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2020 Women of Achievement Award Winners

Tuesday, August 4, 2020 by [email protected]

Women's Network Leadership Institute presented the Women of Achievement Awards on July 28, 2020. The awards recognize extraordinary women with a history of encouraging success among women, breaking down barriers, mentoring, taking risks to overcome obstacles and supporting the full participation in economic and community life.  These award winners have gone above and beyond their own personal or career accomplishments.


Dorothy O. Jackson Award

Project Ujima
Crystal Jones, Co-Founder and LaKesh Hayes, Executive Director

Dorothy Jackson is known as Akron’s Goodwill Ambassador.  The Dorothy O. Jackson Award, named in her honor, recognizes an organization or business each year at the Women of Achievement Event.  The award is given to an entity that has demonstrated excellence and leadership in its commitment to the empowerment of women and the promotion of diversity and inclusion in the greater Akron region. Congratulations to this year’s recipient, Project Ujima!
 
Project Ujima

Project Ujima, in partnership with other community organizations, co-facilitate weekly Sisterhood Centering Circles.  Though the mission is to provide education and resources to foster women and their babies through their first year of life, they often found going that extra mile, being vulnerable and transparent, and sometimes hugging and crying with our women, too.  While some may find this type of engagement untraditional, they hope that through this kind of relationship building they convey the message that before we're any of the titles we carry, we're human first.  They want the women they serve to know they journey with them and want, more than anything, for them to be successful in all they do.  

Project Ujima is at the forefront of teaching companies and organizations on how to create safe circle spaces for conversations centered around diversity.  They understand the importance of convening around issues of shared concerns, building relationships of trust, and how finding common ground that leads to change contributes to a shift in mindsets and behaviors. Project Ujima has centered their work around facilitating and teaching this training so that every voice is always heard, every person feels valued, having encountered their circle and every work environment continues the work of becoming a more diverse space.

Laura Allio Emerging Leader 2020

Gia Bell, Manager of Training and Development
Red Oak Behavioral Health

This award is given to an Emerging Leader that exemplifies the qualities of a trailblazer. Named after the late Laura Allio who lived out her authenticity through her journey with breast cancer, it is presented annually to an emerging leader in her honor. With a love for her community and a passion for advancing women, this winner demonstrates humility and compassion in service to others. The emerging leader displays a heart of servant leadership that is infectious and dynamic and works tirelessly to make an impact and inspire others.
 
Gia Bell

To say Gia Bell is passionate about making her mark is an understatement. Driven by her deep commitment to her faith, family, and community she exemplifies the characteristics of a resolute trailblazer.
 
As a healthcare worker and parent of a child with Autism, she lives and breathes concern for those impacted by it. While working full-time, she saw the need to undertake a daunting project at her workplace and did not flinch. Spurred by a vision of what an Autism Friendly Hospital could do to accommodate parents and patients, she tackled the project in her unassuming style. Through research and her understanding of the disability she developed resources, organized training, and best practices to be operationalized.

Today Cleveland Clinic Akron General is one of the first Adult Autism Friendly Hospitals in the nation. More than 650 caregivers from security, registration, leadership, and executive teams are now trained in adapting their approach, making accommodations, and utilizing resources and supports to improve the patient experience and medical outcome. The impact of this volunteer initiative is evident in the culture of CCAG’s attentiveness and empathy for the special population.

Autism is just one of the initiatives this single mother has undertaken. Finishing her college education and caring for two young sons (one with Autism) while employed fulltime she has used her experience to encourage other women. She has a unique understanding of those in the Autism Support Group. She identifies with their challenges and often encourages women to return to school. Her example serves as a role model of how doing so can enhance one’s life and ability to provide for their families.

A mentor and friend of Ms. Bell recently commented. “Gia is very deserving of this honor.  She is a critical thinker and a results-oriented leader. She is a woman of integrity and has a heart for uplifting others. She has consistently aligned herself with organizations and causes that help individuals and families thrive. I wish her continued success in her professional and community service endeavors” stated Tracy Carter, System Director, Government Relations for Summa Health.

Gia Bell believes it is not about where you come from, but about where you want to go. She has proven that adversity can be a motivator to overcome obstacles and create a better life and community. She serves on the Single Parent Alliance Board of directors, an organization she helped to formalize and restructure. She mentors young women and herself engages with a mentor.

She serves on a variety of other boards including the Akron Urban League Young Professionals Member and Fund Development Task Force, Torchbearer Class of 2020 Leadership and Development Committee, as an Ohio Gap Closers Board Member, the Women’s Network Leadership Council, is a member of the Autism Society of Greater Akron, Julie Billiart Schools Parent Association and the St. Vincent de Paul Parent Board Association serving as Ways and Means Chair.

Congratulations to Gia Bell! The future is bright for this aspiring and emerging leader. 

Women of Achievement 2020

Sonya Williams, M.A., Interim Executive Director,
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Kent State University

The Woman of Achievement award was created to increase community awareness, understanding, and appreciation of women and the doors they open for future generations.  Established in 1999 by the YWCA, Women’s Network Leadership Institute became the host for these prestigious community awards in 2005.  The Woman of Achievement is herself a success and encourages success among her peers and mentees  She is a selfless supporter of the progress of all women, continually working to advocate for full participation in the economy and the community.  The WOA has gone beyond her personal or career accomplishments to embrace the achievements of all women and to propel all women forward to equality. Congratulations to this year’s winner, Sonya Williams!
 
Sonya Williams
Sonya Williams, M.A., interim executive director, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, has served as a mentor for several women both professionally and personally. As the "first" in her family, she feels it is her duty to help women strive, thrive, survive and have a sense of belonging. She also hosts an online women's bible study that centers on Proverbs 31 - A Virtuous Woman. The purpose is to instill confidence, intellect, empowerment and wisdom in everyday living, working and decision making. At Kent State, she is a member of the Women of Color Collective - an employee resource group that focuses on eliminating barriers for success at Kent State for Women of Color. She is an annual speaker for Sister-Circle - a female identifying student organization at Kent State. Also, Sonya is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. - a leading African American Sorority whose mission is service, scholarship and sisterhood. As a member, she has committed to a lifetime commitment of increasing opportunities for women, at-risk communities, and college-educated women. She is often reviewing resumes, cover letters, conducting mock interviews with aspiring women; she feels it is vitally important that she help women achieve their goals because the world is depending on their success.

“As a woman in the workplace, for as long as I can remember I knew that my success was intentional and driven by the desire to propel personally and professionally," said Williams. "It was not uncommon for me to seek opportunities to prove myself. And it is not lost on me that women of color are faced with monumental barriers that require a bulldozer mentality.”

Watch the Women of Achievement Awards full event:



Learn more about the Women's Network Leadership Institute.

 

Posted: Tuesday, August 4, 2020 by [email protected] | with 21 comments


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