In March, the Youngstown/Regional Chamber released its 2023 Athena Award Nominees. STN will be showing and honoring the women of the valley over the next couple of weeks.
The ATHENA Award honors individuals who strive toward the highest levels of professional accomplishment: women who excel in their chosen field, have devoted time and energy to their community in a meaningful way and also open doors so that others may follow in their path. Showcasing some of the great women of the 2023 ATHENA Award Nominees:
When it comes to fighting for American citizens, the word “no” is not in Sarah Keeler’s vocabulary. That’s why she works so hard representing constituents of Ohio’s 6th U.S. Congressional District as district director for U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson.
She’s the person behind the scenes that has helped secure tens of millions of federal grant dollars and appropriations for worthy groups and initiatives across the Valley; she’s the person who helped the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition achieve nonprofit status, which has helped the group thrive; and she was the point person for the office’s response to the Feb. 3rd train derailment in East Palestine, helping hurting residents through various assistance programs.
Sarah is active in the Daughters of the American Revolution, where she was the youngest chapter regent to a club of nearly 100 women, and she has also held several statewide positions in the group. She volunteers time at Canfield School District’s Hilltop Elementary School library and is involved with the Jo Ann Davidson Ohio Leadership Institute, an organization that strives to increase the number of Republican women in public and community service and party leadership positions.
Chaya (High-ya) Kessler, director of the Jewish Studies program at Kent State University, helped resuscitate the program that was on the verge of collapse when she arrived at the school in 2009. She built partnerships with other departments to offer classes that were relevant to the Jewish experience and of interest to students. And, she brought authentic voices to the class experience, with guest lectures from local Holocaust survivors, writers and historians.
Chaya (High-ya) also launched a weekly Hebrew Coffee Hour open to all students who wish to practice conversational Hebrew, takes students to the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in Cleveland and to synagogues, and started annual Study Away and Study Abroad programs.
She was born in Russia and raised is Israel, and served in the Israeli Army Intelligence Unit before teaching high school in her hometown. Chaya moved to Ohio in 1980 as a teacher for the Commission for Jewish Education. She helped start the Akiva Academy at the Jewish Community Center in Youngstown. In 2004, she received the Bánai Bárith graduate award from the history department at Youngstown State University, and in 2018, she was given the Distinguished Faculty Award at KSU.
It was the moment she lost her job at a manufacturing facility that Stella Kotsatos-Angelo promised herself that, from then on, she would be the one in control of her future.
So, she pivoted, taking advantage of the situation to expand The Cake Boutique, where she had been working with a partner as cake designer, into a storefront bakery. It opened in 2010 in Howland and quickly became a well-respected maker of wedding and specialty cakes, but Stella wanted more, so she set off to build the store’s regional brand.
She took the bakery national, appearing on several television shows and even winning the grand prize on the Food Network’s Cake Wars in 2016.
Then, she pivoted again, this time into real estate. And like before, her hard work paid off with success. In her first full year as a professional agent with Century 21 Lakeside Realty, she sold more than $3 million and within two years became one of Century 21’s top agents.
Stella is active in planning the annual St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church summer festival and has supported the Warren Family Mission, Someplace Safe, Relay For Life and Make-A-Wish Foundation.