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.
Skye Sullivan is without a doubt one who clearly demonstrates superior leadership and the ability to collaborate within Alamance County to engage other agencies in the important work she leads. Skye has dedicated her entire career to the service of women. With a little over one year under her belt as the director of the Family Justice Center (FJC)of Alamance County, Skye has made a significant impact in the area of domestic violence, transforming the FJC space and creating a trauma-informed environment. She has worked diligently to develop and implement services and support for domestic violence victims, where 85% of the victims are women.
With the creation of an FJC executive committee, Sullivan meets regularly to discuss the needs of victims and of the agencies in Alamance County that support victims. She has engaged agencies like Crossroads, Burlington Police Department, Alamance County Sheriffs; Office, Legal Aid of North Carolina, Women’s Resource Center, Family Abuse Service, District Court, and Elon Law. She also includes a former victim of domestic violence to ensure the victim’s voice is empowered as well. None of her work in the community comes without cost. Skye has been able to secure grant funding to provide forensic interviewing training for 21 community professionals. Funding and availability of this specialized training are difficult to obtain.
In addition to this important work, Skye finds mentoring students one of her passions and makes it a priority. She has developed and maintained a working relationship with many university schools of social work. She is able to host several interns at the FJC where they learn about victim services and resources within the community.
In addition to her work at the FJC, Skye is an active member of the board for the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence; is a certified victim service practitioner; a RADAR certified Forensic interviewer, Alamance County Racial Equity Collaborative, and Victims Advocacy Council of Alamance. She is a 2011 nominee for the Women’s Equity Award. Skye is one who never hesitates to serve on a board that aims to improve the community. Creating a victim-centered, safety-focused, culturally responsive place that supports vulnerable clients is her dream and she has made it a reality. Sullivan shared what excites her and it summarizes her work. “To provide hope, we have to have meaningful services that are equitable and accessible to all communities”.
Nikki is a graduate of UNC-Greensboro with a degree in Political Science; she also obtained a Non-Profit Management Certificate from Duke University. While still in college, she was a residential counselor at Elon Homes for Children, providing therapeutic supervision of clients (ages 12-21) with emotional and behavioral health needs among many other services. Following graduation, she became a case manager at Elon Homes, managing a caseload of 35 clients. One of her references said that each of her cases were treated as if these children were members of her own family! This speaks volumes about Nikki’s compassionate and caring nature.
After she left Elon Homes for Children, she started her career at Burlington Housing Authority, beginning as a Family Self-Sufficiency Case Manager with 25 cases. In this position, she created programming designed to meet the needs of residents going beyond short-term goals and to help them establish long-term goals by teaching them to manage budgets, soft-skill training, and employment resources. This model has received national recognition.
She has continued her work at BHA and now serves as Program Services Director where she supervises several departments and manages Self-Sufficiency programs in addition to Supportive Housing programs.
Nikki has been extensively involved with the community, volunteering for many different organizations and chairing several boards, including Alamance Partnership for Children, United Way, Hospice of Alamance-Caswell, ARMC Charitable Foundation. And she has still found time to serve as a Guardian ad Litem for Alamance County! Her passion and service also found alignment with the mission of the Women’s Resource Center in Alamance County as she served six years on the Board of Directors.
She has played an active role with the Alamance Chamber of Commerce, chairing and co-chairing several committees and working on their annual golf tournament. In 2020 she became Board Chair, and says that she is learning to take herself out of her comfort zone and becoming more courageous by accepting such challenges.
Another one of her volunteer organizations is the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, where she has been president of the Burlington Junior Women’s Club. Nikki has risen to Third Vice-President of the GFWC of North Carolina. Under her leadership in 2018-2020, clubs across N. C. completed 946 projects, donated over $92,000, and provided over $97,000 in in-kind donations to support the Thriving Children project.
She has been described as a fantastic teammate, always cheerful and exceptional in everything she does. Another person calls her a true champion for equitable access to resources, education and employment who demonstrates an extraordinary commitment to her community. Nikki’s favorite quote is from Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” It’s doubtful that people will forget any of these things about Nikki Ratliff!
Kristen is a graduate of Stanford University with a B.A. in Communication and African & African American Studies. She used her communication skills to create and produce a documentary, Twitch, following personal genetic testing for the devastating disorder, Huntington’s Disease, which caused her mother’s death. Kristen has spent 17 years advocating for Huntington’s research on state and national levels, helping raise more than $50,000 for this cause.
For three years she was the Advocacy Coordinator for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, once again using her skills working with social media, website management and website overhaul. She created and managed the Fair Chance Business Certification to recognize employers who hire people with criminal records.
Beginning in December 2019, Kristen became the Executive Director of Benevolence Farm, which provides formally incarcerated women a place to live and work until they are able to return home. The Farm raises vegetables, flowers and herbs, the latter two with therapeutic qualities which the residents use to make salves, lip balms and body creams for sale. Kristen is helping develop a pilot program for women under the Guaranteed Income initiative that can transform the reentry process. She also manages remote volunteers and helps mentor undergraduate interns at the Farm.
Kristen is a strong advocate for bail reform, criminal justice reform and women’s rights. She is committed to making our community a safe place to navigate for residents of all physical, mental and neurocognitive abilities. To this end, she has involved herself in local politics and has run for Alamance County Board of Commissioners.
Her favorite quote is from George Washington Carver: “One of the things that has helped me as much as any other is not how long I’m going to live, but how much I can do while living.” Kristen has certainly applied these words to her work and life! In ending, she describes herself as “always a farm girl on a farm of her own with her rescue Corgi, Colbert.”
Dreama Caldwell is, perhaps, the only Founders’ Nominee who has had a song written about them by a Grammy nominated musician – “The Rising of Dreama Caldwell.” While that, in and of itself is impressive, the work she does for our community stands on its own merits. Dreama is an advocate for the people in Alamance County, working with Down Home Alamance, an organizing project led by the working people of North Carolina’s small towns and rural communities to increase democracy, build power, and grow the good in Alamance County.
She also works with As A Family, a local nonprofit dedicated to serving the community, families and individuals through advocacy, mentorship, education and support. Dreama works to provide a clothing exchange, cook meals for people and, when COVID hit, to secure needed supplies to the most vulnerable in our community.
Recently, she has worked to launch a cash bail fund for those who cannot afford to post it and is working with the local police department to advocate for community members. One of her nominators said, “In a world filled with hate, she regularly weights into issues with a courageous sense of right and optimism.” ” She presents an intelligent, logical perspective as well as an emotional concern for others.”
As a Founders’ Award Nominee of the Women’s Resource Center, Dreama was asked the question: “What have you done recently that required you to be courageous?” In Dreama’s words: “Running for office is the most courageous thing I have ever done in my life. I knew running for office would be a challenge for me in many ways. I am not the typical politician and do not fit the mold. I have a community college education, born into poverty and raised in public housing, teen mom and formerly criminal justice involved. I knew all of this would come up and would be used against me. However, I chose to own my past because I know that many in our county are or have been in similar situations.”
Her response gives us the opportunity to pause and reflect on how we create lasting change for the good in our community. Believing that all people deserve the chance to learn from past mistakes and motivate others to do the same.
As one of her nominators commented, “Dreama Caldwell is a leader in our community and she is running for political office in our county, not because she wants to be a leader in that setting, she is running because she is a leader in our county and beyond. We thank Dreama for her work to ensure that we as a community and individuals pay attention to how we see people of color.”
Her favorite quote is from Shirley Chisholm, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” Dreama Caldwell brought her folding chair and is Leading the Way in Alamance County raising her voice for the most vulnerable.
Sherri Singer is passionate about mentoring students and faculty, working within our community and sharing her love of history. As the Department Head, Social and Behavioral Sciences at Alamance Community College, she used her passion to create the Adjunct Institute at ACC 15 years ago to keep part-time faculty engaged while enhancing their instructional skills. Her work in this area has been recognized the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).
Mentoring students has long been a priority for Sherri, her office is a frequent gathering space for students and one within which they might experience Sherri’s brand of “intrusive advising.”
Sherri strives to serve the community by partnering with ABSS teachers to open doors to ACC and where multiple times a year she organizes live historical exhibits at ACC celebrating the rich history of the Piedmont and its contributions to The World Wars, Women’s Suffrage and the Civil War including an exhibit of the original copy of the North Carolina Constitution and a World War II traveling exhibit. Her community work also includes being on the boards of River Mill Academy and Friends of Alamance Battleground.
One of her most recent projects has been to work with the ACC Student History Club to create the “COVID Chronicles.” An online site where students can upload images. In Sherri’s words, “We’re all seeing and hearing about the pandemic in the national news, but we wanted to document what our students are seeing through their own eyes, on a personal level. That way their children and grandchildren can look back and understand what these current students faced.”
As a Founders’ Award Nominee of the Women’s Resource Center in Alamance County, Sherri was asked about her favorite quote or life mantra. Her answer was one of Benjamin Franklin’s: “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” Sherri said: “Education and life should be engaging and when we are involved we learn.”
Sherri Singer, in the words of her nomination letter, “is Leading the Way” to making education engaging and interesting for ACC students and learners young and old throughout our community.”
Sarah Black’s passion is “to prevent and eliminate child abuse”. She has worked to that end in her role transitioning the Exchange Club Center for Prevention of Child Abuse of North Carolina into The Exchange Club’s Family Center of the Central Piedmont, a nonprofit responsible for nine different treatment and prevention programs. Before the transition to the nonprofit, Sarah was the County Director. She now serves as the Executive Director of the agency and brings an indefatigable energy to her work, constantly on the lookout for new approaches to the work and for grants to fund their programs. She inspires loyalty and dedication in people, in fact a program participant was inspired to become a board member to help support the work of the agency. Sarah attributes her success in life to learning to overcome the challenges life places in front of her. Through her experiences she models resiliency to staff and people participating in their programs.
Sarah has honed her leadership skills throughout her career focusing on the mental and emotional health of children and their families in Easter Seals, UCP, Family-Based Strategies, Parents & Children Together in Hawaii and working as a program supervisor in home-based prevention services to at-risk populations.
Even her volunteer work has provided conflict transformation and strategic visioning services to churches within the NC conference of the United Methodist Church. Since 2015, she has also provided coaching, counseling, and concrete support to fathers in prison through Orange United Methodist Church –Fabulous Fathers and Forgiven Ministries Prison Ministry.
As a Founder’s Award Nominee of the Women’s Resource Center in Alamance County, she would tell her high school or college self: “fear not, have courage, learn to confront fear, see the challenges as opportunities and move forward in courage despite negativity.”
Sarah Black is courageously Leading the Way in Alamance County improving the lives of at-risk children and their families.