2019 Women of Excellence - Local Sheroes

Sheena C. Howard

Sheena C. Howard is an award- winning author, filmmaker and scholar. In 2014 Sheena became the first Black woman to win an Eisner Award for her first book, Black Comics: Politics of Race and Representation (2013). The Eisner Awards are considered the ‘Oscars of Comics”. She is also the author of several critically acclaimed books and comics books. In 2017, Sheena published the Encyclopedia of Black Comics, which is the first book of its kind, profiling over 100 Black people in the comics industry. The Encyclopedia of Black Comics was named the 2018 American Library Associations’ Outstanding Reference Source. The book was

In 2014, Sheena published Black Queer Identity Matrix and Critical Articulations of Race, Gender and Sexual Orientation. Sheena is the co-writer of the comic book, Superb about a teenage superhero with Down Syndrome.

She has appeared on NPR (National Public Radio), ABC, PBS as well as other networks and documentaries as an expert on popular culture, politics and social justice. Sheena is the subject of a 2018 Emmy-nominated episode of State of the Arts, which airs on NJTV and WHYY.

In 2016, Sheena directed, produced and wrote the documentary Remixing Colorblind, which explores the ways the educational system shapes our perception of race. Parts of the documentary were filmed at West Catholic High School in Philadelphia and Drexel University. The film premiered at The Ritz theatre in Philadelphia. Sheena organized and hosted a talk about race and education at the Philadelphia Main Library in 2017 as a part of her documentary tour in which proceeds from the event went to local non-profit organizations.

Sheena has twice received a Proclamation from the City of Philadelphia for her literary work, social justice and creative projects.

Sheena was born and raised in Southwest Philadelphia. She now has one child, is a full-time professor at Rider University in the Department of Communication and Journalism. Outside of her full-time job, Sheena spends time writing and speaking to organizations and educational institutions on a variety of topics including social justice, diversity, and representation.

Odessa White

Odessa White is CEO of OGW PUBLISHING LLC and Author of two #1 Best Selling books titled A Child Raising A Child and What Are You Waiting For.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Odessa was raised in a single-family household in a poverty-stricken environment. Entering adolescence, Odessa found herself angry and misguided and headed down a road of destruction. With little hope for the future and no goals or plans for her life, Odessa began searching for love in all the wrong places. White discovered her love of writing after finding herself a young mother at 16, when she used writing to escape the daily struggles of motherhood and a life of poverty. Writing allowed Odessa to escape the harsh realities of teen motherhood and living situations while expressing her inner thoughts and feelings with no judgement. Despite enduring abusive relationships, depression, homelessness, low self-esteem, lack of education and more, Odessa was determined to succeed and break the generation curse within her family by embarking on a road of generational wealth.

Breaking down every barrier standing in her way, Odessa has created the life she once dreamed of through hard work, determination and a transformation within her mind. Odessa has discovered her passions in life while juggling motherhood and a demanding careers as a Licensed Practical Nurse. As a Motivational Speaker and Youth Advocate, Odessa has committed to ensure every teenager she encountered knows the importance of self-love, and that they can correct the wrongs from yesterday. As a Publisher and Writing Coach, Odessa now has the joy of helping other women tell their stories and build multiple revenues of income. Odessa has made it her mission to educate, motivate, uplift and inspire people through written and spoken word in hopes of allowing other woman to avoid the many adversities she faced in addition to releasing the fear, breaking the cycle and gaining the control they need for success.

Cheryl Gill

Cheryl Denise Gill is a native of Philadelphia, who shares a love for the city with her husband, children and grandchildren. She enjoys traveling, fitness activities, and hanging out with her sisters. After losing her younger sister in a high-profiled tragedy in Philadelphia, she dedicated her career to being a tireless advocate, and making a difference in the lives of young people. 

Cheryl serves as the Executive Policy Director at Bethanna: a social service non-profit agency with an eighty-five year history offering the highest quality of care for children and families. As Executive Policy Director, Cheryl creates and implements policies at the executive level to better serve the mission of the organization to ensure safety, emotional well-being and family stability for children. She oversees legal and government regulatory compliance for every facet of the organization. Cheryl holds a Bachelor’s degree from Temple University, and a dual degree from Rosemont University, a Masters' in Business Administration and a Master's in Organizational Management.  

Cheryl Gill served as the Travel Coordinator for the Sisters In Christ Ministry at Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, and was among the first class to complete the Solomon Principles for Entrepreneurs. Cheryl also served as CEO for Away We Go Youth Travel Camp; a non-profit for allowing inner city youth to travel, learn and see all part of the world. Cheryl has combined her love of travel, advocating for what society calls, "at risk" youth, and organizational management to forge a distinguished career.

Prior to Bethanna, Cheryl spent over twenty years at the Juvenile Justice Center as a Social Worker, then being promoted to Director of programs for at risk youth. As a Director at the Juvenile Justice Center, Cheryl implemented strategic initiatives for at-risk youth and their families to promote better lifestyle choices and created a model for success for other programs in the City of Philadelphia. Early in her career, Cheryl worked at DC33 Legal Service Plan, gaining valuable experience in the legal field serving the legal needs of city employees before landing her chosen profession in Social Service. Cheryl continues her work with at-risk youth as a Youth Aid Panelist for the District Attorney's Office.  Cheryl continues finding time to volunteer for the Big Brothers Big Sisters Association of Philadelphia, speaking at various Career Days at neighboring schools, visiting the sick and shut-in, and feeding the homeless during the holiday season. Cheryl continues to receive awards for her outstanding work in the community.

Kel'li Sherrene Cole

Kel'li Sherrene Cole is a writer, Entrepreneurial Transformation coach, minister, actress, teacher, public speaker, beautician, nurse, entrepreneur and a mother to one handsome, anointed and talented son named Siyah Cole. Kel'li Cole was raised and resides in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She is the CEO of her company, Guideline Girls, which is a company geared towards changing the outlook on your current circumstances, speaking what you want to manifest in all areas of your life and providing resources in areas of health, finance, business, relationships and spiritual connectivity.

Kel'li has mentored many young people and adults throughout the years. At the age of 14, she was given her own column in a newsletter for Meyers Recreational Center in Southwest Philadelphia. Her column was published every Thursday and she wrote about topics such as virginity, drugs and violence. Kel'li's column was very popular and critically acclaimed among the youth in that neighborhood who voted her Most Opinionated and Mostly Likely to Challenge Management due to eloquent speech and valid points on many hard hitting issues.

Kel'li currently mentors successful business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs on how to make their dreams a reality. Kel'li takes theoretical portions of scripture to assist with practical applications of her clients' daily lives. Kel'li has helped to start and restore relationships and has also helped to rebuild a healthy family structure in the lives of the individuals she has counseled. Kel'li has started her journey of sharing her God-given wisdom via book with the release of her How-to guide, He Can Be Faithful. In her free time, she loves to indulge in fine dining, fashion, travel, sharing laughs with her friends, going on adventures with her son, cooking, watching SVU & Power on tv, and listening to music.

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