Freeholder Director Felicia Hopson announced the 2020 winners of the Annual Outstanding Women of Burlington County Awards.
“It is such honor to recognize the outstanding women in Burlington County that contribute so much to our community,” said Freeholder Hopson. “We are more excited than ever this year to recognize the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, allowing women to vote!”
The 2020 Nominees are:
- Carmella Carter- Mentorship
- Kristan Hoffman- Volunteerism
- Nicole Gillespie- Corporate Leadership
- Sherry Knight- Education
- Doan Tucker- Community Service
- Shenee Omuso- Diversity/Inclusion
- Grace Harsche- Alice Paul Champion Award
- Ann Marie Bangura- Celeste Arties Memorial Award
- Athira Arayath- Elizabeth Coleman White STEM Award
The winners have been chosen from several areas of exceptional service. In addition to the awards being presented, three local students will also receive scholarships in the amount of $1,000 each.
They will be honored at a virtual awards rceremony on Monday, June 15 on the Women’s Advisory Council Facebook page @BurlingtonCountyWomen. If you previously purchased tickets to the event or an ad or sponsorship package, you will be refunded. If you have questions regarding a refund, please contact Christine Gonnelli at WomensCouncil@co.burlington.nj.us.
“We want to use this time to celebrate women of Burlington County who are making an impact on our community and paving the way for other women to follow in their footsteps,” stated Hopson.
The Burlington County Women’s Advisory Council identifies and addresses issues that affect women of Burlington County, raise public awareness of the special needs and roles of women, and enhance the quality of life for all women. The Council’s purpose is to advocate for the needs of women, examine the health and social service needs of women, promote the expansion of rights and opportunities available to women, and to promote representation of women in government.
For more information follow the Council on Facebook at @BurlingtonCountyWomen or visit:http://co.burlington.nj.us/263/Womens-Advisory-Council
2020 Award Recipients:
Kristan Hoffman is a Burlington resident and Girl Scout Troop Leader. For the past eight years Kristan has served as the leader of Girl Scout Troop 21073, based in Burlington Township that includes eleven 12th grade students. During this time, Kristan has dedicated herself and her time to her Girl Scouts, serving not only as the Troop Leader, and mentor, but also as a friend. As a Troop Leader, Kristan spends many hours out of her free time to plan activities, meetings and service projects for the Girl Scouts.
She has planned many informative sessions with individuals representing different careers such as, the Burlington County Board of Elections, Public Health, Banking, Entrepreneurship, Medicine and Law Enforcement. Kristian goes above and beyond in making sure her Girl Scouts are exposed to strong women leaders.
Since she has become a Troop Leader, Kristan has also dedicated herself to encouraging her Girl Scouts to be leaders and give back to the community. She encourages the girls to challenge themselves, get out of their comfort zones and accomplish personal goals.
In addition to being a Girl Scout Troop Leader, Kristan volunteers regularly at Ladles of Love, a soup kitchen in Burlington City. She is also very active in the Burlington Township Marching Band Parent Association.
Kristan is currently an Insurance Specialist for the Department of Veteran’s Affairs in Philadelphia. Kristan attended the University of Richmond, where she received her B.A.and majored in Economics, Women’s Studies, and International Studies. She went to on attend Rutgers University, in Camden where she obtained a Master’s in Public Administration.
Carmella Carter- Mentorship
Carmella Cater is a Willingboro resident, who is an author, motivational speaker, life coach, wife, mother, friend and mentor. Carmella has been a source of inspiration and motivation to young girls and women alike. In 2014, Carmella started her organization “I Am Grace,” based in Burlington County. I Am Grace uplifts women and teaches applicable life and social skills, mental wellness and emotional balance to redirect the course of their lives as well as encourage disenfranchised youth to aspire to become better.
Using her personal story as a testament of perseverance and success, Carmella encourages youth to never give up on themselves while providing resources and contacts to help them accomplish their goals. Over the past four years, during the Christmas holiday, Carmella visits various high schools and other educational programs and has gifted over 300 girls with a “Box Full of Grace,” which contains different pampering items and sponsor gifts. Carmella has always felt as though it is important for her to give back and mentor young girls. Additionally, Carmella recently started a teen mentoring program called “Grace Girls”. This mentoring program targets teen girls in grades 6-12. The group’s focus is to teach self-long along with personal and social growth.
She has been honored and recognized for her work: God in Me Women Empowerment Award 2017, Honoree Faith Fighters Award 2017 and Honored Employee Recognition for the Center for Family Guidance in 2016, Special Recognition Award from the City of Trenton for Philanthropic work in December 2017, Phenomenal Woman award for Willingboro Township 2018 and Featured Women’s History Month Speaker for the United States Department of Agriculture in 2018.
Nicole Gillespie- Corporate Leadership
Nicole Gillespie, a Moorestown resident, received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Russian from the United States Naval Academy. She served five years as an Active Duty Naval Officer in the field of Cryptology at National Security Group Activity, Edzell, Scotland and at the Joint Interagency Task Force East in Key West, FL. She was awarded a Navy Achievement Medal, Joint Services Commendation Medal and Defense Meritorious Service Medal.
After separating from the service, Nicole worked as a sales engineer for the Innova Corporation in Seattle, WA. She earned a M.S. in Physics from the University of Washington and a Ph.D. in Science Education from the University of California, Berkeley. She was awarded the 2004 Spencer Dissertation Fellowship for her research on collaborative argumentation and model-based reasoning among physics students.
As the President & Chief Executive Officer of the Knowles Teacher Initiative, Dr. Nicole Gillespie leads the foundation in its efforts to strengthen the teaching profession and improve the state of STEM education. The Knowles Teacher Initiative is a non-profit organization that supports a national network of mathematics and science teachers who are collaborative, innovative leaders improving education for all students.
Nicole joined Knowles as one of the foundation’s first employees in 2004 and took the lead role in 2013. She was instrumental in developing the Foundation’s signature Teaching Fellowship Program and intensive and cohesive, five-year program that supports early career, high school mathematics and science teachers in their efforts to develop teaching expertise and lead from the classroom.
Beginning in 2016, Nicole led the Knowles staff in the development of a business plan to leverage the teacher leadership developed through the Teaching and Senior Programs to serve a greater number of STEM teachers nationally, but particularly in Southern NJ region. In 2017, she and her team launched the Knowles Academy, offering unique professional development experiences for teachers. Since launching the Knowles Academy, 27 Senior Fellows have provided professional development to more than 175 teachers.
In addition to serving as the CEO of the Knowles Teacher initiative, Nicole serves on the Moorestown Township Council. She was elected to the council in 2018, served as Deputy Mayor in 2019 and was appointed to serve as Mayor by the council for 2020. She is active in the Rotary Club of Moorestown and the Moorestown Business Association and volunteers as a sexual assault advocate for Contact of Burlington County, where she was named volunteer of the year in 2019.
Sherry Knight- Education
Sherry Knight, a Burlington resident, is a remarkable woman, friend, mother and role model. Sherry has been passionate about children and providing them with the best possible education throughout her entire career. She graduated from Mississippi State University with a Bachelors of Arts in Elementary Education and went on to receive her Master’s Degree from Cheney University of Pennsylvania in Educational Leadership. Sherry received her Master’s while working full-time as an elementary school teacher. In 2003, Sherry became a Principal in the Burlington City School District. Sherry has encountered many students in her lifetime whether through teaching or being a Principal. She always remembers her student’s names. Even today, with over 250 students, she manages to know each student by name.
Due to her dedication and passion for education, Sherry is involved in several professional organizations. She is a member of the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, the New Jersey Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, National Association of Elementary School Principals, Burlington County Principals, and the Supervisors Associations to name a few.
Sherry is also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, where she was recently voted Soror of the Year and has served in numerous executive roles in her 24 years of active status. One of Alpha Kappa’s missions is alleviating problems concerning girls and women. Sherry does this by working with students on STEM activities, promoting etiquette and college prep programs.
Sherry is also a member of The Links, Incorporated where she serves as chair for their Service to the Youth program. She is also involved in a mentoring program for new principals. Sherry is an active member of the Tabernacle Baptist Church where she is on the Hype team which provides youth programs and she is also the Vice President of the Progressive Guild. Additionally, Sherry spent seven years on the Board of Education in Burlington Township.
In 2019, Sherry took her passion for education to social media. She began “Knight Tales”. Knight Tales takes place every Wednesday night on Facebook Live. Sherry selects a story, usually centered on current holidays or what her students are learning in the classroom. She reads the stories on Facebook Live and her students tune in. Knight Tales is a fun and intriguing way to keep her students engaged outside of the classroom as well as increase their love of reading.
Doan Tucker- Community Service
Doan Tucker, a Bordentown resident, is a quiet, kind and caring individual. Doan, is extremely dedicated to the community and all residents of Burlington County.
Doan is a graduate of the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. She puts her passion to use by volunteering her time to design websites for churches. Ms. Tucker volunteered as the Youth Pastor of St. Patrick’s Church in Falls Church, VA., and worked with children for the Fairfax County School System.
After moving to Burlington County, Doan began getting involved in the community. Doan is a member of Christ Church Bordentown, where she supports other church members by being a part of the Alter Guild. She helps to organize many outreach programs that benefit men, women and children in the community.
Doan also works with the Homefront Project providing meals to homeless families in the community. She supports The Bordentown Laundry Project, which provides families with free laundry services once a month. She organizes Fill Father Matt’s Truck at Thanksgiving, providing meals to families in need.
During the holidays, she devotes many hours to Operation Cookie Drop in which she bakes, collects and coordinates a cookie drop for troops that are deployed out of the local Joint Base McGuire - Dix - Lakehurst military installation. Doan organizes a monthly meal for the Joint Base Dorm Dinners, which feeds the troops that reside in the dorms at the local base, providing them with a meal and conversation to help them tofeel more at home in Burlington County.
Doan is also an active volunteer for the Good Neighbor Food Pantry, which provides food for families in need. She routinely brings in local teens to help. She organizes both Easter and Thanksgiving meals for families in need. Ms. Tucker works closely with Soles4Souls, a non-profit organization that collects used shoes and clothing to help reduce the cycle of poverty.
Doan can always be found at community functions as well as supporting local businesses and restaurants, always with a camera in hand, capturing the beauty of Burlington County.
Shenee Omuso- Diversity/Inclusion
Shenee Omuso, a Burlington resident, is a strong, faith-filled individual with a commitment to the community. Shenee currently serves as the Director of Education at The Opportunity League (The O League). The O League is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to build communities by providing opportunities in education and sports. Shenee oversees the development and implementation of educationalprogramming and curriculum at The O League. She also serves as a Board of Trustees member of the YesSheCanCampaign, a youth-led nonprofit that inspires girls, youngwomen, and youth to be extraordinary and change the world.
Shenee is a licensed speech-language pathologist by the American Speech-Hearing Association as well as a Certified Speech-Language Specialist and Elementary Education Teacher with the NJ Department of Education. She is also a Speech-Language Pathologist at Advance Education Solutions. Shenee’s love for Science, technology, engineering and mathematics has also put her in a leadership role for the STEM program. She instructs classes twice a week as well as instructs College Prepcourses.
Shenee also hosts a young women’s empowerment group with girls from local group homes where they cook breakfast, journal, and participate in self-esteem projects, group discussions, and more. Shenee has been a positive role model to many young people and has dedicated her life to serving the community through educational programs.
She is also a member several professional organizations including Kappa Delta PI, Phi Theta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi National Honor Society, Lamda Alphia Sigma, a Burlington County Juvenile Delinquency Board Member, a Burlington County Youth Services Advisory Council Member and a Burlington City Partner for Youth Success Board Member. She is especially proud of her work with Expanding Horizons, United Cerebral Palsy, and Burlington Township’s SCOPE Program, programs all dedicated to serving individuals with disabilities.
She began her education at Rowan College at Burlington County where she received an Associate Degree in Liberal Arts. From there, she received her Bachelor of Arts in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Kean University, and a Master of Arts and Teaching from Fairleigh University and a Master of Arts in Speech Language Pathology from Kean University. Shenee has received numerous academic honors and scholarships and graduated Summa Cum Laude from every academic program she has completed. She is an educator and consultant locally and abroad, traveling to the countries of Ghana, Spain, Haiti, Belgium and Guatemala for educational and service opportunities.
She attended Faith in Action, with Dr. Amy Dean, from elementary to high school showcasing her talents in plays and many cultural activities. With such a drive to reach back and help others, she still comes back and volunteers with Faith in Action and other local non-profit organizations.
Shenee and her husband, Seigha, have two beautiful children who they are raising to become faith-filled members of their community.
Celeste Arties Memorial Award- Ann Marie Bangura, Maple Shade High School
Ann Marie Bangura graduated from Maple Shade High School. Last year, Ann Marie was nominated to attend the Rotary Youth Leadership (RYLA) program. RYLA is a four-day program that promotes leaderships skills, team-building, problem-solving, cooperation and communication skills. Participants are among the top youth leaders from Burlington, Monmouth and Ocean counties.
Additionally, during her junior year of high school, Ann Marie was nominated to attend the Girls Student Leadership Institute at Camden County College. The institute is driven by a mission to positively motivate and transform the lives of students by preparing for success in a post-secondary education and in life. Ann Marie also played on the Girls Soccer Team.
Outside of school, Ann Marie was a Volunteer for Catholic Charities, and was very involved with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. She has demonstrated her support of women through the Young Women’s Camp at her church where she works closely with young women and female students to increase their self-esteem and independence. Also within her church, Ann Marie volunteers as a babysitter, and is also a mentor for young female members of the church.
Ann Marie moved to the United States in the summer of 2017. Prior to moving to the US, Ann Marie lived with her mother in Sierra Leone. When the opportunity presented itself for her to move to New Jersey, she was faced with a variety of emotions. At the age of 16, Ann Marie had to make one of the biggest decisions of her life knowing it would benefit her education and future opportunities. Ann Marie began her high school career as a sophomore at Maple Shade High School, where she remained positive, resilient and eager to learn. She has faced challenges, roadblocks and adjustments, buthas continued to work hard and is thankful for the opportunity to become a US citizen.
While living in Sierra Leone, Ann Marie witnessed firsthand the need for medical advancement and assistance in her home country. Ann Marie’s post-secondary career goal is to become a medical doctor. As she works toward obtaining her degree, she would like to begin building a foundation in Africa. Returning to Sierra Leone to offer aid to women and children is one of her ultimate goals.
Elizabeth Coleman STEM Award- Athira Arayath, Northern Burlington High School
Athira Arayath graduated from Northern Burlington Regional High School and Was the top ranked student. Athira serves as a role model to all of those around her. She was very involved in varsity tennis and several clubs, all while maintaining nearly perfect grades during her entire high school career.
Athira started the Chess Club with her friends while attending Dunn Middle School and participates in HomeFront during the summer where she helps students learn and play chess.
During her sophomore year of high school, Athira started a FIRST Teach Challenge robotics team along with her brother and two friends. The group has received many awards including, Think Award, Innovate Award, Audacious Autonomous Award and has qualified for the State Championships. To date, she is the only girl on her robotics team.
During the summer of 2017, inspired by the North American Solar Eclipse, Athiradeveloped a computer stimulation that modelled planetary and lunar orbits. Later that year, Athira was selected to attend a two-week camp on the Physics at the University of Maryland. At the end of her sophomore year, she was also accepted to the Columbia University’s Science Honors Program (SHP).
Last summer, Athira was selected for the New Jersey Governor’s School in Sciences, an intense three-week summer program. While in this program, Athira attended classes on Neurobiology, Special Relativity, and Molecular Orbital Theory.
During her senior year, Athira applied to and was accepted to participate in the Princeton Plasma Physics Program. She began her internship at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory this year.
Throughout her life, Athira has always been engaged and passionate about math and science. She always wanted to be an astronaut for Halloween as a child and has been interested in studying space. Over the years, Athira has been a leader in theMathCOUNTS team, Odyssey of the Mind, and Science League. Athira also runs robotics workshops where she builds robots with younger children to give them exposure to robotics and STEM.
Following graduation, Athira will be majoring in Physics at MIT. She plans to continue to earn a Master’s and Doctorate in Physics and ultimately become a theoretical physicist. As a student who loves STEM, Athira hopes to see more women join STEM fields, especially in physics.
Alice Paul Champion Award- Grace Harsche, Lenape High School
Grace Harsche graduated from Lenape High School where she was involved in many clubs and organizations and held many leadership roles. She Was active in Women of the World (Executive Board Member), Amnesty International, Class of 2020 Executive Council, Lenape Leadership and Peer Group Connection, Alice Paul Institute (Recruitment Chair), National Honor Society, Dance Experience (Dancer), Lenape Fall Play (Actress), Lenape Musical (Choreographer and Actress) and was on the Varsity Girls Golf team.
Outside of school, Grace has been a kid’s camp counselor at the Philadelphia Project Kids Camp, and was an English Teacher with the Belize Initiative for Children Program. She is also an intern for the non-profit Community South Jersey Philadelphia where she created an intern project, which included the collection of items for women’s care packages to be donated to women’s and children’s shelters. She was also a volunteer with the Walk from Darkness Suicide Prevention Walk, a volunteer with the Lenape With Refugees Henna Fundraiser, and was a YMCA Volunteer Dace Teacher.
One challenge that Grace had to overcome was her struggle with hip dysplasia. After having surgery on both of her hips, and a third surgery on her heart, she overcame this challenge by balancing surgeries and attending school.
Grace intends to receive her Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations with a minor in Public Health from Tulane University this fall. Immediately following graduation, Grace would like to spend time serving in the Peace Corps. She then wishes to obtain a Master’s degree in International Relations and work for a non-profit organization.
Grace’s mother was a teacher, and she firmly believes the only thing in the world that cannot be taken away from someone is their education. With her background and passion about education, Grace would love to work for a non-profit that assists other countries develop their education systems. Her ultimate goal is to one day start her own non-profit that would work with other country’s governments to design effective education systems.