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FINALISTS – 2020 ATHENA Young Professional Leadership Award

31st Annual ATHENA Awards Celebration: Meet the Finalists

Every year at the ATHENA Awards Celebration, we gather to CELEBRATE those who embody, encourage and promote the inclusion of women.

The ATHENA Young Professional Leadership Award is presented to an emerging leader who demonstrates excellence, creativity and initiative in their business or profession; serves as a role model for young women personally and professionally; and provides valuable service to improve the quality of life for others in the community.

We are thrilled to recognize five incredible women as the finalists for the 2020 ATHENA Young Professional Leadership Award.


FINALISTS - 2020 ATHENA Young Professional Leadership Award

Brandy Arnold
Program Manager, WMCAT

“Know whence you came. If you know whence you came, there is really no limit to where you can go.”- James Baldwin

“When I first read this quote in college, it set me on the trajectory I’m still on today, and continues to drive me. To know the power of my history and the accomplishments of all of those who have come before me (particularly black women) gives me hope, confidence, and motivation. I know I am carrying a torch that was lit long before I was born, and am trying to pay-it-forward for people who are coming after me.”




FINALISTS - 2020 ATHENA Young Professional Leadership Award 1

Elise Kutt
Owner/Photographer, Mod Bettie

“Somehow I’ve been gifted with this magical superpower to make women feel confident and comfortable in front of the camera, a typically scary and intimidating place to be. It allows us to connect so that I’m able to get more authentic images and show them their power and beauty, to let them know how amazing they are–just as they are.”





FINALISTS - 2020 ATHENA Young Professional Leadership Award 2

Ashley René Lee
Vice President of Strategic Communications, Grand Rapids Community Foundation

“My ATHENA super power is Authentic Self. While I am a communicator and strategist by trade, I am a social justice and racial equity warrior at my core. I can’t do this work if I can’t show up with my whole self and my whole heart. It is what gives me the courage to advocate unapologetically for myself and for my community.”





FINALISTS - 2020 ATHENA Young Professional Leadership Award 3

Ashley Ward
Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Hire for Hope

“My ATHENA super power is the power of INTUITION! Both my intuitive nature and empathetic spirit have helped open my eyes to endless opportunities. Don’t get me wrong, one shouldn’t base their entire career on gut feeling alone. Objective data points are also important. But the most exciting and energizing opportunities I’ve come across, or people I’ve built relationships with are the result of following my intuition. Listen to your gut!”





FINALISTS - 2020 ATHENA Young Professional Leadership Award 4

Shannon Wilson
Medicaid Outreach & Quality Director, Priority Health

“A woman I look up to is Roz Sullivan. She is an amazing mother, wife and friend. All too often we focus only on achievements, leaving little recognition to the most important relationships in our lives. While Roz demonstrates the value of relationships, she is also brilliant, wise, and bold – exuding a sense of class as soon as she enters a room.”






The recipient of the 2020 ATHENA Young Professional Leadership Award will be announced at the 31st Annual ATHENA Awards Celebration on September 24, 2020.

This year’s celebration will be presented in a virtual format and will focus on the stories and experiences that have made the ATHENA finalists the incredible leaders they are today. Join us to engage and connect as we celebrate ATHENA and continue to push the needle forward for women in our community.

Each registration also includes a curated gift box in recognition of the women-owned businesses in our community… from us, to you. To be eligible for this gift, please register by Thursday, September 10.

31st Annual ATHENA Awards Celebration

Beyond the Bios

Thursday, September 24

4:00 – 5:00 p.m.

Mia Jankowiak Administrator
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