Cool Girls with Tag: featured

Karen Humphrey Sullins

Name: Karen Humphrey Sullins
Age: 47
Location: Montgomery, Alabama
Occupation: Owner- Helping Hands Professional Counseling & Consulting, LLC and Executive Director- Hearts Of Hope, Inc a 501(c)3 company

Karen Sullins is working hard to make a difference. This counselor has turned her compassion into action, founding Hearts of Hope after serving children and families who struggled with crime and poverty and realizing that their needs were simply not being met.

“Our purpose in communities is to offer support, provide education, and empowering youth to encourage better choices and resiliency, improving relationships, building character, and improving overall mental health and wellness by infusing hope and a sense of self safety alongside leadership skills,” Karen explains.

The path toward becoming a therapist began at the age of 11, when her parents summoned her for a family meeting where they discussed becoming foster parents.

“We were a middle class family with the median 3 bedroom, 2 bath home,” Karen explains. “One of our first long-term placements was a baby boy named Jonathan who has been shaken by his mom to the point of brain damage, and we were unclear how debilitating until he became 3-4 years old. Doctors at the best hospitals spoke of him having a life expectancy of age 5; they were wrong! Completely handicapped, he remained in a wheelchair his entire 21 years, never spoke, and never got up; however he touched everyone he came in contact with with his infectious laughter. Even surgeons were amazed at this child’s desire to live.”

After Jonathan, Karen and her family fostered more than 55 sexually abused girls, taking them into their home and sharing their lives and resources with them.

“I often look back at the simple letter I wrote at age 23 nominating my parents for “Parents of the Year” for their selfless serving and giving to children who otherwise would not have had normalcy,” she reflects.

Beyond her organization and counseling efforts, Karen has also been given the opportunity to speak to legislators about school safety, following her involvement with Sandy Hook Promise.

“I stumbled across Sandy Hook Promise following a training on Active Shooter-School Safety out of state. I signed up to be a Promise Leader in my small part of the world, and to share prevention programs, and speak to people about the violence occurring in our towns and communities; particularly in the school systems,” Karen says.

By working with the Sandy Hook Promise, Karen has helped to promote suicide prevention, support the “know the signs” program, and Say Something, which is an app that allows anonymous reporting of threats to the authorities.

After receiving an email from Sandy Hook Promise informing Alabama Promise Leaders that they could attend a listening session with the Federal Commission’s Department of Education panel from Washington, D.C. that was in town, Karen knew she had to attend in order to lend a voice to the debate over arming teachers in classrooms. She met with as many Administration members as she could on the Monday before, so that she could accurately represent those counties with the fervor and insight they deserved.

“There was a feeling of urgency that if I did not speak on behalf of those who could not; I may never get their little voices out there to be heard. When I spoke, I can honestly say that I could hardly remember what I said when I sat down,” she says. “I mentioned that the Federal Commission try prevention programs before going as far as arming stressed teachers. Teachers are educators, not police officers.”

And what advice does Karen have for young women?

“Find people and things that build your own armor, as life and people will most definitely disappoint you, but be brave enough to face disappointments, as an individual, as a young lady, and as a contributing part of the world that needs our insight and unique abilities, so that our future world is a place we anticipate being a part of,” she says. “Be courageous enough to be the difference.”

For her tireless service to the community, and her relentless desire to “stop the violence,” we think Karen Sullins is a very Cool Girl!

A $200 donation was made to Hearts of Hope on behalf of Karen. You can donate here.

Claire Koster

Sock It to Me Cool Girl Clair Koster HeadshotName: Claire Koster
Age: 18
Location: St. Louis, MO
Occupation: Student, STEM Instructor, Teaching Assistant, Volunteer

At only 18 years old, Claire Koster already has made an impact on her community, running the Women’s Advocacy Group at her high-school, volunteering at a homeless outreach center, assisting in a STEM program, studying to become an educator, and speaking out for those who confront societal challenges.

Her empathy and compassion are what spurred her to apply action to her emotion.

“When you see that there are obstacles keeping people from joy or security or happiness, those obstacles become yours, too, in certain ways. I have a younger brother with Down Syndrome who is the most fantastic human I have ever met in my life, and once I was old enough to understand that he would have a harder time living the life he desired than I may have, it made me want to understand what causes those sorts of obstacles and how they can be solved. That totally snowballed into caring deeply about the ways other forms of identity cause one to be marginalized,” she explains.

Sock It to Me Cool Girl Clair Koster with her brother standing in front of a river.

Never one to shy away from a challenge, Claire took over running the Women’s Advocacy Group at her conservative, Catholic, all-female high-school after the founder graduated.

Trees with text: "Love has the kind of power cynicism only wishes it had." -Bob Goff“There were certain topics that pertain intensely to gender equality but we weren’t able to talk about as openly as we would have liked to because they did not align politically with Catholic values. That was certainly frustrating, but meant that we chose to take our conversations in a direction of opening a dialogue about gender and equality in a way that felt accessible to everyone. It was exciting to see how willing people were to enter into that dialogue,” she says.

Beyond her education and in-school advocacy, Claire also volunteered her services at the Marian STEM Club, an enrichment activity that was offered as part of their curriculum.

“Marian Middle School has an extended-day, extended-year model, so from 4:00-5:30 each day the students choose an enrichment to participate in. Each Thursday, we would come and do STEM activities with about 12 students,” she says. “It has been such a joy to get to grow in community with the students and learn with and from them.”

Text image: "The nonevent is the best part of life."Outside of school and supplemental activities, Claire also spends time at the St. Patrick’s Center, a homeless outreach organization, where she volunteers during their Women’s Nights, where they make, serve, and eat dinner with the women seeking shelter and assistance.

As she prepares for college, Claire looks forward to becoming a teacher herself.

“I’m currently majoring in secondary teaching, and I will study either sociology or english, or maybe both! I have been so incredibly impacted by teachers who have supported me and seen me as someone more capable than I saw myself. That sounds trite, but is such a deeply impactful thing. I can’t think of a better way to spend my life than to seek to do that for others.”

What wisdom does this brilliant young lady have for other young girls who, like her, are growing up and trying to do the best they can with what they were given?

Sock It to Me Cool Girl Clair Koster with her brother, close up.“I think that as we get older, we discover things about ourselves that prevent us from “fitting in” with the people around us. We’ve been told that, one day, these things will be our superpowers. But they certainly aren’t yet, or at least they don’t feel that way. My best advice is to learn to sit with those things. You don’t have to love them, you don’t have to show them off or build a life around them, but try your best not to push them down and away from you, because one day, you and I will both realize that they are superpowers, and we will want them back.”

For her maturity, poise, benevolence, and grace, we think Claire Koster is an incredible human being and one super Cool Girl!

A $200 donation was made to Marian Middle School on behalf of Claire. You can donate here.

Julz Nally

Sock It to Me Cool Girl Julz Nally.
Photo by Kim Nguyen

Name: Julz Nally
Age: 41
Location: Portland. Oregon
Occupation: Illustrator

At eleven years old, Julz Nally’s parents saw the way that their daughter had fallen in love with art and they enrolled her in watercolor lessons. It was that support and encouragement for creating that has led this Portland based illustrator to create Hummingbird Art Camp.

Sock It to Me Cool Girl Julz Nally Hummingbird Art Camp artwork.The idea for the camp came to her in the middle of working on an illustration project.

“I have over 20 years experience connecting with and teaching kids through art,” she explains, “So when the idea hit me that I could create my own art camp for girls, I ran with it immediately. I couldn’t think of a more joyful way to spend the summer than sharing my love for artful play and watching kids create in our own backyard.”

Julz decided to name the camp for the hummingbirds that visit her gardens and front porch throughout the year, as well as for the reminder that they provide to live a joyous, fulfilled, curious life. Providing a creative outlet for young girls during their downtime allows Julz to give back and foster a whole new generation of artists.

Her day to day life is also filled with artistry and inspiration; Julz is a self-employed illustrator after honing her wares out of college as a graphic designer, advertising art director, and apparel graphic designer.

Sock It to Me Cool Girl Julz Nally art for Hummingbird camp and graphics for clients side by side.

“I’ve been my own boss for the past 11 years now, starting with my a line of graphic jewelry that I used to create and sell as Handmade Julz, to now illustrating and designing for clients,” she says.

The collaborative process of working with clients allows Julz to create a final product while still allowing the clientele to have the freedom to dictate their vision and direct the project. Her solo work, however, is a very different animal.

Sock It to Me Cool Girl Julz Nally personal art: colored spoons with positive messaging.“The personal work that I create comes from my soul. Sometimes I make art inspired by what I’m eating which might become a pattern or something thought that comes to mind. When I’m just making art, it’s for me, and I will sometimes sell the original or a print if others are interested. I tend to ‘make art’ all day, in all aspects of life because that is the way my mind works. The world is full of magic and inspiration, it just takes slowing down to listen and take a closer look. Always keep a sketchbook and pencil nearby,” she advises.

That’s not to say that she lives her life cloistered away in her studio.

“I find that I’m happiest when I balance my week with time out of the house socializing, so I work that into my schedule in small ways. Currently, my typical day consists of figuring out our daily camp activities for Hummingbird Art Camp & designing and painting a piano for Piano. Push. Play. for summer 2018,” she says. (Piano. Push. Play. is a group that rescues pianos and puts them in several locations around Portland for the public to play and enjoy.)

In the future, Julz hopes to continue illustrating, both for clients as well as book publishers.

“I hope to collaborate with a friend on our own book one day filled with ideas for getting creative with nature and connecting with all of that magic within,” she says.

Sock It to Me Cool Girl Julz Nally and daughter Juniper
Photo by Jena Coray

Even more exciting, next year Julz and her family will be going to New Zealand for a family art residency. Her eight-year-old daughter, Juniper, will co-teach a few workshops with her mother while the family is there. “It’s an amazing thing to dream up an idea and work towards that goal, believing that anything is possible,” Julz says.

And what aspirational words does Julz have for other fledgling artists and whimsical girls?

“You are unique and beautiful. Your differences are what make you so special. Keep dreaming big because if you believe that you can, anything is possible. Love yourself and who you are becoming.”

For her loving and lovely vision of the world and the art to be made within it, we think that Julz Nally is a very Cool Girl!

A $200 donation was made to Children’s Healing Art Project (CHAP) on behalf of Julz. You can donate here.

Natalie Kelley

Sock It to Me Cool Girl Natalie KelleyName: Natalie Kelley
Age: 45
Location: Cincinnati, OH
Occupation: stay-at-home mom and student pilot

Growing up in a small farming community in Tennessee, Natalie Kelley was never excited about growing up and having a traditional career. But as she became a young adult, she decided to choose a “safe” path, and graduated with a degree in Business as a marketing major.

“My majors changed a number of times. I was a very “unsettled” student,” she recalls.

Cool Girl Natalie Kelley in front of small airplane.As a young woman, her father’s influence led her to dream of something bigger. A former Navy pilot and career pilot with FedEx, her dad peppered her with gifts from his trips and tales of his travels. Natalie’s Uncle Robert also guided her towards her love of the sky.

“He owned and maintained his own aerobatic planes and performed in airshows, and still does, after 50 years! It was definitely not “usual” in our small town of farmers for someone to own an airplane,” Natalie says. “He would take me flying because his two sons weren’t all that interested in flying and I loved it! He knew I loved it and continued to encourage me throughout my life to get my pilot’s license. We would attend airshows together and talk aviation quite often. He was my true inspiration.”

It was from Uncle Robert’s spark and Natalie’s desire to share her passion that flyGIRL was born.

Two women pilots wearing FlyGIRL clothing.“I wanted to create some clothing to wear that was stylish and had a catchy logo for women; I wanted something to wear that would advertise to the world that I was a pilot. In doing that, hoping that other women would see it and ask me about it, and I could then hopefully plant a seed for another female to be intrigued and possibly pursue aviation,” she explains. “I wanted to build a social community through the various social media avenues of women who love aviation as much as I do so that we could support one another with pictures of our adventures or encouraging words. And I wanted to financially help other women who were interested in pursuing aviation, either as a hobby or a career. Flight training is expensive and intimidating for women; I wanted to be able to relieve some of that financial burden and provide encouragement with mentoring or just being available as a cheerleader.” So she set out to start flyGIRL, LLC.

Cool Girl Natalie Kelley in plane with pilot's gear.Natalie started a scholarship program through flyGIRL to help promote women who want to take to the skies. Beyond her high-flying philanthropy and business savvy, Natalie makes it a point to fly at least three days a week for lessons. “And I’ll take my plane out any time the weather cooperates,” she adds.

On the ground, she’s a proud mother of three boys, she even makes sure to be back on time after her jaunts to the airport in order to welcome them home from school.

“I have three teenage boys who act like they could care less if I’m at home or not, but being present and available has always been of utmost importance to me. Although, there are many days when faced with their teenaged attitudes, that I want to fly away and stay away!” she jokes.

It’s the balance between satisfying her personal goals and being a self-sacrificing stay-at-home mother that has shifted her into a new phase of life. Her joy in the sky and glee for aviation has prompted her to shift her earth-bound career path. She’s looking to gain flight hours and trainings in order to make a living as a pilot.

Cool Girl and pilot Natalie Kelley walking in front of a small airplane.

 

“At first, I was concerned that I was too old for a new “life” or career, but I’ve spoken with many people and am constantly encouraged that I’m definitely not too old and there are a large number of opportunities available for me, especially since I’m a woman,” Natalie says. Her zest and curiosity has led to blogging and vlogging her flight training and experiences, and she’s enthusiastic to share her fresh start in the sky on social media (see it here: on Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter).

As for other earthly girls who are looking up, Natalie has this to say:

“Pursue the things that you really enjoy, don’t listen to everyone else. We all have special gifts and talents, God wants us to use those. Don’t live your whole life settling on the things others enjoy or want, it will not be satisfying and you will feel empty. Only you have to live with yourself. Life goes by fast and is too short!”

For this soaring quest for personal and aviation inspiration, we think Natalie Kelley is one Cool Girl!

Keep up with all her adventures: http://www.flygirlllc.com

A $200 donation was made to FlyGirl on behalf of Natalie. You can donate here.

Tracy Wiczer

Sock It to Me Cool Girl Tracy Wiczer with Ariana the bunnyName: Tracy Wiczer
Age: 31
Location: Columbus, Ohio
Occupation: Pharmacist

As a pharmacist specializing in hematology and oncology, Tracy Wiczer’s day-to-day endeavors involve helping to prolong people’s lives, and in her free time, she does the same…only for bunnies!

As a child, Tracy excelled in math and science, but also had a sweet spot for animals, even considering becoming a zoo-keeper for koalas when she grew up. But after her mother’s passing from ovarian cancer when she was only 10 years old, and her father surviving prostate cancer, Tracy knew she wanted to specialize in hematology/oncology as her career path.

“I wanted to be able to improve the lives of patients going through similar times that I experienced with my parents,” she says.

But it wasn’t an easy path. In order to specialize in the field, she needed to complete two additional years of post-graduate training. After completing her second year at The James Cancer Hospital at the Ohio State University, Tracy was offered a position. She’s now a board certified oncology pharmacist, and one of only four pharmacists at The James who specializes in lymphomas, chronic leukemias, multiple myeloma and benign hematology disorders. So what does that entail?

“I work closely with teams consisting of physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, social workers, case managers and nurses to provide care for patients with blood cancers. My main role is ensuring chemotherapy orders are 100% correct and optimizing supportive care medications. Being part of this team is extremely rewarding and I love interacting with the patients to teach them about what to expect from their chemotherapy or fix any medication related problems they may be having,” she explains.

She also trains pharmacists and researches medications, she’s even had four of her research projects published, and presented one at the American Society of Hematology meeting in December 2016.

Sock It to Me Cool Girl Tracy Wiczer presenting research paper with partner.

Although her job would seem to be challenging from a scientific perspective, Tracy admits that the most difficult part has nothing really to do with being a pharmacist; it’s largely a financial conundrum.

“The cost of cancer care, chemotherapy in particular, is absolutely mind boggling. Part of my job is to coordinate between the physicians, the people who help with insurance authorizations, our medication assistance department, and pharmacy/hospital administration to make sure medications are affordable for my patients,” she says.

Sock It to Me Cool Girl Tracy Wiczer's Rescue Bunny WisteriaWhen she’s not brainstorming how to help patients, Tracy hops back to helping her pet cause: rabbit rescue. She spends her time assisting organizations that house and help bunnies, even utilizing the “Bunderground Railroad” rescuer transport to help rabbits find homes when there is no space available anywhere in central Ohio. “I’ve had up to 13 rabbits living in my house because there was simply nowhere for them to go at the time,” she confesses.

“I adopted my first pair of rabbits when I was in college,” she recalls. “Thumper and Muncher were my first bunnies and taught me a lot about rabbits. I discovered Ohio House Rabbit Rescue (OHRR) when I was looking to adopt a rabbit after one of mine passed away. Before this point I didn’t realize that rescuing rabbits was a thing!”

Through OHRR, Tracy learned about “Buncare” volunteering, which she began doing in November of 2014. She fed and cleaned up the litter every Tuesday, and, eventually, she was invited to be a bigger part of their organization by helping catch domestic rabbits that people released into the wild when they no longer wanted to care for them.

Sock It to Me Cool Girl Tracy Wiczer with a group of volunteers rescuing rabbits in the snow.

“Personally, if you let me “free” into the wild, I would struggle to survive,” Tracy says, “So you can imagine a similar problem for a domestic rabbit!”

Sock It to Me Cool Girl Tracy Wiczer's rescue bunny Tink.She has helped rescue over 60 stray rabbits since July 2016, and also assists in transporting them to vet appointments. For OHRR, Tracy also coordinates their “chillaxabun lounge” at the Midwest Bunfest convention, gives education presentations, helps with adoption events, and plays matchmaker by setting up “bunny bonding,” which is basically matchmaking for rabbits. By partnering with OHRR, the Columbus House Rabbit Society (CHRS), and the local humane society, she’s helped many fuzzy tailed friends find a place they can call home.

So what advice does this rabbit rescuer and patient proponent have for young women leaping into adulthood?

“I was definitely never one of the cool girls as I excelled in school, was a band nerd, and am not especially athletic. It’s 100% ok to be a dork!”

We agree that any dork that helps people and pets live better lives is truly a very Cool Girl!

Help end cancer & support The James: http://pelotonia.org/

 

A $200 donation was made to Ohio House Rabbit Rescue on behalf of Virginia. You can donate here.