“It is good to be blessed, but better to be a blessing.” This quote, painted across Sonja Bailes’ office wall, embodies her core belief that each of us possesses the ability to lift up others, no matter our background, financial means or where our feet are planted.
Sonja is the public relations liaison for Bossier schools. Making a difference in the community we call home is easily the most gratifying part of her job. She believes that actions speak louder than words and has a servant’s heart, finding purpose in modeling the importance of community service in projects like A Day of Service and the Red Kettle Challenge.
Sonja is also passionate about mentorship and elevating those serving in one of the noblest professions – our educators. She considers it an honor to be their cheerleader.
As the president and CEO of Brown Builders since 2013, Kristen Brown leads the state's largest woman-owned construction company. She holds a BA in journalism and accounting from Washington & Lee University and a Juris Doctorate from the Paul M. Hebert Law Center at Louisiana State University.
She served as the only female elected president of the Shreveport Associated General Contractors. She was vice president of the local chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction. She is a member of the Shreveport Association of Women Attorneys and the American Bar Association. She was on the board of the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce, is a member of the Rotary Club and is active with Volunteers of America and First Baptist Church.
Shemika Caldwell-Owens, the owner of We Care Sitting Services, LLC and Jericho Staffing, LLC, has committed herself to exemplifying stellar character personally and professionally. As well, she encourages others to strive in that same manner. Mrs. Caldwell- Owens has asserted her business acumen to create employment opportunities for individuals who may otherwise be subjected to indigent circumstances.
She seeks to be engaged and involved in community efforts that will better serve constituents. Shemika has been integral in helping individuals access essential daily needs such as housing, clothing and food. More specifically, she has a heart for women and children. Shemika has strategically recruited and employed women from all backgrounds and walks of life. She continues to assist women in attaining education and professional knowledge, rendering them more marketable and viable to be self-sufficient.
Laura P. Crawford
Laura Crawford is the founder/ director of the Centenary Suzuki School (CSS), Centenary College faculty member, violinist in the Shreveport Symphony and a charter member of Baroque Artists of Shreveport.
Starting with 10 students in 1977, the CSS is now the largest Suzuki program in Louisiana. More than 1,000 students have received training, generating offers of 30 + million in scholarships from colleges seeking academically and musically talented students. Laura has organized music workshops and hundreds of performances for area students. Students are taught service to others by playing locally for the Red River Revel since its beginning, Sci-Port, Holy Angels, The Glen, the Oaks and various churches. Laura's efforts for 42 years have helped mold young lives, generating hundreds of college and career-ready students.
Reneé Ellis is a former business owner, instructional coordinator, principal and most recently the community engagement specialist for Caddo Parish’s Transformation Zone. She graduated from Xavier University and has been an educator for almost three decades and is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. She is happily married to Dr. Cedric Ellis.
Reneé has dedicated her life to serving her community. Relocating as a Hurricane Katrina evacuee in August 2005, she found solace in her love of making a difference in others' lives. She has been awarded Teacher of the Year, National TAP Ambassador Award, Elementary Principal of the Year, MBOA Professional of Year, and was named the Virginia Shehee Most Influential Woman in Shreveport/ Bossier. She strives each day to help others for “it is always better to give than receive.”
Dr. Julie Lessiter has been at LSU Shreveport for 10 years serving in several different roles. Currently, she is the vice chancellor of strategic initiatives and a faculty member in the Department of the Leadership Studies. As a strong advocate for opportunity and access to higher education, she has championed various initiatives that have resulted in LSUS being the fastestgrowing institution in the state of Louisiana.
She works tirelessly to develop programming for students to prepare them to be successful in life and career after college, with the goal that they use these skills to develop the local economy.
In her spare time, Lessiter is competitive on the national veterans' tennis stage and mentors local female players through the college athletic recruitment process.
Jaya McSharma, MD
Dr. McSharma is a local physician and media personality who has used her platform to keep the public educated about COVID and dispel misinformation regarding its diagnosis and treatment.
In addition, her passion is supporting local and supporting women, highlighting them in her series, “Follow Your Dreamport," which has had two seasons and featured women of all occupations, promoting their success and inspiring other women to do the same. Jaya and her production partner, Melissa Munds, are also responsible for four films which were written, directed by and starred female leads as well as crew members in a largely maledominated industry. She also hosts a weekly vodcast, "Pigeonholed," which is devoted to the regular discussion of women's issues, emphasizing fairness and equality.
Susan G. Moffitt
Susan Moffitt went to work in the family business as a cashier/telephone operator. She was promoted to service advisor, salesperson, finance manager, then general manager. Currently, she is the dealer principal for Moffitt Mazda and Porsche Shreveport. She has a family environment, and her employees treat her business as their business. She empowers her employees to do whatever it takes to take care of the customer. She lives every day of her life to carry on her father's legacy.
Her success is based on her work ethic and everything she learned from her parents, relationships with her family, work family and community involvement. She believes it is vital to give back to the community that has supported them for 56 years.
Cynthia B. Mosley
Cynthia has played a vital role in youths' lives for over 20 years in various professional roles at Shreveport Job Corp Center, City of Shreveport Community Development, Southern University Shreveport campus and VOA Lighthouse Services.
Cynthia strives to inspire and motivate youth whenever she encounters them by letting them know they can do anything in life if they stay focused. For the last five years as district director of Norwela Council, Boy Scouts of America, she has increased families served by 98%. Cynthia believes that she achieved this growth by forming relationships with principals, students and their parents.
She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. and a life member of Grambling State University Alumni Association. She is married to Douglas and has two daughters.
Gretchen G. Petterway, MD
Dr. Petterway is passionate about kids! She is saddened by the increasing number who suffer from low self-esteem and mental health disorders. She found herself referring an alarming volume of children to counseling, which forced her to address "the woman in the mirror" as she suffered from a negative self-image as well. As part of her healing, she passionately penned her first children's book, "I Am Cool," as an answer to this health crisis. It reminds us that we are perfect just the way we are! Her global platform, What Makes Me Cool, fosters healthy self-images by focusing on the "cool you" that lives within.
She is also a teacher at heart and loves mentoring student doctors and nurse practitioner students in pediatric medicine.
Renisha J. Sanders
Renisha is an outstanding professional who is operations manager at Cardinaux Wealth Advisors. She’s a dedicated employee of 10 years and manages the day-to-day of the practice while assisting in overall growth of the firm. She prides herself on working closely with the staff to be a sounding board for their personal and professional goals. She then goes out of her way to help them to achieve those goals however she can.
Over the years, she has contributed to several organizations for the city of Shreveport. She is past vice president of Norla Preservation Project, an active member of the Young Professionals Initiative (YPI), and co-chair of the YPI 40 under Forty committee, of which she was an honoree for the 2018 class.
Laura M. Seabaugh
Laura Seabaugh has spent her entire career inspiring excellence and serving the Shreveport community. Under her leadership, the American Rose Society modernized, increased membership for the first time since the 1990s, stabilized its finances, and the Great Garden Restoration of the Rose Center was conceptualized and begun.
Now, on behalf of Louisiana's attorney general, she works to protect children through education about cyber predators and serves on the Volunteers for Youth Justice board of directors. She teaches seniors how to arm themselves against scam artists and fights crime through her Caddo Crime Stoppers board work.
She mentors young women and co-founded the NWLA Policy Circle, which educates women on governmental policy. Laura works tirelessly on this and more to better our community through work and volunteerism.
Suzanne L. Tinsley, Ph.D.
Dr. Suzanne Tinsley received her master's degree in physical therapy from Texas Woman's University in 1986 and her Ph.D. in neuropharmacology from LSU Health Sciences Center-Shreveport (LSUHS) in 1999. She is an assistant dean in the School of Allied Health Professions at LSUHS and has been on faculty for 31 years. Dr. Tinsley is the first board-certified neurologic physical therapist in the state of Louisiana and is also the assistant director of neurologic rehabilitation in the new LSUHS Center for Brain Health.
She has lectured internationally and nationally on pharmacology and neurorehabilitation, and in February 2017, was named the Richard C. Parks Endowed Professor in Neurological Rehabilitation by LSUHS. She and her husband, Eddie, are the proud parents of two daughters, Meagan (26) and Madeline (21).
Shelli Ulrich is the director of college transition programs at Bossier Parish Community College. She has dedicated her personal and professional life to improving the lives of those in her community. She is a staunch supporter of education and training, believing that education is the great equalizer in society and economic security. As a domestic abuse survivor, she realized early on that her education allowed her to pursue a career and a financial safety net for her small family that otherwise might not be possible.
Shelli has spent her life in the Shreveport/ Bossier area. She is deeply concerned with the welfare of her community, and as a result, invests her efforts in improving the life circumstances and economic security of residents of these communities, particularly the most vulnerable: those in high-crime/ high-poverty areas.
Join in celebrating and honoring these outstanding business professionals from our community at the upcoming 30th Annual ATHENA Leadership Award Program, where one of these honorees will be named the 2020 ATHENA International Leadership Award Recipient.
The 30th Annual ATHENA Leadership Award Program will be held Nov. 12 at Sam’s Town Hotel & Casino with registration beginning promptly at 11:30 a.m.
Due to restrictions in place for public safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, individual tickets are not available for purchase. However, individuals or groups wishing to sit together may purchase six-top tables for this event. During the event, all recommended safety guidelines will be strictly followed, including wearing masks while entering or exiting the event, social distancing as well as limiting close contact, including handshakes.
To register for the event, visit www.shreveportchamber.org or contact Ellie Ward at firstname.lastname@example.org