2018 Outstanding Women in Somerset County Awards
Somerset County Freeholder Patricia Walsh, liaison to the county Commission on the Status of Women, joins the commission in announcing the 2018 Outstanding Women in Somerset County award winners.
“We have many women in Somerset County doing amazing things every day,” she said. “It is most appropriate that during Women's History Month, we take the time to publicly recognize them and say thank you.” The annual awards dinner was held March 26 at The Imperia in Franklin.
2018 WINNERS' PHOTOS
Honorees are women who live in Somerset County. This year’s award recipients by category are:
Stephanie Moench is a Bridgewater resident who has dedicated herself to the arts, youth and her community. She taught elementary and middle school art for five years in Bernards Township before staying home to raise her three children. Stephanie currently chairs the Bridgewater Creative Arts Committee (BCAC), where she has directed her energy to enhancing the community through frequent art exhibits at the Bridgewater Municipal Building. Recently, she has begun serving on the Somerset County Cultural & Heritage Commission and is an active member with the Friends of Bridgewater History. This year she plans to organize a unique collaboration between artists and the town’s historic building sites. She also runs two businesses, Stephanie Moench Murals and Create HeART Studio, a unique take on the popular paint-and-sip concept. She is a co-founder of BridgewaterCares, a non-profit that seeks to promote community service within the larger Bridgewater area. Stephanie speaks four languages, is a talented singer, and loves to travel.
Theresa Richardson, CPA, PSA, of Green Brook is a partner at WithumSmith+Brown, PC and has over 20 years of accounting and auditing experience. In 2016, Theresa became the first chief talent officer, overseeing the entire life cycle of Withum’s almost 1,000 team members from recruiting to learning and development as well as human resources. Effective July 1, 2018, she will serve as a director at Withum. Theresa is very active in her community including Big Brothers Big Sisters, Somerset United Way, Garden State Go Red for Women Organization, Raritan Valley Community College Foundation Board, Rider University's Accounting Advisory Council, Somerset County Business Partnership (SCBP) and Agapé House. She was a member of the SCBP’s Women in Business Steering Committee and currently serves on the Women’s Leadership Development Initiative steering committee at Withum. Theresa was recognized by NJBIZ as one of the Best 50 Women in Business, was inducted into the Rider University Accounting Hall of Fame, and received the Raritan Valley Community College Distinguished Alumni Award.
Michelle Mele of Somerville is a teacher at Hillside Intermediate School in Bridgewater. She has been teaching in New Jersey since her graduation from Montclair State University on a Governor’s scholarship. She currently has three teaching certifications: elementary education, secondary social studies, and middle school mathematics. Michelle has taken her teaching outside the classroom, supporting curriculum-writing efforts in both math and social studies, and continues to bring new teaching practices to the classroom through professional development. For half of her career, Michelle also served as a coach for girls’ field hockey, basketball, softball and lacrosse. She participates in various student extra-curricular activities including student-teacher basketball, volleyball games, Celebrity Chef Challenge and science fair events; Michelle is a firm believer that students and teachers alike should participate in school and community events inside and outside the classroom to provide different types of rewarding activities. Even after 26 years in the classroom, Michelle loves her career choice and cannot imagine a more challenging or rewarding opportunity.
Terri Seggio of Franklin is musical director at the Samson G. Smith Middle School in Franklin Township. She has been teaching and directing children’s theatre productions for the past 31 years. Terri was the musical director at Franklin Park School and Conerly Road School before moving to Sampson G. Smith (SGS) Intermediate School. She has been at SGS for 13 years and has taught both the Gifted and Talented Literacy Program and 6th-grade literacy. Terri also directs the arts portion of the annual district showcase, and the Annual Alumni Cabaret that raises money for The Kevin J. Maskall Memorial Scholarship Fund. For the past six summers, she has directed the teens’ Villagers Summer Musical Theatre Intensive and recently partnered with The Franklin Cultural Arts Council to create affordable theatre classes for young artists. She was named Teacher of the Year at SGS in 2012 and recently received the 2017 Education Excellence Award in the Arts from the Somerset County Cultural & Heritage Commission.
Kristi MacDonald, Ph.D., of Bernardsville has been working to protect nature in New Jersey for over 25 years. She has a doctorate in ecology and evolution and is director of science at the conservation non-profit Raritan Headwaters Association (RHA). She and her talented team provide information on the health of our streams and aquifers in the North and South Branch Raritan Rivers and guide local communities on conservation and planning practices to sustain clean water. Kristi also serves on the Bernardsville Environmental Commission and champions various efforts to protect local drinking-water supplies. Prior to joining RHA she worked as a conservation scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, as Hudsonia, NY/NJ Baykeeper, and as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer. For several years she taught biology at Science Park High, a public magnet school for science in Newark, N.J. Kristi remains dedicated to finding ways for people and sustainable ecosystems to coexist in urban regions and is coauthoring a book about conservation of biodiversity in the New Jersey Meadowlands.
Rebekah Hayward of Somerville is the founder and executive director at Love True. Love True is a New Jersey-based not-for-profit organization that works to end domestic sex trafficking through prevention education and restoration (www.love-true.org). Founding Love True at age 22, Rebekah has worked in the anti-trafficking field for nearly seven years. She sits on the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking Steering Committee, served on the Attorney General's Human Trafficking Task Force Faith Based Sub-Committee, and had the honor of representing Love True while testifying on behalf of the Human Trafficking Prevention, Protection and Provision Act in 2012, which was passed in early 2013. Rebekah has a passion for the restoration of what was once intended. Her heart to serve women is also seen in her work as a doula.
Brenda A. Nemcek of Warren is the owner/publisher and editor of TAPinto Warren and TAPinto North Plainfield/Green Brook/Watchung. TAPinto is a free online daily newspaper covering local communities. Brenda graduated with a double major in economics and political science and followed a career on Wall Street and at Foot Locker. After 23 years, Brenda decided to stay local and volunteer in the schools and become more involved in the community. She is a founding member and on the executive board of the Warren Township Chamber of Commerce, serves on the Warren Youth Services Commission and the Watchung Hills Parent Communications Advisory Council, has run the Warren Middle School PTO fundraiser for the last five years, and is a member of the WHEAT Foundation-a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a mission to support the participation of Watchung Hills Regional High School students in programs designed to inspire young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math while building self-confidence and life skills.
Tasneem Firdaus Shamim, M.D., is a board-certified ophthalmologist, living and practicing in Franklin Township for the last 33 years. She practices cutting-edge technology for cataract and glaucoma surgeries. Tasneem also is a clinical instructor at Robert Wood Johnson and St. Peter's hospitals. She is well known in the community as a skilled, charitable and caring doctor, and has won several awards for her humanitarian involvement. Tasneem has been very dedicated to uplifting women and the underprivileged. She is the founder of Muslim Women's Coalition, which has organized several relief projects for crises such as hurricanes and earthquakes – both locally and internationally. Tasneem also is a co-leader of the Somerset/Highland Park chapter of the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom and is active in many interfaith ventures to create harmony among people of all backgrounds and faith. She routinely organizes Sufi get-togethers to invite the local community to bond with each other in an atmosphere of love, tolerance and goodwill.
Fae Cushing of Bridgewater currently works for Alternatives Inc. as a peer and case manager in their transitional housing program, helping people out of homelessness. Fae recently completed her associate’s degree in psychiatric rehabilitation at the top of her class in a dual program from Rutgers University and Raritan Valley Community College, and is now working toward her bachelor’s degree with a concentration in psychiatric rehabilitation at the Rutgers School of Health Professions (SHP). She is the president of the Student Government Association at Rutgers SHP for its inaugural year. Fae takes part in the Rutgers Consumer Advisory Committee on Education and Training, which shares voices of those living with mental health issues with people who run educational training programs. She also sits on the governing board of Collaborative Support Programs of New Jersey. Fae recently passed the certified psychiatric rehabilitation practitioner exam, continuing to build her professional life upon the firm foundation of her own recovery from mental health and addiction challenges.
Nancy LaCorte of Franklin is president of the Franklin Township Board of Education. She also has been employed by the Franklin Food Bank as a fundraiser and event planner for the past five years. Nancy has worked on political campaigns, township committees, nonprofits and events that bring together community. As an AmeriCorp volunteer, she became involved with senior citizens. Nancy has received many awards for her work with the troops, including Family Readiness Group Leader of the Year (twice) and the Presidential Gold Award from former President George Bush. Nancy once said, “When I die I want someone to know I lived.” She does that by opening her home and heart to the troops; doing what she can to make sure people are aware that their neighbors might be suffering from food insecurity; and helping set policy, balancing the needs of the taxpayer while providing the future – our students – with the tools they need to be the best they can be.
2018-Outstanding Women Award Winners
2017-Outstanding Women Award Winners
2016-Outstanding Women Award Winners
2015-Outstanding Women Award Winners
2013-Outstanding Women Award Winners
2012-Outstanding Women Award Winners
2011-Outstanding Women Award Winners
2010-Outstanding Women Award Winners
*Note: No awards presented in 2014.