Chamber Blog

The Women of the 2018 ATHENA Awards

The Women of the 2018 ATHENA Awards

Once upon a time, women didn’t have the right to vote or drive…

Today, after years of fiercely fighting for their rights, they are challenging, re-inventing, and innovating their communities and are a strong force for economic change.

Join us in celebrating some of these women at the ATHENA Awards Celebration!

ATHENA Awards Celebration

Congratulations to Jennifer Maxson,
Our 2018 ATHENA Leadership Award Recipient!

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Jennifer Maxson, President of Jennifer Maxson & Associates, is a passionate thought leader in the areas of networking, communication, leadership development, and public speaking. She provides consulting services to clients throughout the United States and abroad, delivering customized individual coaching, executive coaching, and group training for clients. Jennifer has been honored as one of Grand Rapids Business Journal’s 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan and is a proud Grand Valley Laker, holding a Bachelor’s degree in Public Relations. When she’s not coaching, Jennifer enjoys the outdoors and fishing with her family.

See Jennifer Accept Her Award at the ATHENA Awards Celebration!

The 2018 ATHENA Leadership Award Finalists:

  • Janis Petrini
    Owner/Operator, Express Employment Professionals
  • Sister Colleen Nagle, 
    Team Leader, Franciscan Life Process Center
  • Lorna Schultz
    Executive Director, The Economic Club of Grand Rapids
  • Tamara Sytsma
    Owner, Sytsma Wealth Management

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  • Ashley Diersch
    Development Director, Kids’ Food Basket
  • Miranda Krajniak
    Executive Director, Urban Institute of Contemporary Art
  • Sara Lowe
    Executive Director, Emmanuel Hospice
  • Lauren McElrath
    Program Manager, NYC Leadership Academy
  • Abbey Sladick
    Vice President of Communication, Mel Trotter Ministries

Register to Be There When the Winner is Revealed!


Meet the Grand Rapids Chamber ATHENA Eileen DeVries Scholarship Recipients

Each year, the ATHENA Awards Program presents several scholarships to recipients of the unique ATHENA Scholarship, which assists women over 30 who are pursuing their higher education dreams.

LyRee Adams
Grand Rapids Community College

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LyRee expects to graduate with a Bachelor’s of Science Degree with a major in Integrated Studies in December 2019. A married mother of two, she has worked at the Grand Rapids Public School in the Special Needs Programs focused on autism for the past seven years. For the past two years, she has worked with the Parents for Healthy Homes bringing awareness the lead epidemic in Grand Rapids. LyRee is very passionate about children and keeping them safe in our community.

Brandi Dyke
Cornerstone University

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Brandi expects to graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology in the spring of 2021. Originally from Harrison, Michigan, she and her husband, Jon, have been married for nine years and are blessed with four wonderful girls. Upon having her fourth child, Brandi decided that the best decision for her family was to leave her job at the Emergency Department of Metro Health Hospital to be at home full-time with her daughters. During this time, she was still active at her church, serving as a Sunday school teacher, Children and Worship teacher, and a GEMS counselor. This passion for service led her to pursue a career as a Christian Counseling Psychologist through Cornerstone University.

Mercedes Frias
Cornerstone University

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Mercedes expects to obtain her Bachelor’s Degree in Businesses Administration & Leadership by March of 2020. Originally from Vera Cruz, Mexico, Mercedes pursued a new life in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 2002. She worked three jobs while being a full-time single mother to her two daughters. Arriving in the United States alone with little knowledge of English proved to be a challenge, but she persevered through all the struggles and pushed her family forward to a more promising future. Through her hard work and motivation, she was able to accomplish more than she had ever anticipated.

Parzinder Ghavri
Grand Rapids Community College

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Parzinder is currently studying Business Administration with a minor in Accounting at Grand Rapids Community College. She expects to graduate in December 2019. In her free time, Parzinder enjoys participating in community events and spending time with her family and friends. Her hobbies include traveling, cooking, reading, and painting. She loves exploring new cuisines and new places.

Janna Romero
Grand Rapids Community College

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Janna expects to graduate in August 2019 with an Associate’s Degree in Nursing. She was raised in Jacksonville, Florida until 9th grade when her family moved to Rockford, Michigan. Several years and a few kids later, she decided to go back to school to pursue a career in nursing. “The process has been challenging, and incredibly rewarding,” she told us. “I cannot wait to begin my career as a nurse. I want to provide compassionate care to people experiencing the scariest times of their lives.”


The ATHENA Awards Celebration

Wednesday, September 19
11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
The JW Marriott Grand Rapids

Save Your Seat!


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Samantha Suarez Administrator
Samantha is the Communications Specialist for the Grand Rapids Chamber. Her responsibilities include managing and writing the blog and digital magazine, producing the Chamber podcast, and other content.
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