The prestigious ATHENA Leadership Award is making its debut in the Quad Cities this month as the teams at Quad Cities Business News and Prescott Woman Magazine join forces to recognize the contributions, successes and character of the region’s amazing women.
Eight local leaders are being honored, women who have achieved professional success, provided valuable service to the community and actively assisted and supported others in their attainment of goals, excellence and leadership skills.
Finalists for the first Prescott Athena Award include: Prescott Area Leadership founding member Diane DeLong, Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Arizona Executive Director Nicole Kennedy, The Natural Healing Garden and Goods from the Garden co-owner Deborah Maranville, Lessons by Lexe Dance Studio owner Alexes Niekamp, Prescott City Councilmember Billie Orr, real estate agent Maria Rojas, CableONE/Sparklight Advertising Business Manager Monica Vohs and Northern Arizona Social owner Donna Werking.
The nominees have varied and fascinating backgrounds, including holding titles like Prescott Woman of the Year and Miss Yavapai County 2020. Collectively, they have earned a number of higher education degrees, including Hamburgerology! Some are Arizona natives while at least one of our Athena finalists grew up with little opportunity in another country. Another dedicated her career to public education. Some have built businesses and created jobs. Many have founded, co-founded and/or volunteered for non-profit organizations that improve the quality of life for others in the Quad Cities region. For a more comprehensive understanding of who these extraordinary woman are, visit prescottathena.com.
The following offers a glimpse into the lives of the first Prescott Athena nominees:
“I am fortunate to have had multiple mentors in my life, ranging from teachers to job supervisors. When I moved to Prescott in 1987, I sought out volunteer positions and quickly met some amazing people who took me under their wings,” said Diane DeLong. “It gives me great joy to do the same with the teens and young adults I supervise through my work at Catholic Charities. Mentoring others is how we can truly change the world.”
“I believe it is a privilege to work for a cause that creates opportunity and hope for the future,” said Nicole Kennedy, who founded the non-profit organization Prescott Women Who Care. “I am proud to work alongside a talented team of people who believe in the mission of lifting up young people in our community.”
“I am truly honored to have been nominated for the ATHENA Award, along with other great women in our community! My next dream is to offer culinary services to clients, families and caretakers with cancer and other autoimmune diseases and ensure that no child or person goes hungry,” said Deborah Maranville.
“The world is full of distractions on what a woman should be, instead of helping women find their voice and passion,” said Alexes Niekamp. “Each of us has a unique set of talents that should be encouraged, which is why it’s so important to invest in our young women. As more young women discover their path, we will build a strong culture of women reaching their full potential.”
“I have always welcomed the opportunity to mentor women and girls in leadership roles. My life was changed in 1963, when I was a sophomore in high school. My American History teacher, Mrs. Ruby Brooks, was very vocal about how important it was for me to attend college,” said Billie Orr. “We all set examples of leadership for women of all ages.”
Maria Rojas is driven by her life experiences, including a difficult childhood in a small town in Mexico. Thus, she has a special place in her heart for first-time homebuyers. She enjoys guiding young adults through the process and discussing how they can achieve their goals, because as a child, she never thought home ownership was possible.
“In high school and college, I was a ‘Friends Helping Friends’ peer-leader and speaker, studying karate, and earning the Girl Scout Silver and Gold awards,” said Monica Vohs. “Those early years of involvement, although I didn’t know it then, shaped the person I choose to be today, focused on giving back and sharing what I have with others.”
“As an adult, I understand the sacrifices my mother made to become a U.S. citizen,” said Donna Werking. “She escaped a desolate farm town in rural Thailand and left her eight siblings behind at the young age of 21 to build a better future. It took plenty of guts and sacrifice. Today, I can only imagine the difficulty of this feat, the courage it must have taken… she is forever my hero.”
On Sunday, Sept. 19, one of these women will be honored as the first Prescott Athena. Joining QCBN and Prescott Woman Magazine in making the celebration possible are Hawk & Hound Catering and Events, The Barley Hound, Rosa’s Pizzeria, Back Alley Wine Bar, and Laserium MedSpa. QCBN
By Bonnie Stevens, QCBN