Woman To Watch Roll Call featuring the inspiring women leading the charge for social good in local nonprofits.

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Armstrong Community Music School (ACMS)

Liz Cass, Executive Director


Liz Cass is the executive director of the Armstrong Community Music School and the founding executive producer of Local Opera Local Artists (LOLA). She is also an active performing opera singer. ACMS believes in the transformative power of music and that access to music and musical study belong to all.


Art Beat Foundation

Lindsay M. Palinsky, Executive Director


A lifelong dancer and theater practitioner, Lindsay M. Palinsky applies creativity to all aspects of her life. As the executive director of the ArtBeat Foundation, she combines years of hands-on dance teaching with over 15 years of nonprofit experience. Palinsky is dedicated to bringing the arts to underserved populations.


Austin Center for Grief & Loss

Kim Nugent-Anderson, Executive Director


Kim Nugent-Anderson is the executive director of The Austin Center for grief & Loss. Nugent-Anderson is a former television news reporter and litigation attorney who began supporting nonprofits after her own battle with late-stage cancer. Nugent-Anderson is passionate about assisting people as they move from grief to a place of healing.


Austin Junior Forum

Tonya Riley, President, 2020-2021


Tonya Riley is the current president of Austin Junior Forum, a nonprofit women’s volunteer organization supporting Austin’s women, children and elderly through hands-on community service and grants to its service partners, funded by the Christmas at the Caswell House event.AJF’s Teddy Bear Program provides Austin’s first responders with stuffed teddy bears and dalmatians for children in crisis situations.


Austin Threads (a division of San Antonio Threads)

Cathy Hamilton, Founder and CEO


Court-appointed special advocate Cathy Hamilton has witnessed the in-dignity of teen girls selecting used bleached underwear from a barrel. This inspired her to bring San Antonio (and Austin) Threads to life. It’s a retail-like environment where often overlooked teens in foster care can shop for free. Hamilton has impacted the lives of those suffering neglect and abuse.


Austin Speech Labs

Shilpa Shamapant and Shelley Adair, Co-founders


In 2008, speech therapists Shilpa Shamapant and Shelley E.Adair co-founded Austin Speech Labs to support stroke survivorsand their loved ones in rebuilding their lives. This dynamic organization provides intensive, affordable and innovative speech and cognitive therapy, conducts research with partnering universities and trains hundreds of aspiring speech therapists.



Monica Morales, Partner/ VP of Development


Monica Morales is partner and VP of development at DivInc, building partnerships that provide funding for critical resources to support women and underrepresented entrepreneurs. She has over 15 years of experience in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. Previously, Morales served as interim executive director for the Central Texas ADA.


Foster Angels of Central Texas

Tania Leskovar-Owens, Executive Director


Tania Leskovar-Owens is the executive director of Foster Angels of Central Texas, an organization that aids children in foster care and provides a sense of normalcy. Under Leskovar-Owens’ leadership, Foster Angels has implemented additional programming called “Guide to Thrive” that specifically serves the needs of youth aging out of care.


Foster Village

Chrystal Smith, Founder and CEO


As a licensed foster parent, Chrystal Smith saw the gaps in the system firsthand. This inspired her to launch the nonprofit organization FosterVillage Inc. Since 2016, Foster Village has served thousands of families throughout Central Texas and is changing the landscape of child welfare from the ground up.


Fresh Chefs Society

Shaleiah Fox, Co-founder and Board Chair


Shaleiah Fox is an advocate and philanthropist who has worked to turn her personal journey through the foster care system into positivity wherever possible. In 2011, she co-founded Fresh Chefs Society, a local nonprofit committed to empowering young people aging out of foster care through the power of food.


Golden Hornet

Penny Brandt, Ph.D., Managing Director


Penny Brandt is a musician, mother and musicologist. Frustrated by elitism in classical music, she found her calling as an arts leader through the Women Composers Festival of Hartford. Now she works with Golden Hornet to reimagine classical music through programs like string Quartet Smackdown (Alamo on Demand: March 27).



Monica von Waaden, Founder and Executive Director


Monica von Waaden is the founder and executive director of HopeAustin, a local nonprofit endeavoring to “create opportunity through food security.”HopeAustin ensures food security, hope, dignity and respect to 2,500 students in 82 schools across six school districts. Prior to HopeAustin, von Waadenraised two sons with her husband, Mark, was a domestic violence attorney and a special education teacher


Huston-Tillotson University

Nakeenya Wilson, Vice President of Institutional Advancement


Nakeenya Wilson serves as the vice president of Institutional Advancement at Huston-Tillotson University. She is a Leadership Austin alumni, volunteer commissioner for the City of Hutto, member of Impact Austin and 2020 Texas Conference for Women Target Storyteller honoree. Wilson is also the former executive director of Black Mamas ATX.


Leander Educational Excellence Foundation (LEEF)

Kristen Huguley, Executive Director


Kristen Huguley leads the Leander Educational Excellence Foundation as the executive director. She has impacted multiple nonprofits through community involvement programs, marketing strategies and assisting in national emergencies to ensure the nonprofits could best serve the community. Huguleycurrently serves as the board chair of the Leander Chamber of Commerce.


March of Dimes

Dr. Chelsea M. Gray, Chair for the March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction


Dr. Chelsea M. Gray is the chief anesthesiologist and medical director at Oakwood Surgery Center in Austin. As chair for the March of DimesSignature Chefs Auction, Gray is passionate about helping others and understands the importance of reducing the risk of prematurity and poor birth outcomes in Texas. Gray, grateful for her own three healthy children, believes that every baby deserves the best possible start.


Not Your Ordinary School (NYOS) Charter School

Kathleen Zimmermann, Executive Director


Kathleen Zimmermann is the executive director of Not Your Ordinary School (NYOS) Charter School and has garnered more than 25 years of experience within the fields of education, operations and financial management. Now she’s leading the charge in the construction of a new campus facility for NYOS, opening Summer 2021.


ROCK, Ride On Center for Kids

Nancy Krenek, PT, DPT, HPCS, CEO/Founder


Nancy Krenek is a pioneer researcher and therapist in equine-assisted services, promoting “Healing Thru Horses” for children, adults and veterans throughout Central Texas. In 1998, Krenek founded ROCK in Georgetown, TX, where she currently serves as CEO. She is also a professor and leader at TAMU.


Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Texas

Carolyn Schwarz, Chief Executive Officer


Carolyn Schwarz joined Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Texas as CEO in 2013. Previously, she led Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM), which provides access to health care for Austin’s musicians. Recognitions include Austinite of the Year at the Austin Under 40 Awards and an Austin Business Journal Profiles in Power Award.


The Texas Freedom Network

Val Benavidez, President and Executive Director


Val Benavidez is a longtime organizer who started by organizing fellow students at the University of Texas. Today, Benavidez leads the Texas Freedom Network, a nonpartisan grassroots organization of progressive religious and community leaders and young Texans. She is the proud daughter and granddaughter of Mexican immigrants, farmworkers, railroad builders and all-around rabble-rousers.


YWCA Greater Austin

Naya Diaz, Executive Director


Naya Diaz is on a journey to impact marginalized communities of color and break intergenerational cycles of injustices. Her hope is to create a community that strives for justice and individual as well as communal liberation. Diaz believes revolution starts in the heart and leads into our policies and legislation.




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