Women's History Month 2018 Honorees

Friday, March 30, 2018 - 5:00pm to 7:00pm

In honor of Women’s History Month 2018, U.S. Congressman Darren Soto recognized 19 women in Central Florida for their invaluable contributions to the community. The honorees’ biographies were read into the Congressional Record by Rep. Soto and they will receive official Congressional Certificates.  

“As we celebrate Women's History Month, we honor the extraordinary accomplishments made by trailblazing women right here in Central Florida. Future generations of Floridians will look up at these female leaders and be inspired to also achieve great things for our state, and for our nation. Thank you all for the many contributions to our community," stated Rep. Soto.

The 19 honorees will also be recognized by Rep. Soto in a ceremony taking place in the Kissimmee District Office tomorrow, March 29, at 5:00pm.   

Ybeth Bruzual

a beloved journalist in our community and a three-time EMMY nominee and an EMMY winner in 2016 for the Pulse Vigil live coverage in Lake Eola. Bruzual was honored with the UCF Dept. of Political Science Alumni Award in 2015 for her political coverage. For full video, click here.

Twanna Dewdney

a community activist who advocates for HIV/AIDS education and prevention. Her small business is an HIV testing site for the Polk County Health Department. Salon Ashanti also serves as a location for voter outreach, registration, and school supply drives. For full video, click here.

Rev. Mary Lee Downey

the Executive Director and founder of the non-profit Community Hope Center, a one-stop shop providing services for the homeless and disenfranchised in Osceola County. For full video, click here.

Lisa Ann Franchina

received a Spotlight Award for her service on the membership committee of the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar. Lisa was named as 2016 Orange County District Four Citizen of the Year for her extensive service to the Central Florida community. For full video, click here.

Lakecia Gunter

recently named to Business Insiders list of the 26 Most Powerful Female Engineers in 2016. She was the recipient of the Society of Women Engineers Prism Award for demonstrating outstanding career technology leadership as well as leadership in STEM, in the community. For full video, click here.

Glenda Jones

a registered nurse providing care and compassion for her community through civic engagement. Glenda actively serves Central Florida and has been recognized for her participation with a number of organizations in our community. For full video, click here.

Lisa Landers

an award-winning journalist for the Tampa Tribune, a leader at one of Florida’s largest domestic violence centers, and the Executive Director of the Winter Haven Housing Authority, having successfully transformed the “troubled” agency. For full video, click here.

Daisy Lopez-Cid

ranked in the Top 250 sales agents in the country 4 years in a row and in 2015 she was #3 in the nation. She now serves as the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals. For full video, click here.

Vetnah Monessar

serves as the Executive Director of Engage Florida, a civic engagement nonprofit that aims to educate, engage, and empower Muslim-Americans in the civic engagement process. She has led legislative and electoral campaigns at all-levels of government advocating for equitable healthcare, education reform, fair-access economic development and human rights. For full video, click here. 

Sheri Morton

now a retired attorney, Sheri has volunteered tens of thousands of hours for our community. From the peace, civil rights, and women’s movements in the 1960’s, to voting, equal rights, and quality affordable health care, she’s helped improved the quality of life for people in Central Florida and around the nation. For full video, click here.

Dr. Cyndia M. Muniz

is the Founding President of the Latino Faculty & Staff Association at UCF, and has been the catalyst that has elevated Latino programing at the University. She also established the CREAR Futuros Mentoring Program at UCF in 2016. For full video, click here.

Gloria Niec

is the Executive Director of Celebration Foundation which provides food to over a thousand Osceola County Elementary students every week during the school year. For full video, click here.

Kathleen Plinske

serves as Campus President of the Osceola, Lake Nona, and Poinciana Campuses at Valencia College in Central Florida. She has served as an advocate for increasing access to higher education in historically underserved communities. For full video, click here.

Mary Sanks

has provided a home to more than 20 foster children and adopted 4 children. “Mother Sanks” as she is affectionally know by the community, continues to routinely cook and serve food and those whom are sick and bed restricted throughout the community. For full bio, click here.

Seretha Tinsley

was the first African American female to attend and graduate from Wesleyan College in 1971, and became the first African American President of the Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. For full video, click here.

Margie Viera

is the Development Director at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando and is the Co-Founder of the Aspire to Inspire Youth Mentorship Program which impacts underserved students to INSPIRE them to become the next generation of leaders. For full video, click here.

Kathy Wandel

became a Volunteer Guardian ad Litem (GAL) helping to provide a powerful voice in court on behalf of Florida’s abused, neglected and abandoned children in 2003 and was soon invited to serve as Board Chair. For full video, click here.

Karen Welzel

started a local chapter of the Democratic Women’s Club of Florida in East Polk County in 2014. She currently serves as the Chair of the Candidate Screening Committee. Karen and members of the DWC East Polk Ridge Club organized two Women’s Rallies that resulted in the creation of the DWCF Lakeland Club. For full video, click here.  

Heather Wilkie

is the Director of Zebra Coalition which provides services to LGBTQ homeless youth. Prior to joining the Zebra Coalition, Wilkie served as Chief Operating Officer for the leading Central Florida domestic violence organization, Harbor House. For full video, click here.