In honor of Women’s History Month, Mayor Todd Gloria on March 27 recognized 16 women trailblazers who have greatly contributed to their communities and the city of San Diego through leadership and service. Established in 2017, Gloria’s Annual Women of Distinction Awards Ceremony is held every March to celebrate and recognize women in San Diego who go above and beyond to make our communities better places to live, work and raise a family.
The 2021 Women of Distinction honorees are true trailblazers and should serve as role models for all San Diegans,” Gloria said. “I’m honored to recognize these 16 women for their achievement, leadership, and contributions to our city.”
In lieu of an in-person gathering, Gloria invited nominees, their friends and loved ones to attend a virtual awards ceremony.
Kathi Bradshaw is the vice president and director of client services for Support the Enlisted Project (STEP). Bradshaw developed STEP's Emergency Financial Assistance Program, which combines personalized financial counseling and assistance to help military and veteran families in crisis.
Donna Deberry is the president and CEO of the San Diego Black Chamber of Commerce and the vice president of global inclusion at Seismic Software. Deberry has led global inclusion and diversity efforts for companies including Wyndham, Nike, Indeed and Starbucks.
Lauren Garces is the marketing, outreach, and events specialist for the Asian Business Association in San Diego; the president of the National Association of Asian American Professionals in San Diego; and the CEO of Social Artistry. Garces has worked to advance careers for Asian American professionals, empower people from diverse backgrounds and creatively engage with our community.
Kelly Hagarty is the senior director of sustainability at Verdani Partners, a San Diego environmental, social and corporate governance consulting firm that specializes in sustainable real estate. Hagarty is a strong advocate for sustainable development to promote biodiversity and to create a cleaner, more environmentally-friendly city.
Capt. Maureen Hodges a marine safety captain at the City of San Diego’s Fire-Rescue Lifeguard Division. Captain Hodges has served in department since 2003. In August 2020, Maureen became the first woman to serve as the marine safety captain in the City.
Mehrsa Imani is a resident and community organizer at the San Diego Housing Federation. As the organizer for the Homeless-Experienced Advocacy and Leadership network, Imani provides leadership trainings, coordinates meetings with elected officials, and informs on upcoming public hearings to elevate the voices of people with lived expertise of homelessness.
Lisette Islas is the executive vice president and chief impact officer at MAAC — a nonprofit that has provided health, education, economic development, housing, and advocacy services and programs in San Diego County for over 55 years. Islas serves as a board member the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation and a member at the Burnham Center for Community Advancement.
Veronica Maxwell is the principal of Burbank Elementary in Logan Heights and has been a public school educator for over 20 years. As principal, Maxwell has worked diligently to improve test scores and secure grant funding to sustain arts and afterschool programs.
Nancy Nguyen is a civic engagement organizer at the Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans. Nguyen leads the organization’s civic engagement campaigns and fosters relationships with coalitions and organizations that work on advancing immigrant and refugee issues locally and statewide. Nguyen worked in a refugee settlement in Uganda, conducting emergency aid for an influx of oceanic Congolese refugees.
Satomi Rash-Zeigler is the program development and outreach director for the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council. Rash-Zeigler also served for the Asian American Pacific Islander Progressive Alliance where she worked collectively with other activists and leaders to address issues that revolve around immigration, labor and affordable housing.
Sarafina Scapicchio is the director of philanthropy at San Diego LGBT Pride. She is a queer femme who brings over a decade of fundraising expertise in her role. Scapicchio successfully secured millions of dollars in support for nonprofits on both coasts, including for the Tracie Jada O’Brien Trans Youth Scholarship Fund, the San Diego LGBT Community Center, Girl Scouts of San Diego, Boston Lyric Opera, and Community Servings.
Dr. Ghazala Sharieff the corporate senior vice president and chief medical officer of Clinical Excellence and Experience at Scripps Health. Shortly into the COVID-19 pandemic, Sharieff became a chief medical officer at Scripps. Her efforts in response to the pandemic have been integral to managing public health in our City.
Brandy Shimabukuro is the filming program manager for the City of San Diego’s Special Events Department. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, Shimabukuro pivoted to serve as the logistics deputy chief at Operation Shelter to Home. Shimabukuro’s dedication and unflinching commitment to Operation Shelter to Home were instrumental to facilitate care for those experiencing homelessness in our City.
Jessica Valencia is a prevention and community engagement specialist at the Center for Community Solutions, where she advocates for care and justice for communities impacted by sexual violence. Valencia is a volunteer for the Hermanitas Youth Leadership Mentor Program committee, San Diego’s chapter leader for California Latinas for Reproductive Justice and a member of MANA de San Diego.
Dr. Tamica Whipple is the former, first lady of Calvary Baptist Church and its executive administrative assistant. She has diligently strived to maintain church operations to ensure that the 133-year-old community cornerstone would be able to continue to service the community for the past nine years. Dr. Whipple has been an educator for 19 years.
Lindsay White the founder of Lady Brain Creative, a collective for women musicians and artists that builds shared resources and opportunities, offers support for artistic endeavors, provides ongoing educational resources, and advances community engagement around social justice issues. Under White’s leadership, the Lady Brain Collective, has hosted charitable fundraisers related to empowering women, members of the LGBTQIA community, and other marginalized groups.