Honoring women who are leading the way in Central Florida | 7th Annual Women’s Inspired Leadership Awards
The Women’s Inspired Leadership Awards has become one of the most celebrated recognition events of the year. Presented in conjunction with our Diversity and Inclusion issue, the awards are a coveted and prestigious honor.
The event will be held this spring with a look back at the achievements of women throughout Central Florida — and a look into the future, where these achievements are shaping a more inclusive, innovative community.
The honorees and their categories are:
Spirit of Advocacy
Dr. Maria Vazquez, Deputy Superintendent for Orange County Public Schools
In addition to helping steer the ninth-largest school district in the United States with more than 206,000 students, 25,000 employees and 202 schools, Maria Vazquez, Ph.D., serves as a passionate advocate for cardiovascular health. As a board member of the American Heart Association’s Metro Orlando chapter, she raises her voice on behalf of children and works with school district employees to champion health equity and improve the cardiovascular health of the community.
Spirit of Collaboration
Jennifer Evins, the new Executive Director of United Arts
Since stepping into the chief executive role at United Arts of Central Florida in June of 2020 from a similar position in South Carolina, Evins has focused on not only learning more about the local cultural community and its supporters, but also bringing them together. Her organization spearheaded the Collaborative Campaign for the Arts, the largest and most inclusive collaboration between art, science and history organizations in Central Florida, with a goal of raising $4.38 million by the end of April.
Spirit of Community
Pam Gould, President and CEO of Shepherd’s Hope and an Orange County School Board member
For more than 30 years, Pam Gould has facilitated community partnerships to improve daily life for Central Florida residents. As the CEO of Shepherd’s Hope, she oversees the nonprofit’s mission to provide free medical services to people who are uninsured and underinsured. She also serves as a member and vice chair of the Orange County School Board. Her dedication to the community extends beyond those roles to her service on numerous boards where she donates countless hours.
Spirit of Empowerment
Shelly Wilkes, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Social Responsibility for the Orlando Magic
As part of the Orlando Magic operation since 2004, Shelly Wilkes has blazed a trail for women in sports. She previously served as the only female president in the NBA’s G League, where she was responsible for building the Lakeland Magic franchise from the ground up. Her focus has been to empower, mentor and advocate for people who are underrepresented in sports, using her influence to spearhead initiatives including a two-day empowerment and leadership summit for women.
Spirit of Engagement
Andrea Eliscu, Founder of Dueling Dragons of Orlando
A nurse by trade, as well as an author and a healthcare consultant, Andrea Eliscu founded Medical Marketing Inc. in 1984 and serves on numerous community boards. Ten years ago, she turned her attention to founding a program that has become nationally recognized for strengthening the relationship between law enforcement officers and inner-city children. Dueling Dragons develops camaraderie, respect and mentorship through the teamwork of competitive dragon boat racing.
Spirit of Entrepreneurship
Cherlette McCullough, owner of Center Peace Couples and Family Therapy
As a mental health therapist and the owner of a private practice in Winter Park, Cherlette McCullough helps women, couples and families make their mental wellness a priority. She has received several awards for her work in mental health community advocacy. To reach more people hurting during the pandemic, she put social media to work, writing about depression and anxiety. She has also spoken at workshops and in the media, and she broadcasts a biweekly podcast for women.
Spirit of Innovation
Dr. Haifa Maamar – Full Sail University Emerging Technologies Education Director
Since joining Full Sail in 2014, Haifa Maamar, Ph.D., has promoted innovation within the university and the community. Under her direction, Full Sail’s degree programs in emerging technologies have garnered numerous awards, and she has been a champion for scholarships in this field. She is leading an initiative to enhance learning through extended reality, and she formed the nonprofit Cacti Council to get children in elementary and middle schools excited about future careers in computer science.
Spirit of Mentorship
Lisa Bowman, Chief Nursing Officer at AdventHealth children’s and women’s hospitals
As devoted to her team as she is to her patients, Lisa Bowman serves as the chief nursing officer and vice president of AdventHealth for Children and AdventHealth for Women. She enables leaders under her care to innovate and thrive in the workplace — which shows in the national recognitions received for the programs under her responsibility. She has taken extra care to recognize and reward the heroic work of her team members during the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Spirit of Progress
Carol Craig, Founder and CEO of Craig Technologies and Sidus Space
Known as the founder and CEO of Craig Technologies, a nationally recognized aerospace and defense contracting firm, Carol Craig is now the founder CEO of Sidus Space. Her companies have created a combined 500 jobs to support advancements in space from their base in Cape Canaveral. In December 2021, she made history as the first female founder of a space company to go public with a listing on NASDAQ. As a former naval flight officer, Craig was one of the first women eligible to fly combat aircraft in the Navy.
Read the full press release here.