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Nekeshia Hammond

Posted on: October 1st, 2014 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

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Growing up in Orlando, Nekeshia Hammond’s mother encouraged a love of reading and good academic habits. This focus on her studies, along with support from family, is part of why she is so successful today.

Today, the owner of Hammond Psychology & Associates in Brandon is dedicated to helping children, teens, families, and adults through an array of services. She founded the practice in 2009 and “feels fortunate to have a job as a licensed psychologist because I love what I do! Helping people and seeing the positive transformation in people’s lives is an incredible experience.”

What do you think is the secret to your family’s success?

Most of my family and my husband’s family live out of town so our main family unit here is me, my husband and my 2-year-old son. I would have to say that our secret to success as a family is a combination of communication, flexibility, patience and teamwork.

Our schedules are quite hectic so we have to be very vocal about our daily goals and the things we must do together to accomplish those goals. At the same time, we understand the importance of being flexible and patient. Life can throw anything at you and even a great plan can get thrown off course. We understand we must work together as team to get through each day to provide the best environment for our son and ourselves.

What is your biggest fear?

It’s a little cliché. I wonder whether or not I am spending enough time with my son and my husband. The fear of spending too much time at work is one that I’m sure every entrepreneur faces.

My other big fear is not having my life’s purpose fulfilled, which is to help millions of children and families in my lifetime. I know I’m just one person, but I know I was put on this earth to help the community.

In a way you could say that my two big fears go hand in hand. As much as I want my own family to be close-knit and strong, I want the whole world to have strong family ties for the benefit of their mental and emotional health.

What advice would you give to other women?

Trust your instincts. Don’t listen to those who judge you, and don’t give up on your goals. In life, everyone will have an opinion about everything you do. This is especially true in parenting. We are often stronger and smarter than we think we are. At the end of the day, you have to go with your gut on most things regardless of what others will think.

What is your proudest moment?

I have had several. Physically, I was really proud completing my first half marathon. I’ve actually completed four to date. Educationally, completing my dissertation and then having the courage to start my own practice. I always knew I would start my own practice. In fact, I never worked for anyone else’s office. I just jumped in and started my own.

Mentally and emotionally, my proudest moment was becoming a mother. To experience raising a family with my husband has been incredibly rewarding.

What is your biggest achievement?

I am the first person in my immediate family to earn a doctorate degree.

What makes you happy?

The two things that make me happiest in life are spending time with my family and giving back to the community.

Teaching my son new things, watching him explore and learn and just listening to him, there’s nothing quite like it. When I look at him and see this incredible boy who needs nurturing and guidance, there is nothing better than knowing I have this opportunity to teach him daily.

I think this deep seeded pleasure I get from spending time with my family is part of what makes me love helping others so much. I want everyone to be able to feel those warm fuzzy feelings I have with my family unit. Some of the organizations I have worked with include the Guardian Ad Litem program, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay, Joshua House, National Military Family Association and the Angel Tree program. I was awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Award from President Obama in 2012.

How do you relax and take time for yourself?

I love to be in the gym. For me, it’s extremely calming. I started doing yoga in my early 20s and have found it to be a fantastic way to achieve wellness. I get so wrapped up in so many things, and yoga is the one time I am focusing 100% on breathing. I have the best yoga instructor and she says, “When in this class you think of nothing else but breathing.” After the class my head floods with everything going on in my life, but during yoga my head is completely clear.

What kind of message would you like to give women in the area or in this community?

Since I am such a strong advocate for giving back to the community, I want to tell women to help others. Find a way to help someone in whatever way that you are able – whether it is giving of your time, your monetary donation, your skill set. Giving back to the community can be fun and you also can involve family. Being charitable is often easier than you think because just the smallest random act of kindness can make a powerful impact on someone’s life.

Also, take some time for yourself. Every week I hear someone say, “I don’t have time for me.” Although I am sometimes guilty of using that phrase, too, I have learned to be creative in finding alone time in a busy world and urge others to do the same.

What else would you like to share with our readers?  About being a mom? About your work?

My life’s mission is to help as many people as possible. I want to instill this idea of helping others with my child. Bullying, violence and hurting others seems to play out on the news daily, but I want my legacy to be encouraging people to help and support one another. If our children are the adults of tomorrow, I’d rather raise them to believe in boosting each other up than stepping on one another to get to the top.

How do you enjoy or draw information from the magazine?

I enjoy reading Tampa Bay Parenting to keep up to date on the various events and activities for children and families. I share the information with others to give parents opportunities to spend more quality time with their families.

What is your favorite thing to do with your son in the Tampa Bay area?

Our favorite things are going to Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo and visiting the Glazer Children’s Museum. Our son gets to learn about animals and explore new adventures at the museum, and both places have great learning opportunities for toddlers. He especially enjoyed the Noon Year’s Eve celebration at the zoo last year.

Who is your biggest inspiration or role model?

My greatest inspiration and role model is my mother. She taught me from a young age to have a strong work ethic and give back to others. She encouraged academic achievement and was my cheerleader for many academic and sporting events. My mother also is my role model in that I recognize many of the sacrifices she made for our family as well as her sense of determination. Thank you mom for everything!

Candace Carswell

Posted on: September 1st, 2014 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

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Originally from Detroit, Candace Carswell has lived in the Tampa Bay area for 26 years. The single mother of two teenagers, Caleb, 15, and Alexandria, 13, has more than 26 years’ experience in the banking industry. She currently serves as a sales specialist for Tampa Bay Federal Credit Union.

What do you think is the secret to your family’s success?

My family shares a tremendous faith in God. As a Family we believe whatever joy or difficulties we may face in life that God will help see us through those moments. Another very important aspect of our relationship as a Family is we Love BIG and we laugh hard as often as we can. We live in a very positive household where laughter is very important.  We are genuinely fond of each other and that closeness makes everyday something to look forward to.

What is your biggest fear?

I am very afraid of holding on to past fears, failures and personal hurts. I believe that fear can negatively affect any good experiences I will have in my future. Fear also has the ability to affect those around me. So I try to think of fear another way. I look at fear as a powerful motivator. Fear motivates me to turn to God and my family for strength. I am grateful to fear for that response.

What advice would you give to other women?

Always love yourself.  It’s hard to ask others to love us if we first don’t love ourselves. I would imagine a lot of single mothers struggle with self image issues because we are constantly holding ourselves to standards of other households that actually have the benefit of two parents in them. We are our own species. Single mothers have a strength and courage that is forged out of the ability to take care of a household as an individual.

What is your proudest moment?

I am proud to be a survivor and that moment happens for me every day. A few years ago I suffered the loss of my marriage of 15 years, a dramatic change in career directions, a bout with cervical cancer, and an accident that left me in a coma for two days. I remember waking up in the hospital thinking I better get on with the business of living immediately. I have tried to be a positive person ever since.

What is your biggest achievement?

My children are my greatest achievement. Everyday they teach me more about life just by letting me share their experiences. My son Caleb is bright, charming and extremely witty. It makes me proud to see him growing into the person he will become, and I just love spending time with him. He is just awesome. My daughter Alexandria is loving and resilient. Alexandria is living with severe autism. Her understanding of life could easily be determined by this disability, but she makes strides every day toward achieving her own miracle. I am honored to be a part of her life. Alexandria’s spirit and joy are absolutely contagious. She is simply amazing. Caleb and Alexandria teach me how to love a little bit better everyday.

What makes you happy?

There is a saying, “The happiest people don’t necessarily have the best of everything; they simply make the best of everything.” I work very hard on trying to make the best of everything. I want to be a happy person, and I allow myself to believe I deserve happiness. My greatest moments of joy come from making my family and friends laugh. It’s good for the soul.

How do you relax and take time for yourself?

Down time with the kids is the best form of relaxation for me. We watch movies together and spend time at the pool. It’s nice to sit still and just be in the moment with the kids.

What kind of message would you like to give women in the area or in this community?

My message is that there are resources in our community to assist you in everyday life. I am blessed with a community of people that support me and assist me. My community consists of my family, a wonderful group of empowering friends, and the tremendous support of my bosses and my co-workers. These are the people who know my story and are there to support me and help me stay focused and positive.

What else would you like to share with our readers? About being a mom? About your work?

Try to love what you do. It only amplifies who you are! For example, I love being a mom, and I love working at Tampa Bay Federal Credit Union! The credit union is very supportive of me as an individual, my family, and the Tampa Bay community. It has been an amazing blessing to be a part of this organization.

How do you enjoy or draw information from the magazine?

Tampa Bay Parenting gives great guidance and informational articles that assist me in the parenting process. Everything from fostering my children’s mental and physical health to everyday tips on how to help my children in their lives at school and at home. The magazine is a great resource for parents who live in this community.

What is your favorite thing to do with your kids in the Tampa Bay area?

Tampa Bay has so much to offer — Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, Busch Garden, the Glazer Children’s Museum and beautiful parks. We start each day together talking about how we would like to spend our time together.

Who is your biggest inspiration or role model?

My role models are the people who help me shape my world. One such person is my mother Patrice Carswell. She is the other half of the woman I am. She is very encouraging and a wonderful moral anchor. I often review important decisions regarding work and home with her because every decision I make as a parent affects her as well. She is beautiful, honest and exceedingly kind. There will never be enough wonderful things to say about her. I thank God for her presence in my life every day.

Christina Anton Garcia

Posted on: August 1st, 2014 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

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Make time every day to laugh and smile. That is Christina Anton Garcia’s motto, and she describes herself as “extremely passionate and energetic, loves life and lives it to the fullest.”

She is married and a soon-to-be mother of two, with a 2 year old son and baby girl on the way. The family also includes 3 alpacas, 6 chickens, a bunny and a schnauzer.

The divorce lawyer’s positive outlook translates well to her. “I love what I do for a living even though people find that hard to believe. There could not be a better job for me because I love advocating for my clients and their children. It is a very consuming job but also rewarding.” Garcia enjoys being her own boss and is proud of all she has achieved at home and at work.

What do you think is the secret to your family’s success?
Spontaneity, fun, laughter, organization, and always making time for each other. With my husband and I both having demanding work schedules, it takes a lot of organization to make things work. We are both flexible and understanding with each other’s work commitments. We both make our family a priority and have had to reduce our “outside of work” activities. Our values are in line with one another. We eat dinner together every night and spend as much time as possible with each other. Zander loves to make us laugh and keeps us on our toes. The constant joy and smiles he brings make it easy to be a successful family. Thankfully we have a lot of help from my mother, father and other family members. Being a divorce attorney, I often have a front row seat to mistakes others made, which caused their family to fall apart. This helps to avoid falling into those pitfalls.

What is your biggest fear?
I used to fear failure. Instead I have realized that if/when failure occurs that should be looked at as a learning opportunity. Failure is often a part of the process on the road to success. I believe fear often paralyzes and holds individuals back from achieving their full potential. The fear of failure is often worse than the failure so I have learned to let go of any fears. I still do freak out at the sight of large snakes though.

What advice would you give to other women?
Don’t ever make excuses. Excuses only hinder success. Instead work harder. There is no substitute for hard work. Every individual you know that accomplished something great worked hard to accomplish it and continues to work hard to maintain it. Dreams can become a reality with enough dedication and effort. Follow your heart. If your heart is behind what you are doing than it will seem much more effortless. I truly enjoy my work so when I have to work on vacations it does not bother me. Lastly, but very importantly, the world is no longer dominated by men. Woman are valued and recognized for the unique perspective they bring to business. Others generally embrace that. If they don’t embrace it, then show them why they should.

What is your proudest moment?
I am the most proud of being Zander’s mom. It is such an honor to have a child. He brings so much joy and laughter into our lives! Every day is different with our sweet little 2 year old. Right now, I am proud when he cleans up or uses his manners, but I know in time there will be other things he will do to make me proud. We are expecting a baby girl and are honored to be so blessed.

What is your biggest achievement?
Opening my own law firm, Anton Castro Law, 3½ years ago is my biggest accomplishment. Every day in law school, I dreamed of one day having my own firm. It’s been a tireless amount of work but so rewarding and exciting. Having your own business allows you creativity in every dimension and brings about constant challenges, which I enjoy. I practice family law, which brings about a great deal of personal reward in that I am working in a position to further the best interests of a child, whether it be in a divorce, paternity, custody or domestic violence situation. We have expanded the firm practice areas to now include family law, estate and trust law, criminal defense and personal injury. We currently have five attorneys and growing!

What makes you happy?
My husband. As cheesy as it sounds, I am a total romantic despite being a divorce attorney. There is just something about him that drives me crazy in a good way. He’s incredibly fun, sexy, smart, successful and supportive! He provides the true definition of the word partner. He has been incredibly supportive and helped me to grow and better Anton Castro Law on so many levels. Most importantly, he is a wonderful father.

How do you relax and take time for yourself?
I enjoy a good long run to clear my head. I used to run a lot of distance races, but lately I haven’t had enough time to train so I just run a few miles outside and enjoy the time away from my phone! Everyone needs alone time and a break from technology every day! I also enjoy relaxing on Pass a Grille beach with my family or a trip to visit our alpacas in Odessa at Golden Spirits Alpaca Ranch. Alpacas are a lot like big dogs that can be very affectionate. It’s very peaceful in the country to just hang out and walk around the beautiful green grounds with our girls! I also always enjoy a good spa with my mom!

What kind of message would you like to give women in the area or in this community?
Surround yourself with people that make you better and inspire you. There is no room for negativity or those that bring you down when you are on the road to success. Happiness creates success. Other happy and successful people will gravitate to you. Positive energy goes a long way. Always remember to give back. You don’t get where you are going without help. Usually there were a lot of people that helped mentor you along the way. Always make time in your busy schedule to help mentor others and give to those in need.

What else would you like to share with our readers? About being a mom, about your work?
You can have it all, just not usually the way you imagined it. It’s all about balance. While difficult to have a career and young children, it’s not impossible. There are times I’m either feeling work guilt or mommy guilt. It’s learning to let go of the guilt and just give your all to every component of your life. Flexibility is the key to the balance for me. I take Thursday mornings off to enjoy my son so I end up working many nights after he goes to bed. Keep your priorities straight and boundaries clear.

How do you enjoy or draw information from the magazine?
The magazine always contains so many awesome and pertinent articles, whether it’s a private school guide or what’s happening in Tampa this month. I feel like it keeps me connected with other parents and in the know. I always find the articles useful and interesting!

What is your favorite thing to do with your kids in the Tampa Bay area?
We love Lowry Park Zoo. My son loves animals and is really good at making animal sounds so it’s a blast to watch him “talk” to the animals in their language. It’s such a large zoo with so many great animals! We are so lucky to have one of the nation’s top zoos in our backyard.

Who is your biggest inspiration or role model?
My best girlfriends are my inspiration. They are comprised of business owners, an engineer, a doctor, a teacher, and, of course, several attorneys. Being around other successful women creates a cloud of good energy and an amazing think tank. We all inspire and encourage each other. Now that we are getting older, we no longer spend girl’s night out talking (just) about men, but instead talk about our careers, businesses and families. I am always inspired when I hear the things my girlfriends are accomplishing. Many of them I have known for years and remember when they had dreams of accomplishing many of the things they currently are. It’s awesome to watch their dreams come true.

Extraordinary Woman – Stacy Hahn

Posted on: July 1st, 2014 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

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A South Tampa resident, Stacy Hahn has a full life that includes her family (husband Jeff and their three boys, twins Ethan and Jackson, 8, and Aidan, 5, and two dogs, Kendall and Murphy), her work as a professor in USF’s College of Education and her Education First campaign for Hillsborough County School Board, District 6, a countywide seat.

 

“I was fortunate to have grown up with opportunities to pursue my goals and having a good education was at the foundation for many successful outcomes in my life. I’ve spent my career ensuring that others have similar education opportunities. I’m blessed with a career that gives me a tremendous amount of satisfaction and a family that is unconditionally loving and supportive. I feel extremely fortunate to call Tampa home!”

 

What do you think is the secret to your family’s success?

There are many things that contribute to Jeff and me having a strong family: love, respect, appreciation, shared responsibility, encouragement, faith and communication, to name a few. Most important is our commitmentto our family. Jeff and I make our family our highest priority. We all face enormous demands on our time, and our family life is always threatened by competing priorities, whether or not we work outside the home. But we have learned to distinguish the important things, like spending time with our children, from the urgent things, like ever-present project deadlines and chores. We place a high priority on making memories as a family.

 

What is your biggest fear?

My biggest fear is not living up to my true potential. I know so many people who are at a similar place in life as I am, and it’s a place and time when you really start to question this idea of living up to potential. I used to think of it as an outcome — something written in stone the day I was born that I was supposed to become. Now I consider it a concept that changes with the ebb and flow of my life. It is, in fact, less about the results of my effort and more about the how I live my life — with authenticity, compassion and integrity. To me this is living to my true potential and something I have to strive to accomplish throughout my life.

 

What advice would you give to other women?

Never be afraid to fail! Maya Angelou said, “Courage allows the successful woman to fail and learn powerful lessons from the failure so that, in the end, she didn’t fail at all.” That mantra really has sustained me during the past year after I thoughtfully made a decision to launch my campaign for Hillsborough County School Board. I‘ve found that most people with a life that appears very positive can give you a list of the negative events that got them there. So what we need to remember is that failure is a lesson. It’s a chance to go in a different direction and be stronger for it. So the next time you are presented with an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and take a measured risk, don’t dismiss it outright. Instead, ask yourself, “What would I do if I weren’t afraid to fail?” Then be fearless, take a stand and go for it! You will learn things about yourself that you never imagined.

 

What is your proudest moment?

Since I became a parent, I’ve had so many proud moments that it’s difficult to choose just one. Recently, I experienced enormous pride in my twin sons as they made their Holy Communion. Ethan and Jackson have really worked hard to understand and learn about their Catholic faith before receiving the sacrament. They have a spiritual depth that would bring joy to the heart of any parent.

 

What is your biggest achievement?

My biggest achievement was when I graduated from the University of Florida with my PhD in Special Education. I was the first person in my immediate family to attend college and go on to earn a higher degree. During that time in my life, I learned priceless lessons and values that have helped make me the person that I am today.

What makes you happy?

When I think about my children, Ethan, Jackson and Aidan, I think how much joy and happiness they have brought to my life. I love watching them play together and accomplish something they have been working hard to achieve. When I think about all the silly things they say and do, they really make me laugh. They are a blessing to me, and I love every moment of being their mother.

 

How do you relax and take time for yourself?

For me, reading is a great way to relax. When I have the opportunity to curl up with a good book, I put the rest of the world and all my stress out of my mind as I’m taken to distant places to learn about different time periods, new ideas or philosophies. I regularly read historical novels, and, right now, I’m reading Three Cups of Tea and thoroughly enjoying it. It’s a story about how education can truly change lives, which is something I strongly believe.

 

What kind of message would you like to give women in the area or in this community?

I would tell other woman don’t follow your dreams chase them! When I was contemplating running for public office last year a friend told me that if I work hard, make sacrifices and persevere, I can turn my dreams into a reality. I knew, like most women juggling many of life’s responsibilities, that I could not embark on this journey alone. In addition to my family’s support, I realize that we live in a community with many strong, independent and caring women who are all too happy to serve as a support system and help you rise above the challenges you may face when chasing a dream.

 

What else would you like to share with our readers? About being a mom? About your work?

I work hard to be a good role model for my children and try to make a difference in my community through my work as an educator. For most of my life, I have worked as an educator with the goal of ensuring all children have the opportunity to pursue an education. My current position provides me with the opportunity to improve education through research, teaching and mentoring future educators. As a mother, I want my children to grow up in a community where they will have opportunities and thrive and reach their potential. My life’s work complements my dreams for my children, and if I am successful in improving education for all students, then not just my children but my community will prosper as well.

 

How do you enjoy or draw information from the magazine?

The magazine has been a great resource for me over the years. Not only do I learn about many of the Tampa Bay events my family and I can enjoy, but I also use it to research summer camps and activities for my children. Overall, the magazine provides information on how we can engage as a family in our community.

 

What is your favorite thing to do with your kids in the Tampa Bay area?

It’s hard to choose just one thing we enjoy doing. There are so many places to visit and events to participate in as a family. I’d say overall we enjoy attending sporting events. We each have our favorite. I enjoy the Tampa Bay Lightning games. My boys love Rays’ baseball games. My husband is just thrilled to go to any and all sporting events!

 

Who is your biggest inspiration or role model?

My role models and constant sources of inspiration are my late parents. My father and mother possessed certain qualities that I admire. They were caring, selfless, hard working, displayed good moral values and taught me important life lessons. If I’m struggling with anything, I try to think of what they would have told me. I will always honor my parents for making me what I am today.

Extraordinary Woman – Sara Blakely

Posted on: May 1st, 2014 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

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Described by Oprah Winfrey as one of her favorite products of 2000, Spanx has become synonymous with women’s fashion. Designed by Clearwater Beach native Sara Blakely, this mogul turned mom transformed the girdle and has no plans of stopping any time soon.

The world’s youngest self-made female billionaire is moving into retail, opening standalone stores. With her mother and grandmother by her side, Ms. Blakely cut the ribbon to her sixth store at International Plaza and Bay Street in Tampa last month, bringing it all back home.

Even though the inventor and founder of the ubiquitous shapewear company now calls Atlanta home, with her husband and son, Florida still holds a special place in her heart.

What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?

My own butt was my inspiration for starting Spanx. I needed the perfect undergarment to wear under white pants. When I couldn’t find what I needed, I turned my frustration into inspiration and Spanx was born. Now Spanx has more than 200 products across more than four brands and we are excited to open Spanx retail stores, including one right here in Tampa.

What do you think is the secret to your family’s success?

My husband and I are both creative thinkers so whether it is a professional dilemma or a personal challenge, we try to find solutions with a sense of humor and out-of-the-box answers. We are each other’s best support system. Most of all, we have fun together!

What is your biggest fear?

Heights! I competed on Richard Branson’s entrepreneurial show, The Rebel Billionaire, solving business challenges around the world while having to conquer my fear of heights. At one point, I climbed the side of a hot air balloon at 8,000 feet in the air and had tea on top of the balloon.

What advice would you give to other women?

Your inner voice is your most powerful tool so trust your gut. A lot of people ask me how I’m able to rely on that feeling so strongly. I think it comes from confidence and practice. It’s a muscle that everyone has to flex to get stronger.

What is your proudest moment?

The launch of the Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation is one of my proudest moments! I’ve always known that I wanted to help women in a bigger way, and I am so proud to share the success of Spanx with women around the world. The Sara Blakely Foundation is dedicated to helping women globally and locally through education and entrepreneurship.By finding the future female entrepreneurs and leaders of the world and giving them the leg-up they need to succeed, the whole world will benefit.

What is your biggest achievement?

Besides getting married and becoming a mom, my biggest achievement has been giving over $20 million away to help others.

What makes you happy?

Whether it’s being in a park in Atlanta or on the beach in Clearwater Beach, being in nature with my family always makes me happy.

How do you relax and take time for yourself?

I listen to music and treat myself to a long, hot bath every night.

What kind of message would you like to give women in this community?

Find the opportunity in the everyday. I truly believe that most Americans have at least one million-dollar idea in their life, but most of us are so distracted and so quick to disregard our own creative instinct that we either dismiss it or don’t even see its potential.

What else would you like to share with our readers about being a mom, your work?

My motto is, “Think, prioritize, delegate what you can, and let it go.” I’ve found that I’m more effective when I compartmentalize my day. I have a mom section and a work section to each day. As a result, I’m more present, less scattered and more effective.

How do you enjoy or draw information from the magazine?

It is always great to be able to read about experiences other mothers have had, advice, tips and information on what to expect. For example, how hard breastfeeding is! Everyone focuses on the birth, but breastfeeding was by far one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. I didn’t sleep through the night for seven months.

What is your favorite thing to do with your kids in the Tampa Bay area?

No matter where we are, we love to swim. Our favorite spots in Clearwater are the beach and the Sandpearl Resort. We always squeeze in a trip to Frenchy’s, too. As a mom, I like to be spontaneous so we make an adventure out of every outing.

Who is your biggest inspiration or role model?

I admire Oprah because she has achieved such great success and continues to share her good fortune with others by giving back. It was a dream come true that she chose Spanx as one of her “Favorite Things.”

Extraordinary Woman – Kerriann Greenhalgh

Posted on: April 1st, 2014 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

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An organic chemist, wife, and mother of one son and four rescue dogs, Kerriann Greenhalgh grew up in Tampa. She was one of the first students at Tampa Palms Elementary and was part of the first full graduating class of Wharton High.

She earned her bachelor’s and doctoral degrees at the University of South Florida. She successfully balanced two passions at USF – dancing as a member of the Sundolls and science – and met husband Dan Opp in the halls of the physics building.

“I owe a lot to always having my parents nearby, supporting me through college and graduate school. My family is such a big factor now in keeping me operational, watching my son Nolan when I have meetings and even helping me with KeriCure as employees!”

What do you think is the secret to your family’s success?

Balance. Long ago we established who is responsible for what around the house. Things work smoothly when everyone is on the same page. Since both my husband and I work in science fields, we’re able to connect and support each other when we’re struggling with something at work; however, we’re in different enough fields that we don’t drive each other crazy. Being able to pick up the slack for one another when we have to work late or have a deadline (and being compassionate when doing so) helps keep the stress levels down so we can enjoy each other and our family during the other times. 

What is your biggest fear?

My biggest fear is letting down everyone who has believed in me and invested in me to build KeriCure into a successful company.

What advice would you give to other women?

Do not let anyone push you aside. Some people have said of my company, “When are they going to get a real CEO? She is too young and too inexperienced.” All I have to say to women who are faced with this same discrimination: prove them wrong! We can do anything we set our minds to. Find your passion and what inspires you, and go for it!

What is your proudest moment?

When I first saw KeriCure products on display in Publix. It was the culmination of pride, relief, anxiety and fear. We had finally made it to the big leagues and would have our first major income stream. But could I sustain it? Could I get consumers to understand what KeriCure is and why it makes such a difference for people? How will the customers respond to the product? All of these questions still swirl around, but they are becoming clearer each day as we learn more and more about our loyal fans and customers and what they’re looking for in KeriCure.

Each and every day with my son I am incredibly proud. His every accomplishment amazes me and fills me with great joy. One of my favorite moments was the first time he signed “more” to me at 14-months-old. It was absolutely incredible. You can never have too many fruit snacks!

What is your biggest achievement?

Getting my doctorate in organic chemistry has been my biggest achievement thus far. My next biggest achievement will be when we hit $1 million in sales of KeriCure products.

What makes you happy?

My family, dancing, being in the lab, and bringing new, necessary products to people in need.

How do you relax and take time for yourself?

I love to read murder mystery novels, play in the pool, relax in the hot tub, get pedicures and work out.

What kind of message would you like to give women in the area or in this community?

It’s worth saying again. Find your passion and what inspires you. Then move forward with confidence. You can do it! 

What else would you like to share with our readers? About being a mom, about your work?

Everyone seems to be extraordinarily busy with their careers and hectic schedules. I think it’s vital to remember to unplug and enjoy quality time with your family. I fall victim to working too late and on the weekends a lot, but I strive to do better at managing my time during the work day so that I can enjoy my family in the time we do get together.

KeriCure is all about helping people and empowering women to keep their families safe from infections without using harsh chemicals or antibiotics. One of the more recent rewards of being the boss was being able to make the decision to donate over $400 worth of KeriCure to The Spring of Tampa Bay, which is a certified domestic violence center serving Hillsborough County. Providing essential first aid products like ours to organizations that help women and children to get out of bad situations and rise above has been extremely rewarding, and is a relationship that I look forward to growing for many years to come. 

How do you enjoy or draw information from the magazine?

Tampa Bay Parenting is simply a great resource for parents, and it’s given me useful ideas as a relatively new parent (or inspired new ideas) for our household.

What is your favorite thing to do with your kids in Tampa Bay?

We love going to the Glazer Children’s Museum and the farmer’s market at Wiregrass mall. Nolan’s first major outing was to the Florida Aquarium and he absolutely loved it, and it is one of my favorite places to go in Tampa as well.

Who is your biggest inspiration or role model?

My dad is my biggest role model. He is an amazing businessman and father to three kids, and our family revolves around him. If it wasn’t for his faith in me, KeriCure would not be where it is today.

Extraordinary Woman Pamela Janecki

Posted on: April 1st, 2014 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

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Originally from El Paso, Texas, Pamela Janecki has lived in Tampa for 16 years. A few years ago the technical theater teacher was introduced to the term “teaching artist.” Today, that is how she thinks of herself.

“I am a teaching artist. Art and creativity are the driving force behind everything I do. I am fortunate to be able to share that with my students at Orange Grove Middle Magnet School of the Arts.”

What do you think is the secret to your family’s success?

My family’s success comes from independence and understanding. If there is anything to agree on about families, it is that no two are the same. My family’s biggest challenge is being so far from one anther. My family is spread across the country from South Dakota to Texas to Ohio to Florida. We celebrate each other’s successes and are a shoulder for each other to lean on. We understand that vicinity does not equal love. We always embrace distance as a new place to visit — always a new adventure. There is not a single plan that works for everyone, but I believe one of the keys is being involved in each other’s lives no matter how far apart we are. That means asking questions about each other — specific questions that lead to conversation and more questions. It’s not only about asking questions. Knowing when to listen is equally important. I enjoy making my family feel loved and important.

What is your biggest fear?

Other than sharks, bees, and spiders, I have no fear! I’m a teacher (just kidding). I am actually very shy and ironically have a fear of being on stage, public speaking and talking to strangers. I have realized as I get older how irrational most of these fears are and manage to muscle through them with humor. Maybe this is why I understand my students so well. Having a love for something, like theater, does not always an actor or actress make.

What advice would you give to other women?

Do what makes you happy. Just like no two families are the same no two women are the same. What works for one may drive another woman crazy. If you want to be a stay-at-home mom, do it. If you want to have a career, have it. If you want to have both, you can. That is the beauty of being a woman.

What is your proudest moment?

Most of my proudest moments involve keeping in touch with former students and watching them become as successful as I always thought they would. I have been blessed to have several former families stay in touch with me long after they have left my class. I love seeing former students start careers or families of their own. I love seeing them become outstanding young men and women. One of the best things that can happen for a teacher is having a former student find you and thank you for the role you have played in their lives. Teachers would do what they do even without the thank yous, but they are magical, heartfelt and sincere when they happen. It always reminds us of the why behind the what that we do. 

What is your biggest achievement?

I have been proud of many achievements in teaching and out. Most recently, I was one of five teachers selected from the state of Florida to receive a STAR (State Teacher/Artist Residency) at the Hermitage Artist Retreat in partnership with the Florida Alliance for Arts Education. This was an amazing four weeks in Manasota Key, Florida, where I was given the most precious gift that every teacher desires — the gift of time. The residencies give artists (who also are teachers) the opportunity to focus on their art. I was lucky enough to attend as a writer and photographer.

What makes you happy?

Friends and family make me happy. With my family being spread out all over the place, my friendships are more like family.

How do you relax and take time for yourself?

I love to travel. Even the smallest towns have something to say. Even the largest cities have quiet and peaceful moments. It is a bonus that I have family and friends almost anywhere I go in the U.S. If I choose to travel outside the U.S., I know that there is always someone willing to go on an adventure with me.

What else would you like to share with our readers? About being a mom, about your work?

I may not have children of my own, but I have mothered many. I always say I have 100 children every year. I may not tuck them in at night, but I am there to share their dreams and inspire them. I celebrate their successes, and I pick them up when they fall. I am there to keep them safe, physically and emotionally. I deal with mood swings and different personalities on a daily basis. I have given out lunch money. I have purchased school supplies. I have paid for field trips. I have given advice. I have been yelled at, and I have been hugged. My students make what I do worth every minute.

What is your favorite thing to do with your kids in Tampa Bay?

I don’t have children (besides my students). My 5-year-old niece Avery and I highly recommend the beach at sunset. There is nothing like watching her pick up seashells and build sandcastles.

Who is your biggest inspiration or role model?

My biggest inspiration is my mother. She has such a calm and peaceful demeanor. I always say I wish I could be more like her. I’m still trying!

Extraordinary Woman – Linda Unfried

Posted on: January 1st, 2014 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

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Linda Unfried was born and raised in Ybor City and learned very early on that family was the most important thing to her parents. The youngest of four children, she has “always been the type to have a strong personality and strong beliefs and to always stand up for what I believe in.”

In 1992, she attended a Christian Singles group and was blessed to meet her husband Karl. When she and Karl met, she had been divorced for 12 years, with two grown children, Roger Jr. and Traci, and a 12-year-old son, Trent.

Today, she and Karl have celebrated 20 years of marriage and have five grandchildren: Danielle, 17, Delaney, 13, Alex, 11, Zachary, 10 and Arden Kathleen, born Dec. 9, 2013. “They are all the light of my life. Soon after our first grandchild was born, I realized like most other grandparents quickly do, the love of a grandchild is different. It’s amazing and truly unexplainable love.

Karl and Linda are very active at Corpus Christ Catholic Church in Temple Terrace. As part of the marriage ministry team, they work with engaged couples. They are also both Eucharistic ministers.

Linda’s faith has brought her through tough times. In 1983, while celebrating her parents’ 55th wedding anniversary, she said goodnight to her sister Josie. She did not know at the time that the hug and kiss they shared would be their last.

Josie was driving home and was struck head on by a 17-year-old driving on a suspended license and with an alcohol level twice the legal limit. Josie died at 12:35 a.m. Oct. 29, 1983.

“Earlier that year, Josie and I had watched the TV movie about Candy Lightner, who started MADD in California after her teenage daughter was struck and killed by a DUI repeat offender. After the movie, we spoke about volunteering with MADD to keep our teenage children safe. At the time of her death, I felt that I needed to do all I could to help other families who were suffering like mine. This was a senseless tragedy and I now needed to step up and help to make a difference.”

Linda co-founded the Hillsborough County Chapter of MADD in March 1984. She has earned numerous honors during her many years with MADD, including 2007 Citizen of the Year (Temple Terrace), Bay News 9 Everyday Hero, Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL Community Quarterback Award Finalist, MADD’s Lifetime Humanitarian Award and MADD National’s Mickey Sadoff Drunk Driving Prevention Award.

“What seemed like such a simple message — don’t drink and drive — has been an uphill battle all the way. Great strides have been made over the past 30 years, including changing the legal drinking age to 21, lowering the legal limit to .08 and educating students on the dangers of drinking and driving at an early age. Even through all our efforts and achievements, we have a lot of work to do to end these senseless tragedies that still occur every day.”

What do you think is the secret to your family’s success?

Unconditional and, sometimes, tough love! In good times and bad times, my parents were always there for me, and I am confident that my children and grandchildren know that I am always there for them as well.

What is your biggest fear?

That the life-saving message that I have struggled so hard to spread throughout our community will go unheard by someone I know, love and respect.

What advice would you give to other women?

Keep the faith! Persevere and stand up for what you believe in! Throughout my life I have always stood strong in anything I believe in, such as the Hillsborough County MADD Chapter. In the early days of MADD, people misunderstood what we stood for. Many perceived us to be prohibitionists, which we are not and never were. But that didn’t discourage me. It has been a tremendous uphill battle to get a very simple message across to people: Be responsible and don’t drink and drive.

What is your proudest moment?

On Nov. 14, 2013, surrounded by my husband, children, grandchildren, family and friends, I was honored and recognized as a Community Hero by the Tampa Bay Lightning. That night, Jeff Vinik handed me a check for MADD for $50,000. My dream for the past 30 years has been to begin educating children about the dangers of drinking and driving at a younger age. This grant has made this dream come true as we are now able to begin educating the students in middle school. Statistics have shown that by age 10 some children have already had their first drink of alcohol. I believe the earlier we educate the safer our children and streets will be. A dream is having a goal. Our goal is to eliminate drunk driving. This grant will enable us to make strides in attaining our goal.

What is your biggest achievement?

My greatest achievement is being a part of a well-respected organization that has been instrumental in saving lives. When a life-altering tragedy happens to you, it has to be grieved. I decided to grieve in a positive manner. I refused to stand in the darkness of tragedy and moved forward with courage. I recently read that courage is not fearlessness. Courage is the ability to keep going. I thank God everyday for the strength and courage that keeps me going.

What makes you happy?

Spending quality time with my grandchildren. I love to hear them laugh and see their smiling faces. When they are happy, I am happy. My husband and I love taking them on mini vacations, making special happy memories all the time. I have been employed at the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office since 1993. When I retire, I look forward to traveling with Karl and spending lots of time with the grandchildren.

How do you relax and take time for yourself?

I love working in my garden, where I seem to find a sense of peace. I also find that same sense of peace and relaxation when we travel to the mountains. The outdoors is absolutely my favorite place.

What kind of message would you like to give women in the area or in this community?

Never give up fighting for what you believe in. All dreams are attainable. Enjoy your family and friends. Life is short and you should embrace your time together.

What else would you like to share with our readers? About being a mom, about your work?

There is no greater gift than being a mom or a nana.  The first time they smile or call your name, those are gifts you can’t put a price tag on. My oldest granddaughter Danielle recently asked, “Nana, what do you want for Christmas?” My reply was, “Nothing but spending time with all of you! There is no greater gift!”

How do you enjoy or draw information from the magazine?

The health and wellness articles are my favorite. I really try and maintain a healthy lifestyle so I enjoy any articles about health and well-being.

What is your favorite thing to do with your kids in Tampa Bay?

We love going to Busch Gardens. We also love the outdoor games we play with the grandchildren like Bocci Ball and Ladder Golf. Sometimes our best memories are made by playing the simple games we enjoy.

Who is your biggest inspiration or role model?

My biggest inspiration is my faith and trust in God. It’s the many people who share their faith with me. If it were not for my faith, I would have never been able to journey through the last 30 years in MADD. God has truly blessed me in my faith as his follower, a wife, mother, nana, sister, family and friend.