Congratulations are in order for five local women in the Tennessee Valley who were were recognized as outstanding leaders of tomorrow.
The Womens Economic Development Council Foundation announced the recipients of the "Women Honoring Women" celebration Tuesday night at Burritt on the Mountain.
Sandra Cepeda, Sherry Kolodziejczak, Brenda Martin, Paulette Risher and Lynne Berry Vallely were nominated by people in the community. (Read more about the women below)
The ladies will receive their awards at the WEDC Foundation's annual fundraiser on Thursday, September 20 at the Von Braun Center. WAAY 31 is a proud sponsor of the event. This year's theme is "When Perseverance Meets Passion."
Proceeds from the event will go to the WEDC Foundation's scholarship program. For more information about the program, click HERE.
The WEDC Foundation's mission is to empower women in the community to achieve self-sufficiency and economic independence by providing mentors, flexible financial assistance and professional development and networking.
Over the past 20 years, the nonprofit provided more than 138 local women with more than $425,000 in financial assistance.
Meet the 2018 Women Honoring Women Recipients
Sandra Cepeda, President & CEO
Cepeda Systems & Software Analysis, Inc
Originally from Bogota, Columbia, Sandra received her B.S. and M.S. in Computer Engineering from Auburn University. With over 30 years of software and systems related experience in the acquisition, development, management, process improvement and sustainment of DoD systems, she is recognized as an expert in her field. In 2001, Sandra followed God-given direction to found Cepeda Systems and Software Analysis, Inc. (CSSA). Sandra currently serves as President & CEO of CSSA, as well as the President of the Board of Intentional Faith, a Huntsville-based ministry created by CSSA to share the love of Jesus and glorify God through job empowerment, community development, and short-term relief for the under-resourced in our community. Sandra also stands as a court-appointed juvenile advocate at CAJA of Madison County, serves as an Instructor at the Downtown Rescue Mission women’s recovery program, a Madison Rotarian, and a board member for The Catalyst and Extending a Hand Foundation. Sandra touches the lives of everyone she encounters and draws on her unique life experiences to mentor, encourage, and help others, and to bless and grow our community.
Sherry Kolodziejczak, MS, OTR/L
Director of Therapy Services/ALS Care
Clinic/Cardiac Rehab/Worker’s Program
Crestwood Medical Center
Sherry Kolodziejczak received her Master’s from Boston University and is currently the Director of the ALS Clinic/Cardiac Rehab/Therapy Services/Worker’s Program at Crestwood Medical Center. She is an Occupational Therapist, advocate, educator and passionate volunteer. She speaks nationally on topics including Aging In Place, Medicare Documentation, ALS, Complex Disease Rehabilitation and Mobility Technology and Augmentative Communication. Some of her volunteer activities include serving as Vice Chair of the ALS Alabama Board of Directors, ALOTA Trustee, AARP Executive Council Member, AARP Alabama Deputy State Coordinator, AARP National Coordinator for Driver Safety, ACOTE Accreditation Reviewer, Alabama Parkinson’s Support Group Board Trustee and presents AARP’s We Need To Talk Training, CarFit and Prepare to Care Education. She has been recognized as Alabama’s Occupational Therapist of the Year, received the Elise McKibben Lectureship Award, the Eric Obermann Humanitarian Award and Outstanding Volunteer in America Award.
Brenda Martin, Host “Inside Huntsville”
Office of the Mayor – Huntsville
Prior to moving to Huntsville, Brenda worked at Xerox Corporation for 17 years from sales to senior management. She was an international model which sparked her interest in owning and operating a school for personal development which became the first licensed by the Alabama State Board of Education. Recognized as a “Trailblazer” by the Madison county Women’s Political Caucus, Brenda has served on over 30 civic boards, committees and authorities and now sits on the Convention & Visitors Bureau, Second Mile Development, Inc. & Huntsville Housing Authority Advisory Board. She has served under three Huntsville Mayors from 1989 to 2013. Her roles have ranged from the first African-American to serve as the Administrative Assistant for External Affairs to the Inaugural Director of Multicultural Affairs. She served as the first Director of Customer Service for the city. Brenda anchored local TV shows in the early eighties and was the first anchor for the newly established Fox 54. She is currently the host of “Inside Huntsville”, a show that highlights the city’s departments and other critical agencies.
Paulette Risher, Chief Programs Officer
Still Serving Veterans
Paulette Risher is twice retired, once as a civilian Organizational Psychologist with the United States Air Force Research Laboratory and once as a Major General (2-Star) in the United States Army Reserve. With 34 years of active and reserve service, Paulette was the first woman to command an Army Special Operations unit as a flag-officer. When she returned to active duty in 2002, she served as the President of the Joint Special Operations University. Since “retiring” in 2006, Paulette has served as an organizational consultant and as the Huntsville lead for a defense cyber security company. Today, Paulette is Chief Programs Officer of Still Serving Veterans. The common theme of Paulette’s professional life is contributing to the defense of our nation and the well-being of those who are serving or have served; it is her calling. Paulette has a deep love of learning and holds master’s degrees in Organizational Psychology and Education and maintains a private consulting practice, Learning for the Journey, LLC. Paulette is a member of Good Shepherd Catholic Church, the Women’s Economic Development Council, the Alabama Governor’s Veterans Executive Network (AlaVetNet), the Alabama Small Business Advisory Council, the Greater Huntsville Rotary Club, and serves on the Board of the Catalyst.
Lynne Berry Vallely, President
Berry Millsaps Properties & J.T. Berry, Inc
A native of Huntsville, Lynne is a graduate of Lee High School and Vanderbilt University. She has been a high school teacher and a NASA department head. She has served in the offices of former Congressman Bud Cramer and Senator Jeff Sessions. She has also worked in positions that promoted Huntsville’s tourist attractions, preserved its historic sites, and protected the area’s natural environment. She was the founding executive director of the Community Foundation. She was a member of Class 1 of Leadership Huntsville and later served as board chair. She proposed and chaired Huntsville Hospital’s Community Health Initiative. She continues to serve our state on the boards of Leadership Alabama, the Alabama State Council on the Arts, the Alabama Humanities Foundation, the Public Affairs Research Council, the University of Alabama Blackburn Institute, and the Bryant-Jordan Scholarship Program. She serves her community on the Village of Promise Advisory Board, the Committee of 100 Creative Cities Committee, the Huntsville Housing Authority Advisory Board, and the Church of the Nativity Legacy Society Board. Lynne currently manages her family businesses, Berry Millsaps Properties and J. T. Berry, Inc. She and her husband Joe enjoy three children and two grandchildren.