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WOMEN OF DISTINCTION Dr. Donna Clovis Journalism and Education Author journalist and professor 1 Women of Distinction Stephanie A. Williford Education and Training in Healthcare Chief Executive Officer EB Medicine 2 Women of Distinction Dr. Donna Clovis Journalism and Education Author journalist and professor Princeton Junction NJ 3 Women of Distinction ward-winning journalist Dr. Donna Clovis brings history to life with her unique ability to share and document the lives and stories of older generations. Through research and careful crafted interviews her first novel Quantum Leaps in Princeton s Place eloquently details life in Princeton New Jersey in the early 1900s through the late 1950s through the eyes of two of the oldest citizens. Inspired by legendary journalists Barbara Walters and Walter Cronkite Donna displays passion and integrity in all her reporting. As a documentary journalist and photographer Donna won a McCloy Fellowship from American Council on Germany and Harvard to document the lives of Holocaust survivors in Germany. She uncovered the story of German youth who trade their military service to work with Holocaust survivors. Despite this history they look to make change. Donna s work on that project is in the archives of the Holocaust Museum in Washington. Additionally she received a Prudential Fellowship from Columbia University School of Journalism for Children and the News that resulted in best practices for reading and writing education in schools. She also won the Albert Einstein Award in Education that looks for solutions to issues in schools and won a first place feature writing award for the National Association of Black Journalists for her article on racial profiling. A The harder the task the more persistent I become Donna said. None of it has come easy. Follow your dreams. It takes a lot of faith to do this because you don t always see the answers right away. Sometimes they come over time with persistence. But trust that the answers are there. Donna resides in New Jersey with her husband and three children. When she is not writing or doing speeches and signings she is a dedicated member of Center for Book Arts in New York and National Writing Project with Rider University which encourages students to pursue writing. You can buy Quantum Leaps in Princeton s Place on or www. I love to interview the elderly she said. They have so many stories we can learn from. Interviews of Holocaust survivors were especially moving to my whole family. We don t need to let this happen ever again. I document photography and stories for people to remember. Interviewing the oldest African Americans shared the tremendous racism in our country but showed their dignity and peace in standing up against it and changing the system through the civil rights movement. We can make change but we have to listen to those before us not to make the same mistakes again. Donna holds a Doctoral Degree from Columbia University in Arts and Humanities. As a professor of Visual Culture and Gender and Race Donna looks for opportunities to teach and inspire young people through her writing. Donna s classrooms are critical thinking environment where students are urged to reason for themselves and come out with peaceful resolution. Donna encourages her students and other aspiring authors and educators to be persistent in the face of adversity. 4 Women of Distinction Q&A Q Why do you feel that your business is relevant in today s world A Writing is an important way of documenting what is important in our world. It is a great way especially for women to share their voice with the world. You never know who you may reach and how you may inspire someone. Q Do you think good writing improves the stories you tell A Of course. I went to Columbia University s Journalism school just for that reason to learn how to research fact check and tell stories with the utmost care. Q Why is documentary writing photography and nonfiction important to you A It allows me to peer into the lives and stories of others relevant to the development of our society. The elderly have seen so much but we tend to hear less and less from them as we grow older. What lessons do we learn from the Holocaust What lessons do we learn from segregation If we listen to the paths of those before maybe we can make significant change. Q Are reviews important to you A Most definitely. I actually had the manuscript reviewed by Kirkus Reviews before I sought publication. I have also received very good reviews from readers on It helps sell books. It is most important to me to tell the story with high quality. Q What is your new book Quantum Leaps in Princeton s Place about A It is about four women of different races and their quest for equality in Princeton New Jersey. Q What is your focal point A At the center of everything is the Rosedale House the one constant in a sea of change. Even the chapter about Einstein a legendary character in Princeton for his violin playing and absent-minded wanderings shows the otherwise open-minded community s surprising bigotry. Q How does Kirkus Reviews compare the book to Ferguson Missouri A The book was not written because of Ferguson. It was actually written ten years before the events in Ferguson but there is an uncanny resemblance for the fight for quality. Kirkus Reviews says Given the recent racially charged events in Ferguson Missouri and other places Clovis version of Princeton seems like a microcosm of America. Q How did you come to write the book A Actually I did not mean it to be a book. I documented the stories of the oldest people in Princeton right after we came home documenting the Holocaust project in Germany. I was so impressed with learning from the elderly there I was curious about the elderly in my own town. I put the documentary work away for six months and then my daughter had a play date in a mansion in Princeton. It so happened to be the same place that one of my interviewees lived a servant child. I wrote the book from each room there. Further research showed it was the first Plantation House in New Jersey. They just finished a Youtube video to see if there is interest in making a movie about the book. That s really exciting Check out at https watch v UYTtif7-hDs Q What else should we note about the book A It also depicts the casual and violent racism of American society in the early- to mid-1900s such as when Beatrice is raped by a white man or when Daisy attempts to help an African-American family move into another town s white neighborhood. Even the chapter about Einstein a legendary character in Princeton for his violin playing and absent-minded wanderings shows the otherwise open-minded community s surprising bigotry. Q What are your hopes for the book A I would like it to get a good reading from our global society. I have several signing scheduled in Tuscon Arizona as part of a college conference Princeton Library at Rider University the NJEA for Teachers Convention and the Philadelphia Convention Center as part of Hay House Press Convention September 16-18 2016. It is already up for six awards. I would love to see it as a film. Princeton has a great history and structure for telling this story. All the props are in place. I have already started a second book to follow this as a sequel called Six Doors Down. The opening chapter starts with my neighbor who lived six doors down from me John Nash the Nobel Prize Winner from Princeton University whose story is told in the movie Beautiful Minds. 5 Women of Distinction Amy Aiken Wine Founding Owner Winemaker Meander Napa Valley CA S tudying horticulture at the University of Wisconsin Amy Aiken graduated and continued on to pursue her MS in Plant Pathology at the University of CaliforniaDavis. Her love and dedication to the field landed her a job at Joseph Phelps Vineyards in Napa Valley soon after and thanks to her background in plant science and the food industry the position proved to be a good fit. Although it was only a seasonal job it eventually turned into a full-time position and over the next three years she learned as much as she possibly could about making great wines and how to run a winery. Eventually Amy progressed forward working for Domaine Carneros as an Enologist and later for Miner Family Ranch Viader Vineyards and several others. Fifteen years later in 2003 Amy had founded Meander a small premium production Cabernet Sauvignon brand in Napa Valley followed by a companion brand Conspire in 2008. Overseeing every aspect of the business from sourcing grapes to packaging inventory management sales distribution and marketing her tireless work ethic has proven fruitful. Her handcrafted wines are world class and her 27year career has made this industry veteran a raving success. Depending on the day I can be the cook or the bottle washer Amy said about her daily responsibilities as proprietor. But planning and budgeting are two of my biggest priorities. Winemaking is business that requires a long-term working goal and it can take 10 years or more to be successful at it so patience and endurance is key. It can also be a very expensive business to get into if not approached properly. My finances didn t allow for building my own winery Amy explained. Thus I leased space and took advantage of lower overhead and maintenance. It also gave me the freedom to move to a new location with better equipment once I got established so that I could improve my work. Blessed to be surrounded by a pool of talented people in the vineyard and winery industry Amy s husband Joel is also a winemaker. We all have unique philosophies and skills and we get to share ideas which is fantastic she said. But we all owe it to Mother Nature in the end. She has given me a very unique and delicious quality of grapes to work with which means that every vintage bottle has unique qualities all their own. This business is never boring which is what I like the most. At the end of the day if I can make someone say mmmm it makes my day. So much of our lives are desensitized so when people take the time to share something delicious it can be life changing. I love when I can give that gift to my customers. A board member of the Rutherford Dust Society Amy is also an active member of Napa Valley Vintners. She and Joel are also the proud parents of two amazing sons who are both now in college pursuing their own dreams. 6 Women of Distinction Carol M. Moulton M.A. J.D. C Public Health U.S. Government Agency Director Office of Equal Employment Opportunity United States Food & Drug Administration Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area arol M. Moulton s motto is taken from Maya Angelou If you don t like something change it. If you can t change it change your attitude. Don t complain. As a black woman Carol said she faces the challenge of unconscious bias every day. My mother taught me that in this world a black person has to be twice as good to go half as far as white counterparts she said. While that is not always the case I saw it enough times to have learned the moral of the lesson. Nevertheless in spite of the kind of blatant discrimination I have witnessed I determined that it would not make me bitter. But I am hopeful that my child s children will find this a better more tolerant place. A lifelong learner Carol is passionate about education. As the daughter and granddaughter of educators she mentors a number of people and encourages them to continue their path. My parents both taught school my dad was a junior high school principal for many years. My grandmother on my dad s side taught at Tuskegee Institute. Carol holds a Master of Arts in Christian Counseling from Maple Springs Bible College and Seminary and teaches a monthly Bible class in North Carolina. As Director of the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity for The United States Food & Drug Administration Carol leads the agency s efforts in equal employment opportunity diversity and inclusion. During her tenure she created the agency s new Diversity Council composed of senior leaders who review agency policies and ensure that the office s recruitment selection and personnel policies are not only free from unintended bias but are calculated to create an environment conducive to encouraging the best from each employee. Additionally she has written internal policy and training materials for employees supervisors and managers. She has also conducted training sessions on prevention of sexual harassment and EEO for supervisors and managers. We have re-thought the messaging around diversity and inclusion and are working to give our managers very specific tools to assist with recruitment retention and engagement. I am excited about the direction we are taking as a federal agency as well as the encouragement to minorities and women to consider science technology engineering and math as real and viable career choices. With a Master of Arts in Legal Studies from Antioch School of Law and a Juris Doctorate from Catholic University School of Law Carol practiced law and founded a law firm before finding her true calling. I actually went to law school to get away from the world of equal employment opportunity and civil rights Carol said. I had been an EEO director for some time before going to law school. However I ended up doing an entire circle ending up right where I started. In truth I learned several years ago that this work is actually my passion. This community of practice is constantly evolving and changing to keep up with a world that is relentlessly changing as well. In short I love what I do. I am challenged and gratified by this work. The class is one of the things that gives me much joy she said. I find I learn so much when I teach it. I love the people and the time away allows me to decompress. I hope to leave the world a little better a little kinder than I found it. My grandchildren are my legacy and my joy. I hope I have taught them to be kind to be gracious and to understand that to whom much is given much is required. 7 Women of Distinction Chearmy L. Gonzales Home Improvement Housekeeping Stocker Receiver Maid-Lowe s home improvement Grand Vista Hotel Bullhead City AZ C hearmy L. Gonzales career in the home improvement and housekeeping industries require her to wear many hats. As a stocker and receiver Chearmy s role within the company is first and foremost customer service. Her job requires Chearmy oversee a variety of tasks such as unloading trucks transporting products to the floor unloading products to shelves for sales -- and more. The ease of always finding a job in both warehouse and housekeeping has kept my interest with both careers Chearmy said. The hours are usually always set hours which is appealing. The pay especially in warehouse is up there in the pay scale especially if you have forklift reach or OP license. The biggest lesson I have learned is that we all face challenges in life that we feel we can t endure. Once we realize everything is just a steppingstone to something better those challenges no longer are an issue. We all create our own destiny and it s up to us to make that destiny our failure or a dream come true. Chearmy got started in my career in 1993 at the Allen Bradley Co. as an electronically assembler. From there she was introduced to shipping and receiving where she learned to operate forklifts to properly unload products. It was around that time she entered into the housekeeping industry working for Best Western. Today she continues in that field for the Grand Vista Hotel. Chearmy also possess extensive construction trade skills and OSHA is certified. My professional challenge I had to face with this type of work is not being physically able to perform some tasks with extreme heavy lifting Chearmy said. Making myself workout on upper body has vastly improved my performance and strength for my position with both careers. I started taking certain herbal extract every morning and night as medicine for an illness. I hardly ever eat red meat and seldom eat chicken lately. I eat more vegetables and organic fruit and try to meditate often for spiritual health as well. I try to keep positive outlook and focus every day. All these things have contributed to overcoming my challenges. In her spare time Chearmy enjoys reading inspirational books writing and blogging as much as possible. A talented musician she often composes her own music on the piano or keyboard. The only legacy I wish to have an impact on the world with would be to make a positive impact on someone s life and to be a positive character in their world of negativity and show them the true beauty of life Chearmy said. 8 Women of Distinction Graciela N. Carranza Education Child Development Founder Owner - Carranza Family Child Care Los Angeles CA T hrough her work as Founder and Owner of Carranza Family Child Care Graciela Carranza displays her passion for child care and development by providing top level child care services for children up to the age of 13 and up to the age of 18 if the child has special needs. I very much enjoy what I do When I was very young I was put in charge of my three nieces and other small children around. That experience was marvelous. I enjoyed caring for them and playing with them. Graciela was inspired to begin a career in childcare in 1996 after becoming pregnant with her third child. At the time she had been employed by the Los Angeles Department of Agriculture but decided it would be best to open up a child care service in her home as raising her children was her number one priority. As Owner of Carranza Family Child Care Graciela is responsible for all of the administrative services including day-program planning teaching classes preparing materials documenting children s developmental profiles cooking maintaining daily records submitting nutritional reports and managing employees. My advice to anyone else looking to enter this industry is that you need to truly love children. It s not an easy job and passion is required in order to provide a quality service that all children deserve. The biggest lesson I ve learned is that it doesn t matter what country you re from or what language you speak. Nothing can stop you from doing what you do best. Improve yourself day by day and triumph Graciela is the Founder of Child Care Providers of California Inc having previously served as president for 10 years. She created the organization in order to promote professional academic and social development for her fellow childcare providers. Graciela is also a member of the National Association for Family Child Care and the Service Employees International Union. Simply put I m a Mexican-American woman a Catholic a mother a wife and a professional. I ve always done things to the best of my ability. I have a penchant for entering difficult projects. Getting my fellow childcare providers access to a proper education and finding them supportive programs was a large undertaking but ultimately something I enjoyed. I find pleasure in being able to make positive changes for others. If I fail I never allow it to leave me defeated. I m happy serving others how I can. I believe that there is one God and I have a responsibility to help others with the gifts He has given me. Regarding her education Graciela has received an AA in Child development from East Los Angeles College (ELAC) and a Pre-School Teacher Permit through the Department of Education of California at ELAC. In her free time Graciela is involved in social services and enjoys spending time with her family. She coordinates events at her church and local schools and has been president of the PTA while also representing different school committees such as Capital 1 Bilingual Program and Parent s Committee. For the past 16 years she has volunteered as a religion teacher at St. Ignatius of Loyola Catholic Church. The legacy I want to leave behind is the strength and leadership that Latina women have shown in education. I want to leave a precedent for all future childcare providers. 9 Women of Distinction Irene Conlan Healthcare Nursing Education Nursing Administration Health and Weight Loss Founder The Self Improvement Blog and The Self Improvement Radio Show Independent Representative Valentus Fountain Hills AZ RN MSN PhD H ospitalized as a child Irene Conlan developed an adoration for nurses. Her sense of compassion led her to pursue a degree in nursing after high school graduating from St. Anthony Hospital School of Nursing in Oklahoma City Oklahoma in 1956 followed by a BSN from The Catholic University of America in Washington DC in 1964. Fascinated by the human body and brain Irene is still in the healthcare field 60 years later just in a different capacity. I ve seen amazing advances in our knowledge of the body and brain together with revolutionary changes in the delivery of traditional healthcare Irene explained and I am continuously intrigued . Irene s last position before retiring from the healthcare field was as Assistant Director of the Arizona Department for Health Services where she was in charge of the Division of Emergency Medical Service and Health Care Facilities. She since became a Certified Hypnotherapist working with a Healing Arts hypnotherapy clinic in Scottsdale Arizona from 1989-92 before founding her own hypnotherapy practice The PowerZone until 2002. Retired a second time she later started The Self Improvement Blog in 2007 followed by a onehour broadcasting show called The Self Improvement Show in 2010. Now at the age of 80 Irene is having the time of her life. She s meeting inspirational leaders in all areas of healthcare psychology spirituality and other helping professionals. Regardless of what you do in life it s important to choose to do something you love and gives you rewards over and above a paycheck she added. Irene has written many articles about health and wellness alternative approaches holistic health weight loss selfesteem and more. It s her hope to influence many of those in traditional healthcare to become more holistic to recognize the synergy of body-mind-spirit energy and recognize that prevention is as important as treatment. Two years ago Irene also began working as an Independent Representative for Valentus a network marketing company that represents all-natural health and weight loss products. She s also on the board of The Simplicity of Stillness Foundation a non-profit established to improve people s lives through support development and instruction in advanced technology which has been proven highly effective in patients with depression anxiety posttraumatic stress disorder ALS fibromyalgia and other chronic illnesses. Two years after completing her BSN Irene earned her MSN in 1966. In 1999 she completed her PhD in Metaphysics. Married for 25 years to a former congressman they ve since divorced in 1994. Irene has two amazing sons Christopher 45 a Freelance Web Developer SEO Expert and Marketing Advisor in Phoenix Arizona and Kevin 43 a Kronos Functional Analyst System Administrator who lives in Fountain Hills Arizona with his wife. Irene also has four wonderful grandsons. Through my blog and radio show one of my goals is to help people understand that we re more than simply physical beings Irene said We are physical mental spiritual emotional and energetic beings and we are holistic. Applying this to healthcare means that we need to address all areas of the human being if we re to reestablish equilibrium and wellness. 10 Women of Distinction Jessica L. Niemann J Insurance Sales Representative Liberty Mutual Insurance Chicago IL essica L. Niemann has always considered herself the type of person who likes to guide others. When presented with a problem she wants her name to be the first person they think of when seeking a solution. Coming as no surprise Jessica studied psychology in college graduating in 2014 with a Bachelor s in Psychology and English with a minor in Sociology. But after completing her schooling it was decision making time. What did she want to do with the rest of her life For Jessica it was simple. She wanted a career that would enable her to help others putting her clients best intentions in mind while also allowing her to grow professionally. Jumping into the insurance business as a Sales Representative with Liberty Mutual Insurance she is doing just that protecting people s lives their families and the assets they work so very hard for. Being a recent college grad could have been a huge challenge at the start of my career but I approached my job with the mindset that age is just a number Jessica said. I am a trusted counselor that s going to help my clients as they transition from one life stage to another. Consulting with clients on their auto homeowners and life insurance needs Jessica helps develop programs to best protect clients and their families. Once the ideal coverage is determined she continues to make herself available with whatever requests they might have whether they be policy changes additions or advice regarding claims. Jessica has learned from her father what it means to persevere and how to be true to oneself. Happy with the direction her career is going she has no plans of leaving the insurance business anytime soon. Q&A Q What makes you different from other insurance agents A I ve been to my clients homes they have my cellphone number and they know they can call me with any issue big or small. Q Why should people review their insurance every few years A Life changes (becoming a homeowner marrying having children) are easily omitted on an out-of-date insurance policy causing people to become unknowingly at risk of being underinsured. Q What s been your biggest success story A Last year I helped a woman realize the importance of having adequate coverage despite the fact that she d never experienced a loss. A few months later she was hospitalized after being hit by an uninsured driver that was unable to pay for the ensuing medical bills he was responsible for. The coverage we chose allowed Liberty Mutual to take on this burden for her allowing her to focus on her recovery. It was a huge comfort knowing that I had played such an important role in such a distressing time. Business is a rollercoaster Jessica added. You must manage the highs because there will always be lows. It s also about learning to view your career in the long-term otherwise you won t give yourself enough time to flourish. Affiliated with Dynamic Professional Women s Network and Business Networking International Jessica holds a BA from the University of Missouri at Columbia. 11 Women of Distinction Joni Migliaccio Construction President of AMG Demolition Inc. Westbury NY 12 Women of Distinction F ollowing the sudden death of her husband nearly ten years ago Joni Migliaccio knew she d needed to shatter the glass ceiling in order to support her family. While caring for three young children Joni did more than just shatter the glass ceiling she demolished it -- literally. In 2008 she entered into the traditionally male dominated construction industry founding AMG Demolition Inc. New York-based AMG Demolition specializes in the total demolition of buildings and interior demolition including MEP and disposal of boilers tanks and Interior guts. Since the company s inception Joni and her staff have completed more than 300 projects including various interior demolition and total building demo to the tracks at Grand Center Terminal in New York City and removing wings of Huntington Hospital while ensuring the other areas of the facility remained operational. AMG is currently working on a project with the Governor s office of Storm Recovery demolishing dozens of homes destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. As President Joni a self-described control freak oversees all aspects of her business from the bidding process to negotiations to directing crews on a job site. Seeing the success rate keeps me in my career Joni said. There are always new jobs new general contractors new agencies which keeps my job fresh. Each job is different. It never gets boring or old. Watching the company continue to grow is motivation to keep bringing it to the next level. Professionally the New York Governor s commitment to bolstering minority roles in business is a constant source of inspiration for Joni. One of her biggest advocates has been The Dormitory Authority of the State of New York which provides construction opportunities and allied services to construction businesses in the state. Without these programs in place for women and minorities I would not have gotten the jump start I did Joni said. Proving herself as a strong woman in a male dominated industry has been a challenge throughout her career. Aside from facing the death of her husband and parents Joni also dealt with the difficulty of breaking ties with a former business partner -- a draining four-year ordeal. It is a competitive world. You have to have tenacity and willpower to get up every time you are knocked down she said. If we are talking about a woman going into construction she better have thick skin and mind set women have to behave in a professional manner at all times or she can be looked upon in a negative way. Once you get to the table you need to prove yourself you need to demonstrate your technical ability and knowledge and then you must perform the building blocks of gaining creditability in this industry. Once you decided to be on a man s playing field the men in that field treat you as if you are one of their own Keep balance in the way you construct yourself in a man s world. Joni attended Nassau Community College and New York University. She is a certified scaffold user fireguard burner OSHA 30 site safety in addition lead and hazardous matter certified. She also earned many other construction-related certifications. She is involved with multiple agencies and minority affairs organizations which support the advancement of women in her field. She is associated with Professional Women in Construction and supports numerous children s charities. In her spare time Joni enjoys target shooting using the hobby as a networking opportunity to meet others in the construction business. I would hope that someone reading this article who is just starting out or has tried different ventures that have failed would be inspired by my story and could find empathy that would inspire them to push harder and go into survival mode because no matter how many times you fail there can be success with persistence and hard work Joni said. Some people think that when they look at someone successful it has to be that they know somebody or they come from money or they were bred into an industry but it is not always the case. You can truly take nothing and make it into an empire but you have to be willing to work hard for it. It doesn t come easily. For someone that has been knocked down and beat up over and over again know that if you put your mind time and energy into it you can make anything happen. Joni is the proud mother of three successful adult children. Her 23-year-old son is an accomplished business owner her 21-year-old daughter is graduating college and her second daughter has been working along side Joni at AMG since she was 15 years old. Joni has two grandchildren who are the light of her life. I am not sure that what I do will change the world but I do believe that the foundation of what I ve done will inspire people Joni said. It takes a little of everything to make up a world. 13 Women of Distinction Q&A Q What made you decide to get into predominantly man s world of construction A After my husband died 10 years ago I realized I needed to make mans money to support my family. Q What complications or obstacles did you face as women in construction A Proving that I was not just a blonde eyed candy and I knew the business and I knew what I had to do to get the job done. Q Who or what helped you in the path to success A New York State had a MWBE and DBE program for minority and women owned business. If it wasn t for them paving the road I would have never been able to accomplish what I have over the past few years. Almost 90 percent of my work comes from DBE. Q Didn t taking down buildings interfere with your personal life A Absolutely Unfortunately the ones who sacrificed the most were my kids who barely saw their mom while I was trying to build the company but on the flip side I was able to afford to send them to great colleges and both grew up with great work ethic. Q How did you have time to run a business run a home and have a personal life A I put my personal life on a hold for 9 years and focused on my family and after 9 years it was worth the wait because I met the absolute love of my life. Q What would you say to people coming out of college looking to start their careers A It s a competitive world and you must have courage and will power to get up every time you are knocked down until you finally get it right. Q Was there ever a day you said I just can t do it anymore A I can remember putting my head in my hands and breaking down in tears because I was so exhausted but that s when I realized I needed to just find the strength to keep going. Q How is your relationship with the men in the field working for you A Every one of the men working for me have been with me since day 1 and are like children to me their safety is or number one concern. Q What is next for AMG Demolition A This is just the beginning we finally got most of the kinks out and the plan is to triple our business in the next 2 years. Q Any retirement plans in the near future A Being on site everyday and dealing with the politics of what I call organized chaos I will always stay in the business mentally but I am not as young as I used to be and I feel it in my bones more and more everyday. So I think the time will come when I may retire but I cant say when because I am not sure when that day will be just yet. 14 Women of Distinction Julie K. Aspenson J Discipleship Training Assistant Executive Director of Midwest Mission Bible Training Center (MMBTC) Cresco IA ulie Aspenson is the Assistant Executive Director of Midwest Mission Bible Training Center (MMBTC) a Christ-centered non-denominational organization dedicated to helping people with life-controlling problems. It provides a free residential discipleship training program for adults willing to seek God as the answer to their problems. As a division of Mission Teens Inc. this non-profit corporation provides help for the desperate by directing the people to Jesus to find love and a purpose for their lives. After completing the life-changing 8 month residential program Julie felt compelled to stay for the Staff Training Program. After multiple promotions she now serves as the AED of MMBTC in Cresco IA. Julie reports to the Executive Director of Mission Teens Inc. She handles all the business operations prepares reports for the corporate headquarters writes a monthly newsletter and speaks at churches and community groups. She trains staff members and teaches counsels and ministers to all the staff and residents as well as oversees all public relations teacher recruiting fund raising and building maintenance. As a teen roots of rejection sprang up in Julie pushing her onto a destructive path of self-sufficiency and perfectionism. Julie currently lives on the mission property with room and She recalls My life was pass or fail with ceaseless striving board provided working as a full time missionary receiving to pass. At age 18 Julie turned to alcohol and was deceived no salary. She had two successful careers as a Medical into believing it was setting her free. The truth was it took her Technologist (ASCP) and Programmer Analyst but chose captive ravaged her dreams and nearly stole her life. After 3 to remain in the ministry. Jesus gave His life for us so we secular treatment centers and 13 years of sobriety striving to joyfully give back our lives to serve Him by helping others. cope with life on her own Julie began drinking again. She hit She states. Julie feels that there is no better pay or benefits bottom fast and reached the end of herself. The Lord heard than to know Jesus and to let Him lead her way. Her heart s Julie s cry for help and she entered one of the 17 Mission desire is to be obedient to the heavenly vision rather than Teens centers where she discovered Jesus was reaching out pursue the American Dream . When Julie first entered the to love and heal her. She spent much of her life trying to fix mission she had no idea that what God had in store for herself her world and those around her. Julie knew she was her would be so much bigger and better than she had ever in need of a change a change that only God could bring. She heeded the advice of the Mission Teens founder Fire the idiot expected. running your life and get a new director. Julie learned the power of prayer and how to trust and obey Jesus. She now understands that God chose her not because she was good but because He is good. Julie loves Him because He first loved her a sinner in need of a Savior. Today her confidence and sufficiency are in Christ. She knows the Truth that set her free. Her desire and counsel to others is Let Jesus be Lord of your life and lead your way. He will never lead you astray. Women of Distinction 15 Kate A. Rosenzweig Education Special Education Special Education Teacher Great Neck Public Schools Board Certified Behavior Analyst Licensed Behavior Analyst (BCBA LBA) Parent Trainer Plainview -Old Bethpage School District Great Neck NY It s so rewarding to share in the pride each individual s experiences that is in part due to my ability to educate and encourage growth socially emotionally and academically. n 2007 while she was working as a Teaching Assistant and earning her master s in Childhood Special Education Kate A. Rosenzweig realized a passion for working among students with special needs. Kate began to pursue a certification in Behavior Analysis while teaching students with autism in a classroom based on the Applied Behavior Analysis methodology. She furthered her experience through supervising homecare cases by providing services for students with autism within their home environments. Working in the various homes led to Kate s interest in Parent Training where she educates family members on ways in which they can help to facilitate the independence and daily living skills of their children. I I like the idea of getting the chance to let other women out there see someone they can relate to and maybe even give them the motivation they need to start something new or get back on track or just make them smile. I need that every now and then and sometimes coming across an article just like this can do the trick. For Kate legacy is an intimidating word but she simply wants to give a voice to those who need one and provide her students with knowledge that will help and encourage them to want and meet their fullest potential. I want to prepare my students to become participative active and contributing members of their future communities in whatever is most fitting and appropriate for him or her. I really want my students and their families to feel worthy enough to have high expectations for themselves matching the high expectations I have and always will have for them because I know that they all can and will be capable of achieving their goals despite the possibility of them not being aware of them now. Even if they are never able to express themselves in ways that we would most commonly expect I want to provide an environment that will make them feel comfortable supported and confident in their own abilities and future achievements. I enjoy witnessing students and parents succeed and make progress in areas that have been challenging to them in the past. As a special education teacher in a co-taught second grade classroom Kate works alongside the general education teacher to promote academic learning and social emotional growth. It is Kate s duty to implement behavior interventions for those students who require more specific behavioral management approaches. As a Parent Trainer she helps provide strategies for parents to use with their children with autism that will increase independence and communication within the home addressing goals that will help prepare them for the transition into adulthood. 16 Women of Distinction Kaylyn Libolt Transportation Aviation Helicopter Pilot Helicopter Captain Liberty Helicopters ENG Pilot US Helicopters President Owner A World Above LLC New York NY H elicopter Captain Kaylyn Libolt dreamed of becoming a doctor as a young woman but a skydiving trip would lead her to her true passion -- the aviation field. Kaylyn graduated early from high school and immediately started taking pre-med courses at a local university. For her 18th birthday in 2009 she celebrated by jumping out a plane. The leap changed her life. By 2011 Kaylyn enrolled in flight school. Today she is a Helicopter Captain for Liberty Helicopters an ENG Pilot for U.S. Helicopters and the President Owner of A World Above LLC. Her workday begins before she walks into the office. Weather is the first thing Kaylyn checks when she wakes up each morning. Once she arrives at work she is off to find her assignment for the day. She ll then preflight the aircraft and again make sure the conditions are safe for flight. Kaylyn s primary goal is ensuring safe travel for her clients while making the trip as enjoyable as possible. Kaylyn has completed extensive training to reach her position. She holds a Private Commercial and Commercial Flight Instructors License from Independent Helicopters an Instrument Rating from Platinum Helicopters a USPA Class C License from Skydive the Ranch in the process of completing her ATP and a NYS Casualty and Life Insurance License. She is a member of Whirly Girls International which inspires and supports young women entering into the aviation industry. Additionally Kaylyn is an active member of The Eastern Region Helicopter Council and participates in local community events such as touch a truck summer camps career days and has spoken to groups such as Tuskegee airmen and Girl Scouts. She encourages aspiring pilots to remain consistent and diligent to succeed in the industry. Almost every aspect of my career is amazing and breathtaking. When I first started flying I became a flight instructor and there was nothing more fun than teaching someone how to fly. Seeing someone sit in a helicopter for their first time and watching their reaction to lifting the first few feet off the ground is truly one of my favorite things. Now I fly people around New York City and I literally have the sky as my office. I have the best office view anyone could ask for. We all have days where we get bored and a job becomes just a job but when that happens I look out of my office window and realize a million people would kill to have this view. There is nothing like watching the sunrise and sunset from the sky. It is truly amazing and I would never want to give that up. Go for it and don t stop until you re finished It is a hard and an expensive career to get into leading most to become discouraged quickly. The largest mistake I see made is inconsistency in training. There are a lot of students who fly a few hours a month and others who fly 20 hours run out of money and take a break to save back up. Neither of them is conducive in getting a license. Flying consistently with a good instructor is the key to progressing along with time patience and unfortunately money. In her spare time Kaylyn enjoys spending as much time outside as possible. She recently bought a new dog Mako with her significant other Elian. Kaylyn is rich in family and calls her parents and brother her greatest support system. She recently became an aunt and said her family has been more important than ever. 17 Women of Distinction Q&A Q How long does it take someone to become a pilot A I tell people it could be as quick as a few weeks to as long as a few years depending on how much time you put aside and dedicate to it. There are written exams as well as minimum flight times that have to be met as well as a full understanding of rules regulations and working parts. Q There aren t many helicopter jobs out there right A Helicopters do a lot of things much more than people realize in our society. To list a few EMS flights tours charters Firefighting Border Patrol Power line work HeliSkiing Military and so many more. Q Is flying a Helicopter dangerous A It s no more dangerous than getting into your car or an airplane. You are actually less likely to have an incident while flying than driving your car down the street. Q How many tours do you do a day A Ha This question always makes me laugh because there is never a good answer. Some days the company moves 400 passengers others 700 passengers. Some days I fly tours other days I fly strictly charter and most days a mix of both. Summer months are Liberty Helicopters busiest months for both tours and charter. Q Why do you feel that your business is relevant in today s world A There are so many different avenues in the helicopter industry you could say they are the all terrain vehicles in the aviation industry. In the event of a natural disaster medical disaster a need for point A to B transportation they are always readily available. A lot of people will complain about the noise helicopters cause on a daily basis and actually fight to try and get the industry shutdown. Though when someone needs a helicopter in the event of an emergency no one complains about the noise when a life is saved. Q Are there many female helicopter pilots A There are about 593 499 total active licensed FAA pilots as of Dec 31 2015. Now out of the 593 499 only 33 292 (22 016 commercial) are rated to fly helicopters (both male and female). There are only 39 322 female pilots and out of that only 6 685 actually hold a FAA Commercial Licenses including both airplane and helicopter. I don t have the actual numbers for only female helicopter pilots but I ve been told it s less than 1% out of the whole aviation industry. 18 Women of Distinction Margie A. Buster Nonprofit Arbor President of Redland Tropical Gardens and Botanical Foundation Inc. Homestead FL I Change is often a slow process and I have never lost my initial passion to connect people with plants of the Tropical Tip of South Florida. n 1994 with the mentoring of her Arborist friend Margie obtained her International Society of Arborists certification and she was one of the first of two women to become certified. With her certification and many years of working in the floriculture industry Margie then became eligible to work as a professional arborist. My passion is and has always been for trees and plants I have been fortunate to live in this tropical environment. I consider myself extremely Blessed. Now as the President of Redland Tropical Gardens and Botanical Foundation Inc. Margie s duties include Chairing the Board of Directors meetings overseeing financial decisions mentoring tour guides teaching organic kitchen garden classes and assisting in training that take place in the gardens and for street tree planting in neighborhoods. My gardening friends are forever friends. To all of my friends who have given plants to our garden and all of those who donated plants from their nurseries and tree farms for the improvements on many occasions to help our surrounding communities my deepest thanks will never be enough. Whenever she can Margie volunteers for Tree and Garden plantings in Historic Locations as well as many other locations which are too numerous to list. Over the course of 30 years Margie has sat on many planning committees for county cities public places and privately owned gardens to advocate for a plethora of green causes. You should never stop learning about the living world around you never give up. Our planet is endangered and there is much we can do to help it survive. After Hurricane Andrew in 1992 Margie remembers how the South Florida area looked like a bomb went off. The vegetation was burned there were no leaves and the trees had black trunks. For Margie and others it appeared that all was lost. Slowly but surely we rebuilt our homes and businesses our entire lives changed forever. I chose to have my life change for the better with our personal five-acre sustainable garden and eventually started Redland Tropical Gardens and Botanical Foundation Inc. All in all Margie knows that working and learning all of the time can pay off in many ways. At the end of the day Margie wishes to leave a legacy of green life in South Miami Dade County and its surrounding communities. Everything in life is a continuous cycle of challenges and adventures. I never consider myself successful because my work is a neverending story. My legacy will be the trees that I have planted protected and introduced to others that will live on for decades. Throughout her personal life and professional career Margie has had several people that serve as inspirations to her. First Margie knows her parents were an inspiration to her integrity and honesty always encouraged her to continue the habit of being an information seeker. Margie s husband is perhaps her greatest supporter and mentors her on many levels of production as a professional in Horticulture. Lupe Hernandez Margie s friend and a master gardener has been helping Margie with her own garden as well as the Redland Tropical Gardens since their inception. And finally Margie s late business partner Ellie Cordsmeyer who upon her early demise willed to Margie several of her favorite plants tons of plant books notebooks and so many great memories all of which carry Ellie s life story.19 Women of Distinction Mary Terzian Media News Publishing Writing Author Freelance Writer Blogger Public Speaker Hacienda Heights CA Born in Egypt Mary developed a passion for reading as a child thanks to her mother s close supervision of her education in Armenian her mother tongue. She began writing poetry in Armenian as a teenager eventually adopting English in high school. Ten years after her graduation Mary wrote My First Chicken after cooking it in a tea kettle in a bachelor s hotel room in Lahore Pakistan where she was attending a seminar. Her first published witty article kickstarted her career as a writer. Terzian worked with the United Nations in Egypt Congo and Togo. After an extensive vacation across three continents she opted to move to New York. While awaiting her American visa in Beirut she followed English and Psychology courses at Haigazian College then Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York. Mary received a B.Sc. in Business Administration Management in 1977 from Cal State University Los Angeles. After retirement she followed Writers Digest magazine s nonfiction course attended sessions at Santa Monica College Emeritus and UCLA the latter on a PEN scholarship in 2011. A s a writer for most of her existence Mary Terzian loves to express her passion for the craft and share life experiences through stories and poetry. Her first book The Immigrants Daughter won a Best Books 2006 award plus others. Mary s second book Politically Homeless published in July 2015 saw her gain even more recognition and landed her two interviews one being with PLV Radio. Her books are available at and other digital venues or could be ordered through regular bookstores. I am a low extrovert she says. Nobody could believe that a quiet girl like me could change into an intrepid traveler crossing three continents and visiting eighteen countries before landing in New York. I was intent on acquiring college education at all costs and on achieving my dreams despite all roadblocks. Nowadays I like keeping the phantom reader breathing down my neck. In her leisure time Mary enjoys cooking reading traveling researching information on the internet and spending time with her friends and loved ones. She is a member of a critique group called the Writers Club of Whittier and has a personal critique group with a circle of her own writer friends. As improbable as it appeared I realized my dreams Terzian says. One of my teachers in high school taught us the maxim I can and I will. She promoted the idea of living with faith hope and dignity pursuing our dreams relentlessly but with wisdom never losing self-respect no matter what others said per the Bible treating others as we would like them to treat us and using our failures as opportunities. My lifetime experience stands witness to the fact that The future belongs to those who believe in the power of their dreams. Writing is my passion but it remained a sideline she says. I had to earn a decent living first. My career as internal auditor interfered with my calling. Creative writing ran counter to logical and factual work. Early retirement in 1994 liberated me. Mary is an ESL writer with knowledge of the French English and Armenian languages. She has written several articles in Armenian and English which have been published online and in respective newspapers. 20 Women of Distinction Melissa Alexander Wholesaler Grower Territory Manager Bell Nursery LLC MD M to her success as a Territory Manager for Bell Nursery LLC. elissa Alexander has faith in the phrase the grass is greener where you water it. Her positive attitude and go-getter mentality have greatly contributed After spending 10 years working for British Airways the largest airline in the UK Melissa migrated to the United States where she was presented with tremendous opportunity. In the spring of 2013 a friend asked her hypothetically if money was no option what her chosen profession would be - her response being anything plant related. As a Territory Manager Melissa now oversees a dedicated team of world-class merchandisers based on site in the garden centers at the Home Depots in Northern Delaware. Recently her territory has expanded to Southern Delaware and two more stores in Maryland Her main priority is to ensure that a healthy partnership exists between The Home Depot and Bell Nursery. The Home Depot is her company s only client so the relationship is pivotal to their success. Melissa explains It is truly a rewarding environment in which to work. Our goals are the same success. She finds every day to be a joy in some way due to the continuous potential for her to grow and develop both personally and professionally. She describes her colleagues as some of the strongest and most insightful people she has ever met and feels that the company is one of the most innovative she has encountered. Peak season is referred to as wonderful madness as it is the happiest time as well as the most exhausting. The company receives product by the truckload selling before they can even get it onto a table Regardless of the fact that Melissa and her clients are forced to battle fatigue and frustration due to a sometimes 70-hour physically demanding work-week they strive to do the best they can. According to Melissa the timing of her career change was purposeful. I ve grown more in the last three years than I have in the last 10. She states. Although her success has come with its set of trials and tribulations it has only made Melissa stronger yielding humility patience and a heightened sense of self-awareness. Her greatest challenge thus far has interestingly enough been cultural. Everything is different here She exclaims. The circumstances of her migration were not planned over time it was more of a leap of faith. After establishing herself in a new country she is confident when reflecting on her journey realizing that it has led her to where she is today. Melissa Alexander made a choice to be a woman who draws on her strengths convictions and her faith to continue to work on herself. Her decision to come to America does not define her but has certainly contributed to who she is. She has two children one being her 9 year old Woman of Distinction in training whom she teaches that it is one s own choices that show who they truly are far more than one s abilities. 21 Women of Distinction Nina A. Rossi Funeral Industry Owner Know Before You Go Inc. (KBYG) East Meadow NY W ith experience in both the private and corporate funeral industry Licensed Funeral Director Nina A. Rossi believes final arrangements should be a celebration in honor of a life once lived. Deciding to leave the corporate funeral business behind in 2015 she founded Know Before You Go Inc. (KBYG) in East Meadow New York. The unique funeral consultation service offers education guidance and support for before during and after one of life s most difficult periods -- the death of a loved one. With a sincere desire to help people Nina uses her knowledge and expertise to making the funeral planning process a more comfortable and personalized experience. Funeral Home Structure was and is a huge challenge for me for two reasons. At first I didn t know who I was as a funeral director because I was still learning so every task was with hidden confidence. As I grew into my career so did my very brightly colored hair and personality. Now even though I dialed down my hair color I dialed up my passions and my awareness. I realized that I didn t fit into the funeral home setting because I learned that the two most important times surrounding a funeral are BEFORE AND AFTER. My goal for KBYG Inc. is to provide services that enhances the funeral process. Focusing on what I perceive as missing. Funeral homes lack the time to focus on planning ahead or the time after the services are over because that isn t what they are designed for. Having a strong background in psychology I know that just walking into a funeral home arrests emotions and stirs up feelings associated with death. Unfortunately this happens to all of us naturally whether we want it to or not. This is because funeral homes are designed for death just as hospitals are designed for the sick To me that does not sound the least bit comforting. Which is why I did not open a funeral home. Kind of like a wedding planner she doesn t take you to church to plan she brings you to church to carry out your plans. Nina is a N.Y.S. Licensed Funeral Director CPT and CET. Her creative passions have also inspired her to design irreplaceable handcrafted memorial merchandise -- such as urns and keepsakes-- to help celebrate the memory of loved ones. Her services and merchandise are also available for family pets. As the owner I wear many hats daily. From accountant and businesswoman by day to artist sculptor by night. Each day I bring in new client families through networking speaking at seminars and of course from our great family referrals. Most importantly though I provide a resource for essential knowledge that everyone needs in a way that promotes comfort and support before rather than emotional numbness and tension at a time of loss or grief. Nina is a proud member of the National Association of Professional Women (NAPW) Women of Distinction The Continental Who s Who and The World Wide Who s Who Organization. She is also a supporting member and donor to the ASPCA North Shore Animal League and the NY Bully Crew Additionally Nina is a member of the American Legion and a supporting member of paralyzed Vets of America as well as a volunteer at St. Albans VA hospital. I m just hoping that I became a positive influence to all those I encounter. 22 Women of Distinction Q&A Q What does a consultation consist of A Our consultations are built around the needs and inquiries of each client respectively. Everyone we encounter is different and unique and so is the content of the consultations we provide. Most commonly are estimates for funeral services information on veteran s benefits and Medicaid. Although these are important to know about our passion is to honor the client and what is important to them. Q Is KBYG directly associated with other local funeral homes A No. Simply because we go where you tell us to. We do not sway or direct families to any vet or funeral home because that would be doing a disservice to anyone we helped. We gain nothing from provided families with what we want or false information. We are here to educate guide support and provide for those who come to us. We are your personalized service providers. We do all that is necessary in difficult situation so you don t have to. Q Does KBYG replace the services of a funeral home A No. We want to enhance the funeral experience not take away from it. We can only replace a service if the service already exists. You won t find the kind of services we provide at your local funeral home we ve looked. While we are licensed funeral professionals capable of providing all funeral services our objective is to remove the funeral home from the reflection and planning process. However we do plan to include within our services the ability to finance through us and then utilize it any funeral home thereafter. Q Will a KBYG director go with families to their local funeral home if needed A Yes. At any time we are asked to accompany a family to a funeral home or cemetery we will do so. This allows us to take the stress off of families by being their voice at a time when it may be difficult to think and speak clearly. Everything we planned prior to will be brought to them recorded and completed. The only thing you may want to bring is a pen. We take care of the rest. Should you forget your pen we have one for you too. Q What makes using KBYG before and after the funeral home so significant A We are providing families with the support guidance and knowledge needed for these two very important phases surrounding death. They also happen to be the two areas that the funeral homes are not dedicated to spending all of their time on. If they did that they wouldn t be a funeral home they d be us. Q What services do you provide for pets A To start we provide what the local veterinarians don t which is transportation of deceased animals from the home to the vet s office. Most often in a situation when the owner doesn t own a vehicle and doesn t have the means to get there they are stuck with a taxi service. Needless to say the driver doesn t always know that there is an animal in their arms. 23 Women of Distinction Randi D. Ward Retired Educator Author Entrepreneur High School English Author Lawrenceville GA 24 Women of Distinction R etired Language Arts teacher Randi D. Ward has 37 years experience in the field of education and is a talented published author. Mrs. Ward graduated at the top of her high school class and with honors both at her undergraduate and graduate levels at her university. With a Bachelors of Arts in Language Arts Mrs. Ward earned a Master s degree from Marshall University in West Virginia and began her lustrous teaching career educating students grades 7 thru 12 in both rural and inner city schools in the areas of grammar literature creative writing essay writing research writing journalism pubic speaking and drama. Mrs. Ward has contributed significantly to her field helping pioneer the formation of the Gifted Program in West Virginia. Additionally in the 1970s she assisted her alma mater Marshall University in creating the Masters Education Program courses for the teachers of TAG (Talented and Gifted). A world traveler and lover of all cultures from November 2011 until February 2012 Mrs. Ward taught English as a Second Language to young adults in Cairo Egypt. The experience led her and her two Egyptian business partners to open an English and German language school called Rise Up in late 2012. Sadly it had to close due to the unstable political situation in Egypt. She was also a former partner and educational instructor and coordinator of 6 October English Institute in Egypt with her partner Samar Farouk. Throughout her teaching professional career Mrs. Ward has motivated thousands of students and has always encouraged them to believe in themselves and to try to do their very best to achieve their dreams. Believe Don t dream big dream bigger The sky is the limit so reach for the stars is her life philosophy. When she returned from Cairo Mrs. Ward embarked on her second career as a professional author. In the spring of 2012 she wrote her first book--a memoir about living and surviving as a teacher during Egypt s political revolution entitled Because I Believed in Me (My Egyptian Fantasy Came True). Shortly after she founded her business as an author in December 2012. She currently has four more books in the works which will be sent to the publisher in 2016. As of today Mrs. Ward has created 36 YouTube videos which can be viewed under the channel name Randi Ward. The videos highlight her photographs poetry current humanitarian projects -- and much more. She is an honorary president and advocate of World Peace Forest (Africa) and the USA Regional Director for Africa Nomads Conservation. She has also written more than 140 inspirational and educational blogs on her book website created by her publisher Author House for her book This website also includes links to the eight USA national radio interviews she has done to teach the truth about Egypt after her experiences of living there during part of Egypt s revolution and of interacting with her many Egyptian friends and students as well as articles written about her in two Egyptian newspapers and two magazines. Mrs. Ward was named Entrepreneur of the Year 2014 in the Education Industry by Worldwide Who s Who and was profiled in the month of March in the 2015 Worldwide Branding Calendar. In 2015 she was honored as this organization s Humanitarian of the Year and as a Top Female Executive. Her other awards and credentials include the following National Association of Professional Women (NAPW) where she was named 2014-15 VIP Woman of the Year an elite member and 2015 Delegate of the International Women s Leadership Association (IWLA) and was highlighted in its May June 2016 Inspirational Woman Magazine a 2014 Pinnacle Professional Member of Continental Who s Who an elite member of Strathmore Worldwide Who s Who where she will be featured on a full page profile in its next book and 2015 Professional of the Year with International Association of Who s Who. My love for challenging the minds of young people and watching them grow up into responsible educated adults kept me in my career for 37 years. 25 Women of Distinction Q&A Q Why do you enjoy your career as a writer A Writing allows me to motivate to teach life lessons and to share my ideas. It gives me another platform from which to be an educator since I am retired from the classroom. Q What are your preferred genres for writing A I love to write all kinds--memoirs novels adult level and children level short stories poetry blogs essays for magazines and song lyrics. My next challenge will be to write a drama. Q Where or how do you get ideas or topics about which to write A I am inspired by current events naturally. Many of my blogs and poems deal with problems or situations occurring in our world. I try to provide some helpful advice or solutions. All of my life I have been a big dreamer and a hard worker. Thus most of my fictional stories are generally about people overcoming obstacles to achieve their dreams. Our world is very troubled in so many ways now so I try to teach positive life lessons and provide hope and motivation for my readers with my happy endings. We need more happy endings these days. Q Do you do any research for your books blogs etc. A I do intensive research if a topic or subject is not familiar to me. For example my new novel Random Wanderings takes place in many cities throughout the world so I researched them so the plot would seem totally realistic. Q Have you inspired others to write A Yes many of my former students have begun to write poetry blogs and even books because I have encouraged them. Many of them have shared their work for me to edit and give advice for improvement. This of course delights me since I am a lover of the written word. Q What do you consider to be your finest achievements so far A Professionally I am extremely proud of my successful 37 years in the field of education. Being an effective teacher was always of the utmost importance to me so I worked diligently to provide the best classroom education possible. I also kept high expectation for my students and made them work to their capacity and beyond when I could. Having played a role in the lives of these young people and having been able to shape their minds has brought me much joy and self-satisfaction. I am still in contact with many of my former students and am privileged to watch them grow and achieve their goals. Secondly writing professionally was always a dream of mine. That dream is now being achieved. I will continue to find ways to share my words and ideas. I have received quite a nice number of special awards for my hard work. I always feel humbled and honored for this recognition. Third on a personal level raising my son Mark with high morals great family values excellent work ethics and love and respect for his fellow man is the ultimate aspiration of every parent. My 44-year marriage to my husband Bill the love of my life has enabled me to maintain the happiness and stability necessary in my life. Finally over the years I have overcome some serious physical problems that amazed my doctors. I am proud I have always been able to find the mental physical and emotional strength needed to overcome these obstacles. Life is a precious gift. I never take one second of it for granted. 26 Women of Distinction Rita M. Page M.Ed. Education Educator Owner Summit Tutoring Center Mansfield TX F My childhood was very traumatic. I grew up in absolute poverty. I was the only daughter of a single mother of 4. My mother was only able to achieve a 6th grade education and only had the credentials to clean houses. The very people my mother left me with for protection while she worked were the ones who allowed tragedy to enter my life at a very early age incidents that would have a negative effect on me for years to come. Even so I decided to become a victor instead of a victim. When I was old enough to start school I focused on becoming the first person in my extended family to graduate from high school and college. or nearly thirty years Rita M. Page spent the majority of her career with the Southwestern Bell Corporation. In 1972 Rita started as an Accounting Clerk then was moved to the Business Marketing Department and was finally appointed to a management position in Operator Services where she managed forty operators to ensure everyone met their quotas. In 1997 Southwestern Bell relocated Rita and her family to Arlington Texas where she was appointed to Area Manager Business Services. However in 2000 Rita decided to take an Enhanced Early Management Retirement Package at the age of 49. Having already earned her Bachelor s Degree in Business Administration Rita went back to school and earned her Teacher s Certification in Business and began her teaching career. While teaching Rita enrolled in Tarleton State University and earned a Master s Degree in Education after attending night school and Saturday classes. She retired in 2011 to begin a new venture her tutoring business. I am a firm believer that knowledge is power. I feel that a person s entire life should be spent learning new things. Although my status is twice retired from two careers I am anything but retired I am always busy. I believe that we should read our Bibles daily to learn about Jesus and what He did to make us free. To learn about perfect love and why it is the only way to be truly happy and do things that make us grow intellectually throughout life s journey. I choose to celebrate life. One of Rita s greatest joys is when she knows that her students have learned the subject they ve been taught. Rita s company is open to everyone not just students but adults as well. I would like for everyone in the world to treat each other with respect and with the kind of love that God loves us with. I would love to be the person who gets everyone in the world to never hurt others with words or deeds. It would be an awesome legacy to be the person credited for successfully convincing everyone to pass love forward. After receiving Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord my prayers were answered to the point of getting me where I am today. Just because a person s life starts out looking bleak and dark it s up to that person to ensure it doesn t end that way. Planning what you re going to do with your life and then taking whatever steps to make those plans manifest will indeed be the success of your journey. 27 Women of Distinction Saudi Sophia Burton Thoroughbred Horse Racing & Trainer Elmont NY G rowing up in Brooklyn near the famed Belmont Park Race Track Saudi Sophia Burton fell in love with horses at an early age. Determined to succeed in the competitive field of Thoroughbred Horse Racing Saudi got her start as a Thoroughbred Horse Trainer with help from one of the industry s greatest contributors H. Allen Jerkens a Hall of Fame trainer. In 1989 Saudi asked Mr. Jerkens for a job where she learned everything she could about horses and racing. Today Saudi is a successful trainer of her own merit working with horses to ensure they receive the best of care in order to develop the fitness required to compete at the highest level of the game. I am a dedicated hard working horse woman who knows her job an need the opportunity to show my skills and my work will speak for itself. The biggest lesson I ve learned is to be true to oneself others and one s profession. Saudi encourages aspiring trainers to show strength in the face of adversity and professional challenges. My best advice would be to work hard be honest and never give up. In addition to being a Thoroughbred Horse Trainer Saudi is a dedicated part time teacher s assistant. She holds a C.N.A certification and a CDL license. In her free time she enjoys doing volunteer work for the elderly. I love horses. Horses are in my blood. That is what kept me in my career so long. Along with passion prayer and perseverance. Hall of fame trainer Allen Jerkins was best horse trainer in the racing business and a great human being. Saudi earned her Horse Training License in 2005 and has since gone on to gallop champion racehorses such as Kelly Kipp Lady Affirm Classy Mirage and Sky Beauty -- to name a few. Her lustrous career was not obtained without struggle. Being a female of color in a male dominated industry was a challenge Saudi admits. My legacy to the world would be to have honor love and respect for all regardless of race creed or status in life. Everyone deserves a fair opportunity to be a part of something they believe in and love that s greater than them selves and transcends. 28 Women of Distinction Q&A Q. How many women trainers are training thoroughbred racehorses A. There are a handful of women trainers. There are more women jockeys then women horse trainers. Slowly more women are coming into thoroughbred horse racing. There are a lot of women exercise riders lots of women hot walkers and groomers. Lots of assistant trainers but when it come to the top job as a trainer the women are few and far between. Q. Do a horse trainer has to have a license A. Yes a thoroughbred horse trainer must have a license. You have to pass a written test also a barn test. You have to have 100 percent plus knowledge about the horse. Work under a senior trainer for five years. Be patient be willing to work all hours 7 days a week. Love the horse 100 percent of the time -- eat sleep breath horses .Be dedicated to the horses. Love and respect your horse. You will be greatly rewarded. Q. What are the duties of a horse trainer A. The duties are to love protect and help bring out the best performance of the horse. Get to know the horses likes and dislikes as it pertains to temperament and diet. Know when they are happy or sad. You have to know all the above about the racehorse. Plus learn about breeding. Once you know these things about your horse the horse will be happy and so will you. Q. Where do you see yourself in five years form now A. Training for his highness sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid al Maktoum ruler of Dubai also winning the Kentucky derby. Q. Who is your favorite horse trainer A. H. Allen Jerkens. Q. How long have you been around horses A. 30-years and counting. Q. You seem to have an incredible relationship with horses A. From the time when I was a little girl I always like horses. I read and studied everything about them. I talk with them play with them eat with the horses -- I just love them Q. Why do you feel that your business is relevant in today s world A. Horse racing brings people together. The horses relieve stress and tension. Horses also make people happy after a long week of work. Q. Who are better horse trainer s women are men A. It depends on the individual. Everyone trains his or her own way. 29 Women of Distinction fter giving birth to twins in 2007 one of Schaneick Thomas s sons was diagnosed with Ventricular Septal Defect. Soon after she was informed that they were both experiencing developmental delays. As time went on she not only began to feel overwhelmed but also very alone among her peers. Desperate to find support from other parents experiencing the same struggles her plea often went unheard. Leaving her 14-year career in commercial insurance underwriting behind her Schaneick went back to college to pursue an MS in Curriculum and Instruction. Dedicating her time to learning everything she could in order to parent and educate her boys effectively she was very hands on taking a proactive role in how and what school would best equip to teach them. Graduating in 2010 Schaneick accepted an entry level position at her sons elementary school in 2014 to better grasp special education and evidence-based strategies. A year later she was ready to pay it forward with the knowledge and experience she gained in the classroom. A Schaneick Thomas Education Founder Chief Executive Officer ManyBabies NYC Inc. Richmond Hill NY I wanted to help other parents who were experiencing what I went through with my children Schaneick said who officially launched ManyBabies NYC Inc. as CEO in 2015. Based in Queens Schaneick performs outreach services to forge partnerships with local business schools government agencies and city politicians alerting them of her no-cost services coordinates monthly parent support group meetings develops and hosts workshops and fundraising events to engage community support performs on-site presentations and serves as a vendor for various community events to spread the word. Q&A Q What services does ManyBabies NYC Inc. offer to the community A We provide parent education on the disability laws the special education process and procedural safeguards on the rights of parents and students enrolled in NYC schools hold family and community support groups and offer a clinic providing personalized advocacy services to families. Q Are your services limited to your local community A Families from any of the surrounding boroughs are welcome but we ve received calls from families as far as Georgia and Florida seeking help. The federal law remains the same regardless of who governs the schools. Q How have you helped families A We ve helped everyone from a mother whose son s paraprofessional was abruptly reassigned to another student without written or verbal notice to a parent whose child s school was unable to provide services mandated in the IEP. I have children who push me beyond my limits she noted. They ve showed me the value of life beyond diagnosis and I hope to share that message with others. If educated properly parents can absolutely refine what a normal life looks like for themselves and their loved ones with special needs. Currently working toward her second master s degree in special education Schaneick maintains a partnership with United We Stand of New York a parent advocacy organization and is affiliated with East Brooklyn Congregations helping organize and gather data for town hall meetings on various educational issues. Schaneick s boys are now eight-years-old and are happy and healthy as can be. 30 Women of Distinction Sharon Bixler Healthcare Long-Term Post Acute Care Director of Operations - Wilmac Corporation York PA A s Director of Operations at Wilmac Corporation Sharon Bixler is dedicated to serving the elderly to the best of her ability. Caring for the elderly is my passion. They need someone to hear them to be their advocate. As I ve gotten promotions and ended up in a business leader position I ve become removed from doing the hands on care which brought me to this profession. When I question my choices I go out and visit the residents. Spending time with them reminds me why I do what I do every day. It also reminds me that in my current position I make an impact on a much larger scale. Sharon began her career in the healthcare field as a teenager first becoming a nursing assistant in a local nursing home. During this time she realized she had a passion for the psychological aspect of caring for the elderly and started pursuing a career in psychology and social work. In 1992 she landed her first job as a social worker in a nursing home and since then has worked her way up the corporate ladder. Since 2008 she has been the Director of Operations at Wilmac Corporation. On what advice she would give to new people entering the field Bixler states This is not just a job If you re going to work in this field make sure you have a passion for it and compassion for the residents and staff. You will need to care as much about your staff and support them as much as you do the residents it s a fact. It is hard work. Always operate with integrity provide good quality of care and focus on customer service to all those you serve. Give credit where credit is due at all times. Sharon received a BA in Social Work and Welfare from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania in 1990. She earned accreditation from the Academy of Certified Baccalaureate Social Workers with the National Association of Social Workers in 1995 received her Personal Care Administrator License in the State of Pennsylvania in 1996 and became a Nursing Home Administrator in the State of Pennsylvania in 1999. In 2010 Sharon became a Certified Nursing Home Administrator and Fellow at the American College of Health Care Administrators. In her leisure Sharon enjoys gardening canning hiking arts and crafts watching football and spending time with her loved ones. As the director of operations Sharon s role is to provide leadership and oversight to administrators in four skilled nursing facilities two personal care facilities and two independent living communities. Her specific tasks include program development capital planning budget preparation policy development and implementation regulatory assistance and oversight and basic operations support. One of Sharon s most important responsibilities is staying up to date with the rapidly changing regulations and reimbursement system and disseminating that information to the administrators with 31 guidance and policy to meet the changes. I strive to be the best at what I do. I m honest hardworking and I truly care about the people I serve and have a great appreciation for all of the staff who take care of the basic health care needs of our residents every day. I want my legacy to show that I made a positive impact on my profession and those that I have worked for and with. Women of Distinction Stephanie A. Williford B Education and Training in Healthcare Chief Executive Officer EB Medicine Norcross GA elieve it or not Stephanie A. Williford held the title of Director of Member Services at EB Medicine at just 15-years-old thanks to her dad. Handling customer service fulfillment and data entry she quickly took on more responsibility advancing into marketing and other areas of the business. By 2007 her father had promoted her to President and Publisher so he could take a step back from the daily routine and a year later Stephanie s sister came on board to run the marketing department. Hitting 1 million in revenue for the first time that same year the business continues to grow steadily. Becoming CEO in 2012 shortly before her dad passed away Stephanie continues to run the 15-year long legacy. My dad taught me everything he knew and gave me the freedom to do it Stephanie said smiling. Most importantly he taught me that if customers can t walk away after having read our content and do something with it then we haven t done our job. EB Medicine is a premier publisher of cutting-edge evidencebased content whose authors peer reviewers and editorial board is made up of practicing physicians from leading institutions all over the world. EB Medicine s print online audio and video resources cover a variety of topics like diagnosis and treatment strategies for emergency clinicians tips for minimizing medicolegal risk and high-impact clinical algorithms. They aim to provide the highest level of quality medical education with the goal of improving patient outcomes enhancing efficiency and elevating quality of care. An approved provider of CME by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education EB Medicine sets itself apart as a leading educational provider for clinicians. Q&A Q What is your company doing next A We ve just launched a new blended learning program that is focused on helping reduce the number of medical errors and malpractice claims caused by misdiagnosis or mistreatment. It s called ED CLEAR Emergency Department Clinical Learning To Eliminate Avoidable Risk. We ve worked closely with one of the largest emergency medicine group practices in the country to develop this resource and we re using the best available science and evidence to support it. Q What are you most excited about in your industry company A I m excited about leading the transformation that will take our company to the next level and make what we do even more valuable to our customers. I once would have described EB Medicine as a publishing company but we ve emerged as an education and training service as we ve found our niche. Q What is the single-most successful thing that your company is doing right now A We continue building on the bedrock of our original products by expanding our product line adding new formats and delivery channels and going digital and mobile. I remember one of our customers calling us a few years back after reading one of our articles to let us know that a patient was still alive because of what he read Stephanie recalled. That s pretty powerful. As Chair of the Specialized Information Publishers Association s local chapter Stephanie plans quarterly networking events serves on the board and is a coordinator and speaker at their annual conference. She holds a BSBA Summa Cum Laude from Georgia State University. 32 Women of Distinction Susan Hordych Candy Chocolate Owner - Suzi s Sweet Shoppe Middletown NJ T hrough her work as an Owner of Suzi s Sweet Shoppe Susan Hordych is dedicated to serving her customers to the best of her ability by providing with all of their candy and chocolate needs. When you are passionate about what you do the quality of the products you are creating is second to none. At Suzi s Sweet Shoppe we are passionate about what we do. My love of chocolate and desire to continue to be creative with my chocolate designs and products has continued that passion throughout my career. Susan s career in the candy industry began when she worked in a candy store as a teenager and fell in love with making chocolate. In 1998 Susan and her husband Stan who also has a passion for making chocolate opened Suzi s Sweet Shoppe. As an owner of the business Susan manages the business participates in daily operations including making the chocolate and candy for stock and custom order purchasing supplies and handling vendor relations sales and marketing and planning and attending various community and industry events. My advice for someone starting out in the industry would be to work in a retail candy store and learn about the business. Absorb everything you can about candy making and about running a successful business before starting out on your own. Always attend industry training and certifications to continue learning about products that will keep your customers coming back for more. Do what you are passionate about and you will love what you do. Always trust your instincts as they will not steer you wrong. As a certified Gift Designer Susan continually attends gift basket and candy conventions around the country for inspiration new ideas and to further her education in the industry. She is very active within her community participating in several charitable events throughout the year for organizations including March of Dimes Autism Speaks Michaels Feat Ronald McDonald House Red Bank Rotary Group and Bayshore Community Hospital. She s also a member of the Gift Basket Association Gift Basket Professionals Greater Monmouth Chamber of Commerce and Eastern Monmouth Chamber of Commerce. In her leisure Susan enjoys traveling and spending time with her family including her husband children and grandchildren. She participated in and co-authored the book Journey to Joy. Not only do we have the retail store and online point of purchase website but we also specialize in wedding and party favors and dessert platters as well as event favors and gift giving for corporate customers. I would like to leave this world a sweeter place 33 Women of Distinction Q&A Q What kind of recognition have you and Suzi s Sweet Shoppe received during your years in business A In addition to winning numerous awards locally for our chocolate and candy including the Best of Monmouth six years in a row and Best Gift Baskets in 2011 by the Asbury Park Press readers Suzi s Sweet Shoppe has also been featured nationally on ABC News 7 for National Peanut Butter Fudge Day. In 2014 Suzi s Sweet Shoppe was a nominee for Martha Stewart s American Made program and currently has a profile on the website. Q How do you stay on top of new trends and technologies to market your business A I recently launched a Suzi s Sweet Shoppe App for smartphones and tablets in an effort to look toward the future of marketing. Reaching out to my customer base and continually improving my ability to foresee their needs is important we re always on the forefront of new marketing and business development techniques. Q What s the best business advice you have ever received A Find what sets you apart from other candy stores. We pride ourselves on our customer service and the ability to make that custom product our customers want while supplying it in a time frame other stores cannot. Q What personality trait helps you the most A Understanding what a customer s needs are and suggesting several products that fit their needs and budget. Q What s the hardest part of the job A Coordinating the production of all products as the major holidays run in succession. Thanksgiving Christmas Valentine s Day and Easter. Q What s the easiest part of your job A Accepting compliments from a customer for a job well done. Q What s your least expensive product or service A Chocolate lollipops that we keep in stock particularly for when children come in and want to buy pay for their own treat. Q What is the most expensive products you offer A Large gift baskets and custom items that require custom molds. Q Describe your most unusual customer job or work experience. A One time a woman came into the shop on a Saturday morning absolutely frantic. She had ordered Sweet 16 favors from a well-known candy store that is in our area and was to pick them up that morning. The problem was the store did not have them ready as they get all the special orders shipped to them and they never arrived. Barely able to speak she asked if she could get 150 favors of some type by that afternoon. I suggested several choices and she made her selection. I told her to come back in 2 hours and they would be ready. My husband and son got to work on the order as soon as she left and the favors were ready for pickup as promised. Needless to say the woman was overjoyed and has been a loyal customer ever since. Q When you leave the business or retire what will you do A I do not know if I will ever leave the business as both my children play an active part in running Suzi s Sweet Shoppe and I see myself handing over the business to them. But in between my husband and I love to travel and go on cruises. 34 Women of Distinction Tatiana J. Whytelord Legal intellectual property branding and advertising President & Founder Intelligent Brand Extension LLC New York NY P ossessing decades of experience working for prestigious law firms and large international corporations Tatiana J. Whytelord founded Intelligent Brand Extension LLC in 2006. An Intellectual Property Branding and Advertising Law expert Tatiana oversees a highly specialized group of international professionals that excel at helping companies develop and execute strategies to grow their brands. Even before graduating from the University of Montreal with a Juris Doctor Bachelors of Law Tatiana was already making a name for herself within her industry. She started her career in the summer of 1984 as a law school student working for a large export company in Montreal. Her first full-time paid position was in Monte Carlo working as one of the two legal advisors of a multinational corporation with more than 250 subsidiaries around the world active in numerous industries from hospitality to insurance to fisheries and more. We are a very lean and efficient organization Tatiana explained. It is our model and it will always be like this. Our purpose is to provide top-level advice at reasonable cost with maximum efficiency. As President and Founder Tatiana ensures her team consistently delivers for all their clients. She also guides IBE s mission to bring high-level expertise to the smaller players in the market. The ability to help people create things innovate think outside the box and feel like they have achieved their goals and dreams is what keeps me going every day Tatiana said. I also thoroughly enjoy being able to give back by helping those less fortunate understand the value of knowledge. I love seeing the result of our hard work whether on a shelf in a store on TV or simply on my desk. Intellectual Property is a very tangible area of the law which makes it so appealing. I had to become efficient and effective very quickly said Tatiana who is a Harvard University graduate with a Masters of Law in Taxation. Throughout out her 30-year career Tatiana has contributed significantly to her field. She was one of the pioneers of bringing U.S. fast food franchises into Europe including all the legalities that are involved with such an immense undertaking. That included negotiating contracts and leases working with unions and dealing with all the regulatory laws certifications and customs unique to each geographic area. 35 Women of Distinction It was an enormous challenge very complex and the world we dealt with was very much male-dominated she said. I have a reputation for choosing the more challenging path for myself both personally and professionally. I like to set goals that seem unreasonable and unattainable and succeed at them. So for me the most important message is that if you set your mind to something you can do it. Passionate about the advancement of women in the workplace Tatiana is a member of the National Association of Professional Women where she serves as the lead on the Innovation Power Forum and on the organization s Mentoring Committee. The NAPW recently honored her as their 2014-15 VIP Woman of the Year. The award is given to select women who demonstrate outstanding excellence and dedication in their profession. Q&A Q Who or what has been your greatest professional inspiration A My greatest professional inspiration was Perry Mason I became a lawyer because when I was 15 I used to watch that show and think One day I will be just like him and help everyone around me. Q What advice would you offer to someone starting out in your industry A I would tell them to figure out what makes them stand out from the rest of the crowd and leverage it to their advantage and to stay the course because it takes time to understand where one s talents lie. Q. What professional challenges have you faced that have contributed to your overall success A. When I started out the legal industry was highly dominated by men and there was no appetite for innovation. If it had not been for those situations I would not have been able to run a business a multinational team and clients and become passionate about entrepreneurship and women s place in the world of business and law. Q What professional challenges have you faced that have contributed to your overall success A Never ever burn your bridges recognize that you cannot do it all on your own and surround yourself with the best people to complement your skills. It meant so much to me because I have spent three decades giving everything I have to the cause of women advancing in the business world she said. I was proud to show it to my family and my parents especially my father who has been such a mentor. It felt like a culmination to everything I have worked for like I could say Okay I ve done it and if I can do it then so can everyone else if they work hard and never give up. Tatiana is also a dedicated member of the International Trademark Association (INTA) and will be hosting a table topic talk at their Annual Conference on Practicalities of IP Strategies in the Age of Open Source and Shared Content. Additionally Tatiana is a member of National Association of Women Business Owners and an Executive Council member of Elevate within its NYC Chapter. I would like to be remembered as someone who championed the cause of equal opportunities for women Tatiana said. That to me is paramount and I have always fought for it for a better environment for women in the workplace and for a woman s right to be as free and creative as her male counterparts. I would also like to be remembered as someone who was one of the first people to take a chance on the framework of law and showed that it doesn t have to be territorial boring or scary. You can be a practicing attorney in a specific area and be in tune with everything around you while still maintaining an international perspective and having the pulse of the world. 36 Women of Distinction TeSchara Teel Boykin Travel Certified Travel Agent - TeSchara s Travels Jacksonville FL s a Certified Travel Agent with TeSchara s Travels TeSchara Teel Boykin loves enhancing the lives of others through travel and is dedicated to providing her clients with an ultimate travel experience. Direct Sales is an industry like no other. I have the wonderful opportunity to be my own boss make my own hours determine my income and the best part is I can spend as much time as needed with my son Devaen. I take part in allowing people to relieve stress through travel and vacation therefore enhancing and prolonging their lives. TeSchara began her career in Direct Sales in 2013. She quickly found success in the industry starting off with a different company and eventually moved into the travel industry. In 2015 she became a Certified Travel Agent with Xstream Travel. At the moment she is a Certified Travel Agent running her own business TeSchara s Travels through Paycation Plus. The best advice that I can give someone starting out in this industry is to make sure they are doing something they love to do. Have a heart for other people. Be open to hard work and completely changing your mindset of success and the tactics on how to get there. You will have your ups and downs like in any industry. Don t be ashamed to ask questions and don t be too hard on yourself. Also educate yourself in your chosen field. As a Certified Travel Agent TeSchara provides individuals businesses families and nonprofit organizations with the ultimate travel experiences equipping each client with packages tools and instruments needed in order to fulfill the purpose of their travels. TeSchara s mother Betti Teel has been her greatest inspiration. She has climbed the corporate ladder in her company to be one of the top executives. She has also previously been extremely successful in the Industry of Direct Sales. A I am a devout Christian. My Lord and Savior is Jesus Christ and I strive to be more like Him on a daily basis. I believe that the more love you show a person whether you know them or not know their situation or not the better off that person will be while they are in your presence. My favorite scripture is Matthew 6 33. I have to do what the Word of God tells me to do expecting nothing in return from man. I will get my reward from God. Regarding her education TeSchara received a BS in Marketing from Jacksonville University in 2000. In addition to her career she enjoys singing and spending time with her son Devaen friends and family. As a singer TeSchara has released a single entitled Stop and Look and plans on releasing an album in 2017. She is involved in a women s networking group called SHEnergy and is heavily involved in Kingdom Ministry. The legacy I would like to leave the world with is Jesus because He is love. I believe that true genuine love for one another is the answer and the key to a better place. I would like people to know and believe that I operated in love more often than not helping others to grow teaching others what I learn and genuinely being happy for the successes of others. I want to let other women know that if I can make it so can they. 37 Women of Distinction Tonya R. Comer Interior Design (Residential and Commercial) Principal - Tonya Comer Interiors Philadelphia PA 38 Women of Distinction D efying the odds Tonya R. Comer overcame poverty and homelessness to become an award-winning interior designer and business owner. As an African American female Tonya did not allow adversity and discrimination to dictate her future. She earned a Bachelor of Arts from Duquesne University and a Master of Business Administration from Michigan State University s Eli Broad Graduate School of Management. And today as Principal of Tonya Comer Interiors she is the visionary behind the respected boutique interior design firm and one of the country s Top 20 African-American Interior Designers. In 2013 Tonya was exploring ways to grow her business and to build residual income. She had assembled a group of consultants that she calls her mastermind group. In a conversation with them Tonya had a light bulb moment sparking her passion again to become a trailblazer in her field. Each day I get to dream think live and breathe interior design. The beauty isn t that I get to do all of that it s that I had to overcome the odds of being a poor black girl raised by a single parent in a government housing project in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. Prior to founding Tonya Comer Interiors Tonya enjoyed an 11-year-long career in Corporate Management Marketing Advertising and Communications. She discovered her passion for interior design while working as a management consultant for the world s largest office furniture company Steelcase Inc. After taking some calculated risks she validated her interest and ability to be an interior designer and in 2002 she purchased an interior decorating franchise in Maryland. Five years later she moved to Philadelphia where she launched Tonya Comer Interiors a full-service interior design firm. GREATEST GROWTH MOMENT In 2003 after just one year of franchise ownership Tonya entered her first international product design contest. She placed second in the Product Designer of the Year contest for her drapery hardware design. The first place winner got their products developed in their namesake and earned a handsome cash prize. Tonya earned a 250 check and a certificate. She was and still is proud of that accomplishment. In 2006 however Tonya faced yet another hurtle which nearly caused her to suspend her aspirations for designing and manufacturing products. I didn t realize until that moment in conversation with my mastermind group that I had subconsciously given up on my opportunity to create and design products for mass production. The group challenged me to get back on the horse and shortly after that conversation I started sketching products that related to my interests in furniture and architectural design. As the saying goes When you build they will come. It wasn t long before a representative from a tile manufacturer and retailer TileBar approached Tonya with an opportunity to participate in a designer series of tile products. With great celebration Tonya successfully launched her first tile collection. In February 2016 I officially launched my first tile line called the Boulevard Collection with an online company I am proud of this collection. And yes I am fully accredited for my design and my effort. Through the experience Tonya learned three valuable lessons (1) get a think tank mastermind group who will challenge you to think big (2) often times things don t happen in our lives and in our businesses because we stop them from happening either consciously or unconsciously and (3) when the time is right for you the universe will align. PAYING IT FORWARD Tonya s life and career has been full of great learning moments. During a soul-searching effort in which Tonya reflected on her strengths weaknesses and the hard lessons that she learned throughout her life and career she developed a set of principals called 7 Principles for Accomplishment. She has since served on a speakers circuit to share those Principles with other entrepreneurs whether they are interior designers or otherwise. FOLLOWING BREADCRUMBS Tonya is humbled when she reflects on the journey of her life and career and she accredits breadcrumbs for guiding her footsteps. One day I was flipping through a major shelter magazine and saw my drapery hardware design being sold to the general public and there was no accreditation for me. In that moment I heard the voice in my head say You are too small to survive the big beast called product design. And as a result I subconsciously suppressed all of my creativity around new product design. I felt powerless. I see now that that voice is the little girl from the projects -- that s the voice in my head that desires to keep me from thinking and acting big. My life and career journey included following breadcrumbs on a path that seemed to preclude even my own aspiration. These breadcrumbs guided my steps from one place to the next... from one opportunity to another... from the housing projects of Pittsburgh to leadership and entrepreneurship. 39 Women of Distinction I believe that these breadcrumbs were and still are intentionally put in my path to help me find my way to where I need to go. Left to my own devices I would have been stopped by my limited beliefs of myself and my life as a girl from the projects. I am nothing without my faith and the people who believe in me and I would have gone nowhere if it weren t for my curiosity about those breadcrumbs. FEATURED BELOW After a journey of overcoming the self-limiting voice in her head Tonya Comer found the courage to continue her dream of blazing trails in her field. The result was she designed and launched the Boulevard Collection of wall tile products. ADVICE TO OTHERS FIND PURPOSE For anyone wanting to follow a similar career path Tonya recommends that you solidify why you want to be in this business. Design is your passion but what is your purpose This business is more than selecting fabrics and making things pretty. It has its complexities and changes. Make sure that your purpose supersedes your passion. 40 Women of Distinction Audrey L. Wright Aviation Maintenance Aviation Maintenance Maintenance Instructor for United Airlines Bruno CA udrey L. Wright is not someone to shy away from a challenge. Seeking a dynamic and exciting career that would allow her to grow both professionally and personally Audrey entered into the Aviation field more than 30 years ago. She never looked back. I started out as an individual that was looking for something different and challenging. I have been in this industry for 30 years and counting because of the opportunities that were afforded to me and the financial security. Audrey found her niche in Aviation Maintenance and as Maintenance Instructor for United Airlines one of the world s leading airlines. In her role she is responsible for maintaining aircrafts and ensuring their safety before flight. She has many years experience working on multiple types of aircraft and also conducts compliance training for the company s mechanics. I take pride in what I do. I want everyone to do their best and be their best in this industry. I stand as an example for a lot of the mechanics. They all know me as an instructor. They will stop me in the hallway to say I have class with you tomorrow. I can t wait It is good feeling to be needed and to be able to give something back. It creates a positive environment where people can share and really communicate in a classroom setting. Even though I work in a male dominated industry a lot of the men lean towards the advise of a female. I provide a listening and nurturing ear which they need sometimes. Audrey has held several positions at United Airlines prior to accepting her current position. She was previously employed in several departments within the organization including Food Service and as an Aircraft Cleaner. Additionally Audrey has worked in airport security and as a hostess. She completed three years of college studying Psychology holds an Airframe and Power Plant Certificate is FCC Licensed and completed Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Training. A Audrey is passionate about the advancement of her field and regularly encourages fellow woman to consider a career in the traditionally male dominated field of aviation. One of my greatest challenges was learning to become a team player in a male dominated industry. Other females in the industry have encouraged me to do my best and learn all that I could. I like to be able to share that with others. If you want a challenging career and job security then give aviation a try. If you like to challenge yourself and learn new things this is the right job for you. While balancing work with family life is often difficult Audrey is married to a very supportive husband who enjoys watching her succeed. The couple has two adult sons and one grandson. When she is not working Audrey teaches new member orientation classes at her local church enjoys travelling and is a member of the International Women in Aviation Organization. I try to inform other females of the benefits of working in this industry. I have spoken at high schools and colleges in the past to encourage others and to give them information about things I have accomplished in the industry. I feel I have been successful in this career and would like to share with others some of my knowledge that may be helpful to anyone interested in aviation as a career. My legacy would be that I was successful in a male dominated industry. It is easier than some may think. 41 Women of Distinction Q&A Q What are the requirements to enter into your field A A high school diploma speaking English and an Airframe and Power Plant Certificate. Q Is a college degree required A Not really but it would be helpful in the administrative department. Q How did you manage balancing family with your career A My husband is very supportive. Q Do you make more money than most jobs A Yes. Q How long does it take to earn a license A About two years. Q Are you a union member A Yes. Q Is your industry a friendly field to work in A Yes. Q Do you workout a lot A No but it would be helpful to help physically fit. Q When will you retire A I am not sure maybe by 62-years-old. Q How old are you now A 60-years-old 42 Women of Distinction Jessica Takashige Real Estate Realtor Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Arizona Properties Officer (Captain) US Air Force Reserve Goodyear AZ W orking as an Independent Contractor under Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Jessica Takashige is a Realtor who helps clients buy and sell residential properties including single-family and multi-family homes condos townhouses duplexes and manufactured homes in the West Valley near Phoenix Arizona. Through networking Jessica works her magic to create and cultivate relationships with buyers and sellers enabling clients to always feel comfortable and in good hands throughout the entire process. My path has encouraged personal growth and provided a sense of fulfillment Jessica said in relation to career. I ve been able to serve my country as a Captain in the US Air Force (AF) challenge my abilities work beyond my expectations achieve goals provide for my family and establish lifelong friendships. Becoming a Realtor just last year in 2015 Jessica began her military career as an AF Officer in 2007 on active duty. After two deployments (Afghanistan and Southwest Asia) she recently married her husband Ian and became a stepmother to three children ages 5-11. Desiring to spend more time with family and longer breaks between deployments she transitioned from active duty to the reserves and began working in real estate. She has always had a passion for assisting others achieve their dreams. In my first six months in real estate I helped three clients find new homes was recognized as number six of the top 10 agents in my branch in October 2015 and sold my first home within two days of listing it for its full asking price Jessica said. Any way that I can help my clients is my pleasure. I will always go out of my way to serve others and I gain immeasurable joy from seeing them happy. As a Captain in the AF Jessica is currently the Executive Officer for the Commander 944th Mission Support Group. In her role she directs an eight-person staff and provides senior leadership information management executive support budget and resource management for 500 Airmen. She also oversees task delegation and completion prioritization of manning and mission requirements and appropriately documents performance metrics personnel actions correspondence and decision making in accordance with Department of Defense and AF guidelines in adherence to federal law. I come from a lower middle-class background with six siblings. We lived on an AF BuckSergeant s salary most of my life but my parents did what they had to to aid our success Jessica said thankfully. Jessica has a BA in Psychology Cum Laude an MA in Forensic Psychology and is projected to complete her PhD in General Psychology with Emphasis in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from Grand Canyon University in 2018. In her down time she is an Assistant Teacher with her husband at Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaching 8-9-year-olds how to grow in their faith. 43 Women of Distinction Q&A Q Is it better to rent or buy A It depends. Consider initial costs yearly costs and potential equity recouped upon sale. Also consider nonmonetary costs and benefits such as HOA landlord or pet restrictions. No one can say what is right for you but I can help you estimate costs to make an informed decision. Q What if my credit isn t perfect A Programs to repair credit or offer a second chance exist. Find an agent with experience with these programs to help you buy a home. Know your personal limits buy when you are ready. Q I am thinking about buying or selling. Do I really need a real estate agent A The home-search selling process can be stressful and time-consuming. An agent can help alleviate this stress. We protect your identity and interests. Only 4% of For Sale By Owners sell and of those 50% sell to someone they already knew. Let us pre-screen buyers for you if you are concerned about the commission 3% of 0 is still 0. We only get paid if it sells and so do you. Q Do I need to have a down payment A Loan programs requiring a small down payment (as little as 3%) or none at all exist. A lender may charge a higher interest rate or private mortgage insurance (PMI) until a particular Loan to Value (LTV) rate is reached. Find a knowledgeable agent and lender to explore your options. Q How do I determine the value of my home A An appraisal is based on recently sold homes not for sale or pending. Appraisers compare your home to recently sold homes in the neighborhood and make adjustments due to upgrades or amenities. Cost does not equal value a 70 000 renovation may not increase value 70 000. Q What is the difference between a real estate agent and a Realtor A Every Realtor is a real estate agent but not every agent is a Realtor . A Realtor is held to a higher ethical standard. If a Realtor violates the strict code of ethics you have more recourse such as filing a grievance. Realtors share information about their listings with each other which gives buyers and sellers access to more listings and ensures interagent cooperation. Q Does the identity of the real estate agent company or brokerage really matter A An agent s experience personality and initiative definitely matter. An agent that you get along with trust and doesn t need constant supervision is inherent to the stress alleviation I previously mentioned. Some companies may put more money towards technology advertising and training whereas others may want agents to pay for these so your agent will only be as useful as they are willing to invest in themselves. Choose an agent with resources you trust. Q Do I need to stage my home to sell it Do I need to move out Remodel A It depends on the home and how empty or cluttered it currently is. Homes show better when the buyer can visualize moving in. Clutter can distract the buyer. Most buyers also overestimate remodel costs which can prevent a sale. Providing a professional estimate to remodel a feature that detracts from the home can persuade a sale if the price is rig ht. Q How much home can I afford A Most lenders estimate that home payments including mortgage home insurance PMI and property taxes should account for less than 36% of your gross income. Conservative advisers say around 25% of net income. Consider debt investment needs and lifestyle talk to your financial adviser(s) and lender before making a decision about how much to spend. 44 Women of Distinction Kathye E. Allen Teaching - Language Arts and Social Studies Retired Teacher Substitute Teacher at Cypress Fairbanks ISD Houston TX G rowing up in a small town in East Texas Kathye E. Allen wanted to make her mark on the world. She graduated from High School in 1969 and went on to attend College for a couple of years but soon realized that all she really wanted to do was work It took years of working without a degree for Kathye to decide that she needed to further her education. She returned to her studies in 1978 and graduated from East Texas State University in 1980 with a Bachelor s Degree in Elementary Education. Her role as a teacher is to prepare her students for the real world . She attentively listens to the students tending to their specific needs and creates a plan to successfully teach each and every one of them. Every student is different some need to see the whole picture while others need it broken down into multiple parts. Some can only fully focus and comprehend information when it is read or thoroughly explained to them while others need kinetic toughing things to help better their understanding. Kathye states The student s enthusiasm keeps me coming back for more. She describes how the light bulb that turns on when a student positively progresses is the best part of teaching for her. She explains that over the last 35 years her biggest challenge is dealing with rude or disrespectful behavior. She believes that the children don t intend to be mean they just need someone to listen someone to really care about what is going on in their life. She states Something as simple as asking them how their weekend was and really listening to them helps them believe that you care. Kathye names her High School English Teacher Mrs. Baker as her greatest inspiration to become a teacher. She was tough Kathye claims but she never stopped trying to help me succeed. She greatly appreciates Mrs. Baker and even reached out to tell her so once she became a teacher herself After Kathye s retirement she found herself missing her students and returned to work as a substitute. Being that Kathye has no children she feels responsible for the learning of each of her students and claims that thinking this way makes her feel like a mother . She has made numerous contributions during her career one being in Midland Texas where she spent a semester being observed by several principals at a time. They would show up with no warning taking notes and watching every move she made. Kathye s cooperation helped the state come up with an observation tool that was fair and not too subjective to each teacher undergoing the observation period. Kathye is currently the President Elect of the Houston City Council of Beta Sigma Phi a social sorority in Houston. She will become President of the Council in May of 2016 and has been an active Beta Sigma Phi member for over 25 years. She takes pride in her accomplishments and her position keeps her busy. Kathye E Allen s highest hope is to be known as a great teacher who sincerely loved her students and wanted nothing more than for each of them to succeed. She is kind considerate level headed and the epitome of a successful woman. 45 Women of Distinction Women of Distinction Team WDM Jennifer Hardy EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Holli M. Narvaez EDITOR LAYOUT GRAPHIC DESIGN Jill Mongonia Anne Silar SELECTION COMMITTEE SELECTION COMMITTEE Diane Barry Women of Distinction 560 Broadhollow Road Ste. 310 Melville NY 11747 Phone (631) 465-9024 Fax (631) 465-9035 TeSchara Teel Boykin Travel Certified Travel Agent - TeSchara s Travels - Paycation Plus Xstream Travel 47 Women of Distinction Julie K. Aspenson Discipleship Training Assistant Executive Director of Midwest Mission Bible Training Center Women of Distinction (MMBTC) 48