Celebrating WomenWe are storytellers, highlighting local female leaders who have been tirelessly committed to the cause of advancing women, the next generation of emerging female leaders who are inspired to make a difference, and those women who have weathered their own life transitions while moving forward on their leadership path.
Julie Tonnesen, Empowering Students In the Elon University Campus Community
Rev. Julie Tonnesen serves her community with a clear vision of providing space and opportunity for young people to ask difficult questions and learn about themselves. In her current position as Associate University Chaplain and as the Campus Minister for LEAF (Lutherans, Episcopalians, and Friends) at Elon University, Julie strives to foster spaces where students can explore and live into the fullness of their intersecting identities. Students come to her in happy times and in difficult times because she makes them feel seen, heard, and accepted.
This is evident in a project Julie calls one of her most exciting: curating and implementing the Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life at Elon University’s Thursday morning speaker series, “Numen Lumen.” This year’s theme is, “Me: In My Own Words,” and Julie’s hope for that theme is to give folks from across Elon’s campus the opportunity to share a piece of themselves that may not come up in everyday conversation. She says that “in giving a platform and a microphone to folks from under-represented identities and departments, we have been able to amplify voices and stories that challenge the status quo, and bear witness to the wide range of stories and life experiences that exist within the university community.” Her long-term hope for this series is to increase empathy, spark curiosity, and empower under-represented voices across the campus community.
A 2014 graduate of Elon University, Julie now finds herself giving back to her alma mater in a role that allows her to create space for students to explore and grow, while learning about others lived experiences in a safe and supportive environment. Julie embodies the work of a mentor without making it an obvious goal. “People are naturally attracted to her positive spirit and effervescent personality,” one of her nominators says of Julie, “but what is really attractive is the way she accepts herself and readily shares her time and talents.” Julie says in her late teens and early twenties she put significant pressure on herself to “have her life together,” and if she could go back, she would tell her high school and college self that it is okay not to have it all figured out. Freeing herself from the idea that she must have it all figured out allows Julie to approach her own life and others’ lives with compassion and curiosity and is one of the keys to her success connecting with and empowering students in the Elon University campus community.
Through her work, Julie is helping to develop young leaders by involving students in leadership and serving roles during worship, empowering students with the chance to lead other students. One of Julie’s nominators comments, “Although she is young, she amazes me with a wisdom and insight that usually is seen in someone who is more seasoned.” Julie is truly a Rising Star in our community, leading the way for young students to explore and find their own path.
Connie Poovey, Community Minded Superwoman
Connie has been described as being a Superwoman, and after reading her biography and letters of recommendation, I have to agree! This honoree moved to Burlington in the mid-1970s with her family, graduated from Williams High School and UNC-Chapel Hill with a BA in Math. After working as a programmer for Health Services Research and AT&T System Support, she returned to UNC to obtain a Master’s in Computer Science through a Fellowship with AT&T. Connie reports that she did the most courageous thing she’s ever done by taking early retirement from AT&T and deciding to change her career path in 1996 to Social Work. After obtaining her MSW from UNC-CH, she began her second career with Lutheran Retirement Ministries at their Twin Lakes campus. She began there as a social work intern, moving to research and development, assisted living administrator, memory care administrator, and quality assurance and HIPAA officer. While working with Memory Care, Connie was responsible for planning and implementing a state-of-the-art program and designing the facility for persons with dementia which is an award-winning residence. In recognition of her many contributions to the senior services industry, she received the prestigious Leadership Award from Leading Age N.C.
Since retiring from Twin Lakes, she is serving on their Board of Directors and is a member of the I/DD committee which looks for innovative ways to serve people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
Connie has a passion for working for organizations that improve the lives of adults with developmental challenges. She was a founder of HESED Retreat of NC, a non-profit devoted to helping those with disabilities by designing a 2-day retreat that included drama, music, dance, and worship, and is now an annual event. In addition, she has been active with Christmas Cheer and served on boards at Ralph Scott LifeServices, ARC of Alamance, and Alamance Affirmative Enterprises. Connie served as co-director of Celebration Singers, which is a special choir including adults with disabilities. Through her church, Macedonia Evangelical Lutheran Church, she manages several projects, including the monthly Community Meal and Sunday school for adults with developmental challenges. She also chairs the Community Benevolence Committee at Macedonia, which is a committee of women who decide how to spend endowment monies. Connie has also helped with backpack giveaways for children in need and care packages for Church World Services. It is evident that she gives tirelessly of her time, talent and treasure to many worthy causes and they are all of them better off for her contributions to their work. She is an exemplary leader, mentor, volunteer, and friend to many in Alamance County.
This honoree is married to her husband Bill and they have four children, nine grandchildren, one great-grandchild, and dog, Domino. It is evident that they are very active members of Macedonia Church. Connie enjoys cooking, reading, family game nights, and all kinds of puzzles. She is especially enjoying experiencing retired life with Bill. Her favorite quote: “We cannot all do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Mother Teresa
Tiffanie King, Empowering the Community Through Culinary Arts
Tiffanie King is not just an educator – she is also a lifelong learner. From the time she earned her Bachelor’s degree in 2002, she has not stopped working to increase her knowledge. She has earned her NC Teacher’s Certification, her Master’s of Education degree, as well as several certifications within the fields of Hospitality and Diversity and Inclusion. In fact, Tiffanie comments that one thing that excites her about her current role is that she learns as much from others as they learn from her.
Tiffanie’s job is Culinary Arts educator, where she works with the Alamance Burlington School System’s Career & Technical Education Center (CTEC). Through her role as Culinary Arts Educator, she has developed innovative and groundbreaking businesses and services for students within Cummings High School, created a Culinary Arts Scholarship Award, been recognized as CTEC Teacher of the year, earned 100% and 99% proficiency on NC Post Assessment scores, and partnered with local businesses to maximize the work of her Culinary Arts students throughout the community.
While Tiffanie’s full-time role is Culinary Arts educator, she has a strong desire to combine her classroom knowledge and skills with her passion for community engagement to bring opportunities and programs to high school students. She has done just that not only in her full-time role but through working with the Dream Center’s Community Kitchen, the Healthy Alamance Board of Directors, and King’s Hospitality Group, LLC. Through her work with the Dream Center’s Community Kitchen, she has guided and mentored five bakers who are now able to sell their baked goods in more retail locations, and two of these bakers have opened storefronts in Burlington. Through the kitchen and Tiffanie’s leadership, three have been able to leave their full-time work as they’ve seen their businesses grow and become more profitable.
A supporter of Tiffanie’s nomination writes “Tiffanie’s incredible knowledge and relentless enthusiasm is making dreams come true for students and in the community. She is someone that people are drawn to and she is a great advocate and friend to everyone she works with. She is a warm, fun, energetic, and compassionate person. Her leadership and passion to help others has made a great impact in our community. She works in many areas and serves our community at her church, in her neighborhood, through her extended family, and the [Community] kitchen. She is constantly seeking ways to help support and advocate for all members of our community. Tiffanie is a person of incredibly strong character and someone that others turn to for leadership and as a trusted leader in the community”.
Despite growing up in foster care, working multiple jobs, and being diagnosed with cancer halfway through college, Tiffanie has kept going. She has been motivated by the Bible verse Romans 8:28 “and we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose”, and she lives to tell others that no matter what you face in life, you can make it if you put your heart into it!
Luz Avelino, Latinx Community Advocate
Luz Avelino is an excellent leader and champion of Alamance County; she has devoted her life to the inner workings of programs and resources that involve and support the Spanish-speaking community. She does this through volunteering and searching for ways to improve the lives of Latinx families.
Luz’s involvement in the community started over 20 years ago when she moved to Burlington from Veracruz, Mexico. Growing up, Luz aspired to be a social worker. Even though her life took her in a different direction, she hasn’t let that stop her. Today she spends her time trying to improve the lives of those around her. She is involved with various organizations that serve the Latinx community, helping families find resources revolving around justice, health, and education equity; while Luz may not have a title that would pull her up in a google search, she has had a profound impact while serving our community.
Those who know Luz describe her as passionate, selfless, and a world-changer. Luz has volunteered for and worked with Elon University’s The Village Project for years, ensuring that Elon’s resources are available to all of Alamance Counties’ diverse population. She knows from personal experience how important education equity is, and her experience with Elon has even led her to organize and lead her own Community Round table in partnership with LatinxEd. Just this year, when Luz was approached with a chance to partner with LatinxEd, she jumped at the opportunity. Luz had participated in several community round tables in the past, and she recognized that even though the Latinx population had been invited, they had not always felt welcome. Luz was determined to change that, and she organized a round table for education equity in Alamance County, focusing on Parent and Community Governance. The event was a huge success, with many parents leaving feeling seen and heard for the first time.
Energized from the conversations she had been a part of, Luz took the findings from her roundtable talk to the CityGate Dream Center and is now collaborating to create a kindergarten readiness program and a bilingual liaison program to help Spanish-speaking parents and guardians navigate the school systems and find resources that support their student’s diverse needs.
In 2021, Luz knew it was crucial that the Latinx population receive accurate information regarding Covid vaccines. For many historical reasons, people from minoritized populations often lack trust in government and healthcare systems. Luz worked as a community health worker with Cone Health and participated in community outreach to distribute factual information about the vaccine and eliminate misconceptions people had. At this time, she also worked at emergency vaccination sites to ensure Spanish-speaking people could ask questions and understand what they were consenting to.
Luz’s involvement with the community doesn’t stop there. She has been volunteering with many organizations in the community for years. During the month, Luz volunteers with Blessed Sacrament Church, delivering meals to those in need who lack reliable transportation. While delivering meals, she is able to build a relationship with those that she serves. She ensures they have everything they need and refers them to resources when needed.
Luz has played a pivotal role in the work that Valores is doing as well. As a co-leader of the grassroots organization, Luz ensures Latinx voters do not experience voter intimidation when they go to the polls. Luz advocates against voter oppression, assuring community members that they will be welcomed when they arrive to vote regardless of their political values.
When Luz works with families and students, she always reminds them of what she wishes somebody would have told her when she was younger “You can be and do anything you want. Don’t listen to what others say. Go and search for your own truth, and stay consistent when you make a change in your life.” Luz chooses to be a part of all of these critical teams not because of her position but because of her passion. She is leading the way not only as a woman but as a member of the Latinx community.
Davina Boldin-Woods, Advocate, Pioneer, Entrepreneur
Davina Boldin-Woods is a stellar example of an advocate, a pioneer, and an entrepreneur. She currently serves as the Director for the First Presbyterian Child Development Center, is the owner of Genesis Child Development Center and Bright Star Academy, and has previously served as the Chief Education and Enrichment Officer of Excel Christian Academy, a five-star pre-school and North Carolina Pre-K academy.
Davina began her career as an education professional in 1993 and continues to advocate for equitable access to high-quality educational experiences for all young minds. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, North Carolina A&T State University, and Alamance Community College, she possesses degrees in Early Childhood Leadership and Program Administration, Child Development and Family Studies, and Early Childhood Education.
Mrs. Boldin-Woods has worked as an early childhood education professional in Alamance County for over two decades. She has also mentored new providers and advocated for Alamance County educators at the local and state levels. Her efforts have created a resilient childcare framework in our county which emphasizes quality and putting families and the needs of children at the forefront.
When the COVID-19 pandemic threatened the collapse of the childcare industry nationwide, Davina assisted local and state officials in galvanizing resources in Alamance County to help educate and support local providers, resulting in Alamance County being one of few counties to not experience significant childcare business loss. Mrs. Boldin-Woods shared her own pandemic-related story during a statewide webinar to over 1,000 early childhood professionals from 100 counties. During the webinar, Davina discussed health and safety while offering stirring words of encouragement about the importance of continuing to move forward. Davina has done public service announcements for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services on the importance of reliable access to early child care and the role of learning in improving the lives of families. She also used this platform to encourage teachers and Directors to utilize the WAGE$ program in order to further their educational pursuits. Additionally, Mrs. Boldin-Woods has participated in local discussions and panels about the importance of literacy and reading comprehension.
Davina has worked on both North Carolina’s team for Moving the Needle on Early Childhood Workforce Issues and on the North Carolina Early Education Coalition’s Worthy Wages Campaign, where she helped lead and organize childcare providers and teachers around the issue of workforce compensation. Her efforts have garnered national attention, which led to Mrs. Boldin-Woods being featured by the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment. She was also appointed to the North Carolina Child Care Commission by former Governor Michael Easley.
Currently, Davina Boldin-Woods continues her passion for advocacy and collaboration with early childcare and education practitioners by serving on various boards, committees, and cooperatives.
Mrs. Boldin-Woods gives her best to all that she does. She shows up consistently, passionately, and with an energy that is unmatched. In every aspect of her life – with her family, her fellow woman, and her community, Davina is known for exemplifying exactly what it means to lead the way.
Marcy Green, Serving a Vital Role in Alamance County
Though Marcy Green’s resume is impressive, Marcy’s nominator writes “her effect in the community cannot be measured by bullets on a resume”. From Impact Alamance to Family Abuse Services and other organizations in the community, to her church to her family and friends, and beyond, Marcy displays a quiet, behind-the-scenes commitment to Alamance County.
As Vice President of Programs for Impact Alamance, Marcy spends her days not just strategically managing grant programs through that organization but partnering with other organizations to maximize the impacts of their grants as well. She serves an important role in the community as she convenes community partners and organizations around the key needs of the Alamance County community. Marcy was an integral part of the Elon Year of Service Fellowship, a program that pairs Elon University graduates with community partners to tackle challenges in health, education, and economic development in Alamance County. Currently, Marcy is leading Impact Alamance through the important work of bringing a racial equity lens to the internal and external work of the organization. Understanding the importance of creating an internal culture that values inclusion and diversity, Marcy works toward integrating these values into programs and investments. She oversees the Alamance County Racial Equity Co-Lab and is excited to see how current and past participants engage with each other to further the issue of racial equity in Alamance County.
Through her role as Board Chair for Family Abuse Services, Marcy never wavers in her focus on the agency’s mission, consistently modeling leadership behaviors that promote productive and positive change. She has spent many hours with the Board of Directors and as the Board Chair, working to advance solutions that are the best for the Alamance County community and its citizens. She recently displayed tremendous faith and courage as she led that organization through the hiring process of a new Executive Director.
One of Marcy’s strengths as a leader within Impact Alamance and within the Alamance Community is her mentorship of those who cross her path, particularly young female leaders. Whether co-workers, individuals in reporting relationships, or other leaders in the community, Marcy listens and freely offers information, counsel, and ideas. Even years after being in mentoring relationships, people continue to reach out to Marcy and she continues to impact their lives. One of Marcy’s mentees writes that Marcy “was one of the first people who I felt like believed in me and my potential”. When asked what she would tell her high school/ college self, Marcy answered “You were created to do great things and make a difference in people’s lives”. This is the message that Marcy believes and imparts to those young female leaders whose paths she crosses.
From her work within her professional position to her impact beyond, there is no doubt that Marcy is truly doing great things and making a difference in the lives of many in Alamance County and beyond.