AN INSPIRATION TO OUR YOUTH
A doctor, a dentist, an architect, a successful business owner, a sales supervisor, an entrepreneur and a pilot … exciting professions for exciting times.
As part of Western Nevada College’s Inspiring Women’s Luncheon on Wednesday, seven highly successful women who followed their dreams and refused to take no for an answer spoke to a roomful of high school and college students who are planning their own futures.
“The thought seems that to be young women, they don’t have heroes or mentors as they should,” said Sherri Black, WNC Fallon’s director. “We had a lunch with inspiring women who could give sage advice. We tried to think of nontraditional roles where these women are successful in male-dominated roles.”
Because of the wide spectrum of professional careers, Black said the caliber of the group was “fantastic.”
Three women, for example, are serving or have served in the military. Two speakers are assigned to Naval Air Station Fallon / Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center, while another speaker flew helicopters in Afghanistan and is now applying for a Federal Aviation Administration permit to operate a drone for aerial imagery.
The other four women have also made an impact in their respective professions.
“Seven amazing women with seven amazing stories,” Black said before the speakers gave students an insight into their backgrounds and aspirations.
Dr. Stephanie Ellis graduated from medical school in 2011, the same year she became an active-duty officer in the U.S. Navy. She reported to Naval Medical Center San Diego where she interned in obstetrics and gynecology. Her first duty station took her to Okinawa, where she spent three years tending to Marines.
“The Navy training is a little different from the civilians,” she said, when describing her medical school and life on the island. “Okinawa was nice because I learned a lot about myself.”
While stationed in Okinawa, Ellis also deployed to Thailand, Mongolia, South Korea and the Philippines on humanitarian missions.
Ellis, whose husband also serves in the Navy, said she grew up in a town smaller than Fallon and considered herself an average student. During the formative years, her interests in various fields wavered until she became interested in medicine. Ellis recently arrived at NAS Fallon.
Kathleen Hood grew up in North Carolina and attended the University of North Carolina where she earned both her bachelor’s degree and Doctorate in Dental Surgery. Like Ellis, Hood recently moved to Fallon where her husband, a U.S. Marine, is stationed at NAWDC as a pilot.
After obtaining her undergraduate degree, Hood took two years off and moved back home to live with her parents, all the time applying to dental schools. The thought of applying for dental school, though, began when she shadowed her hometown dentist,
“After I saw myself doing it (an internship), I applied for dental school in North Carolina,” she said, adding her residency was undertaken in Charleston, S.C.
“I had a lot of great experience with special needs and children,” she said. “ I did a lot of hospital dentistry.”
Persistence in following one’s dreams is Hood’s advice for other women who are looking into the future for a career.
Lisa Moritz -Smith, also a Virginia native, graduated from Virginia Tech University’s School of Architecture and Urban Studies. At an early age she displayed an aptitude for creativity and art. Her mother was a designer, her father an engineer, but she said her favorite teacher advised her to combine the two fields and become an architect.
“Architecture makes you think outside the box,” she said. “You look at different angles, different perspectives.”
Moritz-Smith said she interned three years before taking a comprehensive exam that tested her on many aspects of architecture. During her internship, she helped design elementary and secondary schools and houses. She came to Fallon because her husband is assigned to NAWDC.
Moritz-Smith is most proud of designing a church in Sparks and making key recommendations that enhanced the building and land around it. Designing a 1,000-seat Catholic Church, said Moritz-Smith, has been the highlight of her career.
“It’s been my most memorable project,” she said.
Deb Nelson, owner of The Courtyard Café and Bakery, grew up in a military family, and in that time, attended numerous schools including two junior and two senior high schools.
“The good Lord had a great plan for my life,” she said.
While living in Washington state, she married a military man, moved to San Diego and over the years, developed the “cooking idea” in her mind. Her passion for cooking and cuisine complemented each other and she entertained and cooked for many people at events she and her husband hosted.
Nelson moved to Fallon 20 years ago where she worked at The Apple Tree before opening The Courtyard Café. As for the restaurant, Nelson said she enjoys her customers and the opportunity to make new friends.
“Food is such a wonderful thing we have in common,” she said.
As for her specialty … Nelson said she loves baking anything but mostly pies.
Andrea Reynolds grew up in Northern California, received her degree at California State University, Chico and moved to Fallon in 2007.
“When I was a kid, I wanted to be a doctor, a teacher, a veterinarian, a super hero,” she said, drawing a few chuckles. “It came down to them not fitting into my lifestyle.”
Instead, she attended Chico State wanting to study marketing, but her priorities changed, and she sought a degree in education; however, her part-time employment with a bank figured into her future. When she earned her degree, Reynolds decided not to seek her teaching credentials, and instead, moved to Fallon where she worked in banking. Several years ago, she applied for an opening at New Millennium, which makes steel joists and decking.
Although she didn’t have any experience in sales, Reynolds told former sales manager Rick Sugg (now plant manager) she would not stay in the current position for a long time.
“I’m going to move up,” she vowed.
Reynolds is now sales supervisor .
“When the opportunities come along, you got to take them and run with them,” she advised her audience.
Lacey Szekely, whose mother and father were both pilots, was restless in high school and her first two years of college. As a high-school student growing up in Washington state, she thought about becoming a French teacher, so she traveled to France to learn more about the language and culture. Growing tired of high school, though, Szekely switched attendance to the community college in her senior year.
Finally, she knew what she wanted to do as a 21-year-old. She joined the U.S. Army and spent a year at flight school at Fort Rucker, Ala., learning to fly UH-60L Blackhawk helicopters. Szekely then spent eight years in the military.
“I love aviation,” she said. “Flight school was pretty challenging.”
She deployed twice to Afghanistan as a medical evacuation pilot, having served in both the western and southern regions of the country during Operation Enduring Freedom. She also deployed to Egypt for a tour.
In between deployments, she married a naval aviator, and because of his role with VFA 113 at NAWDC, they moved to Fallon one year ago.
As an entrepreneur, she began both a small business specializing in aerial imagery by using a drone and home inspections.
Both Szekely and Navy Lt. Carolyn Work love flying as evidenced by their enthusiasm and family support. As an F-18 pilot, Work grew up as the youngest child of a naval aviator and moved around because of her father’s assignments.
Her first advice for the audience was direct: “Do not let yourself peak in high school.”
Work said she didn’t have too many plans while in high school except she detested 9-to-5 desk jobs; instead, she learned to fly at the age of 16 and found that flying could be her ticket not only to attending college but also pursing an occupation.
“I did not want to be a burden on my parents, so I went to the University of Florida … and received the greatest scholarship from ROTC,” she said “At the end of my college career, I went into to the Navy.”
Work showed determination to become an aviator instead of serving aboard a ship. After she graduated in 2008, she attended Navy flight training at Pensacola, Fla., for two-and-a-half years. In February 2011 she moved to Virginia Beach, Va., newly assigned to a carrier squadron. Work served on a combat deployment to the Middle East aboard the aircraft carrier George. H.W. Bush flying the F-18 Hornet.
During her deployment, she flew over Afghanistan and also over Iraq as part of Operation Inherent Resolve. Once she returned to the United States, Work passed more qualifications before relocating to Fallon in the spring, assigned to NAWDC.
“My niche is to be thorough about bad guy tactics,” she said, describing how she understands the capabilities of Russia’s and China’s jet fighters and pilots.