine and prescribe medications. LCSW and LCPCs have completed a minimum of a master degree are licensed by a state board and perform counseling. LCSWs are involved in direct therapy with patients in private practice or conduct research at universities. Many LCSWs have a Ph.D. and work as college professors. LCPCs in Maryland see clients and if they have appropriate training and experience they can also do testing and appraisal activities. 11 Women of Distinction 12 Women of Distinction Gopika Dahanukar Arts and Well-being Founder Quiesense San Diego CA 13 Women of Distinction K nown as an artist that creates activated art and installations that are designed to carry the viewer to a place of what she calls quiet wellness Gopika Dahanukar combines materials like translucent cut paper video projection lighting and sound to visually and audibly draw in viewers to an experience of meditation. Combining activated art experience and well-being as the central theme of her business she formed Quiesense which means a state of being quiet in San Diego California as a way to weave her artistic ability with her quiet resolve for humankind. I was born and raised in India a land of ancient philosophy and spiritual inquiry Gopika explained about her upbringing. In my growing years I saw the manifestation of this rich culture through geometry and sound sacred Mandalas and Vedic Mantras. I was later drawn to inquire deeper into the significance of these geometries and sound as related to nature earth and cosmos and became aware of the infinite threads of energy hidden in their deeper meaning. Surrounded by artists and musicians through her growing years Gopika watched her mother Prafulla Dahanukar a well-known painter and arts patron dedicated fully to the spirit of the arts while leading various art and music organizations that significantly impacted the art world in Mumbai India. Gopika s father a businessman and a nature lover introduced her to ideas of nature cosmos and consciousness when she was quite young. Meanwhile her grandmother who was at the center of the household would meticulously organize in their home Indian festivities and cultural events rooted in their family s spiritual culture. This profound and memorable upbringing brought her a unique foundation and has greatly influenced Gopika s work today. Beginning her career as an artist after graduating with her Bachelor of Applied Arts from Sophia Polytechnic College of Art in Mumbai in 1996 Gopika had her first solo exhibition of paintings called Aatman which means Inner Soul . Her early work was semi figurative and depicted the oneness between man and nature. While much of her works over the years consisted of painting and photography in solo and group exhibitions in India her creative ideas continued to evolve. Spending 16 years in and around Pondicherry in South India Gopika was inspired by the Integral Yoga of poet philosopher and yogi Sri Aurobindo. She became interested in Sanskrit Mantra Chanting bringing a new dimension and level of influence to both her life and her artwork. She began to teach collective chanting in the local international community of Auroville as a way to share the deeper vibration hidden in these combination of sounds and their therapeutic effect on people and the environment. During these years of practice and research she also came to discover that the geometric forms and sounds that she was so drawn to both comprised of patterns of energy movement at the core of their physical structure and significance. Eighteen years into her career Gopika came to the United States where she enrolled at the Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland Oregon. Graduating in 2014 she earned a Master of Fine Arts in Applied Craft and Design. This program brought me to a synthesis of my art music and selfinquiry to do the work I do today she explained further. As the Founder of Quiesense Gopika creates unique installations for clients to bring a sense of well-being to each location in which they desire it to be displayed. Her activated installations are custom designed to fit the needs of both the client and the location. Each piece takes approximately six months from design to execution. 14 Women of Distinction I sometimes face difficulties in relation to the design and it s technical needs when building my installations Gopika said about the complexity of her work. The process is as important to my creative growth as the result derived from it. I believe that there is always a solution to every problem. This problemsolving gives me a sense of accomplishment as it keeps my focus fuels my perseverance and pushes my artistic ability. Over the years I have learned to embrace this creative process trust the challenges as conducive to my progress to manifest my ideas for the world at large. Some of the locations where Gopika s designs would perfectly fit include hospitals and healing centers spas and wellness centers yoga studios corporate and public locations private homes as well as conferences and special events. But they are particularly effective in areas of wellness because as Gopika explains art can promotes healing and recent scientific research has shown that works of art help patients and families in their healing process. Gopika has held solo exhibitions at the prestigious Jehangir Art Gallery in Mumbai concerts at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris and the National Center for Performing Arts in Mumbai and has also led workshops in mantra sound mediation for Young Presidents Organization conferences that were held in India. Her first installation called Inner Sky will be permanently displayed as a central piece for the quiet room at the Pacific Northwest College of Art in downtown Portland later this year. In 2013 Gopika earned a UN Certificate in Entrepreneurship Innovation and Change at the University of Peace in Costa Rica. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Expressive Arts Therapy at San Diego University for Integrative Studies and is also working toward a Certificate in Interaction Design and User Interface Design online at the Interaction Design Foundation in Denmark. Gopika met her partner Nadaka guitarist and composer in Auroville India. Born and raised in Quebec Nadaka traveled the world at the age of 16 settling in India where he lived for more than 30 years. Sharing similar interests Nadaka s passion for Indian music led him to study and learn several Indian instruments. After extensive research he crafted his own unique instrument a modified guitar specifically designed to play the subtle tones of Indian music. Together they have collaborated on many musical projects recording and performing their own style of meditative world fusion. Their most recent CD SURYA Chants of Light made it to the top-ten of the US new age music charts. Their site together is where viewers can find more on their musical ventures. A mother of two children Kamakshi 16 and Keshava 12. Kamakshi is a photographer poet and pianist and Keshava is a percussionist and plays the Indian drum called the tabla . At the age of seven Keshava opened the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010 performing center-stage with 1 200 percussionists with an audience of four billion people watching the ceremonies from all over the world. He has been performing with Gopika and Nadaka ever since. Gopika is proud of her children they are both very talented artistically and have already accomplished so much at such a young age. There is a notably growing interest for such art-works in the healthcare corporate and yoga industries over the last few years and I wish to become a facilitator to fulfill this need Gopika said. Immersive Activated art is my way to bring people to a place of wellness guiding them through the medium of creative expression to help them invite a process for themselves and open up a path into their own healing. Currently Gopika s interests are driven toward the study of energy patterns that participate in the creation of forms in nature and explore how they may become useful through perspective of therapy. This will allow for new activated works and also serve as a foundation to develop therapeutic engagement of pattern-making and sound experience. Gopika also desires to use her installations to activate groups of individuals into an experience by combining pattern-making collective sound experience and meditative movement. The focus will direct the participants to reconnect to their bodies and senses to a place of overall well-being. What makes Quiesense Artworks impactful is my unique background Gopika explained about the nature of her distinct business. I have been immersed in art sound and inner seeking for so many years it brings an authenticity to my work. It is also what I aim for my viewers to feel and experience. My intent is to bring quiet and well-being to people that I feel is much needed by the people and society today. 15 Q&A Q Why do you feel that your business is important A The world as we see it is becoming more and more demanding on us technologically financially and psychologically. This is adding to general stress levels in society. Simultaneously the surge for well-being and meditation has become very intrinsic to humans to find a sense of inner balance for themselves. I see the relevance for the creative arts to be bridged with societal needs. I also see that there is more interest toward careers specializing in hybrid subjects. I am interested in the arts and wellness and how these could confluence to become useful to our world. The transformative quality of the work is finally what matters. Problems worth solving stress in the corporate environment anxiety in the hospital environment imbalance in mind body and spirit linking the arts to better health an artistic solution heal through an arts experience quieten mental activity bring relaxation using active patterns and help people connect to their senses and environment. Q How are these installations designed and how do they work A The installations are a combination of visual and audio impact. The slow moving changes which is the activation on the physical art visually draws you in to focus. The soft music surrounding the viewer is designed specifically in relation to the artwork and measured to resonate with these changes that take place visually thereby making the installation a tool offering a complete meditative experience. Q What is the targeted audience of Quiesense A Quiesense targets a wide range of audiences where these art installations may bring well-being to the society at large. Quiet rooms in corporate offices hospitals spas yoga centers or even in one s own private home are some of the potential clients. The activated art is custom designed to fit the specific space in relation to the needs of the client and the environment it sits in. Q How does artwork promote healing in hospitals A Hospitals are giving artwork a higher priority. Researchers are learning more about the precise ways paintings and other works of art help patients and families in the healing process. With studies showing a direct link between the content of images and the brain s reaction to pain stress and anxiety hospitals are considering and choosing artworks based on the evidence and giving it a higher priority than merely decoration for sterile rooms and corridors. Q What about in corporate offices A Many leaders in the corporate world know that wellbeing for the employees is important for better productivity. Dedicating a room for an immersive artwork conducive to meditation and quiet reflection designed to visually and audibly bring the viewer to a place of quiet relaxation can be greatly beneficial to an organization and increases the creativity levels of the employees. 16 Women of Distinction Ingrid L derach Steven Retail - Upscale Chocolate Shop Owner and Operator of Swiss-Master Chocolatier Toronto Ontario Canada 17 Women of Distinction G rowing up in the Swiss town of Lucerne Ingrid L derach Steven never thought of becoming a chocolate store owner even though she would eventually graduate from the prestigious Richemont Centre of Excellence culinary school in Lucerne. Ingrid actually made quite a detour. As a teen she had the voice of an opera singer (plus an IQ of 180) that earned her two scholarships to the well-known Randell School (Denver CO) by way of Dr. Antonia Brico the famous conductor of the Denver Businessmen s Symphony Orchestra. Dr. Brico persuaded Ingrid s parents to let her go to Denver and study-music with her. (There was even an Oscar-nominated documentary made about Dr. Brico called Antonia A Portrait of the Woman with a big picture of Ingrid shown hanging on the wall.) She convinced Ingrid s parents that Ingrid had unbelievably great talent and that it would be a shame not to nurture this. This opportunity led to singing tours all over the United States and appearances on TV all of which began to open up a whole new world for Ingrid. But from Ingrid s perspective Being in a strange country with a stranger and not speaking the language was a real challenge. However everywhere I went I found people who inspired me intellectually as well as emotionally. I studied hard both at school and with my music. Ingrid slowly adjusted to her new life. It wasn t easy living with a famous demanding artist like Dr. Brico but Ingrid felt she had to persevere. After all where could I possibly go (She kept thinking in her mind.) Ingrid and Dr. Brico traveled a lot and stayed with many famous people. While Ingrid felt lucky to be in this world it still wasn t what she truly wanted in life. She wanted to have a family a home and a permanent address . So the following summer Dr. Brico sent Ingrid home to her parents (who by then moved to Toronto Ontario to stay with Ingrid s aunt) for six weeks while she traveled to Lambarene South Africa to visit with Dr. Albert Schweitzer the famous doctor and humanitarian (who sent a greeting to Ingrid with the message To the little girl with the voice of an angel... ). During her time at home with her parents in Toronto Ingrid decided to return to Denver in an effort to make her parents proud. But at such a young age that way of life became increasingly harder for her and in her own way Ingrid started to rebel. Instead of going to school I would go to the movies and sleep as school during the day and music in the evenings left few hours for sleep. This-movie-place-to-sleep was my perfect solution to catch up on some much needed sleep. I still kept up with my studies though and continued to get unusually high marks so there was no problem there. However Dr. Brico started to sense my uneasiness and unhappiness and was none too pleased. After all I was her prodigy whom she wanted to continue to nurture and she saw a very great musical future for me. Life continued to become very tense though so in my immaturity I planned to run away. I dressed very warmly and started on my trip to nowhere . I walked and walked and then got cold so I turned back. I then wrote my parents that I wanted to go home and made all sorts of deals with them in the hope that they would magically appear and take me away. Yet nothing happened and Ingrid felt trapped. So one day feeling so sad she ransacked Dr. Brico s medicine cabinet in the hope that some pills would help ease the emotional pain she felt . My favorite place was California. We were personal guests of Sir Adrian Boult and the famed pianist Leonard Fleischer who performed at the Hollywood Bowl. I was totally in awe not just by their performance but by the standing ovations they received. Sitting there under the stars as special guests and listening to the beautiful music was magical. I was rushed to the hospital where I ended up in a coma for two weeks. When I came to I had to learn to walk and talk again. In a way it was as if I was reborn. It was a very slow recovery process. Unfortunately her vocal chords were damaged as well and Ingrid could no longer sing the way she used to. My parents were summoned to get me and when I was well enough to travel we left. We settled in Toronto in what I guess started to become as normal a life as possible. However when one door closes another one opens... 18 Women of Distinction I then met Tom Steven the man who would change my life forever. What touched me about Tom was his kindness and honesty. And he was good looking to boot But I knew he was the right man for me when he picked me up one evening in his car to go to a dance. He abruptly stopped the car ran across the street and helped a handicapped and partially-blind person cross the street. He then got back into the car without saying anything and continued driving. To say I was overwhelmed is putting it mildly. I was hooked full line and sinker. I knew then he would make a wonderful husband and a great father. And with her singing career behind her Ingrid went back to her other passion (cooking). In 1985 she founded SwissMaster Chocolatier an upscale chocolate shop selling Beautiful Chocolates to Beautiful People including some of the most wealthiest and influential people in Canada. Ingrid imports some 60 high-quality Swiss truffles pralines and many other products directly from Switzerland. As an active owner she is at the store every working day and is responsible for everything it takes to operate the retail shop like working with suppliers in Switzerland (arranging for shipments customs (duties) translations and negotiations and handling the customers staff and d cor. Aside from the chocolate what is beautiful about the store and has made it so successful is the interaction between human beings. She finds herself talking to and comforting people almost every day. Clearly Ingrid is doing something right as Swiss-Master Chocolatier is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year with a congratulatory message from the Prime Minister of Canada. The store has also been awarded Retailer of the Year by the Toronto Chamber of Commerce and has received mass recognition from the Canadian and (even the) Swiss media and at public events. Her greatest joy is spending time with her family. Ingrid and Tom have two beautiful daughters and four amazing grandchildren. They are the icing on the cake of life. It s not just about the chocolate. It s also about the people. There are so many lonely people out there who need to talk. I feel it is important to treat customers the way you want to be treated. I have a fantastic and consistent product at all times but I also try to make customers feel a little bit better when they leave the store. We should never lose sight of the fact that we are human beings (not machines or robots) and we must treat each other with respect honesty and care. 19 Women of Distinction Q&A Q Do you eat chocolate A I sure do. I love chocolate but I enjoy it in moderation. Q What s new A Since we started our business 30 years ago our clientele has become much more diversified thus so have our products. For example we designed a Star of David truffle for our huge Jewish clientele and a lamb truffle this year for the Chinese New Year. We also decorate the boxes and gift bags to reflect the theme of each occasion or celebration. Q How come you re not fat considering you own a chocolate shop A That s a good question. The number one reason for this is garbage in... garbage out . In other words if you eat chocolate filled with trans fats your body will react accordingly. The world is slowly starting to realize that trans fats are unbelievably addictive when sweetened. Sadly they have been the main ingredient in chocolate candy products . Scientific reality is that this can bring on heart problems diabetes cancer obesity and the list just keeps on growing. Q Do you ever get tired of the business A After 30 years YES there are times you ll feel somewhat weary but it quickly disappears when you have a thankful customer. Q Can my dog eat chocolate A Absolutely not. Chocolate contains certain properties that can be toxic to animals such as caffeine and theobromine. If ingested these two ingredients can also lead to various medical complications and may even prove fatal for your dog. Q I read that dark chocolate is good for you. Does that mean the more I eat the better I ll feel A Well yes and no. Studies have shown that REAL dark chocolate is good for you is loaded with minerals and nutrients that are good for us all contains a decent amount of soluble fiber and is one of the best sources of antioxidants on the planet for improved health. However this doesn t mean you go overboard. Again moderation is the key. Q Can I leave chocolate in the car for a few hours A Obviously if the temperature is over 18 degrees and sunny then the answer would be NO. One has to use common sense. Q My friend is only a little bit allergic to nuts so is it OK to buy some truffles with nuts A As much as I would like to sell you some of our beautiful chocolates the answer is a definite NO . You don t want to take any chances when it comes to someone s health. Q Can I put the truffles in the fridge A Like a fine wine they are best served at room temperature. However to extend the shelf life you should put them in the fridge. Q Is white chocolate really chocolate A No white chocolate is not chocolate in the strict sense as it does not contain cocoa solids the primary nutritional constituent of chocolate liquor. 20 Women of Distinction Amy Stoodt Consulting Oil and Gas Energy Sector Owner Principal Lean-To Consulting LLC Sugar Land TX fter working in the oil and gas energy sector for a very short time period beginning with Marathon Pipeline Company in 1990 Amy Stoodt quickly found herself wanting to learn more and more about the industry. Fortunate to have had that opportunity to work for a fully integrated oil company Amy was able to transfer to different areas within the business to learn many different aspects of how they operated as a whole. Beginning as an Operations Analyst in their control room Amy moved into operations positions corporate positions such as auditing and business development took on special assignments and projects learned engineering and project management and the many other components of both the downstream and the upstream business. A Leveraging my experience I have been focusing on networking with industry peers collaborating and partnering with consultants that can bring complimentary skills to my company she noted about her efforts as a new business owner. Executing project management functions management consulting for operational excellence and process improvement along with tasks associated with what LeanTo Consulting has to offer clients Amy has remained true to herself and has never let the pressure from others allow her to ever compromise her ethics moral compass or practices of what is right and what is wrong. Quite the contrary her business has taught her to excel even more in these areas as she solely represents her business based on the integrity she displays with each of her clients. She is the face of LeanTo Consulting. Amy served as a pipeline operations analyst senior auditor supervisor of operations logistics and control project specialist pipeline commissioning manager operations superintendent special projects manager and planning and construction project manager throughout her tenure with Marathon. The wealth of knowledge that she brought with her to her next company was immeasurable. When she did leave she joined Willbros Engineering followed by Alyeska Pipeline Service Company Williams MidStream Company and finally LOOP LLC all in manager roles. Her 25-plus years in the industry allowed her to take the next step becoming the Owner and Principal of her very own consulting business that specializes in oil and gas energy sector work but also serves engineering environmental information technology telecommunications and general energy clients Lean-To Consulting LLC in Sugar Land Texas. Lean-To Consulting provides clients the support they need whether it be strategic technical business development or process improvement. I am proud of the differences I have made throughout my career with my integrity intact Amy said with confidence. I believe in doing things right the first time in putting people in the right positions to be successful and in not putting off until tomorrow what I can do today. 21 Women of Distinction The oil and gas industry can be a tough field to say the least. In Amy s experience she stresses that you really need to have a passion about what you do and what the company does. Be proud of your contribution and your company as a good citizen. Broaden your horizons as the industry holds countless opportunities for career direction. Similarly being a woman working in a technical field and management in the oil and gas sector has presented her with many challenges as often she would be the only woman in a room full of men. Nevertheless it taught her how to be a strong communicator and to be confident in her abilities. Had she not she said she would have been chewed up and spit out . As a supervisor and manager for many years she has also had to learn how to oversee teams that would quite often range anywhere from 20 to 70 years of age. Noting that there has been a lot written about the different generations when it comes to work ethic and approach understanding and using that information to properly work with these teams and making sure that they can all work well together she says has been imperative to being a sustainable manager that can get results. In her near three decades of experience she has enjoyed many meaningful contributions to her field including mentoring young talent and giving them opportunities to train and shadow in areas of interest. She has written operational excellence and process improvements strategies for more than one employer and has served as a leader to implement leading to more effective operations and benefits for employees as well as the company. In the areas of project management Amy developed tools and templates for project execution plans stakeholder analysis communication plans and managing scope change. Throughout her career she has also been a leader in safety and implementing programs and practices in each field location she has served in. She has even participated in American Petroleum Institute (API) including being a contributor to standards and recommended practices for the industry. Earning her BS in Computer Programming at Defiance College and her MBA at Tiffin University Amy is also a Certified Project Management Professional through Project Management Institute and holds a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt and DMAIC Certification through Aveta Business Institute. She has been involved with a number of organizations throughout her career all which have varied based upon her position at the time. Some of them have included API for Pipeline Operators Controls Room and Measurement and American Society for Testing and Materials (also known as ASTM). She is a current member of Project Management Institute and National Association of Professional Woman as well. Relating to community she is active supporting the United Way Habitat for Humanity and the National Parks. Known to be a super active person both at work and in her down time Amy admits to living a high energy lifestyle. One of her favorite things to do is go hiking with a big backpack full of cameras to capture the beauty of the national parks that surround her. She also loves cycling fishing running playing golf and going white water rafting. When her mind and her body are ready for a more relaxing activity you ll often find Amy reading a good book or sitting around a camp fire with friends or watching sporting events. As I started my career I was inspired by the field technicians who were so proud of what they did and were so willing to share their knowledge. As I grew into my career my inspiration became the ability to add value and to make a difference Amy noted about the many ups and downs of business whether it was mentoring a new employee interfacing with the community or building an asset to bring a new business offering to life for the company and helping their bottom line. Amy said that for her motivation has never been the money or the title she held but about enjoying what it was she was doing at the time and making a difference. Never married Amy is fortunate to still have her parents in her life they live in Ohio where Amy grew up. She has one sibling a sister who is married and lives in Tomball Texas. 22 Women of Distinction Q&A Q What drives the price of gasoline at the pump A Many factors drive the price of gasoline at the pump. One of the larger factors is the cost of crude oil purchased for refining. Another factor is the cost of the transportation to get the gasoline and diesel fuel not only to the station but from the refinery to the terminals as well. Local state and federal regulations drive the price at the pump regionally due to specific fuel content requirements creating over 200 different products nationwide. Finally other big factors that many forget about are the local state and federal taxes on each gallon that account for almost 1 3 of the overall price. Q Is drilling bad for the environment A All forms of energy production comes with risks both to humans and the environment and drilling is no different. However drilling technology of the 21st century is state of the art and the safest in the history of the industry. Technology allows companies to drills many wells from one location maximizing the production and reducing the footprint on the surface land or ocean floor. In many locations the water used in the drilling and completion is retained and reused thus saving a vital resource. Companies are required to follow strict safety and operational standards. Q Are pipelines safe A Pipelines are the safest means to transport petroleum (and other liquids) of all the options available including rail truck ship etc. Pipelines are built to strict engineering specifications and maintained in accordance with regulations to ensure the integrity of the pipe and all the components connected to the line. In most cases this includes 24-hour monitoring and control from very sophisticated control rooms by highly trained personnel. Q Why do we need to keep building pipeline and plants A The pipeline infrastructure in the United States is aging and in many cases undersized. In order to transport the domestic crude being produced to the refining centers new assets are required. The US demand for petroleum products continues to grow and many plants have been expanded in recent years to try to keep pace with this growth. Growing populations and growing needs will drive the requirement for additional plant refining capacity. Q What else comes from oil besides gasoline A Most people are surprised to know what all comes from a barrel of crude oil. There are some 6 000 products that find their base in this fossil fuel. Some most people would think of include jet fuel diesel fuel propane butane kerosene motor oil and asphalt. Then add to that list things like tires nylon rope antifreeze enamel plastic wood epoxy insecticides and caulking. How about everyday items like tents crayons paint ball point pens lip stick and ammonia too. Q Will fossil fuels be replaced by renewable fuels A Renewable energy will play a role in future energy supply and consumption however based on current and anticipated growing demands it is projected they will only account for less than 10% of the energy required to meet those demands. Q What do management consultants do A Management consultants provide not only an objective view point to the organization but more importantly bring knowledge soft skills leadership and years of experience to the table to focus on the challenge at hand. We focus on people process and getting to results. Q What do project managers do A Project Managers carry the responsibility for the success or failure of a body of work defined by a specific scope in a specific time frame. They manage a team in order to bring a project from the planning stages through design implementation start-up and close out of all documentation. Strengths of good project managers include communication skills decision making accountability time management organization skills and risk management. Q What is operational excellence A Operational Excellence has been described as an element of organizational leadership that stresses the application of various principles systems and tools. More simply put it is building a culture where cross-functional problem solving teamwork and leadership creates an environment for ongoing improvements. It is an understanding among all employees that each person each job and each role has a specific purpose but when those talents are combined together the company and the individuals within the company can achieve much greater things. Q What is Lean Six Sigma A Six Sigma is the central idea that defects in processes can be measured and systematically eliminated. Lean speaks to the tools and collaborative team approaches utilized to remove waste such as over production waiting non-utilized talent transportation inventory motion and extra-processing. These teams often use the DMAIC (Define Measure Analyze Improve and Control) cycle as a core tool in driving the projects and work efforts. 23 Women of Distinction Britney L. Clark Chemicals Compound Administration Finance Accounting Analyst Axiall Corporation Madison MS 24 Women of Distinction t the age of 15 Britney L. Clark begged her father to help her obtain a worker s permit. Since then she has worked as a restaurant server grocery cashier community college resident advisor bank teller clerical assistant at Mississippi s only veterinary school accounts payable inventory intern at AutoZone s corporate office brand ambassador health care audit intern at HORNE CPAs & Business Advisors and direct assistant to the director at Mississippi State University Small Business Development Center. A The internship allowed me to work independently schedule meetings delegate tasks and gain corporate finance knowledge at the age of 22. Due to her outstanding performance Britney was selected above more than 40 other interns to present her experience to upper management. The following January she interned at a regional firm HORNE CPAs and Business Advisor where she fulfilled the role of Health Care Audit Intern. In less than 3 months she gained a foundation of knowledge on how health care institutions operate how to work efficiently to meet deadlines and how to communicate successfully with team members. Although I have been in my career less than a year my love for accounting the challenge of learning the interworking s of the chemical industry and desire to add value to the organization will keep me in my career for years to come. Her most recent role is the Finance Accounting Analyst for the Compound Division for the chemical company Axiall Corp. The company makes millions of pounds of rigid and flexible compounds a month. Britney completes a plethora of specific tasks that help the organization to function at its highest capacity. Her duties include receiving and transferring resin for job production daily payroll for 134 full and part time employees onboarding new employees while assisting current employees with benefits providing requested information to internal and external auditors month-end-closing for a joint venture and monthly and quarterly inventory counts for raw materials and finished goods. I m a 24 year old from a town with a population of 1 925. I ve gotten where I am because I m determined focused and driven to achieve everything I believe in. What Britney lacks in experience she makes up for with tenacity. Her greatest challenge in the workplace has been projects that she had no prior experience or education in. Given such assignments required her to research work through and learn quickly to complete the task. I ve always had the desire to taste independence. I love to seize opportunities and each of my experiences have prepared me for the next. After Britney graduated from Mississippi State University in May 2014 she decided to start her career in the banking industry. Although she enjoyed many aspects of the banking industry she enjoyed accounting and finance more. I drew on my prior accounting internship experience while attending college. I detained my first opportunity with Fortune 500 automotive company AutoZone Store Support Center. This amazing opportunity as an Accounts Payable Inventory Intern was the lynchpin of Britney s future career. The 2012 summer internship based in Memphis Tennessee afforded her the opportunity to lead an escheatment project for every division within AutoZone. She created a proactive approach for successful tax reporting with the help of her team. These experiences taught me how to think on my feet ask the right questions and trust my own judgment. Britney s greatest professional inspiration has been Kermit Simms a certified investment banker founder and lead researcher of ISOMO Family Office. Simms is a selftaught master of identifying the best practices operating in universities colleges governments Forex NYSE and the lives of billionaires. He has been vital character in her personal and professional development. 25 Women of Distinction Find an experienced mentor in the who can give insight on how your industry has evolved and share lessons they have learned along the way. Lastly continuously develop communication public speaking and adaptation skills. The biggest lesson she has learned thus far is to take it one step at a time because if one spreads themselves too thin they become susceptible to burnout. She is a member of ISOMO Family Office 39 000 square feet headquartered in Johns Creek Georgia. ISOMO Family Office offers monthly membership to individuals and families to manage their investments provide tax planning health & fitness plans and fulfillment of their dreams. Her credentials includes a Bachelors of Business Administration with a minor in Accounting from Mississippi State University Insurance Producer for the State of Mississippi and an IUL Certification from World Financial Group. She also is currently a student in the Nation of Esther Institute. When she s not working at Axiall Britney is reading a self-development or industry specific book and building businesses. She enjoys blogging volunteering and traveling. She started blogging in March 2014 after a My Hero assignment for a Retail Marketing Class. The paper received praise from her professor and she decided to publish it for the person it was written about her grandmother. Being a business major she had not written in quite a while. She sought minimal assistance on campus but she was rudely declined. Her ability to make a way when there seems to be no way lead her to She had an English graduate review the paper to ensure grammatical errors were eliminated. From there she published her first blog post Where the Drive within Originates . The blog caught fire and is still the most viewed post today. Her grandmother loved it so much she framed it in her living room. Her grandmother Mary Alice Hooks passed in April 2015 and requested the paper be placed in her coffin. Britney continues to write periodically on her blog Path to Queendom. She describes the name as a queen in pursuit of her goals to obtain a domain to rule over one day soon. When feeling adventurous she enjoys activities such as archery theme parks and kayaking. She enjoys trying new health recipes from her healthy lifestyle mentor Carolyn Rich health and diet expert. Britney also treasures family time with her fraternal twin sister Whitney her brother Frederick Jr. her parents Frederick Sr. and Constance I want to leave a legacy that has empowered millions of girls through financial literacy education self-development and strategies for success. Britney is one of only thirty-three women selected to attend the inaugural Mississippi N.E.W. Leadership Program in 2013. This five-day residential program was created to educate college women about ways they can become more involved in public service and the political process. Her leadership and excellence initiated an invitation from the program directors to return in 2015 as a Leadership Internship. She oversaw this year s cohort and assisted them with their political project presentation. While in college she also founded Girls Night a support group for college women who met weekly to study biblical principles share ideas and network. She realized how many young women deal with the same issues and think that they are the only ones dealing with it. The young women would meet in Britney s apartment on Friday nights for Bible & Beignets Jewelry Exchange Party and How to Network Sessions . Soon after she joined forces with Miss Mississippi Jasmine Murray to promote her 13 Going on 30 platform as an ambassador. She has coordinated and hosted two successful events in Brookhaven Mississippi. Her vision allowed her to orchestrate every detail via phone or email until the day of the event. She unlocked resources from the community to make attendance free for everyone. Mothers and daughters were encouraged to attend. Britney s perspective is that a mother is the enforcer of a child s behavior and when both are on the same page it produces a strong mother and a strong daughter. Recently Britney taught Girl Scouts of Greater Mississippi how to up sell and negotiation skills and presented a selfmade financial presentation to Jobs for Mississippi Graduates students. Britney wants to spark ideas in people to promote the creation of businesses and jobs. Her desire is to have exemplified leadership and fearlessness by democratizing the way people do business creating leaders and leaving generational wealth for her family. 26 Women of Distinction Pamela St. Laurent EdD MT (ASCP) Higher Education Healthcare Instructor 1 College of Health Professionals and Social Work Department of Health Sciences Florida Gulf Coast University 27 Fort Myers FL Women of Distinction F ollowing her parents from Massachusetts to the west coast of Florida upon their retirement in the late 1990 s Pamela St. Laurent first worked in the clinical microbiology hospital laboratory at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester for 13 years. Upon her arrival in Florida she quickly landed a position with the Naples Community Hospital Healthcare System in their microbiology laboratory a position she held for roughly six years. In both capacities Pamela was considered a clinical instructor responsible for training and teaching medical students new employees ad clinical laboratory science students to successfully master the art of evaluating patient cultures identify potential causes of disease and or infections and work closely with physicians to assist in treatment that would be effective and improve patient care outcomes. But the more Pamela taught and trained others the more her passion for sharing her knowledge with others continued to grow. Also responsible for facilitating two reading and writing intensive courses Management and Leadership in Healthcare Organizations and Research Methods in Healthcare both are required for graduation with a BS in Health Sciences or a BS in Clinical Laboratory Sciences. Recently Pamela co-authored her first scholarly article in the Journal of Allied Health with a fellow colleague of hers called Determining the Effect of Community Health Curricula on Critical Thinking. It is currently in the process of being finalized for print. She is active as a member of American Society of Microbiology and American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science is a life member of Delta Epsilon Iota (University of Central Florida Chapter) and Phi Kappa Phi (University of Florida Chapter) and is a member of Naples Junior Women s Club where she is able to get involved with her local community. I knew at 40 years of age that I needed to change careers and share my expertise as a lifelong learner in the healthcare education environment Pamela said who first earned her BS in Medical Technology at Notre Dame College in 1985. So in 2003 I embarked on a quest to earn my Master s Degree in Health Professions Education. Graduating from Florida Gulf Coast University in 2005 Pamela continued on to earn an Education Specialist degree with a concentration in curriculum and instruction from the University of Central Florida. By 2012 she had earned her Doctorate in Education with a major in healthcare education and a minor in adult education from Nova Southeastern University. Changing careers was bittersweet for Pamela but as much as she enjoyed the hospital environment she knew that she could do more good as a teacher. Hired at Florida Gulf Coast University in 2005 she was initially hired as a staff member. Her job description included serving as Laboratory Supervisor and Health Educator at the Kleist Health Education Center. Five years later after a faculty position opened up in the Department of Health Sciences Pamela was awarded the position which she still holds today. Pamela s experience and certification as a Medical Technologist has served her well. Facilitating courses in the Clinical Laboratory Science program the title has changed from Medical Technologist to Clinical Laboratory Science but the theory and curriculum for the courses remain the same. Anything can be accomplished through hard work perseverance and dedication Pamela said finally. However I do not define myself by my title and accomplishments. Yes I worked hard to achieve all that I have but despite the many degrees and certifications I believe I am defined by what is in my heart. Single her entire life Pamela chose her own destiny. She was raised by wonderful parents who taught her patience and kindness which was equally shared among her and her brother who is a year-and-a-half younger than she. Pamela s brother and four nephews still reside in Massachusetts and she misses them dearly. Luckily both her parents are still nearby. 28 Women of Distinction Q&A Q What three qualities are most important to be an effective educator in academia A The three qualities that are most important in being an effective educator are patience understanding and respect. Adult learners have different backgrounds struggles and stories. Effective educators understand and respect students different learning styles and are patient with those who struggle. Effective educators put their students first and go the extra mile to help them succeed. Q What advice do you give students to help them succeed in their coursework and or program of study A I always advise my students to develop good study habits and develop and practice effective time management skills. Many students work full-time and carry a full course load so developing good study habits and effective time management skills are integral to their success. I also emphasize the need to find balance by enjoying a hobby or finding some type of reward to take a break from coursework so they can return to school with fresh eyes and a clear mind. Q Although you have many years to work before you retire do your plans for retirement include being actively involved in higher education A I have given considerable thought to what I would like to do. My goals upon retirement are to become a consultant in the area of critical thinking as that was the focus of my dissertation. I also plan to remain active in healthcare organizations via involvement in task forces at local organizations. My biggest goal upon retirement is to establish a scholarship at Florida Gulf Coast University for disadvantaged students who would like to pursue a career in healthcare. Q What goals have you set for the next two years A Within the next two years I would like to conduct research in my areas of interest which are critical thinking and learning styles. Florida Gulf Coast University has recently implemented a program called FGCU Scholars Think Write and Discover . With my experience in critical thinking I d like to generate results that prove the organization is meeting the standards put forth via the critical thinking component of this endeavor. I am also interested in researching learning styles because teaching via distance learning is sometimes challenging to meet the learning styles of my students. I believe my findings will assist in improving my courses and become a better educator. Q What aspect(s) of working at Florida Gulf Coast University are you most proud A I am proud to be part of the Florida Gulf Coast University family because it is the most recent University to join the State University System and is still growing by offering new programs. This will afford me the opportunity to work with and learn from others in different areas of specialty. For example The University has planned to implement a physician s assistant program within the next two years. I am excited for this change and to meet new faculty from whom I can continue to learn and grow. Q Why do you feel that that education is so important A I feel that higher education with a specialty in healthcare education is important because healthcare is ever changing. That being said students must become and remain lifelong learners in order to keep up with and fully understand the manner by which our nation s healthcare system continues to evolve. Q What are the fondest memories you have in working with diverse groups of students A My fondest memories consist of receiving emails or cards of gratitude from students who read and understand the feedback I give them on each assignment. Nothing touches my heart more than when a student takes the time to thank me for reviewing an assignment and providing examples to correct their errors. This is why education is my passion the feedback I receive from students reminds me that I do make a difference in their lives and they truly appreciate my time. Q If you were to start your career again what would you do differently and why A If I were to start my career again I would not have done anything differently. I believe that after earning my Bachelor s degree in 1985 I was not ready to go back to school because I wanted to use and apply the education I most recently received. Over time in teaching others within the laboratory environment I found my niche which was the impetus to reach for the stars. I know I am in a place where I belong and that it is meant to be because I am very happy. Q Do you think the Florida Gulf Coast basketball has hindered students academic success A No all student athletes basketball players included are required to maintain a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 in order to remain active players on respective teams. If they don t maintain their GPA they are suspended from play until their grades improve. Q In addition to successful academic programs what do you believe is responsible for Florida Gulf Coast University s notoriety amongst other colleges and or universities A Florida Gulf Coast University s athletics has served the organization well for notoriety. Our Eagles are A-Sun Conference Champions in sports such as basketball softball swimming and baseball. The University has earned the name Dunk City through the success of the men s basketball season in 2012. In earnest when candidates for employment opportunities at Florida Gulf Coast University are interviewed they candidly speak of becoming a member of the Dunk City family. 29 Women of Distinction Cheryl Wirkus Construction Ironworker Ironworker Local 8 Milwaukee WI I n the beginning Cheryl Wirkus felt as though she had to prove herself to feel like she had to fight for respect at work. But the more she worked with her male counterparts at work the more they were able to see that she worked every bit as hard as they did got just as dirty and smelled just as bad at the end of a long hard day. After being laid off from CASE Manufacturing in 1999 where Cheryl worked as a welder on the tractor cab line a construction crew suggested that she consider getting into ironworking and that she d be a great fit. Signing up for an apprenticeship in Milwaukee Wisconsin Cheryl was ready for an exciting road ahead of her in an entirely new field that she was confident she could do well. She also works closely with the crane operators by rigging up the iron and using the proper crane signals for the crane operator to hoist the iron into place. A Safety Trained Supervisor for Construction (STSC) since 2015 Cheryl will soon help train fellow ironworkers at her local s hall to become STSC s. Throughout her career some of Cheryl s most notable works have included the Milwaukee Art Museum for the Burke Brise Soleil a moveable sunscreen with a 217-foot wingspan that folds and unfolds the Wisconsin Center one of the world s most architecturally exhilarating and technologically robust convention facilities in downtown Milwaukee the Milwaukee Brewer Stadium which has a seven-panel retractable roof that opens and closes three power plants and she is currently working on a 32-story high rise in Milwaukee. She also worked on a new nuclear construction power plant in South Carolina a job that lasted four-and-a-half years. Cheryl is a member of Women in Nuclear where she served on their committee as a new Craft Member Coordinator for three years while living in South Carolina. She has also participated in several Women in Hard Hats expos for the Milwaukee area to help recruit women in ironworking. An avid volunteer she has lent a hand with the American Cancer Society and together with her husband Mike spent the last four years doing volunteer work with the Freedom and Hope Foundation in South Carolina. With two associate s degrees under her belt Cheryl is now working on her Bachelor s in Occupational Safety and Health. Mike has been her rock in everything she does he is proud that she is an ironworker and he isn t bashful to brag about it. They share four children between the two of them Ben Emily Jeremy and Eric and four grandchildren Nadia 9 Lily 2 Hunter 2 and Preston who is under a year old. I love being outdoors and never having to be at the same job for a long period of time the Wisconsin native said. Being able to go from one new jobsite to another I get to establish a wonderful network of new friends all the time. Working alongside more experienced ironworkers who have a lot of knowledge and have been around long enough to know the best and safest way to get the job done I ve been fortunate to have so many of them help me over the years too. Enjoying the latitude that such a non-traditional job has to offer her Cheryl works as an ironworker for Local 8 out of Milwaukee. Although each job varies she typically helps to erect columns beams girders trusses and joists on any given day connecting them together by either bolting them up or welding them together. Q&A Q Do you have to work way up high in your job A Have to No I want to There are many different areas of ironworking and if I am working on the structural erecting portion of it then yes I work up high. Q Are there many women ironworkers A There are more than there used to be. It was once a very male dominant profession but more women are entering the industry than ever before. Many of the women who have become ironworkers will tell you that the work is very rewarding and they earn far better money than they would in more traditional careers. Q Have you ever gotten hurt doing your job A Yes I once had my lower calf cut open by a saw. It required 20 stitches but as I was recovering I was able to work in the office where I learned how to read blue prints. Q Do you have to work in other states or do you stay in your own hometown A During the recession I had to go where I could find work. I went to South Carolina for almost five years. I worked on a new nuclear construction site as a foreman in several warehouses for a major construction company where I was able to explore new opportunities in material management making me a more knowledgeable ironworker when I came back to Wisconsin. Q Are you able to advance in your line of work A With proper training a journeyperson can move up to several positions (foreman general foreman than superintendent). Since I believe strongly in working safe I took a class in Chicago to become certified through the Board of Safety Professionals to be a safety trained supervisor in construction. Q How many members are there in your local and how many women are there A There are 1 460 members in our local 8 and there are only 9 women. Q What are your favorite projects to work on A I love working on the new construction of power plants. I find them fascinating with all the components that are required to complete them and they usually take a few years to complete. Q Do you work all year round A Most of the projects we do are year round in all kinds of weather. Depending on the project sometimes there is work to do on the inside in inclement weather. If you are working outside in Wisconsin in the winter you can certainly buy good work clothes to keep you warm. Q Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years A Hopefully I will be a safety representative for the ironworkers on the construction sites. If that doesn t pan out then I m hoping the knowledge and experience I received in material management and warehousing presents an opportunity. Material management is a big part of what ironworkers do as well. There will be more power plants being built in the future and they will require safety reps as well as material managers and I hope to be a part of it. 31 Women of Distinction Aikyna Finch Higher Education Dean Strayer University Nashville TN 32 Women of Distinction t the tender age of five Aikyna Finch already knew what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. Graduating with her first degree in 2003 at Tennessee State University Aikyna earned a BS in Engineering. That following year she had completed her MBA at Colorado Technical University only to complete her Executive MBA in 2005. She then completed a Doctorate of Management Degree at Colorado Technical University Institute of Advanced Studies with a concentration in NonProfit and Educational Technology in 2009. Beginning her career with Harrison School District in Colorado Springs Colorado Aikyna moved on to work at ACAP as a career counselor and lecturer two years later. Accepting a position with Strayer University in 2010 as an Onsite Dean teaching graduate level courses in Business and Management as well as undergraduate level courses in Business Math Information Technology and Marketing Aikyna was living her life s purpose. Ready to transition from student to professor in the world of higher education at the age of 33 as a new doctorate graduate Aikyna wanted to make a difference in students lives the same way her professors had done in her own life. From onsite dean to assistant dean of faculty for the School of Information Systems and Technology she s been honored to help change the lives of others through education. A Being a professor is an honor to me because of the impact it can have on students and the world Aikyna said. If I do my job in excellence than I can spark something in my students that will take them to the next level. I want to expose them to new thoughts and experiences and ignite the passion for the subject matter so they will crave more knowledge. Teaching real world topics and thinking out of the box has always helped me relate to students on a higher level and has allowed me to pour my passion for learning into them. Aikyna has since earned her MS in Management at Strayer University with a concentration in Marketing Management and she also earned her coaching certification through Coach Training Alliance. Co-authoring four books and recently completed her solo project Motivation Your Way Aikyna published more than 20 academic articles served on numerous committees for journals and conferences and is a member of Academy of Management. She currently serves as a co-host for Changing Minds Online Show and coaches and speaks on education empowerment social media and personal branding. I m doing what I m meant to do because I can t see myself doing anything else Aikyna said about her journey in academia. I m doing things I never thought I d do in education. I get to be part of decisions and projects that make educating adult learners better. I get to manage coach and hire faculty that will change the lives of many students for the better. Most importantly I get to make a difference by helping and serving others. I am in my purpose now. 33 Women of Distinction Ann Chernow The Arts Painter and Printmaker at Connecticut Fine Arts Inc. Westport CT nn Chernow was encouraged by her family and teachers to create art from an early age. So that s what she did and when she was married her husband taught her all about collecting appraising buying selling and lecturing about art as well. A Additionally Ann belongs to many art organizations in her community of Westport CT including the Westport Schools Art Collection the Arts Advisory Council of Westport CT the Westport Arts Center Housatonic Community College and she is on the Board of the Center for Contemporary Graphics. Ann has been included in over 200 group art exhibitions and 100 solo exhibitions nationally and internationally. Her work is included in over 100 museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art the Yale University Art Collection the Brooklyn Museum and countless others. You can find information on Ann s website (http about her work. Although her life revolves around art the most important piece of Ann s life is her family. Everything about art is interesting and each aspect is different and special. Her work is based on specific impressions related to movies from the 1930s and 1940s. These impressions refer to actual films studio publicity material fan magazines and other memorabilia. I use film characters and period settings as points of departure and then freely reinterpret them. Contemporary faces are added but without altering the spirit of the chosen cinematic information. In blending past and present images I try to create a sense of d j vu or nostalgia without the sentimentality often associated with specific film references. Ann taught art at all levels for 30 years but was the head of the art department at Norwalk Community College from 1964 to 1995. During this time she was also the subject of three documentaries films A Gathering of Glory (2000) - a documentary by Martin West Years in the Making (2010) - a documentary by Martin West and Art is the Permanent Revolution (2012) - a film by Manny Kirchheimer. Martin West is also working on another documentary about Ann s life and work. I adore my children and grandchildren and interact with them as much as possible. She was married in 1957 to Philip B. Chenok and had two sons with him David and Daniel. They were divorced in 1969 but Ann married Burt Chernow in 1970. Ann and Burt remained married until Burt s passing in 1995. Ann wants to be remembered as someone who touched the lives of so many students who are now fully involved in art. But most importantly she wants her children and grandchildren to have loved and respected her and hopes that their lives are worthwhile to them. Never give up try everything and be open to new ideas. She has been the President of Connecticut Fine Arts Inc. since 1970. (The company buys and sells certain internationally known artists work but also represents Ann s work and functions as a myriad of art-related happenings.) 34 Women of Distinction Brenda Michaels Media Co-Host of Conscious Talk Radio Co-Host of The Women s Hour Public Speaker and Co-Author of The Gift of Cancer A Miraculous Journey to Healing Workshop Leader and Emotional and Spiritual Coach - Conscious Talk Radio and Intentional Shift Issaquah WA 35 Women of Distinction s many aspiring actresses have done over the years Brenda Michaels moved to LA to find work. Although serious health problems interfered with that once healed Brenda became passionate about sharing what she learned about health healing and disease and joined the world of talk radio as a co-host for a local show. A Brenda is a public speaker a workshop leader the author of several articles on women s health issues an animal activist a spiritual and emotional coach and a member of the Advisory Board for the Emerald Heart Cancer Foundation. Her amazing journey was recently featured on The Today Show on Kathy Lee and Hoda s monthly Everyone Has a Story segment. She even co-authored the book The Gift of Cancer A Miraculous Journey to Healing and co-founded (along with her co-writer Marsha Mercant and Marla Williams) Intentional Shift a website dedicated to empowerment and healing the lives of those ready to wake-up and step into their power. Brenda loves nature including gardening walking sitting before an amazing sunset and watching birds and wild animals in their natural habitat (especially in her yard). Other interests include listening to music that soothes her soul and going to movies but spending quiet time with Rob and their cat is more important. This transformed woman has grown in the past years by leaps and bounds and now has the good health passionate career and amazing relationship with her husband that she s always dreamed of having. And while life is not without challenges she simply responds differently to them now than she did in the past which brings her a lot of peace. Brenda would like to be remembered for having contributed to the shift in consciousness taking place on the planet from separation and control to heart-centered compassionate and collaborative living. Finding the gift in every life event changes our relationship with life from one of struggle to one of ease. During these two and a half years Brenda also co-hosted a show on public television dedicated to health and healing before going on to launch her own syndicated radio talk show Conscious Talk Radio after moving to Seattle with her husband Rob Spears. Brenda and Rob are both long-term cancer survivors through alternatives. They focus on natural treatments and holistic approaches to life and are dedicated to giving listeners back to themselves. Conscious Talk Radio has been on the air for 14 years reaching an ever-growing group of listeners searching for more by expanding their mind body and soul. They are also involved in Expo West and Expo East national events associated with the natural products industry. I participate in events at our local bookstores and natural markets interviewing experts in the field of natural health at the Expos and am a featured speaker and MC from time to time at many of the events. Additionally Brenda hosts The Women s Hour and is an inspiring insightful and passionate communicator. In addition to this and her work on Conscious Talk Radio 36 Women of Distinction Carmelita Rogers Criminal Justice Corrections Lieutenant Douglas County Department of Corrections Omaha NE I t s hard to believe that a woman with such a beautiful name works in such a menacing environment for a living. Working for the Douglas County Department of Corrections for the past 17 years Carmelita Rogers actually loves corrections and has always had an interest in the criminal justice field. Now a Lieutenant overseeing the operations of the jail during the 7am-3pm shift Carmelita teams up with two other lieutenants on her shift maintaining the structure of the facility handling emergencies when they arise overseeing staffing and scheduling issues and making sure that the staff is adhering to policies and procedures correctly and safely helping the facility to remain at its highest capacity. Constantly motivated to help others by sharing her knowledge to help them move forward in career mentoring is so very rewarding for Carmelita. A member of the American Jail Association she enjoys the reward of learning all there is to know about her field and keeping her abreast of laws and regulations. The resources they share are enlightening and empowering and sharing it with others is just another benefit for Carmelita. You have to be strong and very open-minded in this field because every day is different. I made it through by being strong staying positive and always being professional Carmelita said who puts her life on the line every single day. Working in a predominantly male industry getting promotions is challenging especially as an African American woman but you must never give up and always push forward even when you feel discouraged. Beginning her career in corrections in 1998 Carmelita has always taken the advice of a very smart woman her mother. She taught Carmelita to never settle for less no matter how hard life can be at times. Her mom is a constant inspiration for her. When Carmelita graduated high school she obtained her cosmetology license and became a hair stylist working her way up to a manager level position with Hair Crafters. She then worked in customer service for some time for American National Bank in multiple teller positions. I hope that others know that they can come to me for support and comfort no matter what the reason so that they too can get through the day successfully. That s the person I hope to always to be for others when they need it Carmelita added. While working full-time at the Department of Corrections Carmelita managed to put herself through college earning a Bachelor s Degree in Business Management in 2010 an MBA in 2011 and a Certificate in Human Resource Management in 2014 all through the University of Phoenix where she happens to also serve as a volunteer mentor. Single Carmelita has two adult children and a blessed grandson that she adores. Her daughter is currently working toward her Bachelor s Degree in Medical Administration and her son is working toward his Bachelor s Degree in Business Management. 37 Women of Distinction Dawn R. Jones Inspirational Scripture Event Management Marketing Creator Lord Three65 Director of Marketing and Sales Pinnacle Planning Services Avon IN D awn R. Jones spends her days split between running her own business and working for someone else. Founding Lord Three65 in 2013 as what began as an inspirational wall calendar and simultaneously working as the Director of Marketing and Sales for Pinnacle Planning Services (PPS) Dawn is a very outgoing ambitious individual who loves the challenge that each day brings. As the Director for PPS Dawn focuses on working with clients to build a plan and meet their anticipated objectives to be sure their events run smoothly. When it comes to the marketing side of the business she works side by side with clients to put together their marketing plan graphics web design logo design business card design letterhead social media management and advertising schedules. I received an inspirational word to post on Facebook then another and another Dawn recalled. I started with an inspirational calendar selling 75 of them in my first year alone. It expanded to desk calendars coffee mugs and mouse pads. My vision is to become a worldwide brand similar to WWJD which means What Would Jesus Do . I fully accepted this calling when my mother showed me one of my late grandmother s writings which was in the exact same format as my writings. I knew it was destiny. After completing her BS in Business and Marketing in 2011 at the University of Phoenix Dawn started right away with PPS. Her experience in the field stems from many years in event planning and marketing serving on a non-profit board and working at a local radio station. She planned several events for the radio stations which ultimately led her to two different event management positions with two different radio stations. PPS was the event management company for the radio station she previously worked for. As Creator and Founder of Lord Three65 Dawn is concentrating on writing daily posts and creating designs. She spends a lot of time doing research and is very active on social media. I enjoy event management and marketing. Marketing leads to events and events need marketing Dawn explained who trusts in her work and what she brings to the table. I have fun taking a blank sheet of paper and creating an event or marketing plan and I have just as much fun watching it come to life. Engaged to her lovely fianc who is the owner of PPS they have a great working relationship. He has been working in event management for more than 30 years. Dawn also has a son DJ who is 11-years-old and is the light of her life. Serving on two ministries she attends New Beginnings Fellowship Church where she serves as their digital media coordinator. She also serves with Girlfriends Pray Ministries serving as administrative manager for the ministry and for their Life Camp and as their webmaster. Dawn is also the VP of Communications for the University of Phoenix Alumni Council overseeing social media and graphics. 38 Women of Distinction Denise C. Harrison Legal Administration - Government Court Administrator - 68th District Court in Genesee County MI 39 Flint MI Women of Distinction W hat started out as a temporary job for Denise C. Harrison in 1995 blossomed into a very successful career with the judicial system as a Court Administrator for the 68th District Court in Genesee County Michigan. So a week later Denise began taking classes at Kaplan University to further her education. She earned an Associate of Science in Business Administration in 2009 a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice in 2011 and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in 2015. I left college to tour singing and performing in theatrical productions because that was where my heart was at the time. Although I don t regret my decision I did feel the impact of not completing my education as I was passed over for a promotion once. I promised myself after that to never allow another chance for advancement to be hindered by not being prepared and that after my son was of age I would focus on myself and completing my degree. To complement her judicial career Denise is a member of The National Association for Court Management (NACM). The NACM is an organization that helps to develop and improve leadership in the judicial system as well as the leadership qualities of court managers. It also educates the public on the role and importance of courts. Denise considers her 24-year-old son Anquan Harrison the love of her life and her greatest accomplishment. He attended Eastern Michigan and plays several instruments. I am very proud of him because he is so respectful and talented and I ve never had to worry about him traveling down the wrong path. Although she has to be an extravert in order to succeed at everything she does Denise is in reality a shy person. However she would love to become a motivational speaker and work with youth who may feel misunderstood and alone. I would also love to be an inspiration to all whose paths I cross and am constantly striving to become a better me. This wasn t an industry that I chose it seems to have chosen me. In this executive position Denise oversees the daily operations of the court and acts as a liaison by managing the court s budget directing employees as well as creating and implementing organizational goals objectives and initiatives. She was greatly inspired by Paula McGlown a previous employer who served as her mentor. It s important to have a great support system and to network as much as possible. Additionally Denise is a singer songwriter who works as an entertainer with the Lorio Ross Entertainment Agency. She has been singing with the band L USA for the past 10 years. We mainly perform all around the tri-city area for corporate functions festivals and wedding receptions. She has also been performing most of her life and is also currently recording with her gospel band SOUNDS OF REBORN. One of the best feelings in the world is hearing your song playing on the radio. However her music career actually stood in the way of Denise s college education years ago. 40 Women of Distinction Dulce Esteves Fernandez Healthcare Nursing Manager Facility Site Review L.A. Care Heath Plan Los Angeles CA E arning her Bachelors of Science in Nursing at Mount Saint Mary s College in Los Angeles California in 1994 Dulce Esteves Fernandez started her career as a Registered Nurse working for Olive View Medical Center in Sylmar California to working in Home Health Nursing. Switching gears once more in September 1999 Dulce really found her niche. Starting a new path in the health plan setting she began her new endeavor in the Facility Site Review Department for L.A. Care Health Plan in Los Angeles. Every day is a learning experience and success comes from the hard work and dedication that you put into your job. Working in healthcare it s necessary to be open minded and understanding to everything and anything that comes your way. My job is a constant challenge in promoting a good working environment ensuring a quality network of physicians and ensuring our members safety when seeing their physicians Dulce said about what encouraged her to work in such a different area of healthcare. I enjoy being able to affect change and being involved in process improvements. Dulce s main responsibility as the Manager of Facility Site Review to a team of 33 licensed and non-licensed personnel is the overall performance and productivity of the department and the ability to meet and execute the organization s strategic priorities. Dulce s department conducts various types of site reviews to include but not limited to required site and medical record reviews physical accessibility review assessments provider quality improvement liaison visits investigative visits focused reviews and educational visits. She also communicates and collaborates with internal and external customers to include the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) at the state level which allows her to implement changes needed in order to ensure a quality network of physicians. Known by many as very driven hardworking and goaloriented Dulce can appreciate that there will always be a learning curve when entering into a new position or new field but she s learned that it s okay to make mistakes as long as you learn and grow from them. You come across such a diverse population in the healthcare industry so having an open mind is very important she said. It s also important to set high standards and develop a reputable name for yourself. But it s equally important that you never give up on what you believe is the right thing to do even if you are going against the grain. Dulce is credited with creating developing implementing and evaluating a Provider Quality Improvement Liaison (PQIL) program at L.A. Care Health Plan which has allowed employees to gather data from physician s offices provide feedback to internal departments and create additional resources for members and the community of Los Angeles County. A single mother to Charlize 8 and Phillip 6 Dulce s biggest inspiration are her two children. Meanwhile Rosalinda Fernandez DVM (her mom) Elaine Batchlor MD CEO of MLK Hospital Richard Seidman MD CMO of Northeast Valley Community Clinics Joseph Wanski MD Medical Director at L.A. Care Penny Tunney Director of FSR Credentialing Carol Spencer and Cathy Ohlinger are some of her biggest professional inspirations. 41 Women of Distinction Evelyn Ellul Acting Modeling Voice Founder Owner Eve Ultimate Image Model and Talent LLC Clinton Township MI L ike many doting parents Evelyn Ellul took a chance at sending her two daughters to modeling school with the hopes that they would become really successful someday. But after witnessing some of the other parents and their confused faces when it came to how the business really worked Evelyn knew there had to be a better way. There needed to be some sort of stepping stone a better approach that would help these parents and kids move forward in a process that felt so backwards. I couldn t sleep one night so at 3am I got out of bed with an idea Evelyn recalled about her decision to form her own talent company. I rushed to my computer and wrote my business proposal. Eve Ultimate Image Model and Talent LLC was established in October 2008 representing not only children but men and women as well. Consulting with clients to get them to the right agencies Evelyn represents models actors and actresses. She directs them through the entire process sets them up with professional photographers creates their portfolios and handles the paperwork for the agencies. Constantly scouting and developing new talent Eve Ultimate Image Model and Talent LLC has placed clients in major department store printed advertisements national cereal print advertisements and television commercials. Evelyn hopes that her business will demonstrate to others that anything is possible and that dreams can be accomplished through hard work. Eve Ultimate Image Model and Talent LLC represents clients from the bottom up with no strings attached. I never doubted myself or my capabilities Evelyn said whose two daughters are now both professional models. I knew I had a passion and an idea that would help many people who wanted to get involved in this industry. Learning the hard way when my own family was scammed by the modeling school we went to I learned that not everyone wants to help you or tell you the correct information. I wanted to stop the confusion and lies and guide them through the process step by step. In addition to running her business Evelyn also maintains her family s home as a full-time housewife wife and mother. Married to Patrick Ellul Evelyn and he reside in Clinton Township Michigan. Patrick is a millwright at Chrysler. Together they have four children two boys and two girls. Eldest son Bo is an executive producer at Mackevision. Son BJ is a finance manager for a loan office. Eldest daughter Byanca is majoring in hospitality and event planning at Grand Valley State University. Daughter Bryanna is a freshman at Michigan State University. They also share three grandchildren between the ages of 10 and 13. In her free time Evelyn loves to workout cook healthy meals garden read and on occasion do some house remodeling. 42 Women of Distinction Georgette Green-Facen Beauty Licensed Cosmetology Independent Beauty Consultant Mary Kay Cosmetics Detroit MI G eorgette Green-Facen always had a love affair for beauty and singing ever since her childhood days in church. Attending John Robert Powers Modeling School in Southfield in 1978 she later graduated from IBA State College of Beauty in Ann Arbor 10 years later as a Licensed Cosmetologist. In the late 1970 s Georgette also modeled including at the Michigan Inn Hotel the Roster Tail Restaurant and the Ponchatrain Hotel. She participated in beauty pageants including the Miss Black and Beautiful pageant and was in several parades. The highlight of her youth was singing with the late Motown legend and original singer of the Marvelettes Gladys Horton as she tried to revitalize the group with other Motown singers in the early 1980 s. Still working in cosmetology today it s been 28 magnificent years for Georgette. Although building up her clientele has certainly been hard work Georgette wouldn t have given it up for anything else in the world. Remembering her mother who would style her and her siblings hair when they were young Georgette has forever been inspired by her to continue on in this industry. Georgette is a Mary Kay Cosmetic Beauty Consultant too which is best known for their make-up. Focusing on building a rapport with potential clients she informs them of the benefits and advantages of beautifying their skin and conforming blemishes through skincare. Georgette s been with Remy Hair Company for two years and with Mary Kay Cosmetics on and off for five years. Later earning her Medical Claims and Billing Certificate in December 2010 through the US Career Institute followed by her Medical Administration and Billing Diploma through Dorsey Business School in April 2015 Georgette Georgette plans to retire from the beauty business soon and get into the healthcare field. I love working with hair and my reward is seeing people feel beautiful and more confident with themselves Georgette said. Giving good quality hair care service to my clients with that added sense of professionalism is what I do best. Georgette is also a Distributor for Remy Hair Company which specializes in Indian Brazilian and virgin weave hair keratin tip extensions keratin u- tips and v-tips. Her role is to find people within the community that has interest in hair products in the cosmetology industry and service them the product. Based online consumers can search and find images of various types of Remy Hair products and place orders with her name through a specified link. I ve always wanted to be a professional person at whatever I tried. I m a very independent person and a hard worker a person who likes to be challenged and tries her best to reach her goals. Staying focused has been key throughout all my career ventures Georgette added. I ve constantly been one to stay focused and never give up. It s important to always complete what you start. Married for 25 wonderful years Georgette has been blessed with three children and four grandchildren. When she isn t deeply engaged with her family she can often be found knitting crocheting looping and sewing. Her creative mind never takes a break. 43 Women of Distinction Geraldine K. Piorkowski Ph.D. Behavioral Health Psychology Clinical Psychologist Clinical Associate Professor of Psychology University Of Illinois at Chicago Chicago IL T his is how Dr. Geraldine K. Piorkowski recalls her paternal grandmother s senile dementia the very thing that sparked her interest in psychology to see what makes people tick . She has also written two books for the educated layperson about the dangers of romantic love. Too Close for Comfort Exploring the Risks of Intimacy (1994 paperback in 2000) is an exploration of the fears and risks of romantic love. Because fears of being shamed humiliated betrayed rejected disappointed and or guilt-ridden abound in romantic love learning how to reduce these anxieties is important in developing a relationship. The second book Adult Children of Divorce Confused Love Seekers (2008) examines the clinical and research literature regarding children of divorced parents and how they fare as adults in their own love lives. Twice as likely to get divorced as adults who grew up in intact families (three times as likely if both partners are from divorced families) adults from divorced families tend to be anxious and pessimistic about romantic love and ready to call it quits whenever any interpersonal trouble appears on the scene. Learning how to reduce commitment anxiety and resolve conflicts constructively are important skills for them to learn in maintaining a romantic relationship over the long haul. Geraldine has been married for 56 years to Frank Piorkowski a retired electrical engineer with a Master s degree from Northwestern University. They ve had three children Paul (54) Michael (deceased) and Julie (51). Our second son Michael died in 1995 before he could finish his graduate work in Psychology at the University of Texas. This was clearly the greatest tragedy that my husband and I have ever endured. However the arrival of our first greatgrandchild Jaxson Reid in November 2014 spawned another generation amid much celebration. When I was in high school she lived in the apartment below us and often rang the doorbell uttering unrealistic and psychotic statements that baffled and frightened me. Her deterioration in her later years was very dramatic as she manifested age regression acting younger and younger and even spoke in her native tongue (a practice she d long ago abandoned). While she loved to write Geraldine ultimately chose Psychology (with minors in English Literature and Math) as her college major and went on to earn her doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign in 1964. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society. Over the past 50 years Geraldine has held a variety of positions such as Chair of the Psychology Department (Roosevelt University) and Director of the Counseling Center at two large urban universities. She was also Supervising Psychologist in a number of settings including psychiatric hospitals medical schools mental health clinics and a school for delinquent girls administering programs as well as supervising teaching students residents and interns. Today Geraldine is in private practice providing psychotherapy to adult clients mostly professionals (doctors lawyers accountants computer analysts etc.) who are struggling with their romantic relationships. My interpersonal sensitivity and ability to relate easily to most people are personality traits that have served me well in my profession. 44 Women of Distinction Ja Nelle DavenportPleasure Fashion and Design Seamstress Owner and Operator of Valley Of Visions Royel Bijou Urbana IL J Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear. Peter Sinclair a Nelle Davenport-Pleasure never intended to make a career out of fashion but was inspired by her older cousin (a fashion designer herself) and creative grandparents while growing up. Ja Nelle always appreciated how her cousin was able to turn a square piece of fabric into a dress that someone could actually wear. I know it sounds crazy but if you can wear the clothes you already own properly you will not only look better but you will feel better as well. It puts a huge smile on my face when I see shy and reserved people turn into confident people by putting on a garment that I made for them. She has been married to Christopher Pleasure for the past 12 years. They have three children and a dog Aria (11) Ian (9) Joshua (5) and Gazpacho Camacho Nacho (AKA Spacho). My free time is spent engaging my children in their school and extracurricular activities the PTA and making blankets and or accessories for the numerous babies being born in my family right now. Ja Nelle would like to leave this world with a new network of like-minded souls women who believe in building one another up instead of tearing each other down. This sparked something in me. I never felt comfortable in my own skin but watching how she worked made me see that I could create something from nothing and feel fabulous in it. After that I began to use my mother s pantyhose to see if I could create the same visions I had in my mind and put them on an actual form. Realizing that I could help others by creating things that would make them look more beautiful gave me a sense of belonging and pride. It also helped bring me out of my shell and be a little more social. Ja Nelle now owns and operates her own clothing line Valley Of Visions Royel Bijou. She pretty much handles everything for the company herself including design production material purchases and client consultations. Ja Nelle even puts on fashion shows to promote the clothing line and reach out to the community. However it s more than just the clothes that keeps this company going. Ja Nelle has done several workshops and classes in her community at local libraries and businesses to teach others how to sew as well as educate women and young people on how to wear their clothes properly. Women in society as a whole have to face many challenges from outside forces. We are all equipped with amazing gifts. Mine may not be like anyone else s but that should be OK. I truly want to start a movement of inspiring encouraging and uplifting citizens through their own unique medium. Each difficult moment has the potential to open your eyes and heart. I hope I can instill that in others and have it live on. 45 Women of Distinction Julie Woodley Ministry Founder Director Restoring the Heart Ministries Writer Speaker Filmmaker Trauma Counselor Setauket NY I n 2000 Julie Woodley founded Restoring the Heart Ministries a nationwide and global effort whose purpose is to help men women and children find freedom and hope from emotional sexual and physical abuse post abortion and other types of trauma. The ministry s mission is to help individuals become the whole person Jesus Christ desires them to be and to fulfill the purpose for which they were created. Two years before starting her ministry to help heal herself from the inside out Julie sat down one day and began to write. The result was her first book entitled Restoring the Heart. Last year Julie was able to spend time with her team in Uganda teaching the leaders that work with Invisible Children to help the children they have rescued work through trauma. As someone who has endured so much trauma and works as a trauma counselor I have heard hundreds and hundreds of stories of pain shame anger and confusion Julie said. These stories have put a fire in me to keep telling my own story because I see how sharing it has helped so many women. In Julie s new book readers will find a story that will inspire them to imagine a life restored and overflowing with all the good things God intends for them. Julie earned her MA in Counseling and a Certificate in Theological Studies from Bethel Seminary. She is currently working toward her Master of Divinity and her Chaplain training. Ordained in 2000 Julie is also a Certified Trauma Counselor. This book was about my life story and the incredible healing I experienced after enduring such a traumatic childhood Julie explained. After I completed my book I began speaking all over the country. Then I began creating films to help people heal from their trauma. Julie has since created two films and a number of documentaries has written four books and has provided Christian counseling to people at all different stages of recovery for more than 20 years. She also conducts trainings in the Christian community for professionals clergy and individuals and provides educational outreach and training regarding women and trauma within churches ministries and Christian colleges around the country. She also serves as Division Chair of the American Association of Christian Counseling Abortion Sexual Trauma and Mental Health networks. 46 Women of Distinction Kathy McKnight Public Service Domestic Violence Founder Chief Executive Officer Bound for Better Clinton MD K athy McKnight a domestic violence victim and survivor is now teaching others to know their worth as the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Bound for Better a non-profit organization that was established in January 2014 in Clinton Maryland. It s a place where women victims and their families can go to find help and hope. Recognized across town and throughout the entire Prince George s County community by their famous red lips logo Bound for Better is making great strides. Currently in the process of writing her first book Bound for Better Hurt From a Childhood to Parts of My Adulthood Kathy is a prominent member with the Maryland Legislative Against Women is a volunteer at the Family Justice Center and volunteers with several food banks in particular the Oxon Hill Food Pantry since the tragedies of September 11th. A previous employee of the Prince George s Sheriff s Office Kathy earned her BS in Criminal Justice with a minor in Corrections in 2011 and she is now pursuing her Master s in Psychology from Kaplan University. Married to her best friend William D. McKnight they share three beautiful daughters two of which work at the organization helping end domestic violence. Eldest daughter Chelsea Glover has her Master s Degree and is a social worker. Their set of twins Tiesha and Iesha are both in college. Tiesha is studying auto mechanics and Iesha is pursuing criminal justice degree. Kathy and William also have a precious grandson who is now five and in kindergarten. The entire family lives in Maryland. Moving forward with my vision we as an organization need to continue moving forward to help those that have ran across this terrible epidemic in Maryland Kathy said. Seeing a woman making it through her situation knowing that she is not alone and can move forward is why I do what I do. One of Bound for Better s most important roles is in helping these victims more forward with their lives. In order to do that it often means appearing at court proceedings after being abused. The biggest challenge for Kathy is getting them to move forward and never look back. Kathy makes sure to include these women in every aspect of the organization by considering their ideas and letting them know that they matter. She issues awards and shows them she cares through kind words and gestures. At Christmas time she takes them out on the town and buys gifts for them to make them feel good. Recently Bound for Better obtained their very first Safe Haven Shelter for victims of domestic violence of Prince Georges County. Shelter is provided by members of the organization and participating hotels. But the organization is always in constant need of donations to keep them running and able to provide basic necessities such as toiletries books wigs and other items. My organization name Bound for Better is just that moving on towards better can be helpful information Kathy added. I am a woman of my word. I am very persistent and I have a loud voice that makes a difference. 47 Women of Distinction Kimberly S. Hutchison Administrative Clerk Secretary Mixologist Bartender Entrepreneur Independent Business Owner Fire Chief s Secretary Bartender Independent Business Owner Marion OH K imberly S. Hutchison can be labeled as a Jill of All Trades. While working for the City of Marion OH she has also begun to work as a bartender at her brother s bar and restaurant and even start her own business. After obtaining her Associate s Degree in Accounting Kimberly was able to obtain a job working as the Fire Chief s Secretary in Marion Ohio. After a year of working Kimberly decided to go back to school for her Bachelor s Degree in Accounting and Business Administration while continuing to work full time for the city. Kimberly s tasks for the last 22 years at the Marion City Fire Department include managing a multi-million dollar budget accumulating the hours worked for payroll for the entire fire department personnel being a liaison between all employees and City Hall and other City Departments raising funds for Safety City Accounts Payable processing various reports answering and creating various correspondence public assistance and making minor decisions on the Chief s behalf in times of emergency. From our conversation that night he knew I was interested in earning additional income so he invited me over to his living room to meet an expert in the field of energy and technology. I knew immediately if Donald Trump and Warren Buffet thought it was a good business decision then you could pretty much take their business advice to the bank. Kimberly has remained with the Marion City Fire Department because to her they are like a big tightly knit family. She also plans on staying there due to the fact that she will be able to retire at a relatively early age. However Kimberly plans on spending her twilight years pursuing other potential business and career ventures. I will be able to relax and enjoy all that life has to offer and not have to worry about when my next check will be coming. In her free time Kimberly enjoys spending time with her tenyear-old daughter Allison. They enjoy swimming crafting giving each other manicures and pedicures weekend trips shopping going to the drive-in movies Chuck E. Cheese s Dave and Busters Skyzone cheerleading and just about anything else Allison enjoys doing. As long as we re spending quality time together that s what makes us both happy. My brother purchased the Tailgate Bar and Grill in April of 2015 and I started helping out there immediately. I love socializing and truly have always enjoyed singing so bartending and karaoke were no brainers for me to help him out while he is establishing his new business. While working at the Tailgate Bar and Grill one night Kimberly met a man named Robb Icely who in turn introduced her to ACN a telecommunications company. 48 Women of Distinction Kristin Ann Pickett Higher Education - Criminal Justice and Criminology Department Chair Assistant Professor and Online Program Director at Waldorf College Forest City IA 49 Women of Distinction K Inspiring and encouraging others is part of who I am and I think I owe most of my success as a professor to that. ristin Ann Pickett put her Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and Criminologyto use right out of college when she found a job at a local twoyear college teaching in the Criminal Justice and Psychology programs. While many colleges and universities are beginning to hire more master s level faculty I m in a male-dominated field (both in criminal justice and higher education) and younger than most professors (let alone department chairs). When I first started people didn t take me seriously as a young outgoing blonde wasn t exactly what many students pictured as their professor.But these challenges and overcoming them just make my successes feel that much greater. Kristin also takes great pride in her students successes as they re areflection on her. Throughout the years I ve had so many students I m proud of. My students and passion for criminal justice keep me going. Her passion led to Kristin to being awarded Professor of the Year the first year she was at Waldorf College. While this was amazing it also made me realize that I m doing something to better my students lives and education I mean if you can t be passionate about teaching learning and helping students be successful then why teach at all Kristin would never be where she is today without her grandparents and Uncle Butch who always encouraged and supported her. When life got hard they were there. When I felt like giving up they were there. When I succeeded they celebrated with me. When I felt lost they helped me remember where I had come from and where I was going. They may not be the typical family but they were mine. Since I had actually started college as an education major I thought this would be a great way to combine my passion for education and love for criminology. Within a few months she was offered a full-time position at the college and quickly promoted to Lead Instructor and helped build the Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice. Kristinnow serves as the Department Chair for Criminal Justice andas a tenure-track Assistant Professor at Waldorf College. She s also the Program Director for the online division of Criminal Justice within the college. With both online and residential my main goal is to have the best program possible and ensure that my students are ready to excel in the field which I do by working heavily with program development course creation and assessment and ensuring we are meeting our program course learning outcomes and expectations. She earned a Master of Public Administration with a Criminal Justice and Criminology concentrate and is working on a second master s degree in psychology. However Kristin still feels like she has to work even harder to show that she is just as intelligent relevant and as good an educator as those with PhDs. 50 Women of Distinction Phyllis Ames-Bey Publishing Retail Sales Owner President Chief Executive Officer Phylsadar LLC Philadelphia PA F ormerly working for The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania s Department of Welfare for 31 years from 1976-2007 Phyllis Ames-Bey was completely dedicated to her career. She worked hard to earn the respect of those she worked alongside and took great pride in working for the US Government. Although she faced several obstacles while employed with them Phyllis continued to live life the best way she knew how. In the 1980 s Phyllis slipped and fell on the job injuring her back and head. Her head injury caused her to suffer from mental medical challenges and she also developed agoraphobia an anxiety disorder that left her afraid to leave her own home. In time however Phyllis was able to overcome these challenges and after a three-and-a-half year hiatus she was ready to get back to work. Officially retiring in 2007 she began writing for enjoyment and by 2009 she had self-published her first book which included poems prose prayers lyrics and songs. Six years later she had taken it a step further forming her very own business as the Owner President and Chief Executive Officer of Phylsadar LLC where she was able to write and promote her work to gain recognition. It includes an open letter to her son her testimony petitions to God side titled poems poems about deceased people poems about her associates poems about suicidal thoughts the inner me poetry and poems poems about companions inspirational hymns ballads and rap songs and prayers to God. Finding writing to be a great outlet for her it serves as a form of therapy. Writing about her challenges and life experiences she hopes will also helping others overcome their own obstacles they are enduring. Born in Crisfield Maryland in 1949 Phyllis moved to Philadelphia Pennsylvania with her family at the age of 15. Attending William Penn High School for Girls she graduated in 1967. During her time working for the government in Pennsylvania she served as an income maintenance casework supervisor supervising caseworkers who were performing the duties of determining eligibility for various programs. She was also an intake supervisor ongoing unit supervisor career development worker and district trainer. Active as a member of The Society Debs Sorority and a lifetime member of the American Legion Auxiliary 682 Phyllis was married for several years before divorcing. She has one son Saleem El-Amin Ali-Bey whom she writes about in her book. Saleem owns his own business The Silent Brotherhood Inc. She also has several grandchildren and great-grandchildren who live throughout the country who are an absolute joy. Life is not as hard as it seems Phyllis said simply who is compassionate and dedicated to helping others through her writing. It s important to set goals manifest your dreams and let no one tell you what you can t do. Phyllis s book I Had to Go There to Get Here It Is What It Is includes 344 inspirational pages that focuses on 43 years of her life experiences. 51 Women of Distinction Raquel Thomas Education and Childcare Commercial and Residential Janitorial Services Owner Chief Executive Officer Children of Tomorrow Learning Center and Child Care Corp Owner Chief Executive Officer H&O Cleaning Solutions LLC Rosedale MD Owings Mills MD W ithin less than two years of one another Raquel Thomas became an entrepreneur not once but twice. Founding H&O Cleaning Solutions LLC in 2012 a commercial and residential janitorial cleaning business that grew from a personal loan she took out to build the company by 2013 she ventured into a career in educational childcare founding Children of Tomorrow Learning Center and Child Care Corp (COT) out of her home. Although two very different career tracks there was one common thread and that was the desire to be successful. Raquel knew it was her true calling to surround herself around the promotion of growth and education of children. With a mission to provide a safe learning environment that stimulates children and gives them the encouragement to reach higher COT truly believes that Our Children are Our Tomorrow . Now with two locations one in Owings Mills and one in Rosedale Maryland both apply the Saxon Preschool Curriculum which focuses on math reading social studies and science. Balancing her time between the two businesses Raquel mainly focuses on administration functions including HR and payroll for H&O and overall business operations with COT such as employee interviews hiring terminations payroll state compliance and HR. I love being able to give back to our children. Knowing that I can be the beginning of a child s early childhood education is what keeps me in the industry Raquel said. I also have a passion to win and be the best and that keeps me active with my janitorial business. Providing a service that is needed and that my company has been able to master is a great feeling. Offering services to both residential and commercial clients H&O s employees come with more than 20 years of experience in the industry. Commercial services include common area cleaning corporate maid service floors power washing and bulk trash removal while residential services include maid service move-out move-in and home organization. Providing services in and around Owings Mills Baltimore Hanover Aberdeen Canton Reisterstown Catonsville Bel Air Baltimore County Howard County Baltimore City Anne Arundel County and Carroll County inquiries can be made right online. Prior to giving birth to her first born son Roman RichardsonThomas who is now two-years-old Raquel had already made the decision to educate him herself. The idea of educational childcare stemmed from her family and by the time he was just a year-and-a-half her son was already reading. It s important to really know your business Raquel noted. You must be able to operate all aspects of your business to truly be unharmed by who will or won t show up. Spending a good portion of her career working for Toyota Motor Sales Inc. Raquel was a Regional Sales Manager Scion District Manager and District Service and Parts Manager. Learning the ins and outs of business Raquel entered into entrepreneurship with plenty of experience. She also holds a BA in Business Administration and Marketing and an MBA in Business and holds several certifications including Infant and Toddler Child Development Certification. 52 Women of Distinction Rosalyn Gist Porter T Communications Training & Public Speaking Public Speaking coach Speaker - Better Speaking Skills Orlando FL hroughout her entire career Rosalyn Gist Porter has had a passion for sharing information with others. Whether from behind a computer screen as a newspaper reporter writer or in front of an audience as a public speaker she loves connecting with people and disseminating valuable information that can enrich their lives. Rosalyn also enjoys helping others tell professional and personal stories. Rosalyn is a one-woman business enterprise who handles everything from marketing and accounting to speaking and coaching functions. She teaches her clients how to use C.P.C. (common ground passion connecting tools) to connect with any audience and also writes a monthly newsletter Better Speaking Skills which she distributes to prospects and clients. Her greatest professional inspiration has come from Deirdre Van Nest a professional speaker and business performance coach. Teaching training and coaching are in my blood. My grandmother was an elementary school teacher my parents were college professors and I love performance training. I m passionate about helping people become better speakers because I believe that communication is key to solving any problem (right after you discover that you have a problem). While working with Darden Restaurants as part of its internal communications team Rosalyn gained a bigger appreciation for public speaking as a member of the Toastmasters International Club. Therefore Rosalyn decided to put her speaker and coaching training to good use after retiring in 2012 when she founded her own communications training company Better Speaking Skills in 2013. She was determined to close the communications gap between speakers and their audiences and help speakers make a real connection with the people they are talking to. Better Speaking Skills is my response to a common problem. Unfortunately many talented leaders and smart professionals can t present their ideas in an interesting way. I started my coaching career to give business executives and professionals the communication skills they need to be memorable interesting and persuasive speakers. I help them articulate their ideas plans and solutions so they can rally the support of others. My mission is simply to empower inspire and educate people so they can speak better think better and perform better. Deirdre is my mentor and role model for how to coach with passion in a caring way to get maximum results for your clients. As a member of Toastmasters International since 2003 Rosalyn has presented educational workshops at District 84 (North and Central Florida) Toastmasters International spring conferences for the past two years. And as an Advanced Communicator Gold she has trained Toastmasters on speechwriting and how to connect with any audience. She is a divorced mother of a 26-year-old daughter who is pursuing her dream to be a chef and own a vegetarian restaurant. Rosalyn wants to be remembered as a coach who helped people develop the communications skills to be better leaders and problem solvers. She also wants to sponsor a communications summer camp for youth to give them muchneeded training in the areas of speaking writing and conflict resolution. 53 Women of Distinction Susanne Amodeo Real Estate Sales NYS Licensed Realtor Staten Island NY fter 30 years in the financial services industry Susanne Amodeo fell victim to corporate downsizing. She wanted to try something new but starting over at the age of 48 while the economy was struggling was a frightening thought. A I want everyone who knew me to smile when they hear my name. However Susanne has always been interested in real estate so she decided to get her license. I felt it was a career I could do full-time anywhere in the country or part-time if I decided to go back into a corporate position. In the year and a half that she s been in this business Susanne has enjoyed meeting people and helping them realize the American dream of owning a home. As a salesperson I work with buyers and sellers educating them on the process they will go through in buying or selling a home. For sellers this includes listing presentations market analysis of their property taking photos and marketing their home. For buyers I will locate houses based on their wants needs and show them their desired property. I ll also make offers on the property to get them the best deal possible. She believes that you must be persistent powerful and patient to make it in this business. It s a tough business full of ups and downs and a lot of uncertainty but you have to keep positive and be diligent. My advice would be to start on a part-time basis while having a job that pays you a salary. This way you can learn the business and enjoy the process a little more knowing that you still have a guaranteed income. Working on a commission pay structure can be very stressful and isn t for everyone. 54 Women of Distinction Tracy Biggs Home Staging Interior Decorating and Interior Renovations President of Phancy Design Inc. Montreal Quebec Canada 55 Women of Distinction T The ache for home lives in all of us the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned. Maya Angelou racy Biggs founded Phancy Design Inc. (Montreal Quebec Canada) in 1999. The company prides itself on being Montreal s sought-after firm for Home Staging Interior Decorating and Interior Renovations. While Tracy initially operated the company on a part-time basis she realized over the years that she really wanted to fill the niche between completely redesigning a home and redecorating it so she was all in by 2009. Visual value can in fact increase your chances of selling your home whether now or later. And our clients know that They sometimes consult with us to prep their homes for sale five years ahead of time. Knowing where to invest the money is key whether it be in a kitchen bathroom or basement. We want you to get the best return on your investment. However home staging and interior design for living have very little in common. There s an absolute middle ground where you can completely change your home without necessarily knocking things down just doing more than simply decorating it. Today she is the President and face of the company surrounded by amazing people who help her get everything done each day. My husband (especially) is an absolute artist when it comes to finishings and renovations. Tracy is also faced with the day-to-day tasks of marketing social media management product sourcing procurement and more but her true passion lies within the actual designs. I love that styles and trends are constantly changing making this industry an exciting one that s always moving and forever evolving. Plus each home has its own feeling and vibration something that allows me to just walk through the front door for inspiration. It can be anything from the sunlight coming through the kitchen to the trees in the backyard or that one piece of artwork in the living room. The fact that any work done on a home (be it staging decorating or renovating) increases its value keeps Phancy Design going strong. If your realtor suggests hiring a home stager this is NOT a reflection on you but on the current market and what will appeal to the most buyers. You want to attract the masses when selling your home versus designing your living space for yourself. In her free time Tracy enjoys refinishing furniture (thus a new division of the company is currently in development) and spending time with her husband and children. I am so infinitely proud of all of them. And our three pups adopted from local rescue shelters complete our crazy circle of love Tracy s best advice for future clients is to do a little research ahead of time. Know what you absolutely love and what you dislike. Don t worry about how it will all fit together or if it will work. Those are challenges that we are more than happy to take on for you. 56 Trisha Svehla Manufacturing service education with a specialty in working with healthcare organizations and medical specialty societies. President of Managing the Mosaic Downers Grove IL S ince 1991 Trisha Svehla has been a leader in diversity consulting where she partners with clients to help them enhance their human capital. Her firm Managing the Mosaic aims to improve inclusion for all in the workplace. It s strange but when I started my business in 1991 one of my peers in HR asked me You re specializing in diversity. How long will that last A couple of years Well this is my 24th year in business. Diversity is still at the top of the leader board of training issues for many organizations. However the nature of diversity within organizations has changed. When I first started diversity was mostly about race and gender. Now diversity affects generational differences religions LGBT etc. Diversity training benefits the company by improving the bottom line and also by sending the strong message that everyone matters. The costs of discrimination are high whether it involves high-level positions such as a doctor or engineer from a foreign country or an office assistant who is bullied for being gay. When issues are not discussed openly and addressed fairly the bottom line takes a hit along with a company s credibility. As the former Vice President of Employee Services at the American Health Association Trisha experienced the value of coaching an organization s diversity success by eliminating the negative cost of poor employee relations stereotyping management practices and ineffective teams. I grew up with a mother who was illiterate and a father with about a 3rd grade education. Although there was no value placed on education within my home environment I loved learning and consider myself a lifelong learner. In the 1980s this dynamic was starting to create tension as a series of English only workplace rules were implemented. They were thrown out in court cases one by one however not much was written about diversity at the time other than the Hudson Institute s Workforce 2000 (a prediction of the coming changes to the landscape of future workers). I began to travel throughout the country to present Workforce 2000 and what needed to occur for the building of inclusion work environments. Those presentations and inspiration from Dr. R. Roosevelt Thomas Jr. author of Beyond Race and Gender led to Trisha writing her own book Managing the Mosaic and starting her own company. In fact Thomas wrote the introduction to her book. Trisha is a member of the Human Resource Management Association of Chicago (HRMAC) which keeps her abreast of changing HR trends and issues. She also co-founded Cornucopia an informal resource to other female business owners. Additionally she has served as a president and board member to a number of nonprofits including Family Shelter Service (focused in addressing domestic violence) Community Career Center (focused on providing job knowledge and experience to those individuals going through job loss change) and as the Chair of the Human Services Committee for the Village of Downers Grove to address community issues. She believes that your background isn t necessarily a predictor of your success. 57 Women of Distinction Valerie Vicario Beauty Owner Operator Hair Artistry by Valerie Aston PA 58 Women of Distinction s the Owner and Operator of her own hair salon in the small town of Aston Pennsylvania Valerie Vicario has been in business for herself pretty much her entire career. Completing beauty school in 1987 she worked in a local salon for four years before taking the plunge into business ownership. Since 1992 Hair Artistry by Valerie has been well-known as the hair salon where many women go to look good and feel great. A Valerie couldn t be happier with the wonderful women that work alongside her every day at the salon. They are constantly inspiring her. They are hardworking creative people who take their jobs very seriously and Valerie feels lucky to have them on her team. Considering herself both a business owner and an employee Valerie is always on the floor working with clients alongside her employees. Serving customers is by far the most important aspect of her business and they are the number one priority. Experiencing her share of ups and downs as an entrepreneur Valerie has learned how to dodge negatively and overcome the constant worry that owning her own business brings. My business is in a small town where clients feel very comfortable coming to. They can come through the door on any given day be welcomed treated well and are always glad they came Valerie said happily. My staff and I enjoy talking and interacting with clients and being able to make them feel more confident simply by enhancing their appearance is very rewarding. You have to wake up every day show up and do your best no matter what. You can never give up. Business is like a roller coaster ride much like a marriage can be. You have to stay committed and appreciate those ups during the downs Valerie admitted. In America you can open a small business and if you commit to it and work really hard you will inevitably be successful. Remaining humble every day is a learning experience for Valerie. There is always room for improvement and always room to learn more. If you shut your mind to new ideas or concepts you can easily become complacent and that is not a path you want to take in this line of work. Hair Artistry by Valerie is known for specializing in hair color and cutting edge hair-cutting techniques and they take pride in being a fashion forward hair salon. Hair Artistry by Valerie specializes in hair color but also offers a variety of services for clients including advanced hair cutting for both men and women as well as formal updos for bridal parties facial waxing and other services such as balayage and ombre. Open Tuesdays through Saturdays this salon has something to make everyone feeling good and look fantastic. Spending the little down time she has mostly with her longtime boyfriend Matt and daughter Hilary who currently works at the salon Valerie hopes Hilary will someday take over bringing the salon to the next level. 59 Women of Distinction Wanda Pearl Thompson Publishing (Specializing in Communication Needs) Chief Executive Officer of WPT Communications Cardston Alberta Canada W anda Pearl Thompson is the CEO of WPT Communications but is also an accomplished writer with several published articles and books (more on that later). I m currently working on 1924 Wembley Rodeo Joy in the Journey and Trapped Looking From the Inside Out . In 1994 Wanda fell and broke her ankle in three places. Due to complications she became legally blind and unable to do anything on her own for 10 years. However she learned to read and write Braille. My family was very supportive and through the blessing of God I got my eyesight back and my body was able to function normally. My advice in situations like this is to never give up no matter what you re going through. Things will get better. There is light at the end of the tunnel Wanda had surgery for cancer a year ago in May 2014. She also had reconstruction surgery at the end of May 2015. Trials come to everyone. Never lose faith and hope that everything will work out. Basically Wanda would like for everyone to believe in themselves. My business evolved by helping family and friends with the various things they wanted and needed designing business cards wedding invitations posters newsletters personalized calendars etc. People liked what I did. I am a perfectionist and am knowledgeable with a computer to design and print various things. I also love to write. All this prompted me to start WPT Communications in 2006. Wanda personally oversees all aspects of the company including public relations which she feels is very important. Aside from her business Wanda s article What is Love (1985) was published in the Macleod Gazette. She s also written several books including Father s Day (2006) Beyond The Sunset - Life s Journey (2009) A New Beginning (2009) Our Wedding - Jerry & Crystal (2010) The Mighty Transformer (2011) The Adventures of Princess Jasmine (2011) Brian - A New Beginning (2012) and Beyond The Sunset Life s Journey Now And Forever (2014). Wanda s also written the following books for her grandchildren For My Grandson Seth Eric Want (2005) Seth Eric Want (2006) My ABC s - Seth Want (2012) My ABC s - Jasmine Want (2012) and My ABC s - Wyatt Thompson (2014). Everyone has a dream and each individual is important. God knows each one individually and is there for them. Have faith in God yourself and your family. Families are important. Every day is a new beginning. Stay away from what might have been and look at what can be. To quote Zig Ziggler It s your attitude not your aptitude that determines your altitude 60 Women of Distinction Q&A Q What are the major products or services that you offer A The major products and services I offer are publishing writing editing designing and books. Q What is your expertise A My expertise is in the writing and editing processes publishing public relations and designing business cards brochures posters newsletters and websites. Q Why do you like to write A I find writing relaxing. It is a way to go anywhere in the world. Your imagination knows no bounds. Books have the power to take you to any destination that you can dream of. You are free to express your thoughts and feelings. I find that it is a way for me to open up to new possibilities opportunities and growth. Q What awards and honors have you received A In January 2015 I was chosen for the Top Female Executive Distinction with Worldwide Branding. I am featured on (http topfemaleexecs. com 2015 01 26 wanda-thompson) I was interviewed on the Women s Radio Network Broadcasting Station in New York City with Lisa Singer on January 30 2015. (http www.wrnw1. com archived-shows wanda-pearl-thompson-lisa-singerjanuary-30th2015). I was also interviewed on the Women s Radio Network Broadcasting Station in New York City with K.C. Armstrong on July 24 2015. (http wp-content uploads 2015 07 Wanda-P.-ThompsonKC.7.24. mp3) In January 2014 I was chosen as a VIP of the Year with Who s Who in Publishing. In May 2014 I was recognized by The International Women s Leadership Association. I am an Honored Member of Who s Who in Publishing 2015. I am included in the Continental Who s Who Directory Professional and Executive Edition 2015. I ve been awarded inclusion into the Elite Worldwide Executives and Professionals 2015. From Creative Media I ve been awarded Top Honoree Award 2015 and included in the Creative Media Consultants Directory Top Professionals 2015-2016. I was a two-time nominee for my book Brian - A New Beginning Global EBook Awards with Dan Poynter (for my book and cover design in 2012). I was awarded first place for my story Inferno in Project Read Short Story Competition Fort Macleod (2011). I was awarded runner-up with my story The Gift Project Read Short Story Competition (2011). Q What do you attribute your success to A I attribute my success to wanting to make a difference in the world persevering through the challenging times. I use challenges as stepping stones to succeed. There is no such thing as failure. It is only when you give up that you fail. Q Do you believe in God A Yes I know that He is real. He has been there for me every step of the way. When times were difficult I knew that he was there and answered my prayers. Q What hobbies do you like A Besides writing I enjoy cooking and music. I also love playing the piano dancing crocheting knitting sewing and woodworking. Q If you could be anyone in the world who would you like to be A I would like to be someone who can alleviate the sufferings of others. I want to be the kind of person who is kind compassionate and helps others to see their own potential and possibilities. I would like people to know that they are of worth and important. Q Are there people that come to you for help A Yes I am currently working with several clients to help them complete their projects and produce their books. Everyone has a story to tell and each is unique. Willia Winnie Momberere Non-Profit Founder Smile of Glory Inc. Plano TX O ne day on Christmas morning in 2013 Willia Winnie Momberere couldn t join in the celebratory traditions of eating with family and friends due to a terrible toothache. Unfortunately she had no choice but to deal with the pain until she could get to a dentist after the holidays were over. That was the day I decided that no one should go through that kind of pain because oral hygiene negligence or lack of education on the importance of oral care Willia said about her frustrations that day. Growing up in Zimbabwe Africa Willia doesn t recall ever owning a toothbrush. Instead she and other children would chew on a chewing stick they would grab off a nearby tree. The lack of education surrounding oral hygiene and dental care that often results in severe tooth decay and gum disease was something that Willia wanted to change for the children back home. She wanted them to have a better chance at having a healthy mouth than she did. Promoting a healthier lifestyle by providing oral hygiene supplies like toothbrushes mouthwash tooth floss educational materials and dental visits to those children in need as the Founder of the not-for-profit organization Smile of Glory Inc. Willia is doing her bet to promote a healthier lifestyle for kids of tomorrow. With a mission to reach 50-60 000 children by the end of December 2015 Willia hopes to be able to have fully equipped dental clinics in every rural school in Zimbabwe before expanding this movement to other African countries. Inspired by the great Mother Theresa for her labor of love to the less privileged she relies on volunteers including teachers and students in order to spread the word by teaching oral hygiene to the parents and children all over Africa. A VIP member of National Association of Professional Women and a member of Ladies of Purpose International Willia earned her Diploma in Beauty Therapy at Cindy s Beauty Therapy School in Zimbabwe in 1998 and her Bachelor s Degree in Communication Science at the University of South Africa in 1992. She has authored four books to date all of which can be found on or www. The Print of His Hand He Leads Me The Little Girl Within and The Well That Never Dries. In addition to writing Christina books Winnie also writes music and poetry. A loving mother sister and friend Winnie has a big heart and she is known for filling her days with love and compassion in every way possible. She hopes to continue shedding some light on the little things in life and just how significant some small gesture could impact the world. Love is giving and giving is love she said. That was the torch that was passed on to me by my father and mother. It is my turn now to keep it burning and hand it over to the next generation brighter. 62 Women of Distinction ISSUE 18 Women of Distinction Team WDM Marissa Bacchi EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Holli M. Narvaez EDITOR HEAD WRITER LAYOUT GRAPHIC DESIGN Felix Pons Jill Mongonia EDITORIAL COORDINATOR Rachael Raffna Anne Silar SELECTION COMMITTEE SELECTION COMMITTEE Kimberly Diehl SELECTION COMMITTEE Rebecca Valuch Women of Distinction 560 Broadhollow Road Ste. 310 Melville NY 11747 Phone (631) 465-9024 Fax (631) 465-9035 Tracy Biggs Home Staging Interior Decorating and Interior Renovations President of Phancy Design Inc. Before After After Before After 64 (514) 605-1799 info Women of Distinction