AWEE recognizes ‘Faces of Success’ at annual luncheon

Arizona Women’s Education & Employment’s 2015 “Faces of Success” took different paths to change their lives, but each of their stories reflects strength, commitment and a passion to make their lives better.

Tracey Latham

Tracey Latham

Tracey Latham of Glendale, who received the inaugural Entrepreneur Award, Julie Gilbert of Tempe and Angela Raw of Anthem were honored at the 21st annual “Faces of Success” Luncheon Nov. 4 at the Arizona Biltmore. “

“Our 2015 ‘Faces of Success’ are each strong and resilient women who made life-changing decisions,” said AWEE President and CEO Marie Sullivan.

“For Julie and Angela, those decisions literally saved their lives. For Tracey, it meant taking a huge risk with a goal to start her own business in a highly competitive industry. We are incredibly proud and inspired by them.”

Under the theme “Team AWEE: Working Together Everybody Wins,” Vicki Davis of SRP and Beth McMullen of Avent co-chaired the event.

Nicole Crites from 3TV/CBS5, KTAR’s Jim Sharpe and Alfredo Molina of Molina Fine Jewelers and Black Starr & Frost Jewelers served as emcees of the event.

The 2015 honorees:

• Tracey Latham loves the circuit board manufacturing industry. After more than 20 years, she didn’t feel as strongly about working for someone else. But when she decided to strike out on her own, she knew there was much to learn including how to develop and read income statements and balance sheets.

Without that basic knowledge, creating her own company would have been an uphill battle. Tracey signed up for financial classes through AWEEc, the Valley’s only women’s business center for entrepreneurs, and put together a three-year financial plan.

Through AWEEc connections, Tracey was put in contact with potential financing resources to purchase equipment and last November launched

Latham Industries to reconnect with her contacts.

In the interim, she’s been able to secure project work with clients and is well on her way to building a company she hopes will employ 60 people.

• Addiction surrounded Julie Gilbert all her life. Through sheer will she was able to block its impact and avoid the genetic predisposition, even using it as motivation to push her life in a direction far away from that world.

Kimberly and Julie

Kimberly Russell and Julie Gilbert.

She became a teacher, spending four years with second and third graders in a low-income district. And then it all came crashing down.

After her first drink, “it took me five minutes to become an addict.” She decided to leave teaching.

Most decisions that followed were shaped by the alcohol that numbed her and then prescription drugs until she ended up a psych ward and pushed herself into treatment.

A serendipitous meeting of an AWEE team member on a camping trip led to a number of classes and eventually to her mentor Kimberly Russell “who empowered me to make my decisions and was a huge sounding board for what I wanted to do.”

In October, Julie was hired to do what she believes is her calling as a certified recovery coach with the Recovery Empowerment Network.

• Angela Raw met the man who would be her husband – and her abuser – when she was 14 and trying to recover from having been raped. He was in high school.

Angela Raw

Angela Raw

From the beginning and through the next nine years, Angela was mentally, physically and sexually abused. Her life became a tangle of drug addiction and prostitution, with her husband as her pimp.

Every time she tried to leave, he threatened to take her kids or kill her. She had finally had enough the day he attacked her in front of her daughter.

But the path to sobriety and independence wasn’t necessarily a speed-bump free ride. With help from a family who opened their home to Angela and her three kids, her grandmother who moved to the Valley to be there for her and ongoing support and resources from AWEE, Angela is moving forward with three years of sobriety, to show her kids how hard she’s working “to give them a better life.”

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