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City of Alexandria, VA City of Alexandria, VA
Community & Human Services
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Page updated Mar 30, 2015 3:09 PM
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Leadership in Business and Career Development Award - Ashley McNeff Behrens

Ashley started her own corporation, United States Homeland Investigations, Inc., in 2003 at just 21 years old (along with her business partner, Marcia Sheehy). She was a leader in turning it into an Inc. 5000 awardee and served as a role model and mentor to many women and girls along the way. Last year she also started CakeRE, a non-profit organization, providing birthday cakes to Wounded Warrior service members recovering in local hospitals. Ashley has served on the Alexandria Community Criminal Justice Board, is a Virginia Advocate for Women Impacting Public Policy, was Chairman of the Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce and Board member for nine years.  She has also mentored several military/civilian wives over the years, helping them begin their own businesses, providing them with her knowledge, encouragement and inspiration.

Making A Difference Award - Ginny Hill-Obranovich

Ginny currently serves as the Executive Director of the Alexandria Police Foundation and Volunteer Coordinator for the Alexandria Police Department. In this capacity, Ginny introduces girls and women to the Citizen’s Police Academy and provides training about career opportunities as a police officer for the City of Alexandria. Additionally, Ginny oversees all volunteers for both organizations and was instrumental in bringing the public art piece dedicated to the memory of police officers killed in the line of duty from an idea to a reality. Having lost her first husband in the line of duty in 1989, she understands first-hand the importance of honoring their memory.

Rising Star Award - LaDonna Sanders

LaDonna is a social worker for Fairfax County Department of Family Services. She is the President of the Alexandria NAACP, and in this role she is charged with ensuring the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights for everyone. Under her leadership the association has addressed issues of racial profiling worked to improve relations between the Alexandria Police Department and City residents; advocated on behalf of increasing affordable housing opportunities; and worked to inform the public of the adverse effects of Voter ID laws. LaDonna has worked to educate youth on the importance of becoming civically engaged and become leaders in their community. She also worked with ACPS to effectively address the achievement gap and decrease suspension rates of minority students. She also served as a volunteer for ARHA, the Scholarship Fund of Alexandria, the Human Rights Commission,
the Economic Opportunities Commission, HIV/AIDS Commission and ACPS Middle Schools for Tomorrow Workgroup.

Youth Community Services Award (Youth) - Zauhirah Tipu

Zauhirah Tipu is a senior at T.C. Williams High School and an exceptional and well-balanced student. She is enrolled in AP, dual enrollment and honors-level courses. Throughout high school, she has maintained a 4.0+ average while being a highly engaged and civically minded student. Zauhirah is the President of Student Government Association, Vice President of Best Buddies International, Captain of the Debate Team, and Treasurer of the Muslim Student Association. She has also won several awards, including the Latin Achievement Award, Superintendent’s Student Leadership Award, Titan Ambassador of the Year and Debate Team honors. In her role as a student leader, she has developed a strong relationship with the school administration, is well-respected by the students and often consulted on school-wide issues. T.C. Williams has a program for severely impaired youth and Zauhirah is committed to ensuring that these students are included in all facets of school, from participating in pep rallies to serving in leadership roles to performing community service. Zauhirah also co-founded America’s Leading Lawyers (ALL), a club for students who are considering careers in advocacy and the legal field.

Youth Community Services Award (Adult) - Lorraine Friedman

Lorraine is the founder of DreamDogFoundation, a 501(c)(3) non-for-profit organization whose mission is to instill a love of learning through empowerment and literacy programs. When she learned that Latino parents felt disenfranchised by ACPS, she created Conexiones to build awareness and fill the communication gap between the schools and the parents. In the 5 years since she created the program, materials were created in Spanish, a Spanish language telephone help line was launched and meetings with an interpreter were scheduled with the school superintendent. When teen moms were not receiving the necessary services and parenting classes, she partnered with SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now) to create Family Links to deliver weekly classes to teen moms. When at-risk children living in Alexandria Redevelopment Housing Authority (ARHA) facilities and other low-income children were not able to learn in traditional ways, she created innovative, interactive programs- "Kids Empowering Kids" and "Books of My Own" to ensure that they are excited about learning. Lorraine is a role model to teen moms at TC Williams, students in ARHA housing, Community Lodgings, Brent Place, the Ruby Tucker Center and Alexandria’s Latino moms.

Women’s Health and Safety Advocate Award - Deputy Sheriff Valarie Wright

Deputy Wright is a veteran and is a Deputy Sheriff at the Alexandria Sheriff’s Office in the Adult DetentionCenter and the Alternative Programs, working with inmates on modified release. For the past 3 years, she has worked as the Community Relations Deputy, representing the Sheriff’s Office at community events, supporting the city’s youth, and conducting outreach to the homeless. She is President of the Alexandria’s Sheriff’s Association and a member of the Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition of Alexandria (SAPCA), where she educates students about making smart decisions about tobacco, alcohol and drug use. She is a role model for women within the Sheriff’s Office and has worked tirelessly to enhance the safety and quality of life of Alexandria’s young women and girls through her work. She is also a mentor to several girls that attend Charles Barrett and Lyles-Crouch Elementary schools where she shows a sincere interest in their well-being and education.

The Marguerite Payez Award - Cynthia Anderson

Cindy is a graduate of Alexandria City Public Schools and has been a volunteer leader in the Alexandria community for over 20 years. She holds the rare distinction of serving as the PTA President at all Alexandria City Public school levels including George Mason Elementary, George Washington Middle School, T.C. Williams High School and has also served on the city-wide PTA Council. Under her leadership, she helped parents navigate the public school system, raised awareness of current issues and promoted programs to enable parents to become more engaged in their children’s academic pursuits. Cindy has served on the Scholarship Fund for Alexandria, chaired the Telethon and twice co-chaired the annual Gala. She is described as a quiet, steady and intelligent listener who has her finger on the pulse of the education community in Alexandria on behalf of women and children.

Donna Bergheim Cultural Affairs Award - Joan Daggy Singer

Joan is a classically trained violinist and founder of the tango music group QuinTango. For 39 years she has used her artistic gifts to serve on the Alexandria Arts Committee, the Caen (France) Sister City Committee, Alexandria Film Festival and the board of the Alexandria Arts Forum. She created five bi-lingual educational outreach programs to expose Alexandria youth to the arts. Through her work with her group QuinTango, Joan initiated and found funding for arts instruction for several Alexandria elementary schools. Working with professional dancers and musicians from Argentina and Brazil, Joan offered tango dance workshops, violin classes and most recently a workshop combining tango and soccer. Over the past four years, she organized StringTango, an orchestra of ACPS elementary school string players ranging in age from 6 to 13 years, and each June, along with guest musicians, they present a free concert in Alexandria.

Marian Van Landingham Legislation and Public Policy Award - Suzanne Maxey

As principal of TC Williams High School for the past 5 years, Suzanne has improved the lives of Alexandria girls by advocating for educational issues, serving as a mentor for female teachers and making positive changes to TC. Under her leadership, TC Williams has seen an increase in its on-time graduation rates, improved SAT scores, the opening of the International Academy for English Language Learners, the school’s status as a four-time Blue Ribbon School for the Arts and the unprecedented amount of students taking AP exams. Her nominators used words like “change agent”, “extraordinary role model”, and “transformative.”

Vola Lawson Award - Laurie Meyer (in memoriam)

Laurie Meyer, was the founding Team Leader of the Community Wraparound Team in the DCHS Center for Children and Families. Laurie’s career with the City spanned 24 years where she developed and led a highly successful community-based children’s behavioral health team for 15 years. Laurie empowered women by strengthening families and mentoring the women around her. She encouraged and adjusted schedules and tasks to allow her team members to seek higher education and to further their careers. Laurie also took the time to listen and give sound and compassionate advice. She was a fearless advocate for the families she served and also for her team, always going above and beyond to provide the best possible care and service. Laurie’s dedication to her work was even more evident in her fight against the breast cancer that eventually claimed her life in the fall of 2014. She worked throughout her battle with the disease ensuring her team could still deliver the critical services Alexandria families needed.

The Susan Lowell Butler Lifetime Achievement Award - Brooksie Koopman

Brooksie is described as a consummate volunteer who has had a tremendous impact on the Scholarship Fund of Alexandria, several PTAs, the Alexandria Library Board and the Alexandria Crew Boosters. She received recognition as the Scholarship Fund Patron Saint in 2011 for her work on the Spring Gala committee, having served since 1997. Brooksie has held a wide range of positions on the PTAs and PTSAs at Maury and Lyles Crouch Elementary Schools, George Washington Middle School, Minnie Howard 9th Grade Center, and TC Williams High School. She was named Outstanding Library Trustee by the Virginia Public Library Directors Association. She has been a member of the Alexandria Crew Boosters since 2000 as well as the facility liaison.


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