For several years during Women’s History Month, Nonprofit HR has proudly recognized women across North America who have made significant contributions to nonprofits, associations, foundations, social enterprises and the communities they serve. This year we called on our expanded community to help us identify and recognize outstanding women who accomplish the seemingly impossible against all odds.
We extend thanks to a record-breaking number of individuals who responded to our call for nominations. From these nominations, we discovered the work of dozens of outstanding women and are pleased to now publish the final 2022 Social Impact Women to Watch list. The finalists listed below are 20 professional women who have exhibited extraordinary leadership, unwavering dedication and impactful achievements in the social sector. Additional details on the finalists may be seen below.
Bianca Casanova Anderson is an educator, nonprofit leader and social justice practitioner, with expertise in interpersonal communication, racial equity facilitation and human development. As an educator for almost a decade, Bianca found her passion for human-centered change in the classroom. She built a unique background by cultivating inclusive learning environments that center on relationships, uplift marginalized voices and disrupt racism. As the founding Director for the Dallas-Fort Worth site of the Center for Racial Justice in Education, she trained and advised over 3,000 community leaders and educators around the nation in effective racial equity policies, practices and procedures. In 2021, Bianca was promoted to Co-CEO, where she supports nonprofit organizations and foundations by leading a portfolio of training programs and services that center on race equity and leadership development.
Most importantly, Bianca loves people. She lives and leads through a lens of radical love, deep inquiry and transformative justice. She is committed to creating spaces where every person feels safe, smart and significant.
Words from Nominator
“Bianca is leading the social sector through her vision and commitment to racial equity across the nonprofit sector. She recognized that many leaders of color are focused on shifting the outcomes of their organizations towards racial equity and justice, but their experiences inside of organizations were inequitable. In 2021, Bianca became Co-CEO at ProInspire, and she is shaping the vision for ProInspire’s work across the sector. She led the research and publication of Self to Systems: Leading for Race Equity Impact. Bianca has reached thousands of leaders through this publication, speaking and op-eds about leadership for racial equity.”
In August 2019, Faith Boettger founded a grassroots organization, Social4Good (S4G) that offers a network of engaged women the opportunity to learn about the needs of their community and contribute in a focused and effective way.
Each month, S4G works with a local nonprofit to develop a project that addresses their clients’ critical needs. Projects introduce members to the wide range of needs in their community – from supporting homeless adults and children to providing care packages to homeless families, cancer patients and Alzheimer’s caregivers, and hosting drives for food packs, diapers, and sanitary products. Every month brings new opportunities to get involved whether members make a financial contribution, work on a project team, or volunteer onsite.
What differentiates S4G from other groups of this type is that there is no set amount each woman needs to contribute in a given year and the contributions for each month are nominal. It’s a ‘give what you can and when you’re able’ approach, truly democratizing giving and demonstrating the power of collective philanthropy. Since the group’s inception, S4G has supported 29 local nonprofits and donated over $123,000 in financial and in-kind support.
Professionally, Faith serves as Development Officer for the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys Foundation and Giving Circle Coach for Philanthropy Together and Grapevine. She is also a philanthropist and active community volunteer where she is a founding member and past chair for the Business Women’s Giving Circle, serves on the Board of Directors for Space of Her Own, and participates on the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia’s Community Investment Fund Grant Review Committee.
Words from Nominator
“Social4Good is a small organization that is doing big things in our own backyard. Faith is a perfect example of the impact a single person can have when they are passionate about helping others less fortunate than themselves. She has created an environment of respect and compassion by recruiting women like herself who want to connect to each other and their community. Faith leads by example and no job is too small or too big for her to take on – and her leadership has been recognized by members and our community. In 2021, Family PASS nominated Faith for Volunteer Recognition by the Mayor of Vienna.”
Michelle is an accomplished marketing and development executive with experience in national and local nonprofits, including the American Red Cross and Guiding Eyes for the Blind. At each of these organizations, she was involved in the strategic development and execution of business and fundraising plans and oversaw significant growth efforts. As the Co-Founder and current Vice President of Marketing and Development of BluePath Service Dogs, Inc., Michelle has a deep passion for service dogs and their ability to profoundly transform people’s lives. Michelle received three New York “40 under 40” leadership awards and was recognized by Bedford Magazine as one of the “25 most influential and creative” individuals in the area. She volunteers as an Emergency Medical Technician and provides training for first responders on working with individuals with special needs and handling service dogs in emergency situations. She has a BS in Business Economics from the State University of New York at Oneonta and lives in the NYC suburbs.
Prior to BluePath, Michelle held a leadership role at the American Red Cross, building deep, transformational relationships with senior staff across the country, improving overall brand compliance, expanding organizational influence and increasing marketing and fundraising effectiveness. Michelle is a frequent and enthusiastic contributor to her community. She is a volunteer EMT, riding weekly shifts with the ambulance corps, and serves in various administrative functions, supporting events, public relations, member recruitment and overall governance.
Words from Nominator
“Michelle is a deep believer in empowering people and bettering the world. As a result, her entire career has been in the nonprofit sector. Michelle was a driving force behind the creation of BluePath Service Dogs, a nonprofit providing service dogs to children with autism; she developed the business plan, built the brand, and secured initial capital. Michelle is also a puppy raiser for future service dogs. This is a critical role in which a volunteer houses a future service dog for a year, teaching house manners and basic obedience. Finally, Michelle serves on the board of 2020 Vision Quest, a nonprofit devoted to assisting individuals with vision loss.”
Cynthia is Executive Director of the California Immigrant Policy Center (CIPC) and provides the vision for the mission of California’s premier immigrant rights organization. Cynthia came to this role after successfully managing a statewide capacity building project, involving nine regional coalitions in California, which strengthened their viability through a combination of highly customized training, grantmaking and leadership coaching. She has two decades of experience in nonprofit management and human rights advocacy. Also, she has worked on international refugee, migration, human rights and civil rights issues in Southeast Asia before working with ACLU as Policy Director for its San Diego regional affiliate. Cynthia was also Policy and Advocacy Director at CHIRLA in Los Angeles from 2007–2010. Before moving to the United States, she worked with various international organizations, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Open Society Institute-Burma Education Project in Thailand, and the Jesuit Refugee Service. In June, 2003, Cynthia co-authored the book Anywhere But War, about the armed conflict and internal displacement in the Indonesian Province of Aceh.
Words from Nominator
“Cynthia’s impact ripples over time and has no bounds. Her worldview of equitable treatment for all has been the foundation of how she views advocacy and campaigns. CIPC’s Health for All campaign is an example of Cynthia’s commitment to her worldview and to the communities CIPC serves. While the success of the Health for All Kids, Young Adults, and Elders campaign can not be attributed to just Cynthia—CIPC staff, partners, and legislators also played a role in the success—her commitment and tenacity have greatly impacted those who stand to benefit from the expansion of health coverage to undocumented communities. As an organization whose staff has family members, friends, and community members who have availed of the health coverage expansion, it is safe to say that their lives have been changed for the better. Access to health coverage has alleviated financial burdens from healthcare costs, allowed folks access to preventative cares, and has changed how communities view healthcare now as a human right rather than a privilege. It is clear that Cynthia’s contribution to the campaign has been invaluable and her direct impact immeasurable.”
Angela is the Founder/Executive Director of The Caraway Foundation since its inception in 2007. Angela has over 25 years experience working in the nonprofit industry with several organizations in Washington, D.C. When Angela moved back to North Carolina in 2003, she had a strong desire to do more for her community. Though it took four years for Angela to create the Foundation, she knew that she had to do more. Through the connections she has built over the years, Angela created several opportunities for the community and for others to donate their time, talent and treasure. Angela continues to find new ways to raise money to support The Caraway Foundation and its programs.
Words from Nominator
“Angela has a special interest in health equity for rural populations. She serves on two national task forces with us: one focused on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; another focused on young-onset colorectal cancer. She was also part of our Blue Hope Bash Committee. Angela makes major strides in clinical trial recruitment equity, bringing in important partners like two historically Black fraternities and an HBCU, and she is also leading an initiative to distribute at-home colorectal cancer screening kits in her town. Angela is a phenomenal messenger, advocate and strategic thinker. She is a generous, energetic do-gooder!”
Dr. Jennifer Cartland has a strong track record of community engagement and empowerment, particularly for black and brown students in the D.C. area. After a distinguished career as a teacher and principal in DCPS, she has launched her engagement into several nonprofit organizations. Formerly she supported the community as Managing Director at the Flamboyan Foundation, empowering schools to create meaningful opportunities for parent engagement. She was also the former Executive Director of the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, where she leveraged her education background to provide out of school time opportunities for academic support and leadership development for kids in D.C. wards 7 and 8. Currently, she is a consultant with Special Olympics, as well as the Executive Director of Project Reach, a nonprofit improving literacy rates for students in D.C. schools. All the while, she also finds time to sit on multiple boards, currently serving as the Chair of the Programs Committee at Fresh Farm, which supports local farmers’ markets and teaches nutrition in local schools; she is also Vice President of the Board of Directors at the Hill Center, which is a community hub and resource center. The common theme in all of these endeavors is community development, particularly centered around students and families in D.C.
Words from Nominator
“Jennifer has an amazing work ethic and drive. She is continually looking for opportunities to support her community with a particular focus on students and families. At the same time, she continually builds up other women as they advance in their careers. She is the type of person that others are drawn to and a number of women see her as a role model and mentor.”
Some people feel called to be a champion of “the world’s least and last,” and advocate for children born into poverty to give them the opportunity for better lives. This sense of moral justice has been ingrained in Susana for as long as she can remember. Growing up, Susana accompanied her grandfather to the poorest parts of Parana, Argentina, to serve others. At a young age, she realized the children she encountered were just like her—except they were born into different circumstances with fewer opportunities. After meeting poor children in every continent in the world, she developed a great desire and commitment to empower them so they could reach their potential and be agents of positive change in their communities. During a 16-year career with Hallmark, Susana held various marketing, strategy and general management leadership positions. She joined Children International’s board of directors in 2004, where she served until becoming president and CEO in 2014.
Words from Nominator
“Under Susana’s leadership, more than half of the participants in most Children International programs are female, and a wide range of those programs are designed to give girls and women a fighting chance to take control of their lives and break the generational cycle of poverty. Nearly 60 percent of participants in our Into Employment programs are women. These volunteers (8,500 strong) are the mothers of the children we serve. Many of them do not know how to read or write or have the most basic 2nd-grade education, have grown up in environments that have not valued them, and have been victims of discrimination and abuse. Susana is deeply committed to improving the opportunities for women in the poorest parts of the world. Having grown up in Argentina and traveled to every continent, she has seen the harsh reality of poverty and gender disparity.”
Koua Franz emigrated to the United States in the early 1980s as part of the Hmong refugee resettlement and learned firsthand about the inequities that exist in education and community systems. She credits her culture’s ethos for the resilience to successfully navigate academic and cultural challenges in her formative years. “SEL builds a foundational skill set that many cultures embrace,” says Koua. “Critical skills like self-awareness and responsible decision-making were encompassed in my family traditions.” Koua knew from early on that she wanted to solve problems (for the better part of her childhood that meant wanting to be an FBI agent), and as an adult she became interested in the notion of organization development and continuous learning models. Today, Koua is an entrepreneur, philanthropist and innovator—and Committee for Children’s first Chief Strategy Officer. With experience in education, philanthropy and nonprofit sectors, Koua has nearly two decades of executive leadership in supporting and developing strong teams, building leadership capacities and designing and creating learning organizations. This experience positioned her well to join Committee for Children. The mother of three sees her SEL superpower as being a lifelong learner, crediting her natural inclination to improve and expand her own worldview with her drive to continuously improve the world around her.
Words from Nominator
“A champion of equity and access for underserved children and communities, Koua has been recognized by CASEL for excellence in expanding the practice of SEL, notably in her role as chief of staff to the superintendent at the Sacramento City Unified School District, where she oversaw the district wide implementation of SEL curriculum, including Second Step.”
Amy has served in different capacities throughout the MANA organization, starting in 2007, including Director of National Programs, Vice President of Leadership Initiatives, and Executive Director. Prior to returning to MANA in 2013, she served as Executive Director of the National Association of Hispanic Publications, Inc. (NAHP), NAHP Media LLC, and the National Hispanic Press Foundation (NHPF), based in Washington, D.C. Amy has extensive experience working on local and national grassroots campaigns targeted at mobilizing voices and actions in Hispanic communities nationwide on topics ranging from financial literacy and retirement, mentoring, data privacy, civic engagement, and census participation to advocacy efforts on student loans, immigration reform and health care reform. Community education and engagement have been central to Amy’s work, with a particular emphasis on youth.
Words from Nominator
“Amy has experience working directly with the Latina community, as well as volunteering with community organizations such as the Girl Scout Councils of the Nation’s Capital and South Texas, the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement, The National Hispanic Institute, Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership and Mosaica. As a representative of MANA, Amy currently serves as Vice Chair of the Board of Directors for the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility, as Treasurer of the Board of Directors for the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, as a Member of the Board of Directors for the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership, and as a Member of the Diversity Council for the El Rey Network. Amy represents the interests of Latina women, youth and families on issues that impact our communities. Amy is the leading Latina voice on many of the major issues in the public sphere, particularly in the areas of education, health and well-being, financial literacy, equal and civil rights and immigration reform.”
Rosemary Jordan has recently been selected as Chief Executive Officer at Pacific Vision Foundation, where she is overseeing daily operations and future strategy, as well as leadership functions at Pacific Vision Surgery Center and Pacific Vision Eye Institute. Rosemary has more than 20 years of nonprofit and healthcare expertise. She is an accomplished nonprofit healthcare leader with prior roles at Sutter Health, Kaiser Permanente, Blue Shield of California and Elder Care Alliance.
Words from Nominator
“I began working with Rosemary and the Pacific Vision Foundation in 2021, part of a “sea change” of leadership that she has brought to the organization to advance the foundation’s mission in 2022 and beyond. Her leadership is the perfect blend of results-driven and compassionate. She is often the first to listen and the last to speak; members of her team feel heard and valued. She leads by example, practicing the organization’s values of integrity, mutual respect, and advancing equity and inclusion, rather than just professing them. Under Rosemary’s leadership in 2021, Pacific Vision Foundation has provided sight-saving eye care surgeries for 151 patients at no cost to them, provided 171 patients with low-vision support services (a 68% increase over 2020), supported the education, training and mentorship of 10 CPMC ophthalmology residents, provided onsite COVID-19 testing for pre- and post-operative procedures, serving an average of 50 people per week, including those with no or limited insurance, and provided support services for patients both before and after surgery, such as transportation and other types of aid to them and their families.”
Having 25 years of entrepreneurial experience, on a global basis, in change management and business development combined with a desire to give back to society enables Linda to transfer commercially successful applications from the private sector to bring structure and sustainability to a critical social intervention: the empowerment of the world’s disadvantaged girls so that they can gain employment, live independent lives and give back, too.
Words from Nominator
“In 2006, Linda designed, funded and piloted Global Give Back Circle (GGBC) in Kenya by mobilizing partnerships with USAID, Microsoft and Mastercard Foundation plus 21 private sector organizations. Becoming Kenya’s largest gender-based, mentorship, and economic empowerment program with 2,000+ beneficiaries, she expanded to East Africa and India, reaching 4,600 beneficiaries and $20 million in funding. 2,800+ women globally participate as mentors. Alumnae are made up of teachers, nurses, doctors, engineers, lawyers, business women, entrepreneurs, etc., and Kenya’s 3rd ever Rhodes Scholar.”
Andrea Lovanhill is Chief Executive Officer at Committee for Children (CFC), a global nonprofit dedicated to championing the safety and well-being of kids through social-emotional learning (SEL) for over four decades. Under her leadership, CFC’s programming and services are being utilized by 20 million children every year across all 50 states in the U.S. and in dozens of countries around the world. As CEO, Andrea is leading CFC’s commitment to positively and equitably transform the social-emotional well-being of over 100 million children worldwide by 2030. Through her role, Andrea oversees a team of educators, researchers, policy experts and innovators to advocate for policies to enhance, gather research to support, and develop educational programs and tools to advance the safety and well-being of children through social-emotional learning.
Andrea regularly collaborates with experts in the fields of SEL and child advocacy, and spearheads conversations with global education leaders to champion the cause of educating the “whole child.” She is also a co-host of Grow Kinder, a first-of-its-kind social-emotional learning podcast. Andrea and her team invites industry leaders and experts in education to explore how SEL can help us navigate society’s most pressing challenges and create a kinder, more compassionate world.
Words from Nominator
“Andrea understands that a strong foundation in social-emotional learning (SEL) can be supportive not just throughout childhood, but throughout working adulthood as well. At Committee for Children, Andrea uses this SEL superpower to ensure her team is heard and respected in all aspects of the business. She fosters belonging, advocates for equity, and promotes diversity with every member of staff. She “walks the SEL talk” and understands that this might involve examining input from a variety of sources both across and outside the organization to understand the effect of a decision on the people, the business and the mission—before determining a course of action.”
Kavita first joined Sakhi as an intern in 2002 while in her second year of college. After her experience, she hoped to come back to Sakhi, specifically to lead the organization, and in June 2017 was named its fifth Executive Director. During her tenure, Sakhi has seen its budget grow by over 50% and has launched a trauma-informed mental health program, a transitional housing program, a food justice program and a second office in Queens. Prior to joining Sakhi, Kavita was the Interim Chief Executive Officer of the Boys & Girls Club of Newark and held leadership positions at the GlamourGals Foundation, South Asian Youth Action and Asian Women in Business. Kavita is an Advisory Board Member for the New Leaders Council’s New Jersey Chapter and a Board Member for LadyDrinks. Kavita has blogged for Ms. Magazine, The Huffington Post, Brown Girl Magazine and Act To Change and has been quoted in The New York Times, WNYC’s The Takeaway With Tanzina Vega, CNBC and Money Watch. She has presented at Harvard University, Columbia University and the Women’s Economic Forum in Delhi.
Words from Nominator
“Kavita goes to extraordinary lengths each day to provide comfort, care and dignity to GBV survivors when they need it most. No matter what, she always puts survivors and their needs first—and never has this been more prominently on display than throughout the pandemic, when she and her team have worked tirelessly to uplift our community during a time of acute crisis. Kavita’s leadership stems from her core belief that Sakhi’s direct services must center around survivors’ resilience and dignity—an ethos that infuses all of what Sakhi stands for in our community.”
Throughout her career, Kenyetta has championed the value of human resource professionals, both through word and deed. Maximizing the potential of talent is the essence of HR. A strong HR professional brings clarity of communication to support transparency and build trust, opportunities that promote soft skills and the cultivation of relationships, responsiveness to questions and concerns to ensure staff and leadership needs are met, and fair and consistent conflict resolution. For the past 20 years, Kenyetta has advocated not only within the workplace but also the larger business community for a better understanding of HR’s role and its value for companies in attracting, retaining, managing and growing employees. Together, a dedicated staff, visionary leadership and an efficient Human Resource team that serves with equity can make boundless achievements. Each day through REACH, Kenyetta puts value and respect for HR into action. As part of their comprehensive community revitalization plan, she is responsible for workforce development initiatives, including job training and placement programs/services.
Words from Nominator
“Growing an organization from 50 to 130 employees while merging three different cultures is not easy. Creating a work environment where new employees are well integrated and can reach their highest potential, especially in an entrepreneurial organization, takes special skills. Kenyetta combines empathy and a deep interest in people with a strong belief in creating systems that foster cohesion and structure. In a rapidly growing organization with outsized goals, she has created a system of goal setting, communication and reporting that has become a crucial foundation for the organization’s work, while still finding time to hold 10-minute check-ins with every employee each week.”
Kristin O’Malley joined the staff of The Cape Cod Foundation in 2004, became its Executive Director in 2013, and was then promoted to President and CEO in January 2017. Throughout her tenure at the Foundation, she has worked in areas including grantmaking, fund development and stewardship, community initiatives and networking with regional nonprofits. She has presented on grantmaking and philanthropy for various groups and has served as a spokesperson for local and national publications and media outlets.
Kristin has been involved with many local community groups. She is a graduate and past Board member of the Community Leadership Institute of Cape Cod, Past President and Board member of Philanthropy Partners of the Cape and Islands, a member of the Barnstable County ARPA Advisory Committee, a member of the Ambassador’s Council for the YMCA Cape Cod, a member of the Middlebury College Alumni Admissions Program, a member of the Advisory Committee for the Cape Cod and Islands Major Crisis Relief Fund, a volunteer for St. Pius X School, and a member of Cape Cod Healthcare’s Patient and Family Advisory Council.
Words from Nominator
“In 8 years as CCF leader, Kristin has more than doubled Foundation assets (currently over $100 million), more than tripled incoming gifts to the Foundation and increased community grants & scholarships by 250% (more than $7 million in 2021). In 2020, recognizing community needs due to the pandemic, Kristin began a Strategic Emergency Response Fund and raised almost $3 million. In 2020 and 2021, The Cape Cod Foundation awarded over $2 million for COVID relief to organizations focused on food distribution, health awareness (especially to immigrant communities), mental health challenges and housing support. Her team focused on identifying marginalized communities and worked with nonprofits who were helping these communities to manage through the pandemic. Kristin has recognized the need for capacity building in the nonprofit sector, and hired a new employee in 2020 to focus on this program, including funding, training and education as well as 1-on-1 consultations and guidance.”
Eleace is an accomplished executive with over 19 years of experience in the healthcare industry. Eleace is the Chief Executive Officer for Community Health Partnership of Illinois (CHP). As CEO, she oversees an interdisciplinary staff, providing primary preventative healthcare for six health centers from more than seven counties throughout Illinois. She is the proud recipient of numerous awards, including the 2017 Who’s Who in Black Cleveland “Game Changer” award, 2016 Community Development Leadership and Supporter Award (Diaspora Arts Coalition), the 2014 Florida Association of Community Health Centers Partnership Award and the 2012 South Florida’s 100 Most Accomplished Caribbean Americans Award.
Eleace serves on many community and professional boards. She is a graduate of Florida International University, where she earned a master’s degree in Public Administration. She also holds a master’s degree in Accountancy from Millsaps College, located in Jackson, Mississippi. She is a certified member of the Health Care Compliance Association and a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives.
Words from Nominator
“Eleace’s actions generate significant impact on a community so in need. Her efforts and visions are to bridge the gap and support those in rural Illinois that need our support, not only medical, dental and behavioral health, but in other social determinants of health. To address these needs, she added a community health worker program and a patient navigator program in 2021 that are making a tremendous impact around patient education, including connections to other much needed social services.”
Luana was appointed Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Becoming Independent (BI) in July 2013, having demonstrated success in strategic business planning and implementation as Agency Director. Under her leadership as CEO, BI has seen significant positive outcomes in various areas. A program designed to support the unique needs of the rapidly growing numbers of young adults on the autism spectrum launched in 2016 thanks to an infusion of private sector funding, and is now at full capacity. In 2017, the agency launched a significant expansion of its Social Enterprise Division, allowing BI to create community-based opportunities for job training and market wage employment while generating revenue to continue advancing quality services. BI now operates two groundbreaking food service enterprises, providing all concession services on the SMART Train, and in 2018 opened the BI Buzz Café at Kaiser Permanente’s new Mercury Way Medical Offices in Santa Rosa. BI has experienced annual double digit increases in fundraising since Luana assumed the role of CEO, helping to fuel program growth and innovation. Luana received The North Bay Business Journal’s (NBBJ) Nonprofit Leadership Award as well as their 40 Under 40 Award for the positive community impact made by BI under her leadership. In 2014, BI was awarded Business of the Year by the Young Professionals Network for excellence in developing young professionals in the community and in the workplace and has been selected by The NBBJ as one of the North Bay’s Best Places to Work each year from 2013-2018.
Words from Nominator
“Luana has a propensity for attracting, developing and retaining professional talent. She leads with unwavering passion and confidence, and encourages her team to do the same. During her tenure as CEO, Luana steered and fostered the development of over 34 direct reports. Her leadership skills and mentorship of her direct reports has provided opportunities for professional development and growth within the organization. Of those direct reports, more than two thirds of them have experienced internal promotions to higher level roles that required increased responsibility, skill set, and oversight. Luana’s ability to foster talent has also led to the development of two individuals who were able to achieve executive level positions with external organizations.
Beginning when Luana assumed the CEO role, BI has received the North Bay Business Journal’s “Best Places to Work” award for a total of 12 years and counting. Additionally, BI has also been awarded “Business of the Year” by the Young Professionals Network for excellence in developing young professionals in the community and in the workplace. Lastly, BI was awarded the 2020 Moving Mountains Award for best practices in workforce development.”
Terri L. White, CEO of Mental Health Association Oklahoma (MHAOK), leads the state’s premier nonprofit whose expertise and work exists primarily at the intersection of mental illness and homelessness. She formerly served as Oklahoma’s Commissioner of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services from 2007 to 2020. By focusing on data, evidence-based services and delivering results, Terri more than doubled the number of Oklahomans receiving appropriate services to achieve recovery during her tenure. Terri was the first woman to serve as Oklahoma’s Secretary of Health.
As the CEO of MHAOK, Oklahoma’s premier boots-on-the-ground nonprofit serving this population, Terri oversees provision of life-saving services to approximately 30,000 Oklahomans each year when they need it the most via an annual budget of just over $20 million. Those programs include housing (committed to a Housing First model), suicide prevention, mental health education, support groups, pro bono counseling, mental health and substance abuse screening and referral, peer-to-peer recovery services, employment placement and support, integrated mobile medical intervention, street outreach and criminal justice advocacy.
Words from Nominator
“Terri supported me during my struggles with my son’s addiction. We banned together with two others and launched a campaign to build a world-class treatment center in Oklahoma that was opened two years ago after many years of planning and fundraising. She has personally counseled and supported Oklahomans experiencing all the challenges of mental illness and addiction. She works tirelessly to make a difference in the lives of all Oklahomans. Recently, one of the women in MHAOK housing shared that Terri changed the course of her life. The woman was hospitalized when Terri stepped by her side to offer support. The woman said she finally felt like someone in authority cared.”
The re-entry population is difficult to serve, Sarah Williams acknowledges. “It’s a very long journey,” she said. But there are victories to build on. Sarah reviews clients’ California criminal records, or RAP sheets, to determine their eligibility for an expungement down the road. While some may have to endure a few years of probation, she noted that “the promise that there is a light at the end of the tunnel is an incentive [for them] to keep doing what they’re doing.” For clients who have recently been released, the victories are small but important—showing up for workshops, making an appointment with a coach, figuring out transportation to make the appointment, getting the first job. It takes working hard, doing the right things, staying in touch and more. “I tell them, ‘there’s no magic wand that’s going to make your past go away,’” she said. “People have to live with mistakes they’ve made, but there’s a way to move beyond them. We try to give a message of hope.”
Words from Nominator
“Sarah Williams has demonstrated her passion and dedication to Rubicon’s mission of breaking the cycle of poverty in the East Bay assisting justice involved individuals overcome barriers to meaningful employment and economic mobility. Over the past seven plus years, Sarah has been deeply involved in designing and implementing Rubicon’s service model, fully integrating a wide range of critical legal services with coordinated career, financial and wellness coaching to address complex and interrelated needs of individuals returning home from incarceration. Sarah has co-designed and co-led workshops for hundreds of participants, explaining in lay terms complicated legal interventions that are available to address a wide range of common challenges, from record clearing relief, to professional licensing access, employment rights, housing insecurity and family reunification and child support.“
Shawna Young is a leader in equitable education with over 20 years of experience in K-12 education, higher education and nonprofit management. As a former student with limited access, Shawna is passionate about providing students with meaningful learning opportunities along their educational pathways. Since 2008, Shawna has served as executive director for education nonprofits, including her most current role at The Scratch Foundation, to fight the Opportunity Embargo—the notion that systematic prohibition of access to educational experiences and resources from Black, Hispanic, Native American and low-income students is deeply rooted in the socioeconomic and racial injustices in our society. Shawna’s commitment is to ensure that every student has access to the tools needed to express themselves through coding, computer science or whatever means they choose for their own creative exploration and journey.
Words from Nominator
“Shawna Young fosters a culture of curiosity, collaboration and inquiry. As one of her direct reports, I benefit from my proximity to her hard work. During my time working for Shawna, we have had a variety of conversations that have contributed to my growth: from giving better feedback to others, crafting proposals for funders, and encouraging me to pursue opportunities for my own professional development. Shawna models a work ethic and leadership style to which I aspire. Shawna sees the value in cultivating and investing in talent. While transitioning between organizations, Shawna pushed me to see the value in my talent. She provided critical feedback to guide my self-reflection as I considered what I wanted in my next role. Her consistent thought partnership and encouragement allowed me to exceed my personal expectations. Shawna truly cares about helping others and is a conduit of ideas and opportunities for not only those she supervises or mentors, but even for those she may not know directly. Shawna’s impact is indelible and continues to influence my leadership style and navigation of future career decisions.”