Your browser does not support JavaScript! 2022 Sisterhood Spotlights | First Lady of Virginia - Suzanne S. Youngkin Skip Navigation

Sisterhood Spotlight

2022 sisterhood-spotlight-Bonnie-Carroll
Bonnie Carroll
TAPS President and Founder

Bonnie Carroll founded the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) as a much-needed national support network for America’s Gold Star Families and in her own grief following the death of her husband, Brigadier General Tom Carroll. In this Sisterhood Spotlight, she shares about TAPS’ founding, the memory of her husband and the resources that are available through TAPS to the families of America’s fallen heroes, both during the holidays and year-round.

Tell us about your family and what led to the founding of TAPS.

I founded the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, or TAPS, in 1994 after the death of my husband in an Army plane crash. He was killed along with seven other soldiers. I was also a military officer in the reserve forces, and assumed there was such an organization to provide a community of compassionate care for all those who were grieving a military loss. Realizing this did not exist in the United States at that time, I very purposefully began researching the needs of military survivors like myself, and exploring the need to have an organization to fill the gaps in care once a military member dies. While the military in the United States does an extraordinary job of rendering final military honors, providing a burial in a national cemetery, and administering government benefits to those surviving family members who are eligible, the government is not able to do what TAPS now does for those grieving the death of their loved one. As a community of survivors helping other survivors heal, TAPS provides peer-based emotional support, casework assistance beyond what the government can provide, emergency financial aid, access to the 24/7 National Military Survivor Helpline, and connections to grief support services in every community. While many feel that military loss only occurs only in war, we care for the families of all who serve and die, regardless of where or how the death occurs, including losses from combat, suicide, illness, and accident. In 2021, there were 9,246 newly bereaved survivors of military loss who came to TAPS for care in the US, an increase from 7,538 survivors in 2020.

How has the memory of your husband, BG Tom Carroll, inspired the work that TAPS does?

My husband was a warrior who cared deeply about his Soldiers, and also about their families. I remember one of his Soldiers telling me that shortly before Tom was killed, her brother died in a motorcycle accident. She said that despite being the Commanding General, Tom personally made sure she was supported, had the time off to attend the funeral, and was given time to grieve and honor her brother upon her return. Tom truly is my inspiration, as TAPS offers exactly the kind of comprehensive care that was a hallmark of his leadership. TAPS recognizes the heartbreak of loss, and that death is a great equalizer. Whether private or general, man or woman, new recruit or aging veteran, TAPS honors all who served and died by caring for everyone who they loved and left behind.

What resources are available to Gold Star families through TAPS?

At TAPS, we are here to support all those grieving the loss of a military loved one along every step of their grief journey. 

As part of the TAPS Family, they are offered the absolute best in survivor support, advocacy and casework assistance. Whether it's one of the members of our Helpline team talking with a survivor on a sleepless night, a member of our Casework Team helping sort through the stressful decisions to be made, along with the paperwork following the death of a loved one, or whether it's walking down the corridors of Congress, advocating for policy and budget changes on behalf of survivors, our team is always standing with survivors and for survivors.

Learn more about services and resources below, including resources to help survivors cope during the holiday season. 

TAPS Services and Resources

TAPS Holiday Resources:

What would you say to Virginians wanting to be involved or make a difference?

TAPS provides a critical service to the surviving families of our military and veterans, and we do this entirely with support from Americans who appreciate service and honor sacrifice. If you are a service member or veteran yourself, check out our Military Mentor Program ( for TAPS children and become a volunteer. We are very grateful for our donors, and there are simple ways to give, such as hosting a Facebook Fundraiser or choosing TAPS as your charity on Amazon Smile or Walmart’s Charity program. Sign up to run a marathon or 10K (or anywhere in between) as part of Team TAPS ( . Volunteer at one of our events to help us create the safe space our families need to find hope and healing. We are profoundly grateful for all of the support we receive, and we’d love to have you join our TAPS family of supporters!

How would you encourage Virginians to respond to their veteran neighbors or friends who are grieving during the holidays?

I would encourage Virginians who are supporting grieving friends and family to be kind; be gentle and be understanding. Everyone grieves differently. For some, it might be a comfort to be out with people, and for others, it’s just too difficult to participate in holiday gatherings. Offer the opportunity for the griever to share stories of their loved one with a simple request, “Would you tell me about them?” Honor those who have passed with a special ornament, a toast at a gathering, or share memories of them. The best gifts I received from Tom’s friends were those memories and pictures from friends that were new to me. For just a moment, having a new memory brought Tom alive again, and that was precious. For children, this is especially wonderful. Books filled with memories from friends are treasured keepsakes. But above all else, give the gift of your presence. There is nothing more valuable.

About Bonnie Carroll

Bonnie Carroll founded the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) in 1994, at a time when there was no national support network for the families of America's fallen heroes. Through her own grief following the death of her husband, Brig. Gen. Tom Carroll, who perished in an Army plane crash in 1992 along with seven other soldiers, she turned her tragedy into a purposeful effort to create what is today the major national program providing compassionate care for all who are grieving the death of a service member.

Since its launch in 1994, TAPS has cared for the more than 100,000 surviving family members through a national network of peer-based emotional support services; a 24/7 helpline available to those grieving a loss; connections to community based care throughout the nation; and casework assistance for families navigating all of the resources and benefits available to them.

In addition to founding and serving as the President of TAPS, Carroll also held appointments in the government, including White House Liaison at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) under President George W. Bush, Executive Assistant to the President for Cabinet Affairs under President Reagan, and in Baghdad, Iraq, as the Senior Advisor to the Iraqi Ministry of Communications during Operation Iraqi Freedom. During her earlier career in Washington, D.C., Ms. Carroll lived and worked on Capitol Hill as a political consultant on Presidential and Congressional campaigns and consultant on national defense issues.

Carroll retired as a Major in the Air Force Reserve following 31 years of service, where her career included serving as Chief, Casualty Operations, HQ USAF. Prior to joining the USAFR, Maj. Carroll served 16 years as both a noncommissioned officer and then a commissioned officer in the Air National Guard as a Transportation Officer, Logistics Officer, and Executive Officer.

Carroll has also served on the Board of Directors of the Association of Death Education and Counseling, the Department of Defense Military Family Readiness Council, the VA Advisory Committee on Disability Compensation, the Defense Health Board, and the Board of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. She is past co-chair of the Department of Defense Task Force on the Prevention of Suicide by Members of the Armed Forces and she currently serves on the VA Advisory Committee on Families, Caregivers and Survivors. Co-author of Healing Your Grieving Heart After a Military Death, she has published numerous articles on grief and trauma following a military death. She has appeared on CNN, FOX, NBC's The Today Show, and other national programs speaking about military loss.

In addition to receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama and the Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher Distinguished Civilian Humanitarian Award from the Department of Defense, Carroll was also featured in People Magazine as a "Hero Among Us;" named a recipient of the Community Heroes Award by the Military Officers Association of America; has been recognized by the Defense Department with the Office of the Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Public Service; and has received the Army's Outstanding Civilian Service Medal and the Navy's Distinguished Public Service Award.

Ms. Carroll holds a degree in Public Administration and Political Science from American University, and has completed Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government's Executive Leadership Program on International Conflict Resolution. She is a graduate of several military service schools, including the USAF Logistics Officer Course, Squadron Officers School, Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute, Academy of Military Science and USAF Basic Training (Honor Graduate).

About TAPS

The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) is the leading national organization providing compassionate care and survivor support services for the families of America’s fallen military heroes. Since 1994, TAPS has offered support to all those grieving the death of a military loved one through peer-based emotional support, connections with grief and trauma resources, grief seminars and retreats for adults, Good Grief Camps for children, casework assistance, connections to community-based care, online and in-person support groups, and the 24/7 National Military Survivor Helpline, all at no cost to surviving families. For more information, please visit or call 800-959-TAPS (8277).

Sisterhood Spotlight

2022 sisterhood-spotlight-KellyTill
Kelly Till
President and Publisher of the Richmond Times-Dispatch

Kelly Till is the first woman to assume the role of president and publisher at the Richmond Times-Dispatch. In this Sisterhood Spotlight, she shares about her goal in the job, key lessons from her career and how she balances her full-time schedule while raising five kids.

How is it being the first woman to assume this role in the paper’s more than 170 years?

I’m honored, but really the accomplishment isn’t that I was the first woman hired as President and Publisher of the Richmond Times Dispatch, but rather that my gender had no impact or bearing on being deserving of the job. There were likely numerous women in the paper’s 172 years that could have been amazing leaders, but were never given the chance. They surely faced barriers and road blocks that prevented them from being considered. I was given the opportunity to earn the position and that’s reflective of the diverse culture that Lee Enterprises is building within our organization. I’m fortunate to be part of a culture that is more accepting, more diverse, more focused on advancement for all people based solely on merit. That’s exciting. But it does feel good to break ceilings!

What goal are you bringing to this job?

My goal is always to make a positive impact in the communities we serve, but also to further our attempts at innovation. And maybe just as important, to make sure our communities are aware of that innovation. A great example of this is our creation of the Virginia Video Network, which shares local news through streaming and helps expand our audience. We’re more than a newspaper. We’re a digital agency with a state of the art video studio, research group, and in-house branded content department. Growing in these areas is a priority. It helps us better serve our audience and our advertisers. 

What key lessons can you share about your career in the advertising industry?

It’s been an amazing 26 years. My career started at Landmark Communications/The Virginian-Pilot in 1996 as a marketing coordinator and rose through ranks to Vice President of Advertising.  A key lesson that I learned and embraced early on is to seek mentors. In every step of my career, I have learned from amazing individuals; men and women, inside and outside my industry. I still rely on them today. That’s why I believe so strongly in paying it forward. I’m a mentor to numerous colleagues, past and present. I’m also proud to be a part of the Woman’s Initiative Network through my alma mater Old Dominion University. I hope to be able to contribute to similar programs in Richmond.

What advice do you have for women who are pursuing a male-dominated field?

Be bold, lean in, and ask for what you want. Be authentic. Never compromise who you are. Work hard and be nice. Don‘t be scared to fail. But learn from those failures. Find your tribe for support – the people you trust and who will talk you off the ledge on the bad days and celebrate with you on the good ones.  

You have five kids. What is it like balancing your career and family? What advice would you give other women?

Work-life balance is important and critical for success, but it is NOT easy. I’ve gotten better at it over the years, but it has taken practice. And believe me, it’s still a work in progress. But you have to draw some lines. I set priorities and am always there for the special moments – even if it means taking a red eye to make the cheer competition. I also schedule time on my calendar for myself. “Me time” is important. Sometimes I have to remind myself of that with a sticky note at work and home. Note to self: It’s ok to say no! 

What are you most looking forward to this holiday season?

Wearing matching family pajamas, laughing until we cry and making memories with family and friends.

About Kelly Till

Kelly Till is the first woman president and publisher to lead the Richmond Times-Dispatch in its 172-year history. Kelly, a 26-year veteran of the advertising industry, also serves as vice president of sales in the southeast region for Lee Enterprises Inc., the parent company of The Times-Dispatch. She became vice president of sales for The Times-Dispatch and Lee’s VA, NC and NJ markets in November 2020 after serving as vice president of advertising at The Virginian-Pilot and Daily Press. Kelly is credited with pioneering several new programs for Lee, including the launch of a full-service video studio and news network, the continued expansion of the Amplified Digital advertising program across the region, and the creation of En Forme, a statewide lifestyle magazine.

Kelly has earned numerous honors, including most recently the Old Dominion University 2022 Distinguished Alumni award, a 2018 “Women of Distinction” title from YWCA South Hampton Roads, and recognized as an Editor & Publisher’s “Newspapers That Do it Right”. She serves on several boards across Virginia, including the Old Dominion Athletic Foundation, United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg, Virginia Arts Festival, Chamber RVA and An Achievable Dream. She also is a WIN (Women’s Initiative Network) member and mentors first generation female students at ODU. She earned her BSBA, Marketing from ODU in 1994. Kelly and her husband, Keith, live in Richmond and have five children blended.

Sisterhood Spotlight

2022 sisterhood-spotlight-DelaineMazich
Delaine Mazich

Delaine Mazich is a mother of three boys and a women’s leader who regularly gives of her time in missions. In this Sisterhood Spotlight, Delaine shares about her son, Grey. Delaine tells Grey’s story out of a desire to build awareness about the dangers of fentanyl poisoning and to spread HOPE to save lives.

Please tell us about your family and more specifically about your son, Grey.

Grey was a wonderful son, brother, teammate and friend. He was fiercely loyal to his friends, always stepping up to protect and support them. Everyone thought Grey was their “Best Friend.” Grey was that special kind of friend—always listening, always protecting them when they were in danger or hurting. He had a tremendous heart and loved those he surrounded himself with.

He was a natural leader but never wanted or liked the attention. Others looked up to him, respected him and wanted to be part of his team. He was a talented athlete—Captain of his high school football and rugby team. Grey was a fearless competitor and would never give up. He played many games with broken and dislocated bones refusing to give in.

Grey had an exceptional sense of humor- he always knew just what to say and made others feel comfortable and loved. Grey could take any awkward situation and turn it into comfortable one, bringing out the best in those around him. He knew exactly how to make people feel respected and confident.

Tell us about September 2020 and your family’s tragedy.

On September 2, 2020, my husband and I experienced every parent’s worst nightmare. Three Fairfax County police officers rang my doorbell. The lead officer announced to us that our son, Greyson Cole Mazich had passed.

It was Grey’s senior year at Clemson.

It’s truly difficult to express the pain, the anguish you have when you lose a child.  There are no words.

Grey’s passing was during the middle of the COVID-19 lockdown, so every detail was even more difficult.  The worst was waiting and waiting for the toxicology report to come back. Autopsy reports had shown that Grey had double pneumonia. I knew he was sick as he had been calling and texting me that he felt horrible. When the report finally came, the cause of death was 100% fentanyl. Nothing else. Whatever pill Grey had taken that night to sleep was 100% fentanyl. He never had a chance.

When I spoke with the coroner, I asked her what I could do to prevent this from happening to anyone else. Her answer? Tell people. Talk about it. Do not let your son die in vain. The stigma, shame and guilt is so great she said sometimes parents don’t even tell their spouse and immediate family.

That’s my plan—to honor Grey by talking and sharing about the dangers of fentanyl. Grey would always stand up for his friends and protect them, so I know he would want me to do the same thing, protect.

I never would have survived this tragedy without my faith. Every day I asked God for protection of Grey.  Not once have I thought this was an unanswered prayer. In some way God has protected Grey and our family in a way that we will one day find out.

What have you learned about fentanyl poisoning?

Thankfully, awareness and education concerning fentanyl poisoning has come a long way in just two years, but we have a long way yet to go. In a survey conducted in Fall 2022, over 60% of young people between the ages of 13-24 had not seen, heard or read any ads or public service announcements on social media about fentanyl being used to make fake pills. This has to change. We can do a better job.

When asked what venues would be most receptive to learning about the dangers of fentanyl poisoning, 64% said social media posts from prominent individuals and influencers; 60% said PSA announcements; 58% said presentations and group discussions at schools and on campus; and 52% said law enforcement.

Tell us what you are doing in Grey’s memory?

To honor my son Grey, I will maintain HOPE that we can save lives by sharing his story:

H             Have that conversation with your children, family and friends;

O             Observe and monitor your child’s social media (especially Snap Chat and Venmo) and ‘open the mail’—the majority of fake pill distribution is going through the United States Postal Service while dealers are delivering the drugs to doorsteps;

P             Prosecute the dealers and distributors—work with and support law enforcement;

E             End the stigma—talk about fentanyl poisoning and spread the word. This can happen to anyone.

What can parents watch for to identify risks associated with fentanyl poisoning?

Mental health is so important and needs to be addressed. Stress and anxiety is rampant with young people. The majority of young people (77%) said talking to a close friend would be their first course of action while only 59% said they would seek help from a mental health professional. This is where the “awkward zone” comes into play. Most of the time friends don’t know what to say to a friend who is struggling. This is why we need to work with our youth, training them, educating them on the facts so they’re prepared and know what to say. Most of the time, those struggling simply want to be heard.  Listening to our friends and hearing the pain they’re experiencing can be powerful.

I am so confident that we can end the poison that is taking lives.  We may not be able to control the supply of what’s coming into our country, but we can work to eliminate the demand.

Where can Virginians go to get help?

Visit the First Lady’s Women+girls (W+g) web page for additional information.

*research statistics commissioned by Song for Charlie and executed by Breakwater Strategy, August 2022

About Delaine Mazich

Delaine Mazich and her husband, Tom, live and have raised their three boys and five golden retrievers in Great Falls, VA. Delaine’s background began in the business world, but took a right turn after her involvement with international missions in Burundi, Africa. Delaine’s passion lies within women’s ministry and has enjoyed leading, building and teaching small groups for over 30 years. She understands the power of ‘Sisterhood’. Her efforts include What One Woman Can Do, An Evening in December, Get Uncomfortable and the Child Survival Program with Compassion International. Currently, Delaine assists various organizations with establishing cultures of care and connection as a certified trainer and speaker with Inspiring Comfort, found at Delaine enjoys spending time with family and friends, watching football, cooking, reading, enjoying the outdoors and nature, life-long learning and empowering others.

Sisterhood Spotlight

2022 sisterhood-spotlight-LatitiaMcCane
Dr. Latitia D. McCane
Director of Education for The Apprentice School at Newport News Shipbuilding

Dr. McCane leads Education at The Apprentice School at Newport News Shipbuilding. In this Sisterhood Spotlight, she shares about her STEM background, her current role and advice for the Commonwealth’s women and girls pursuing technical trades or careers.

What led you to become Director of Education at The Apprentice School at Newport News Shipbuilding?

My journey to becoming a college president was intercepted in 2017 by a headhunter searching for the next Executive Director of the Apprentice School. The Apprentice School was never on my radar. As a matter of fact, I had never heard of it. After speaking with the headhunter and learning more about the school, the idea of leading an institution where I could use my chemical manufacturing and higher education backgrounds felt like a great fit.

What would you like readers to know about The Apprentice School?

The Apprentice School is considered to be the Leadership Factory for the Newport News Shipbuilding production workforce. The Apprentice School has a five-year enrollment average of 775 apprentices across 19 trades. We offer eight advanced programs, including an electrical and mechanical engineering degree that’s awarded through a partnership with Old Dominion University. The Apprentice School proudly boasts six Division 3 athletic teams. In 2020, the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia and the 2021 Council on Occupational Education, approved the school as a degree granting institution. The NNS Apprentice School is one of only a select few apprenticeship programs in the country that is certified to award associate degrees. The faculty and staff are proud of the school’s accomplishments and they truly care about the success of all students.

What is a challenge and an opportunity you’re seeing for women in your field?

Manufacturing is still, very much, male dominated so organizations must have policies and benefits centered on healthcare and childcare to better attract women and their skillset to the workforce.

As for the opportunity that manufacturing offers most women, it’s the ability to earn higher pay. Manufacturing tends to offer above-average pay and worthwhile benefits. Two things that most woman place a high priority on having when it comes to taking care of our families.

How has your STEM education influenced you, and how does it impact your current work?

Thanks to the National Institute of Health and National Science Foundation, I was fortunate to Earn-and-Learn throughout my undergraduate and graduate studies. I was paid to do undergraduate research in biochemistry and I was fortunate to intern at a large chemical company during summers which gave me valuable work experience. Thanks to those opportunities, I was able to graduate without any college debt. These experiences gave me the mindset to “pay it forward”, so I created STEM programs for community college students that helped pay their tuition, books, and fees. Those programs also employed them as tutors while partnering with organizations to provide summer internships. Another benefit that came from those programs was assisting them with getting transfer scholarships to four-year colleges and universities.

I love being able to work with people that love math and science just as much as I do, so being the Director of the Apprentice School allows me to combine my love for STEM and higher education to do research and problem solve on a daily basis. It’s exciting!

What would you like to say to other women and girls in the Commonwealth pursuing technical trades or careers?

I’d tell them to rethink your opinion about a career in manufacturing. They aren’t the dangerous professions they use to be. Technical trades have changed from stereotypical dirty jobs into cleaner, high skill, high wage jobs. Women make up 47% of the workforce, but only 30% in manufacturing. There are more opportunities now than ever for women with technical skills because manufacturers realize the importance of growing their workforce, so they have been intentional in eliminating barriers for women. Organizations are embracing diversity of thought and skills that women bring to the workplace. They are able to walk straight out of high school into high wage jobs while positioning themselves for advancement.

What are the highest growth fields?

Healthcare and IT continues to be the fastest growing occupations but both are experiencing workforce shortages. Women make up 76% of the healthcare workforce and 77% of frontline workers with most longtime care workers being mostly women. Post pandemic, there is a shortage of healthcare workers and a need to grow that workforce pipeline. Although women make up the majority of the healthcare sector, they hold less than 30% of leadership roles and about 15% are CEOs. There are opportunities in the healthcare leadership ranks for women. IT is the second highest growing industry, but only 24% of computing jobs are held by women, and 19% of STEM graduates are women. Women are still underrepresented in the Tech sector, so it is important to expose girls to the world of computer science early in their educational journey.

What is a piece of advice you’d share with women and girls in the Commonwealth about pursuing and maintaining their work lives?

You can have both a career and a family, but it starts with self-care and a love for yourself. Know when it’s time to press pause and take a moment to relax and do things that motivate and excite you. Establish a good support system at home and within your organization. Having a mentor that can help you navigate your work culture and give you strategy for upward mobility is important. Exercise and make healthy choices to help manage your stress levels while being intentional about maintaining a healthy work/life balance.

About Latitia D. McCane

Latitia D. McCane is director of Education for The Apprentice School at Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries, located in Newport News, Va. Named to this position in 2018, McCane is responsible for overall leadership, vision and strategic direction of craft training, academic delivery, student services, accreditation and recruitment for a student body of 800 in addition to staff and faculty. The school, founded in 1919, has produced more than 10,000 graduates with four-to-eight-year apprentice program certificates.

Since 2007 and prior to her current appointment at The Apprentice School, McCane held several leadership positions at Bishop State Community College, a two-year public institution with an enrollment of 3,400 students in Mobile, Al. She most recently served as dean on instructional services and was responsible for all academic programs across its four campuses. McCane also served as associate dean of instruction at Jefferson Davis Community College in Brewton, Al.

McCane earned doctoral degrees in urban higher education administration and education administration from Jackson State University and Lacrosse University. She holds graduate and undergraduate degrees in organic chemistry and chemistry from the University of Alabama and Texas Southern University. McCane is a member of the CIVIC Leadership Institute’s Class of 2019 in Norfolk, Va. She is active in the community and serves on the board of directors for the Peninsula Chamber of Commerce and New Horizons Foundation.

About Newport News Shipbuilding:

Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of HII, is the nation’s sole designer, builder and refueler of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and one of only two shipyards capable of designing and building nuclear- powered submarines. NNS also provides fleet services for naval ships. The shipyard’s vast facilities span more than 550 acres along two miles of waterfront on the historic James River. NNS is the largest industrial employer in Virginia, employing more than 25,000 people, many of whom are third- and fourth-generation shipbuilders. For more information, please visit

Sisterhood Spotlight

2022 sisterhood-Dolores-Williams-Bumbrey
Dolores Williams Bumbrey
Visual Artist

Artist Dolores Williams Bumbrey grew up in Virginia with a love for natural beauty. In this Sisterhood Spotlight, Dolores shares about her passion for art, describes her approach for her creations and provides encouragement for other women who are pursuing creative work.

What area of Virginia did you grow up in and what was that like?

I grew up in Massaponax, a small rural community just outside of Fredericksburg. I'd wake each morning to the sight of horses in the open field and cows in the pasture across the road from me and chickens in our backyard. I loved hearing the sound of the horses galloping freely across the open field. As a child, I was fascinated by nature, the sky and its beautiful, ever-changing colors. Even back then, I seemed to notice the beauty in things surrounding us that often go unnoticed.

What motivated you to pursue your passion in art?

What motivated me to pursue my passion in art was when I realized that I had a God-given gift that provided me with a healthy escapism, shifting my focus from stressors to a temporary sense of calm. I felt it was beneficial to me and wanted to share it with others. My goal is to provide my viewer with a sense of peace and calmness, a peaceful distraction from their problems, concerns and stress. I enjoy uplifting and helping people to feel a little better. That is what motivates me.

What is a piece of art you’ve created that you’d like to share about?

There is one piece that stands out in my mind; it was an oil painting titled, "Sitting on top of the World." It was a lady dressed in white, seated high on the cliff overlooking the world below. It sold quickly and three other people were interested in it, so I successfully recreated it three more times. Of course, they were not exactly replicas but they were similar enough to please their new owners.

Has faith played a role in your creations?

Faith has absolutely played a major role in my creations. When I sit at my easel, before I even start to mix my colors/paints, I pray, “Heavenly Father, use my hands to create something that will touch, uplift and invoke a sense of calm in the viewers.” I feel so thankful at my exhibits when people come to me, telling me how my exhibit gave them a sense of calmness or peace. It makes me happy to know that my hands were used to create something that made a difference. 

What would you like to share with other women about creative pursuits and the role of art?

What I would like to share with other women about creative pursuits and the role of art is to always pursue your passions. Don't dismiss them; instead, nurture them. Immerse yourself in it and do it from your heart, because like me, you never know what doors and opportunities will open for you! Remember to not be afraid to be yourself, to express yourself. Don't try to conform; embrace being your unique and one-of-a-kind self because YOU are a Masterpiece!

About Dolores Williams Bumbrey

Dolores Williams Bumbrey is a visual artist who lives and works in Fredericksburg, Virginia. A native of Virginia, her colorful paintings pay homage to her southern and faith-based background, capturing the calmness of nature and the peace that can be found through the sacred elements of landscapes.

As a child, Dolores displayed signs of innate artistic talent in both drawing and painting. Bob Ross was a major artistic influence and ignited Dolores’ passion for creativity and engagement with landscapes. She states, “I want my work to provide a temporary calmness and escape to the viewer in a world full of chaos. Before I paint, I always pray that my work will give individuals a sense of peaceful tranquility.”

Dolores is also a former CIA employee. She enjoys real estate investing and serving in the music ministry within her church and community.

The Artist is skilled in several different mediums and art forms, which include oil and acrylic painting and graphite pencil drawing. Dolores’s exhibitions include those in the Darbytown Studio Gallery, Fine Art America; additionally, you can find her art in numerous private collections and businesses.

Foco de la Hermandad

(English translation)

2022 sisterhood-Carmen Williams
Carmen Williams
Departamento de Justicia Juvenil

Durante el Mes de Concientización sobre la Violencia Doméstica, Carmen Williams compartió su pasión para defender y apoyar a las víctimas de violencia doméstica. En este Foco de la Hermandad, Carmen comparte sobre los muchos años de trabajo en esta área y su reciente nombramiento por parte del Gobernador Youngkin para el Departamento de Justicia Juvenil. Lea a continuación para obtener más información sobre el tema de la violencia doméstica, formas de servir y recursos disponibles para ayudar.

Cuéntenos sobre su trabajo para la Alianza de Acción contra la Violencia Doméstica y Sexual de Virginia.

Fui responsable de la creación e implementación del Proyecto de Empoderamiento de Sobrevivientes (PES). PES proporciona información legal con entendimiento de trauma, asesoramiento y referencias a las personas que llaman en todo Virginia que están experimentando violencia sexual o de pareja íntima, violencia de pareja, trata de personas y crímenes de odio. PES también conecta a las víctimas/sobrevivientes con servicios legales gratuitos o a bajo costo. Brindé servicios de ayuda legal e información a los sobrevivientes inmigrantes hispanos y latinos en su propio idioma. También brindé ayuda a otros sobrevivientes inmigrantes que tenían limitaciones con el idioma de ingles usando la línea de ayuda de interpretación.

Administré la línea directa gratuita de violencia familiar y agresión sexual en todo el estado durante 9 años. La línea de ayuda directa de violencia y agresión sexual es atendida por personal capacitado y voluntarios las 24 horas del día, los siete días de la semana. La línea directa asiste a las personas que llaman y que son víctimas y sobrevivientes de violencia sexual y doméstica, sus familias, amigos y la comunidad en general. Fui (también) responsable de administrar la implementación de la Ley de Eliminación de Violaciones en Prisión (PREA) y la Línea de Abuso y Agresión Sexual de Pareja LGTBQ+.

Además, trabajé en el Proyecto de Asistencia Técnica de Defensa de Inmigración en colaboración con proveedores de servicios para víctimas de inmigración en Virginia, incluido el Centro de Justicia Tahirih y el Centro Legal para los pobres de Virginia para ampliar el apoyo y los recursos disponibles para los programas de violencia sexual y doméstica y la comunidad. Usé mi conocimiento de la ley de inmigración y proporcioné información a víctimas y sobrevivientes de violencia sexual y doméstica y trata de personas con beneficios de inmigración disponibles para ellos.

Trabajé a nivel estatal, federal e internacional por leyes que protegen a las víctimas de violencia doméstica y violencia sexual en los Estados Unidos y América Central, como la Ley de Violencia contra la Mujer (VAWA) y la Ley Internacional de Violencia contra la Mujer (I-VAWA). Participé en el rodaje, edición y traducción del DVD de la Orden de Protección de Virginia con el Fiscal General Bob McDonnell (versión hispana). Viajé a Guatemala como parte de la Delegación de Derechos Humanos de los Estados Unidos para investigar Violencia contra mujeres y niñas en Guatemala.

Usted fue nombrada por el Gobernador Youngkin para el Departamento de Justicia Juvenil. Cuéntanos un poco más sobre su trabajo aquí.

Primero, quisiera agradecer al Gobernador Youngkin y a la Directora del Departamento de Justicia Juvenil Amy Floriano por su confianza en mi persona. Con el nuevo liderazgo en el Departamento de Justicia Juvenil, acabamos de crear el Enlace de la Victima para proporcionar Notificación y Asistencia para las Victimas. Esta persona del Enlace de la Victima se asegurará de que las víctimas de delincuentes juveniles sean debidamente notificadas sobre la liberación de un juvenil que haya cometido un delito grave. Hicimos este proceso muy simple. Las víctimas pueden enviar correos electrónicos al enlace de víctimas de DJJ a: Además, creamos una lista de importantes información o recursos comunitarios para apoyar a las víctimas y sus familias, incluidas aquellas con limitaciones de inglés o discapacidades, que se han visto afectados por delitos violentos. Toda esta información se encuentra en el sitio web de DJJ y está disponible en inglés y español.

Actualmente estamos trabajando en la implementación del Plan de acceso lingüístico de Departamento de Justicia Juvenil (DJJ). DJJ reconoce que proporcionar un acceso lingüístico es una función fundamental para garantizar la seguridad de los menores o padres y tutores legales que no hablen inglés como idioma principal y que tengan una capacidad limitada para leer, hablar, escribir o entender inglés.

Estamos participando en eventos multiculturales organizados por organizaciones comunitarias para generar confianza y relaciones entre las fuerzas del orden público y la comunidad en general… Creemos en las segundas oportunidades, pero debemos responsabilizar a los jóvenes por sus acciones asegurándonos de que reciban los servicios que necesitan para ser ciudadanos productivos, con el fin de crear la mayor probabilidad de éxito cuando ya no sean bajo nuestro cuidado, y así podamos tener comunidades más saludables y seguras.

¿Por qué te apasiona este tema?

Creo que nací para ser una defensora. Siempre sentí y tuve el deseo de ayudar a otras personas en necesidad. Lo observé y aprendí de mis padres y hermanas mayores. Cuando llegué a los Estados Unidos, el primer lugar que busqué fue la iglesia. La iglesia me permitió conectarse con otros miembros de la comunidad hispana y latina. Me involucré en la iglesia de San Agustín en Richmond donde llegué a ser vicepresidente del comité hispano. Allí tuve la oportunidad de hablar con muchas mujeres que confiaron en mí y me hablaron temerosas de sus problemas de maltrato desde el abuso verbal, psicológico, físico, mental, económico e incluso sexual. Me di cuenta de que este tema era más delicado de lo que pensaba y realmente no sabía mucho al respecto. Quería aprender más sobre cómo podía ayudar y qué recursos había en la comunidad para brindar apoyo. Por esta razón, apliqué para un trabajo en la organización de Violencia Sexual de Virginia para aprender y trabajar con víctimas de violencia doméstica y sexual. Yo recibí una amplia capacitación a través de la cual me di cuenta de lo importante que es escuchar a las víctimas y no juzgarlas. Aprendí que teníamos que apoyarlas en la situación en la que se encontraban en ese momento, y hacerles saber que estábamos allí para ayudarlas y apoyarlas.

Nunca olvidaré mi primera llamada de una sobreviviente hispana que dijo la palabra "español" e inmediatamente respondí en español: “Hola, ¿cómo puedo ayudarla?” A pesar de que no podía ver su rostro, sentí lo feliz y cómoda que estaba de contarme su historia en su propio idioma. Cuando era gerente de la línea de ayuda directa, siempre le recordaba al personal de defensores de nuestras líneas directas lo importante que era responder cada llamada con compasión y respeto porque a veces la primera llamada podía ser la última llamada de la víctima.

Personalmente, sentí que era muy importante ayudar a las víctimas a empoderarse para que pudieran avanzar en sus vidas a pesar del trauma por el que estaban pasando. Es un sentimiento muy satisfactorio poder ayudar a las víctimas durante el proceso de sanación. Siempre seré una defensora donde quiera que esté. Todos nos necesitamos y debemos ayudarnos para construir un mundo mejor para TODOS. Todos podemos ser defensores.

¿Qué quiere que los habitantes de Virginia sepan sobre la violencia doméstica y cómo está afectando a las familias en Virginia y comunidades?

La violencia doméstica es un patrón de comportamiento coercitivo y controlador que puede incluir abuso emocional, psicológico, verbal, sexual y económico con la intención de ejercer control. Todos los tipos de abuso son devastadores para las víctimas. Desafortunadamente, la violencia doméstica afecta a millones de individuos en todo nuestro país y nuestra Mancomunidad de Virginia. La violencia doméstica no discrimina; sucede en todas nuestras comunidades, y las víctimas son de todos los géneros y razas y de todo tipo de estado socioeconómico. Una víctima puede ser nuestra propia madre, hermana, amiga, alguien en nuestro propio trabajo, un prójimo, compañero de trabajo, etc., y porque nos afecta a todos, todos podemos y debemos ser parte de la solución. Deberíamos tener conversaciones en nuestros propios hogares, trabajos, comunidades religiosas, vecindarios, etc. sobre lo que es una relación saludable. Deberíamos compartir información sobre los recursos disponibles en la comunidad si alguien está experimentando abuso. Nunca sabemos que tal vez esa persona que necesita ayuda puede ser alguien a quien amamos o conocemos.

Es importante que las víctimas y sobrevivientes entiendan y sepan que el abuso no es su culpa, y que no están solas. Siempre hay esperanza y ayuda disponible para aquellos que están experimentando este mal llamado violencia doméstica. Todos merecemos vivir en un hogar o lugar donde podemos disfrutar de paz y felicidad, y nadie merece ser abusado ni maltratado de ninguna forma, y esto incluye niños, adultos y mascotas.

Recuerde, todos tenemos los mismos derechos, protecciones y responsabilidades, y todos merecemos sentirnos seguros, respetados y tratados con igualdad en nuestro propio hogar y comunidad. Depende de nosotros hacer de Virginia un mejor lugar para vivir. Siempre pide ayuda si eres víctima, sobreviviente e inclusive un abusador.

Es importante involucrarse en su comunidad. Puede pedir a sus legisladores que apoyen los servicios de violencia doméstica y responsabilizar a los abusadores. Infórmese, aprenda más sobre este tema y lo que puede hacer para protegerse a sí mismo y a las personas de su familia y en su comunidad. Recuerde, la violencia doméstica es una crisis de salud pública que afecta a todos. Una de cada cuatro mujeres y uno de cada siete hombres sufren violencia física grave a lo largo de su vida. Trabajemos juntos para acabar con la violencia de pareja y todas las formas de violencia. Juntos podemos hacer un mundo mejor para todos nosotros. Todos nos merecemos eso, y recuerdo que el gobernador Youngkin siempre dice que queremos que Virginia sea el mejor lugar para vivir, trabajar y formar una familia. Esto es exactamente lo que todos necesitamos.

Vea varios recursos de ayuda a continuación:

  • Línea de ayuda de asistencia a víctimas de Virginia – 1-855-443-5782. Disponible de lunes a viernes de 8:30 a. m. - 4:30 pm.
  • Línea Directa Estatal de Virginia (Voz/TTY) – 1-800-838-8238. Disponible 24/7, gratis & confidencial.
  • Línea directa de abuso y negligencia infantil de Virginia: 1-800-522-7096. Disponible 24/7.
  • Línea Directa de Servicios de Protección para Adultos de Virginia – 1-800-832-3858. Disponible 24/7.
  • Latinos en Virginia: Línea de ayuda del Centro de Empoderamiento – 1 (888) 969-1825. Disponible 24/7.
  • 988 suicidio y de vida de crisis
  • Línea Directa Nacional de Violencia Doméstica – 1-800-799-7233. Horario 24/7/365.
  • Se pueden encontrar más recursos en el Departamento de Justicia Juvenil de Virginia en:

Biografía de Carmen Williams

Carmen es peruana y tiene una licenciatura en derecho de Perú y una maestría en derecho internacional realizado en la Universidad Americana – Universidad de Leyes de Washington. Carmen afirma que los amores de su vida son sus hijas, Michelle y Jeanette. Carmen está muy orgullosa de ser ciudadana estadounidense y afirma que ella vota en cada elección porque no solo es un privilegio votar, sino también una responsabilidad ejercer su deber cívico. Carmen es católica y cree en Dios. Su fe en Dios le da sabiduría y la guía para hacer lo correcto en todo lo que hace en la vida. Carmen tiene dos hermanos en Perú y una hermana que vive también en Richmond.

Carmen es miembro del Rotary Club de Midlothian y de la Junta Directiva de la Alianza Solidaria Asiática y Latina. Carmen fue miembro de la Comisión de Defensa de los pobres de Virginia designada por el Portavoz de la Cámara de Delegados; miembro de la Junta Asesora de Gobernadores Latinos durante la administración del gobernador McDonnell; miembro de la Junta Directiva de la Fundación de la Cámara de Comercio Hispana de Virginia; miembro de la Junta Directiva de la Cruz Roja Americana – Capitulo de Richmond, y miembro de Política Pública para para Esperanza Unidas antes Casa Esperanza, una organización nacional latina cuya misión es movilizar a las latinas y las comunidades latinas para terminar la violencia de género. 

En 2021, Carmen recibió un premio de Radio Poder 1380AM durante su 15 aniversario. Este reconocimiento se otorga a las personas que contribuyeron durante los últimos 15 años al avance y desarrollo de Comunidades inmigrantes y latinoamericanas de Virginia con su ejemplo, palabra y acción.

En 2009, Carmen recibió el Premio de la Beca Mujeres de Color para asistir a la Conferencia de Cabildeo y asistencia al Día de Cabildeo sobre Violencia Sexual y Doméstica en el Congreso en Washington, D.C.

En 2004, Carmen recibió el Premio de Embajadora – Cruz Roja Americana Capitulo de Richmond. Este premio se otorgó por la creatividad y el liderazgo en los esfuerzos, programas y servicios de divulgación con la comunidad minoritaria. Se otorga reconocimiento a los voluntarios cuyos logros reflejan la comprensión de la diversidad para incluir la conciencia, la inclusión, la sensibilidad y la especificidad.

En 2004, Carmen también recibió el Premio del Orgullo de la Región del Atlántico Medio/Noreste en reconocimiento a compromiso y dedicación al éxito de los programas y servicios de la Cruz Roja Americana.

Sisterhood Spotlight

2022 sisterhood-Margaret-Hancock
Laura Negri Photography
Margaret Hancock
Executive Director of the Virginia Commission for the Arts

This Arts & Humanities Month, Margaret Hancock shares about her role at the Virginia Commission for the Arts, lessons from her career and special things happening in the Commonwealth in the arts & culture arena. Margaret has worked to advance the missions of arts, culture and education institutions for more than two decades.

Congratulations on your appointment to lead the Virginia Commission for the Arts! Can you share a little bit about your role?

Thank you, I am incredibly honored to hold this position! The Virginia Commission for the Arts (VCA) is the state agency dedicated to investing in the arts. We do so through funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and the General Assembly, allocating more than $5 million annually in support of all arts disciplines for the benefit of all Virginians. So my role is to steward those investments and ensure we are elevating the arts across Virginia through state support.

This Arts & Humanities Month, what would you like to share with Virginians about the role of arts and culture?

A spotlight on the arts and humanities is so wonderful and this October, I encourage Virginians to seek out experiences defined by the rich arts and culture of our state –experiences that connect, inspire, uplift, entertain, and educate. This is an especially exciting time to do so as so many organizations and sites across Virginia are leveraging Arts & Humanities Month for expanded (and often free) programming.

What is one special thing that makes Virginia unique or that’s happening in Virginia that people ought to know about?

While all arts sectors are strong in Virginia, I am especially inspired by the spoken word. One of the VCA’s initiatives is Poetry Out Loud – a national arts education program that encourages the study of poetry for high school students. The annual program culminates with a recitation contest and Virginia is the only state to have produced two national winners in the competition.  

What is an important lesson you’ve learned in your area of work?

An important lesson is understanding and appreciating just how diverse the Commonwealth is – diverse in geography, diverse in populations, diverse in need. This makes the VCA’s grants, especially the General Operating Support grants, even more significant and impactful. The majority of our funding ($4+ million), provides unrestricted support so that Virginia’s arts organizations can meet the unique needs of the audiences they serve. What is critical for an established theatre in a metropolis and what is critical for an emerging studio in a rural county differs greatly, and our grants intentionally support such a diverse range for the benefit of all Virginians.

Do you have a favorite artist or art era?

Yes – a Virginia artist, of course! Photographer Sally Mann, who is a recipient of one of the VCA’s prestigious Artist Fellowship awards, is one of my favorite artists. I first came to know of her work when I was a docent at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. and would always include one of her photographs in their permanent collection on my tour. Mann is consistently reimagining and pushing boundaries within the medium of photography.

What’s a piece of advice you’d give your younger self?

My younger self – especially as an undergraduate student at Duke – was frequently asked “what are you going to do with a degree in art history?”. My advice to her would be to just wait as someday you will have the perfect answer. “I’m going to accept the appointment of Governor Youngkin to lead the arts for the Commonwealth of Virginia.” 

About Margaret Hancock

Margaret Hancock is the Executive Director of the Virginia Commission for the Arts, overseeing the agency and its multimillion-dollar investments in the arts of all disciplines for the benefit of all Virginians. She studied art history at Duke University, during which she completed an internship with the National Gallery of Art, and earned a Master of Education degree from the University of Virginia. For more than two decades, she has worked to advance the missions of prestigious arts, culture, and education institutions including the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Savannah College of Art and Design, the University of Virginia, and the National Geographic Society.

Foco de la Hermandad

(English translation)

2022 sisterhood-Miriam Miyares
Miriam Miyares

En este Mes de la Herencia Hispana y Latina, Miriam Miyares, madre del Fiscal General de Virginia, Jason Miyares, comparte sobre la vida de su familia en los Estados Unidos. Habiendo llegado a los Estados Unidos desde Cuba en 1965, Miriam Miyares se mudó con su familia a Virginia Beach en 1987. En este Foco de la Hermandad, Miriam Miyares nos cuenta sobre su pasión por la libertad y la democracia y habla de cómo ha sido ver a su hijo llegar a ser el Fiscal General de Virginia.

¿Cuéntanos qué le hizo venir a los Estados Unidos?

Vine a los Estados Unidos en 1965 huyendo del régimen socialista que se apoderó de mi país de origen, Cuba. La opresión y persecución hacia todo aquel que no estuviera de acuerdo con las políticas e ideología del régimen se hizo intolerable. Estados Unidos era un faro de esperanza, un país donde todos podían soñar con lograr sus objetivos con trabajo duro y determinación.

¿Cuándo vino a Virginia?

Vine a Virginia con mi familia en 1987. Mis hijos gemelos (Jason y Bryan) estaban en sexto grado y mi hijo mayor, Steven, era estudiante del segundo año en la escuela secundaria.

Cuéntanos sobre la vida en Virginia Beach.

Cuando vine por primera vez a Virginia Beach, me sentí como en casa. Siempre me encantó la playa, y antes de mudarme a vivir en Virginia Beach viví en Greensboro, Carolina del Norte y Tennessee, por lo que fue maravilloso volver a vivir cerca de la playa.

Usted enseñó a sus muchachos a amar la libertad y la democracia. ¿Alguna vez tuvo la idea de que uno de ellos seguiría el servicio público?

A mis hijos se les enseñó desde muy pequeños cuán bendecidos eran por ser estadounidenses y por tener la libertad de expresar sus ideas, luchar y perseguir sus sueños. Cuando Jason tenía unos 10 años, conoció a uno de mis primos, Gilberto, quien estaba encarcelado en Cuba con una condena de 30 años por participar en actividades anticastristas en la Universidad de La Habana. Él nos habló sobre las terribles condiciones y el castigo degradante en la cárcel. Se le permitió venir a los EE. UU. en una liberación de prisión política en la década de 1980. Jason quedó hipnotizado cuando mi primo detalló los horrores que sufrió en los campos de prisión comunistas.

Unas dos semanas después, recibí una llamada de su maestro sobre un ensayo que escribió en su clase de inglés sobre la terrible experiencia de mi primo. A la maestra le resultó inusual que un niño de 10

años escribiera algo tan profundo a una edad tan temprana. Siempre les dije a mis hijos que la libertad que disfrutan se ganaba con aquellos que sirven en el servicio militar y público quienes preservan nuestra increíble forma de vida. Siento que esa visita despertó su interés en seguir más tarde una carrera en el servicio público.

¿Cómo fue ver a su hijo convertirse en el Fiscal General de Virginia?

Estaba extremadamente orgullosa y asombrada cuando mi hijo fue elegido Fiscal General. Sabía que todo lo que había pasado para comenzar una nueva vida en los Estados Unidos valió la pena para ver a mis hijos alcanzar sus sueños, algo que no sería posible en un país socialista donde el gobierno dicta lo que puedes y no puedes hacer.

¿Cuál es una lección que ha aprendido y que le gustaría compartir con otras mujeres?

Tengo un gran respeto por Estados Unidos, mi país adoptivo, que me abrió los brazos a mí y a tantos otros a lo largo de tantas generaciones que han seguido el faro de esperanza que es este hermoso país. El consejo que les daría a los padres es que siempre recuerden que tenemos el deber de criar y nutrir a nuestros hijos física, emocional y espiritualmente. También tenemos el deber de enseñarles los valores y la grandeza de este país y sobre nuestros Padres Fundadores que nos dieron un legado de libertad y oportunidad. Recuerdo una cita de mi presidente favorito, Ronald Reagan: “La libertad nunca está a más de una generación de distancia de la extinción. No se lo pasamos a nuestros hijos en el torrente sanguíneo. Se debe luchar por ello, protegerlo y transmitirlo para que ellos hagan lo mismo, o un día pasaremos nuestros últimos años contándoles a nuestros hijos y a los hijos de nuestros hijos cómo era una vez en los Estados Unidos, donde los hombres eran libres”.

Acerca de Miriam Miyares

Miriam Miyares nació el 3 de mayo de 1946 en La Habana, Cuba y huyó de la tiranía del comunismo por la libertad el 11 de octubre de 1965. Después de huir a España, emigró legalmente a los Estados Unidos, donde se naturalizó como ciudadana estadounidense en 1982. En 2015, casi 50 años después de la fecha en que huyó de Cuba, pudo entrar en una cabina de votación y votar por su hijo, Jason Miyares, para que la representara en la democracia más antigua del Nuevo Mundo, la Asamblea General de Virginia.


Sisterhood Spotlight

2022 sisterhood-Dona Rodgers
Dona Rodgers
Co-Founder and President of Morgan’s Message

In this Sisterhood Spotlight, Dona Rodgers shares about her family, her work spreading awareness for mental health challenges among student athletes and how to take action on this issue in your community. Dona is the co-founder and president of Morgan’s Message, a Virginia organization that advocates for student-athlete mental health by amplifying stories, resources and expertise and building a community by and for athletes.

Tell us a little bit about your family and where you live in Virginia?

My husband, Kurt, and I met in college and married seven years later. We moved to Warrenton, VA when our son, Austin, was six months old. Soon after, we got the thrilling news we were expecting twins. Having three children in two years was pretty busy, but we loved the chaos!

Kurt and I were athletes growing up, and we believed raising children by exposing them to sports would be healthy for them for several reasons. So many life lessons can come from being a part of a team – structure, commitment, social skills, teamwork, compromise and empathy are just a few. Our children loved sports. All sports. There were times where we had to insist they take time off and just “be.” All three competed in college at every level from club to D1. They chose the level that was most beneficial to them and they were happy.

We were a typical family. We have a rather large, loving and supportive extended family where we often get together no matter where we resided around the county. Family vacations at the beach, ski trips, picnics and family reunions were commonplace. We have always considered ourselves fortunate to be a part of such a special, sometimes chaotic community.

Speaking more of family, can you share about your daughter, Morgan?

Morgan was born with a spark in her. I have often shared with new parents that the children they observe at the age of three is, at the core, the same person as they grow up – hopefully a bit more mature! This was Morgan. As a young child, she was focused, determined, outspoken, thoughtful, funny, creative and stubborn. These traits truly carried on throughout her life.  Her sense of humor was quick, witty and dry. Most people would often miss her jokes. Her love for sports began around three years old when she wanted to follow her brother in swimming, soccer, football and then ultimately lacrosse. We agreed to swimming and soccer at first and even at this young age, coaches would smile and mention she had that special aggressive and fearless confidence to have fun and be successful.

In the eighth grade, she had focused on playing lacrosse at the collegiate level. She attended Duke University Lacrosse camp and never looked back. We insisted that she consider other programs as well just in case Duke didn’t pan out. She did listen to us and visited several other schools, but never gave up on Duke. When the call came in with an offer, she was over the moon.  Once again, her goal was accomplished.

We know that Morgan is at the heart of Morgan’s message. Please explain the mission of the organization.

Morgan’s Message is building a community by and for student-athletes where stories, resources and expertise are used to confront student-athlete mental health challenges. We envision a future where the stigma surrounding mental health is eliminated, conversations are normalized, the treatment of physical and mental health is equalized and individuals who suffer in silence are empowered and those who feel alone are supported.

Can you share more about Morgan’s Message logo?

The logo was designed by a close family friend, Nick Birnie, following Morgan’s passing in July 2019. During her services on a family farm in Virginia, an uncountable number of butterflies appeared and lingered for the afternoon. The logo’s shape reflects this phenomenon while the details of the butterfly wings are Morgan’s artwork found in her personal sketchbook. The design and color scheme originated from her love of teal.

The butterfly’s body is represented by a semi-colon, which is used by writers in mid-sentence to suggest a thought can end here or it can continue; her story continues, as does Morgan’s spirit.

What are two or three things you’d like to share with other Virginia women about the threat of youth suicide?

My family had no history or education about mental illness. Although the signs Morgan revealed were subtle and at times invisible, if we were familiar with concerning indicators, I believe that would have potentially helped her situation. Education and awareness are incredibly valuable.  Learn more, listen, observe.

We had dinner almost every night together until college years. Even on game nights, we found the time to recap our days over a meal – even if it was 9 pm. We talked about everything. No topic was avoided or discouraged, including the hard ones like drugs, sex, pregnancy and relationships. The one topic never discussed was mental health. Again, this wasn’t avoided, it just never was relevant to our family or friends. Families need to make this relevant. With the stories of professional athletes who have come out publicly to reveal their struggles with their mental health, this is the PERFECT segue to bring up the topic. Please open the dialog and then listen closely to what your kids are saying and their perceptions. By doing this you are letting them know you are open to the topic and that it is up for discussion no matter what or when.

For Virginians wanting to take action, how can they be involved?

The largest obstacle to successfully addressing issues associated with mental health is awareness. If no one in your life is struggling, it can be difficult to recognize the signs of an individual grappling with a mental health challenge. As mentioned earlier, educate yourselves on warning signs, how to approach someone that has given you concern and the local resources you can provide if needed.

So, pay attention to your friends, your neighbors and your family members. Ask a friend if they are feeling alright and then sit back and listen. Tell them you have noticed concerning behaviors that are not typical of them. Don’t judge. Be understanding, if they open up to you.

Research organizations in your community that focus on behavioral health concerns and volunteer, if they offer a program that is of interest to you. The National Counsel for Mental Wellbeing offers a course called Mental Health First Aid for Youth, Teens or Adults. Consider taking this course. Just as a course in CPR doesn’t make you a paramedic, the MHFA courses don’t make you a Mental Health Professional; however, these types of courses provide you with ways you can help those in crisis situations.

About Dona Rodgers

Dona Rodgers, mother of Morgan, is Co-Founder, Board Chairwoman and President of Morgan’s Message, Inc. She grew up in Connecticut and was graduated from James Madison University where she was a member of the gymnastics team before early retirement due to injury.  She had the privilege of raising three children, Austin, Aberle and Morgan, before managing The Retreat at Eastwood, an event venue in Warrenton, Virginia. She currently resides in Warrenton with her husband, Kurt.


Sisterhood Spotlight

2022 sisterhood-JillianBalow
Jillian Balow
Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction

Jillian Balow is Virginia's 26th superintendent of public instruction, appointed by Governor Glenn Youngkin in January 2022. As state superintendent, Balow serves as the executive officer of the Virginia Department of Education, leading external functions and internal operations. She is also secretary of the state Board of Education. In this Sisterhood Spotlight, she discusses what it’s like being in education, the field’s opportunities and challenges as well as advice for aspirational young women and parents this back-to-school season.

What led to your decision to become an educator?

Like many other teachers, I had a positive experience in school. I was blessed with teachers who served as mentors and role models - I wanted to be like them. After ten years as a classroom teacher I decided to combine my desire to impact students with my interest in governance and policy. It was the right move for me. I cannot imagine being an educator without thinking about policies that affect our communities and schools and I cannot imagine making policy decisions without the wisdom I gained as a teacher.

What, to you, is an exciting opportunity in education right now?

Parents! They are so engaged in making our schools successful. Every parent and every teacher have at least two things in common: 1) We want students to find success in school and life, and; 2) We want to support students on that path. That’s a recipe for partnership, not polarization. I want to help build productive, trusting, and meaningful relationships between parents and teachers.

What would you say to young women who are considering entering your field?

I love the opportunity to talk to young women about teaching because there are so many opportunities to lead every day in the classroom, school, and community. Teachers who are passionate know that the job is about facilitating learning and providing opportunities, not just delivering content.

How is the Department of Education addressing teacher vacancies?

My team is unleashing a new initiative called “Turning the Tide” to address teacher vacancies. The initiative pulls grant opportunities and incentives under one umbrella so communities have support for their customized efforts to recruit, grow, and retain the best educators. We are also making sure that Virginians know the facts about teacher vacancies in Virginia - it may or may not be what is being reported nationally. It is exciting to see school divisions recruit and grow teachers from populations like veterans, retirees, paraprofessionals in schools, and career switchers from business and industry. I support the efforts and my team and I work to build community momentum. 

What’s a piece of advice that has impacted the trajectory of your career?

No matter what you are doing in life, find mentors and people to mentor. For me, finding mentors is the easy part - I am learning every day from those around me. I also have a few “life mentors” (including my high school government teacher!) who I count on to give me the brutal truth. Mentoring others is also important. Psalm 46:5 says, “God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.” Mentoring others is not about imparting knowledge on others or speaking about my successes. It is about supporting, uplifting, and strengthening our colleagues and friends, especially in difficult times.

You relocated your family from WY to VA. What is the biggest difference?

Calling Virginia home is a blessing for our family - we are still getting used to the humidity, the trees and the traffic. We take full advantage of weekend adventures to explore all Virginia has to offer. The biggest challenge has been being away from most of our family. We are quickly making new friends and have connected with east coast family we have not seen in a long time. Our family loves adventure and we are on one now!

What is something you’d say to parents across Virginia during this back-to-school season?

Connect with your children’s teachers in a positive way early in the school year. Do not wait until there is a specific reason to talk because then the interaction is about an issue, not building a partnership. Teachers and parents want positive relationships with each other - take the first step to build that!

About Superintendent Balow

Balow was a classroom teacher for 10 years. She served in the Wyoming Department of Family Services, and as a policy advisor to Wyoming Governor Matt Mead before being elected as Wyoming's state superintendent in 2014.

In Wyoming, Balow worked with tribal partners to create the “Indian Education for All” curriculum so that all Wyoming students would learn about the history and contributions of the state’s Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone Tribes.

She developed a support system for Wyoming’s lowest-performing schools and reduced the number of schools needing state assistance by 5%. Balow also incorporated career and military readiness into Wyoming’s accountability system and worked with business, industry, policymakers, and educators to include computer science education in every K-12 classroom.

Since becoming Virginia’s state superintendent, Balow has advocated for the Virginia Literacy Act and provided Governor Youngkin with a report on policy steps necessary to restore high expectations and excellence as objectives for all of the commonwealth’s students.

Nationally, Balow served as president of the Board of Directors of the Council of Chief State School Officers from 2019-2020. She is a member of the Hunt Institute's 2020 Cohort 6 Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellows. She also served as the Treasurer of the Education Commission of the States, the highest-ranking position a state superintendent can have in that organization.

Balow was recognized as the 2017 State Policymaker of the Year by the State Education Technology Directors Association and the 2016 Influencer of the Year by the Mott Foundation. In 2017, she received the Patrick Henry Award for distinguished partnership with the armed forces. In 2021, Balow was recognized as a Wyoming business “changemaker” for her response to COVID-19.


Sisterhood Spotlight

2022 sisterhood-Georgia Esposito
Georgia Esposito
Director of The Virginia Executive Mansion

Georgia Esposito, a Virginia native, is the director of The Virginia Executive Mansion. In this Sisterhood Spotlight, Georgia shares about her background with the Commonwealth of Virginia, the history of the Executive Mansion and what the public can expect when the mansion reopens to the public at the end of August.

How long have you been with the Commonwealth of Virginia? Are you originally from Virginia? 

I’m a Virginian – born here at MCV Hospital and have worked in various capacities with the Commonwealth for over twenty years.

How did you become Director of Richmond’s Executive Mansion?

I was the Mansion Director during the administration of Governor George Allen and First Lady Susan Allen.  It’s not a job many people have experienced – my prior time here probably gave me a bit of an advantage during the job search.

What are the duties of the Director of the Executive Mansion?

The Mansion director is responsible for pretty much everything that takes place here.  I oversee the staff (which thankfully does not usually change with a new administration), the day to day operations of the house, and the events we hold here on an almost daily basis.

What’s something about the mansion that inspires or fascinates you?

I’ve always valued the centuries of gracious southern hospitality that is the real legacy of this home.  Over the past 200 years there have been innumerable first ladies who have created a warm and inviting place for their families while also most warmly welcoming the citizens of Virginia for special gatherings and celebrations.  They have all added their own touches here, many of which we still include decades later.

What is something most people don’t know about the mansion?

It has a historical span of 210 years that’s amazing to think about - General Stonewall Jackson lay in state here in 1863, and in 1993, Virginian and tennis champion Arthur Ashe was given the same honor followed by civil rights legend Oliver Hill in 2007.  The house has seen seismic historic change over the last 210 years and remains a bipartisan observer, giving each first family, politics aside, the same shelter and care.

Many readers also may not know that Governor Mills Godwin (1966-1970 and 1974-1978) and his wife, Catherine, were the only first family to live here twice.  Governor Godwin served two terms, one as a Democrat and the second, four years later, as a Republican.  The Godwin’s 13 year-old daughter, Becky, died tragically during their first term here and is honored with a beautiful dogwood planted in perpetuity on the mansion grounds.  My heart has always gone out to the Godwins as I imagine them returning here for a second term without their only child.

Can you give us an overview of the mansion’s history?

That’s a big question!  The mansion will be 210 years old in 2023 and we’re planning some exciting events around that anniversary.  Our mansion is the oldest continuously occupied Governor’s mansion built for that purpose and we can’t wait to feature it in all its historic glory during that celebration.

What does it feel like to return to the mansion?

Having the opportunity to come back here came as the most wonderful unexpected surprise.  You don’t often get a chance to revisit something you did when you were much younger (and lots dumber) and I try my best to live up to all this wonderful place deserves.  It’s been an immeasurable pleasure to bring the house back to life after pandemic restrictions and to welcome the Youngkins and their family home.

What have you been most proud of in the first six months?

All of the house staff here have served many Governors and with each new administration have to re-create their routines, duties, and daily responsibilities to respond to each new family that moves in.  I’m especially proud of the way they have so kindly accommodated all of the changes that naturally occur and still have remained a very upbeat and productive team.  They are a joy to work with and make me proud every day.

What have you been doing to prepare to re-open the mansion?

The mansion has been open full speed for special events, meetings, and receptions since inauguration day in January but has been closed for tours for over two years. We’ve really been sprucing up in anticipation of welcoming visitors once again.  We’ve worked on the grounds and inside the house and visitors will notice polished floors, fresh paint and or course, our wonderful docents who have been re-grouping and brushing up on their mansion history in anticipation of giving tours once again.

What enhancements are in play and what traditions can we expect will be kept?

First Lady Suzanne Youngkin has initiated a unique new program called the Art Experience at the Executive Mansion.  Visitors will view art from museums around the Commonwealth exhibited here to really tell the story of Virginia, its past, its present, its people and its landscapes.  Art selections will rotate throughout the next four years and will offer visitors a chance to see a depth of Virginia-related art not usually gathered in one spot.  It’s a very big “first” for the mansion!

When will the mansion open?

The house will open for tours on Friday, September 2nd, 2022 and subsequent Fridays throughout the fall.  Tour hours will be 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.  Visitors are invited to walk up to the mansion gate and take advantage of the open tour schedule.  No prior arrangements are necessary.  We do ask that groups larger than 10 contact us at to facilitate the best tour option for the group.

About Georgia Esposito

Georgia Esposito is a Richmond native and grew up in Bon Air with her extended Italian family. After attending Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, she spent a number of years as a preschool and kindergarten teacher at Westhampton Day School before joining the administration of Governor George Allen as Director of the Executive Mansion and Chief of Staff to first lady Susan Allen. Georgia has worked in the administrations of five Virginia governors and is happy to be back at the Executive Mansion with the Youngkin family.

Sisterhood Spotlight

2022 sisterhood-Aimee Rogstad Guidera
Aimee Rogstad Guidera
Secretary of Education

Aimee Rogstad Guidera was named Secretary of Education by Governor Glenn Youngkin in December 2021. In the latest Sisterhood Spotlight, The First Lady asks Secretary Guidera about her own education experiences growing up, what she has enjoyed about public service and advice for young people and students across the Commonwealth.

Do you have a favorite subject?

English and History. I love to read.

Is there a teacher or professor who’s greatly impacted you in your life?

There have been so many inspiring teachers in my life: in 1st grade, Mrs. Moran, who made me fall in love with school; 6th grade, Mrs. Floyd, who inspired and expected excellence at every level; and 11th grade, my English teacher, Mrs. Adler, who brought depth, intensity and joy to the study of literary analysis and compelling writing. (She also hosted a Sunday evening dinner book club to discuss Shakespeare plays before we went to the Folger Theatre to watch them! She also once provided comments on my Pride and Prejudice paper entirely in the voice of Jane Austen!)

How did you realize you would pursue education as a vocation?

When I realized that the incredible education I had received in my schools was not the norm for every child in America. The preparation for life I experienced should not be exceptional … It should be the expectation. My 30+ career in education has been so fulfilling, nothing more than the honor of serving in the role of Secretary of Education for Governor Youngkin!

When did you first feel called to service?

In 5th grade, when I was elected as the Safety Patrol Captain at my elementary school. I fell in love with building teams, solving problems together and improving a situation. Nothing is more rewarding than working together with a team to address a challenge or improve a situation.

Where have you enjoyed visiting since becoming Secretary?

Meeting the incredibly inspiring people throughout the Commonwealth who are passionate about ensuring our learners receive a quality education that prepares them for life! Whether it be parents, teachers, advocates, lawmakers, agency members – Virginians are committed to making the Commonwealth the best place to be educated!

What was significant in the budget for education this year?

The final budget signed by Governor Youngkin included so many of his Day One priorities and is the largest investment in education in the Commonwealth's history. Through Governor Youngkin's leadership, this budget supports our teachers, helps secure our schools, and fuels innovation. It provides teachers a 10% salary increase over the next two years and a $1,000 bonus to acknowledge the heroic work they do every day, and especially during the pandemic, to support our children. This budget also secures funding to restore and rebuild school buildings and supports school resource officers, ensuring our children learn in vibrant and safe environments. The $100 million dollar investment in innovative Lab Schools will fuel partnerships between our postsecondary institutions, school divisions, and communities to launch best-in-class schools that prepare students for life. Simply put, this budget helps lay the foundation to make Virginia the best place to live, work, raise a family, and learn!

What is something you’d like to say to students across Virginia?

KEEP LEARNING EVERY DAY! Read, visit museums, take a class, teach yourself a new skill… Don’t ever stop learning. Our brains are a muscle and if you don’t use it, you lose it!

What’s a piece of advice you’d give your younger self?

Be curious. Ask questions. Get comfortable with NOT being comfortable. Surround yourself with people who know more than you do and learn from them.

What’s something you enjoy (ex. a hobby) that most people don’t know about?

I love entertaining… cooking, baking, flower arranging and hosting friends around a table for a stimulating conversation!

What is one thing (food, sweets) you cannot resist?

Salt and Vinegar Kettle Cooked Potato chips!

About Secretary Guidera

Aimee Rogstad Guidera oversees education from Pre-K through Postsecondary in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Before joining the Youngkin administration, Aimee was a strategic consultant helping states, foundations, companies and nonprofit organizations strengthen their efforts to improve student learning and outcomes. Prior to launching her consultancy, Aimee was Founder, President and CEO of the Data Quality Campaign, a national, nonprofit advocacy organization leading the effort to ensure that students, parents, educators, and policymakers have the right information to guide their actions so that every student can excel.

A respected thought leader in education, Aimee was named one of TIME’s 12 Education Activists of 2012. She has also been cited as an expert on education policy and the value of education data by publications such as Business Week, NPR, and Education Week. Aimee is a Pahara-Aspen Education Fellow, American Enterprise Institute Fellow, and an alumna of the Institute for Educational Leadership’s Education Policy Fellowship Program. She has served on the board of directors of the American Succeeds, Institute for Educational Leadership, Policy Innovators in Education Network, the Friends of the Hennepin County Library, Minnesota Comeback, Conservative Leaders for Education, and on the advisory board for the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard.

Before founding DQC, Aimee served as the director of the Washington, DC office of the National Center for Educational Achievement. She previously served as vice president of programs for the National Alliance of Business (NAB), worked in the education division of the National Governors Association’s Center for Best Practices, and taught for the Japanese Ministry of Education.

With the firm belief that parents, students, and teachers need to be equally strong legs of the stool of academic success, Aimee has always been engaged in her local schools. She was an active supporter of her daughters’ public schools and has served as a classroom volunteer, parent-teacher organization leader, and advisory committee member.

Sisterhood Spotlight

2022 sisterhood-Caren-Merrick
Caren Merrick
Secretary of Commerce and Trade

Caren Merrick was the first woman in her family to receive a college degree and brings more than 25 years of experience as an entrepreneur and transformation leader to her role with the Commonwealth. In this Sisterhood Spotlight, Secretary Merrick shares about being a woman in business, achieving her college degree and how government can best support small businesses.

What was your very first job?

During high school, I worked in retail and food services during summers and on weekends at an amusement park called Six Flags Magic Mountain. It was a lot of fun because many high school and college kids worked there and customers were generally happy. 

How has being the first woman in your family to receive a college degree impacted you?

It was a slightly daunting dream to put myself through college because I wondered where I would earn the funds to pay rent, tuition, books, and generally support myself while studying hard. I learned so much through the process. Well before there were programs for first generation college students, the guidance counselors at UCLA were empathetic and when they learned I was supporting myself, they suggested getting a job on campus and it made all the difference. On the day I graduated, my whole family was there and it was a joyful day for all of us. I gained so much by working hard to achieve this goal. It was my first really big, audacious goal as an adult, and it taught me that I am happiest when I have big audacious goals, so you could say this generated a whole new way of looking at challenges as rewarding opportunities.

What advice do you have for women and girls who are pursuing a male-dominated field?

Find mentors who are women and men and don't be shy about asking for advice and ideas. Most people want to help young people succeed. In my career, the men have been just as important as the women in helping me to grow and giving me feedback, new opportunities and challenges.

What is the most important thing that government can do to help small businesses?

I come from a family of small business owners; all four of my parents' children are entrepreneurs. It takes so much courage, hard work, ingenuity, sacrifice and perseverance to start and grow a business. Small businesses are the true heartbeat of Virginia and America; they employ more people in aggregate than larger companies, and are hubs of innovation. I admire and salute small business owners and entrepreneurs and wholeheartedly support and work every day to achieve Governor Youngkin's goals of 10,000 start-ups. The most important thing a government can do is create an environment that rewards and does not hinder the formation and growth of small businesses. That means reducing regulations – especially those taxes that are levied on a business before they have paying customers!

What business sector(s) offer(s) unique opportunities for Virginia women and girls and why?

I wholeheartedly believe that nearly every sector offers wonderful opportunities for women. We need women across sectors, from technology to skilled trades, science, education and so much more. 

What is something you enjoy (ex. a hobby) that most people don't know about?

I love to sail, hike and take long walks in big cities with my husband of 28 years. One of my favorite things to do on the fly, and that I can do nearly anywhere, is play Words With Friends 2 with our adult sons – we are all competitive and it is one of many ways to stay connected. It is one of my favorite ways to relax.

What is one thing (food, sweets) you can't resist?

One of our ace executive assistants always keeps Fannie Mae S'Mores chocolates on her desk and it is irresistible! I find a lot of reasons to go and visit her – ha.  If I were to keep this in my house I would be in trouble. I also love chips, salsa and guacamole and have been known to make a whole dinner out of those three things!

About Secretary Merrick

The Secretary of Commerce and Trade is dedicated to developing and growing an economy that works for all Virginians. Our 12 agencies work collaboratively, creating an environment where people and businesses thrive and grow. We strive to utilize the great assets of Virginia to ensure Virginia is the best place to live, work, raise a family, start and grow a business.

Caren Merrick is an entrepreneur, board director, advisor and executive with over 25 years of experience launching new companies, reinventing companies, leading business improvement transformation, and overseeing change management. She and one of the companies she co-founded were highlighted among the 10 Start-Ups that Changed Washington by the Washington Business Journal.  Caren co-founded and was instrumental in growing Fairfax, Virginia based webMethods, Inc. from a basement start-up to a global company of 1,100 people and $200m+ in revenue.

Caren has built boards of directors for webMethods, Inc. and the webMethods Foundation. She has served as a board director of public and private growth companies with combined assets of $12B and revenue of $3B across a variety of sectors. Her board leadership includes Chairman of Finance, Technology, Valuations, Nominations, and Ethics Committees and member of the Audit Committee.

Most recently, Merrick was founding CEO of The Virginia Ready Initiative (or VA Ready.)  VA Ready is a dynamic, business led partnership formed in response to the economic hardships created by COVID-19 and now helping over 3,500 Virginians rapidly reskill for in-demand jobs. The partnership includes 24 of the Commonwealth’s leading businesses like EY, Bank of America, SAIC, Genworth Financial, PwC, Northrop Grumman, Carilion Clinics and the Virginia Community College System’s 23 community colleges, to retrain and equip Virginians who want to gain skills for in-demand jobs in high-growth sectors. VA Ready offers an innovative model to solve the labor shortage in a variety of industries while helping individuals, families and whole communities to flourish.

Sisterhood Spotlight

2022 sisterhood-Irma Becerra PhD
Irma Becerra Ph.D.
President of Marymount University

Dr. Irma Becerra is the seventh President of Marymount University in Arlington, VA. A Cuban-born American, Dr. Becerra immigrated to the U.S. with her parents as an infant, living in Puerto Rico through high school. She has a passion for knowledge and a deep-seated belief that “no one can take away your education.” In this Sisterhood Spotlight, Dr. Becerra discusses being an educator, advice for young women in the field, how the education community can better serve Hispanic and Latino students and more.

What led to your decision to become an educator?

After graduating from college, I worked at Florida Power and Light and had a very technical job – I was responsible for coding the computer model that simulates the reliability of the power system grid. I loved my job and found it challenging, but I missed the ‘people’ aspect of the job. So, I volunteered to teach a course on statistical quality control as a corporate instructor, and I fell in love with adult education and really found my calling. I then went back to school to get my doctorate in Electrical Engineering, and I became a Professor of Computer Information Systems.

What’s a piece of advice that has impacted the trajectory of your career?

When I was just eight months old, my parents and I fled our native Cuba with nothing. But I learned from my grandparents that no matter what happens, no one can ever take away your education. That’s why I have devoted my life to higher education, and I want to make sure that young people coming after me will have the same opportunities that I had to achieve a higher level of education and a better future for themselves and their families.

Tell us one thing you’d like people to know about the school you serve.

Marymount offers an innovative curriculum with a unique mix of health, STEM programs and liberal arts fields that provides market-driven educational opportunities in a wide range of disciplines at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels. We are committed to student success as well as faculty and staff excellence, and we promote career preparation and the education of the whole person. Marymount is the most diverse institution in Virginia, the DMV region and among Regional Universities of the South, and we recently became the only Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) in Virginia. All of these things combined form an educational experience that you can’t find anywhere else, and one that is second-to-none. We are ready to join our local, state and federal government agencies in solving the problems that our communities are facing, as well as joining industries in mutually beneficial initiatives.

What to you is an exciting opportunity in education right now?

What I’ve always found exciting about education is the ability we have as professors, staff and administrators to transform the lives of our students – and that’s what continues to motivate me as a university president today. Like many industries, education is going through a period of reflection and dramatic change caused not only by technology but also by changing demographics. This, combined with an increased need to deliver on return of investment, has made it more important than ever for higher education to be innovative. This is something we’re doing now at Marymount, a university that has always offered a practical education, and we’re excited to focus on preparing students for the careers of the 21st century.

What would you say to young women who are considering entering your field?

I studied Electrical Engineering at a time when I was often the only woman in my classes – and indeed, I was the first-ever woman to receive a Ph.D. in that field from Florida International University. Today, in contrast, we’re seeing gender parity in areas like law, medicine and business – fields that used to be considered ‘male dominant.’ There are also great opportunities for women in the STEM fields, and we have to continue to encourage women to enter these fields if our country is to have the adequate numbers of engineers, computer scientists and IT specialists that we need to stay competitive on a global scale.

How can government and the education community better serve Hispanic and Latino students?

Scholarships and funding for the Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant (VTAG) are incredibly important in allowing Hispanic and Latino students to succeed in college. Equally important is having faculty, staff and administrators at higher education institutions who can serve as role models to these students and symbolize what they can accomplish. We must continue to mentor those who come after us, and give them the confidence that they too can be successful.

What has spurred your focus on career readiness for students and innovative partnerships?

The ‘university of the future’ is one that is no longer seen as an ‘ivory tower,’ but one that works closely with industries and government to help change society for the better and accomplish mutually beneficial goals. For example, here at Marymount, we established a partnership with both Netflix and 2U to increase diversity in the tech fields by offering for-credit, fully-online tech boot camps in Data Science, Java Engineering and UX/UI Design to Marymount undergraduates, all at no cost to accepted students. This experience gives them essential credentials that provide a competitive advantage in the global marketplace. Similarly, we just established a joint effort with Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C., with the goal of creating a nursing pipeline in which our students receive need-based scholarships and participate in internships at Sibley with the aim of successfully transitioning to full-time employment there. This program not only helps Marymount and Sibley, but also addresses the shortage of nursing professionals that is a national concern today.

About President Becerra

Dr. Irma Becerra took office as the seventh President of Marymount University in Arlington, Va., on July 1, 2018. In her first six months in the role, she launched the University’s new Strategic Plan, “Momentum,” which will guide the University over the five-year period from 2019 to 2024. The plan calls for Marymount to achieve national and international recognition for innovation and commitment to student success, alumni achievement and faculty and staff excellence.

In her four years as President, Dr. Becerra has introduced several initiatives with long-lasting effects in support of Marymount’s mission and vision for the future. This includes adding market-driven academic programs that prioritize career preparation, overseeing the transition to a new academic structure, acquiring The Rixey luxury apartment building next door to Marymount’s Ballston Center and improving the university’s IT infrastructure through the implementation of the state-of-the-art enterprise resource planning application, Workday. She has also navigated the school community through the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, while also leading efforts at the state and federal levels to advocate for legislative solutions to the DACA program that will protect Dreamer students at Marymount and across the country.

Dr. Becerra is known for expanding educational access for students and keenly targeting programming to meet societal needs and changing demographics. Her academic career, both as student and professional, has blended mathematics, engineering and systems thinking and processes in her studies, teaching and administrative leadership. An educator who began her career in the private sector and the holder of four patents and copyrights, Dr. Becerra is an ardent advocate for a STEM-educated workforce and holds the mindset of a trained scientist and seasoned entrepreneur. Catholic-educated throughout her primary and secondary years, she understands the great importance of faith-based instruction and plans to raise Marymount’s profile and spur growth in enrollment and academic programs. This will be accomplished, in part, through innovative partnerships, scholarship opportunities and broad initiatives.

A Cuban-born American, Dr. Becerra immigrated to the United States with her parents when she was an infant, living in Puerto Rico through high school. Those formative experiences ignited her mind, imbuing her with a passion for knowledge along with a deep-seated belief that “no one can take away your education.” She earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Miami and went on to become the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Florida International University (FIU).

Prior to Marymount, she served as Provost and Chief Academic Officer at St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens, Fla., and also spent three decades at FIU in a variety of positions that include Vice President, Vice Provost, Entrepreneurship Center Director and tenured professor in Management Information Systems. She founded FIU’s Knowledge Management Lab and led major projects as principal investigator at the National Science Foundation, NASA (Headquarters, Kennedy, Ames and Goddard Space Flight Centers) and the Air Force Research Lab. She was also a Sloan Scholar at MIT’s Center for Information Systems Research.

Dr. Becerra has authored four books and numerous journal articles in the areas of knowledge management and business intelligence. Her original research has also spanned such areas as enterprise systems, disaster management and IT entrepreneurship, making her a sought-after speaker and presenter both in the U.S. and internationally.

Dr. Becerra is the mother of two adult children. Her son, Anthony, earned his J.D. and M.B.A. at St. Thomas University, and received his undergraduate degree from Emory University. Her daughter, Nicole, is a former director at Macy’s and earned her MBA from the University of Michigan.

Sisterhood Spotlight

2022 sisterhood-Annie Walker
Annie Walker
Deputy Commissioner

A U.S. Army veteran, Annie Walker brings many years of dedication and more than 20 years of service to the Commonwealth to her role with the Virginia Department of Veterans Services (VDVS). In the latest Sisterhood Spotlight, The First Lady asks Mrs. Walker about her work with VDVS, lessons from her time serving in the U.S. Army and her reflections on the eve of the Fourth of July.

You’ve been an employee of the Commonwealth of Virginia for 21 years. What was your first role serving the Commonwealth?

My first role was a P-14 (wage) Education Specialist with the State Approving Agency (SAA) for Veterans Education and Training (GI Bill). At that time, the SAA was under the Virginia Department of Education. The Virginia Department of Veterans Services (VDVS) was created in 2003, the SAA moved to VDVS in 2004.

Can you tell us about your current role? What are the most rewarding and most challenging aspects?

I currently serve as one of two Deputy Commissioners with the Virginia Department of Veterans Services. We provide general guidance and counsel to the Commissioner on agency strategy and administration. I am also responsible for the strategic management and oversight of the Benefits, Virginia Veterans and Family Support (VVFS), and the Veterans Education, Transition & Employment (VETE) Directorates. The VETE directorate includes the State Approving Agency for Veterans Education and Training (GI Bill), the Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents Education Program (VMSDEP), the Virginia Values Veterans Employment (V3) Program, the V3 Transition Program, the Military Medics and Corpsmen (MMAC) Program, the Virginia Women Veterans Program (VWVP), and the Virginia Military Spouse Liaison.

What are some of the ways your department is helping veterans that you'd like Virginians to know about?

We connect veterans and their families to federal and states benefits, support, quality care, and recognition they have earned through their service and sacrifice.  Transition doesn’t end when a veteran walks out of the gate with their DD214. We assist veterans and their families through the life cycle of their transition to ensure they stay, work, and thrive in Virginia.

The Virginia Department of Veterans Services (VDVS) is organized into seven service delivery sections: benefits; veteran and family support; veterans education; transition & employment; care centers; veterans cemeteries; and the Virginia War Memorial. The Board of Veterans Services, the Joint Leadership Council of Veterans Services Organizations, and the Veterans Services Foundation work closely with VDVS to support the effective delivery of services to Virginia’s veterans and their families. 

What are one or two of the greatest lessons you learned during your time serving in the U.S. Army?

I learned not to be overwhelmed by a situation that seems insurmountable. I developed an emotional intelligence that helps me stay calm under pressure. That attribute served me well when I was the Non-Commissioned Officer In Charge of the “box” for the launching of the Pershing II missile. In the “box”, the Officer in Charge and I had to receive the coded message, break the code, use the code to open the safe that contained the coordinates of the strike, enter the coordinates, and launch within a defined timeframe.

What's a piece of advice you'd give to younger women who have a desire to serve their country?

Be daring enough to stand up and stand out. Do not set limitations on yourself and do not succumb to self-imposed or manufactured pressures and fears.

On the eve of July 4th, what would you like to say to all Virginians?

Despite all of our challenges, the United States of America is the greatest country in the world. President Lincoln stated in his second inaugural address, “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds.” President Lincoln’s words are timely and should be use as a call to action as we continue to work towards a more perfect union. One that will ensure that every Virginian have the opportunity to thrive and realize those unalienable rights of Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

If you would like to learn more about the Virginia Department of Veterans Services, please visit their website.  

About Deputy Commissioner Annie Walker

Mrs. Walker provides strategic management and oversight of the Benefits, Virginia Veterans and Family Support (VVFS), and the Veterans Education, Transition & Employment (VETE) Directorates. She is also responsible for general guidance and counsel to the Commissioner on agency strategy and administration.

Mrs. Walker is retired from the United States Army. She is a graduate of the Army National Guard Officer Candidate School, Camp Murray, WA but decided to continue her career as an enlisted soldier. Her military awards include the Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Good Conduct Award, Overseas Service Ribbon, and the Distinguished Instructor Award. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Vocational Education and Masters in Business Administration.

During her military career, Mrs. Walker was a 41C-Fire Control Instrument Repairer, 21G-Pershing Missile Electronics Material Specialist, 27M-Multiple Launch Rocket Systems Repairer, and a 92Y-Unit Supply Specialist. Her last duty assignment was at Fort Lee, Virginia, where she was a Drill Sergeant. Mrs. Walker ended her military career in 1997 as the Director for the Instructor Development Course at the United States Army Quartermaster Center and School.

Mrs. Walker has presented at several professional and community events including the Governor’s Conference on Housing titled, “Veterans and Their Communities: Strategies for Transition, Jobs, and Thriving Lives: The GI Bill-A Partner in Addressing Homeless Veterans.”  And “Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) as a Viable Career Choice.”  She also co-authored an article published in The Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, “Perceptions of GI Bill Recipients with Disabilities.”

Prior to her current position, Mrs. Walker worked as a Truancy/Dropout Prevention Case Manager, Petersburg Public Schools; a Prevention/Community Specialist, Petersburg District 19 Community Service Board; and as a Foster Care/Adoption Social Worker, Petersburg Department of Social Services. During this time, she presented at many venues to include the Title I Regional Parent Involvement Conference on “Working with Children from Environmentally Challenged Communities.”

Mrs. Walker is also active on the national level. She is Past President of the National Association of State Approving Agencies (NASAA).  Former Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) Secretary Robert McDonald appointed Mrs. Walker to the DVA Veterans Advisory Council on Education and she is a past member of the DVA/NASAA Joint Advisory Council.

Sisterhood Spotlight

2022 sisterhood-Kay Coles James
Kay Coles James
Secretary of the Commonwealth

Secretary Kay Coles James brings vast experience and dedication to service to the Youngkin administration. When she was in seventh grade, she was chosen to take part in the historic desegregation of Virginia’s schools. In the latest Sisterhood Spotlight, the First Lady asks Secretary James about advice she wishes she was given sooner in her career, how Sisterhood has impacted her life and her reflections on the eve of Juneteenth.

What was your very first job?

Very first was probably babysitting, first sort of real job was a summer job I had as a secretary working in Richmond public schools in a summer program.

Do you have a favorite childhood memory?

Being the only girl and feeling like a princess because I knew that I had five brothers who would take care of me in any situation. It was difficult not having a sister, but I have fond memories of being the only girl and getting all of the love and attention that came with that.

What is a great piece of advice you were given -- or wish you were given -- when starting your career?

One of the best pieces of advice I got (was) from an old family friend who told me, “Kay, the only difference between a successful person and a failure is that successful people get back up.” He said, “Everybody gets knocked down, but successful people get back up.”

How did taking part in the historic desegregation of Virginia public schools impact your life?

I think it prepared me for future life, in that I knew I had to be excellent at what I did. I knew that I would face opposition along the way, and I did, and I think my sort of feisty personality comes from the fact that since I was in the seventh grade I had to be a fighter and I had to learn how to push back and to be excellent.

On the eve of Juneteenth, what would you like to say to Virginians across the Commonwealth as we celebrate African American freedom, education and achievement?

I see Juneteenth not just as a celebration of the Emancipation of enslaved people. But I see Juneteenth as an extraordinary holiday to celebrate America because the gift that our founders gave us was the founding documents and principles that allow us, when we make mistakes, to correct them and get it right. And so Juneteenth for me is a celebration of America and the fact that we rose to the occasion; we corrected the horrible mistakes we made surrounding enslaving human beings. So, yes we celebrate African American achievement, we celebrate the sort of symbolic end of enslaving people in this country -- but I also celebrate the greatness that is America. And so I think it's a holiday not just for the African American community, but for all of us.

What does "sisterhood" mean to you, and how has it affected your life?

Being raised as the only girl in a family, having a “sisterhood” of friends probably means more to me than most. I have several groups of friends, of sisters, who pray with me, who come when called and needed, who give the encouraging word on down days, who have come over and helped me clean the house because my mother-in-law is coming, who gave me wisdom and advice because they were 10 years older than I was, had been through what I was going through and could be my older sister. Then I have the sisters who are younger than I am, who keep me vibrant, who keep me on the cutting edge and who keep me informed on all the latest in pop culture. So I have younger sisters, I have older sisters; on any given day I am not sure I could make it through without that sisterhood of friends. I encourage every woman to be a part of that, to be an encourager for other women and to let other women into their lives in order to give them unvarnished truth. Having people who are willing to be honest and true and that you feel comfortable sharing your most inner thoughts, your fears, your anxieties, your hopes and your dreams with is so important to being healthy.

About Secretary James

The Honorable Kay Coles James was born in Portsmouth, Virginia, and raised in her early years in Richmond’s housing projects to a single mother in the segregated South. Secretary James was one of the first children to take part in a historic experiment to desegregate Virginia’s all-white schools and later graduated from Hampton University.

She most recently served as the President of the Heritage Foundation, a prominent think tank in Washington, D.C. Her career in public service began on the school board of Fairfax County, Virginia, and continued to the state board of education. Under presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, she was appointed to the National Commission on Children. She served as associate director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and as assistant secretary for public affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the George H.W. Bush administration. Under President George W. Bush, she served as the director of the Office of Personnel Management. Kay also served as Secretary of Health under George Allen where she developed Virginia’s landmark welfare reform.

Secretary James has also worked at senior levels in education and the nonprofit world, as the chief operating officer of a national organization for mentoring programs and the dean of the Robertson School of Government at Regent University. She is the founder of the Gloucester Institute, which offers leadership training to African-American college students and currently the Co-Chair of Governor-Elect Youngkin’s Transition.

Sisterhood Spotlight

2022 sisterhood-Margaret Lyn McDermid
Margaret “Lyn” McDermid
Secretary of Administration

Lyn McDermid brings vast knowledge and experience to the Youngkin administration. At a young age, Lyn was the first woman accepted to the Apprentice School at Newport News Shipbuilding. In the latest Sisterhood Spotlight, The First Lady asks Secretary McDermid about her calling to service, the challenges of the technology field and advice for women and girls pursuing careers in cyber security.

What was your very first job?

I worked part-time in retail during high school. My first real job was working at the Newport News Shipyard, where I started out as an administration assistant and was asked to become the first woman to enter the Apprentice School.

When did you first feel called to service?

I have felt a call to service since I was a little girl. My dad served in three wars and was a passionate military man and patriot. I learned from him to appreciate our country and cherish our freedom and always look for ways to give back.

Why did you decide to come out of retirement to take your current job?

Coming out of my second retirement was not an easy decision, but after talking with the Chief of Staff, interviewing with the Governor and understanding that this administration’s goal was to unite and work together, I couldn’t say no. I have lived in Virginia for decades and wanted to be part of a team that will make Virginia the best place to live, work and raise a family.

What are the challenges of your field today?

The biggest challenge of being in the technology field is how fast it changes, how complex it has become and how dependent we are on technology working seamlessly. They used to call IT a glass house, but the glass is shattered, and technology is ubiquitous and indispensable.

What’s a piece of advice you’d give to young women pursuing a career in cyber security?

I have supported women and girls in technology and cyber for years, and my advice is simple: You can do it! It’s just like any career: Continuously study and learn, try things out and don’t be afraid of small failures, find a great mentor, and work hard to be the best you can be. And have fun…

About Secretary McDermid

Lyn has a B.A. from Mary Baldwin College and an MBA from the University of Richmond. From 2013-2020, Lyn worked at the Federal Reserve System as Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Director of Federal Reserve Information Technology (FRIT). There, she oversaw the Federal Reserve System IT strategy, IT investment and spending, and enterprise cyber security. She also directed the management of national IT operations, project services, and enterprise architecture and standards. Prior to joining the Federal Reserve, she served as senior vice president and chief information officer at a Richmond-based Fortune 500 company.

Lyn has served on several boards including Chair of the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Chair of the Board of Trustees of Mary Baldwin College, Chair of the Board of the Greater Richmond Technology Council, and currently Chair of the ChildFund International Board.

Her commitment to education is reflected in long-standing support of Reynolds Community College, University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University. She also serves on the IT visiting committee for Harvard University.

Lyn was named to the Computerworld’s list of Premier 100 IT Leaders for 2004, received the 2008 Executive Women in Business Achievement Award, was recognized as one of the Richmond YWCA’s 2010 Outstanding Women, and was honored with the RichTech Chairman’s Award in 2013. She co-founded the Richmond Women in Technology group and is honored with the naming of their annual recognition of women technologists as the Margaret “Lyn” McDermid awards.

Sisterhood Spotlight

2022 sisterhood-Winsome Earle-Sears
Winsome Earle-Sears
Lieutenant Governor of Virginia

The First Lady is honored to feature Virginia’s Lieutenant Governor Winsome Earle-Sears in the inaugural Sisterhood Spotlight. In the Sisterhood Spotlight series, the First Lady interviews women across the Commonwealth in areas of government, business and entrepreneurship, education, workforce development, nonprofits and more. On the eve of Mother’s Day, Lieutenant Governor Earle-Sears shares mothering advice, lessons from her own mother and how she views her calling to service and her legacy.

On the eve of Mother’s Day, what’s a piece of encouragement you could give mothers in the Commonwealth?

The children will grow up one day, and they are going to pick your nursing home, so be kind to them.

What’s a mothering rule you always follow?

Bring to me at least three solutions to your problem, and we will work through it together. In this way our children have been able to become problem solvers.

What are one or two important lessons you learned from your own mother?

I have learned that one should never give up on oneself so much that they lose their own sense of worth. I have also learned to love the Lord, my God, with all of my heart.

When did you first feel called to serve?

Service was first modeled for me when I saw my grandmother, among other things, bring home a homeless man who was drug addicted to marijuana. She cleaned him up, found a job for him and helped him get into adult education classes. He lived with us. I was 7 or 8 years old when I saw her do this. I didn’t understand it then, but I understand it now, that you are not simply to be a taker in this life. One cannot see that help is needed and simply turn away and hope that someone else brings the help. Or, because it is too painful, you cannot involve yourself.

What do you want to be remembered for?

That most of all, I sought to help in spite of all of the obstacles that I faced. That recognizing in the end, all of your titles, all of your accomplishments, all of the educational achievements mean nothing – and that the only thing that survives is the love and care that you showed.

What is one thing (food, sweets) you can’t resist?


About the Lieutenant Governor

Winsome Earle-Sears, a native of Kingston, Jamaica, immigrated to the United States at the age of six. She is proud to have served in the United States Marine Corps. In addition to her various appointments, she has served as the Vice President of the Virginia State Board of Education; and as a presidential appointee to the US Census Bureau, as co-chair of the African American Committee; and the Advisory Committee on Women Veterans to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Winsome was first elected in 2002 to a majority Black House of Delegates district, a first for a Republican in Virginia since 1865. She is the first female Lieutenant Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the first Black female elected to statewide office.

A former program manager for the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce and VISTA volunteer, Winsome is a trained electrician and successful businesswoman. However, Winsome is most proud of her community work leading a men’s prison ministry and as director of a women’s homeless shelter. She holds a B.A. in English with a minor in Economics, and an M.A. in Organizational Leadership, with a concentration in Government. Winsome and her husband, Terence, have two daughters Katia and Janel, in addition to DeJon, and granddaughters Victoria and Faith, who are now looking into the face of God.

Sisterhood Spotlight

2022 sisterhood-Page Miyares
Page Miyares

Page Miyares is the wife of Attorney General of Virginia Jason Miyares, the mother of three daughters and the principal broker and owner of Atkinson Realty. In this week’s Sisterhood Spotlight, The First Lady asks Page about her work and life experiences, personal hobby and what it’s like raising three girls.

What was your very first job?

I was 14, and my first job was making sandwiches for a deli next to Wareing’s Gym in Virginia Beach. They let me go after about one month… They caught onto something that has followed me to this day: I’m not a cook.

What’s something that you consider as one of your greatest achievements?

What I consider my greatest achievement to date is the pride I have in my family, Jason and our three girls. It’s not perfect. It’s not easy. I make mistakes on a daily basis, but I’m proud that we all work at it every day.

What is it like raising three daughters?

Raising three girls (15, 13, 10) is like running a three-ring circus with a lot of pink. They are all so different. I’ve tried to be a student of each of them, so I can help them be strong and confident in their unique gifting.

What’s a piece of advice you’d give your younger self?

I would tell my younger self what I’m telling my current self: Take more risks, be more vulnerable and go after what you love.

What is something you enjoy (ex. a hobby) that most people don’t know about?

Most people don’t know that I play guitar and sing in the worship band at my church. It was something I did in my 20s, and I recently took it up again. It’s been a fun way to get out of my head and make sure I’m not taking myself too seriously.

What do you like to do to unwind at the end of the day?

I enjoy taking our golden retriever, Buckley, to the beach. He’ll go after a tennis ball in the water for hours. It’s hard to not find joy in his joy.

What is one thing (food, sweets) you can’t resist?

I can’t resist a good, under-cooked, gooey brownie.

About Page Miyares

Page Miyares is the principal broker and owner of Atkinson Realty, a family-owned, organically grown real estate brokerage started in 1943. Atkinson Realty is a full-service, boutique firm that specializes in Coastal Virginia Residential Sales and Property Management.  Before her two decades in residential brokerage, Page worked as a Certified Public Accountant, and before that as a finance director on the US Senate Campaign of Governor George Allen in the year 2000. It was on that campaign where she met her husband and our current Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Virginia, Jason Miyares.

Page’s passion for her community and fellow citizens has led her to serve on several volunteer boards.  Currently, she is the president of the Virginia Beach Volunteer Rescue Squad Foundation, which is the largest volunteer EMS system in the country.  Page also serves as a commissioner on the Virginia Beach Resort Advisory Commission, and as a board member for the newly formed Virginia Beach Property Rights Coalition. 

Page’s ultimate passion is for her family, including her husband Jason and her three daughters, Gabriella, Elaina, and Sophia.  These three active ladies keep Page busy with their activities of ballet, acting, and golf.