10th Anniversary Celebration Raises Over $10K for Scholarships and Honors STEM Leaders

The Space Coast Chapter of Women In Defense (WIDSC) celebrated its tenth anniversary on Thursday, February 2nd at the newly renovated L3 Harris Global Innovation Center in Melbourne where over $10K was raised for STEM Scholarships and the annual STEM Education Innovator Awards were presented. Susie Glasgow, CEO of Kegman Inc, was also given special recognition as one of the longest-serving officers.

L3Harris generously sponsored the venue and refreshments while the event’s Gold Sponsors included Cromulence, Kegman, and SCIS. Indigo Consulting was Silver Sponsor, and Reception Sponsors included AVET Appeals, Florida Association of Veteran-Owned Businesses, and Rock Paper Simple. The Raffle Sponsor was Progressive Specialty Insurance.

WIDSC Past President and long-term member Sandy Pfrimmer served as the event emcee and Elizabeth Kreft Brienza, Vice President of L3Harris Communications, gave a welcome to the group that included an overview of the high-tech facility. Eighty guests attended the interactive event where Elaine Larsen from Larsen Motorsports was presented with the chapter’s STEM Mentor of the Year Award and Erin Rice, a teacher from Audubon and Tropical Elementary Schools, was named the STEM Educator of the Year. The STEM Leadership Star Award was given to Diana Wehrell-Grabowski, PhD who was the special guest speaker.

Photo caption (l-r): David Jackson, Leslie Tibbetts, Diana Wehrell-Grabowski, Elaine Larsen, Erin Rice, Sandy Pfrimmer, Tim Thomas

“We had some exceptional award nominees this year,” says Leslie Tibbetts, WIDSC’s Director of Awards and Recognition. “Elaine started an educational outreach program called Blazing Trails to help K-12 students get excited about STEAM education. Erin provides hands-on STEM learning opportunities for elementary students to compete in the annual Innovation Games. Dr. Diana travels throughout the nation and world conducting science and STEM professional staff development and Family Science events. It’s a real privilege to elevate these women and turn a spotlight on their very important work to encourage girls and women in the STEM fields.”

Dr. Diana’s keynote included an interactive component where guests were asked to manipulate unfamiliar objects and engage in a query-based activity. Retired US Navy Chief Petty Officer Pastor Troy Stanley from First Christian Church of Cocoa Beach lead the Invocation and Pledge of Allegiance. He was followed by US Army Veteran Lieutenant Colonel Tim Thomas, who is a Melbourne District 1 Council Member and leads the Viera JROTC, who conducted the installation of WIDSC’s 2022-23 Chapter Officers. The newest board members to be installed were Sirena Hendrickson from Atrax Technologies as Secretary, and Kim Cone from AVET Appeals as Historian.

Photo caption: Guests participated in hands-on inquiry during Dr. Diana’s presentation

Photo caption (l-r): David Jackson, Tim Thomas, Gail Hart, Sirena Hendrickson, Elizabeth Huy (courtesy of Adrienne Baughman)

Long-time WIDSC member and Director of Membership David Jackson, Director of Community Relations for U.S. Representative Bill Posey (FL-8), provided celebratory remarks to include such notable achievements for the chapter as organizing nearly 100 professional development and community events around the Space Coast at which notable speakers have included Astronaut Winston Scott, Congressman Bill Posey, and NASA Administrator Janet Petro among others. The chapter has supported Brevard Public Schools Science and Engineering Fairs over the years with judges and prizes, as well as leant support to AFTAC’s Women in Science and Engineering Symposium (WiSE) which is now in its 9th year. On Tuesday, January 24th, the Honorable Rita Pritchett, Chair of the Brevard County Commission from District 1, presented the County Resolution for WIDSC’s 10th Anniversary.

Photo caption (front l-r): David Jackson, Elizabeth Huy, County Commissioner Rita Pritchett, Inga Young, Leslie Tibbetts, Sirena Hendrickson, Kim Cone (rear l-r) Frank Abbate, Rob Feltner

WIDSC was founded on January 21, 2013, and shortly thereafter, Susie Glasgow spearheaded the creation of the group’s STEM Scholarship Fund which has cumulatively awarded over $75K in cash scholarships. The non-restricted scholarships are based on merit and are awarded annually to help further the education of Space Coast women who are pursuing careers that support the national defense and security industry. At the anniversary event, guests bid on silent auction packages donated by businesses and supporters from around Brevard County. In total, over $10K was raised to include the silent auction that will directly fund scholarships to be awarded on June 15th to selected applicants. April 23rd is the deadline for applications that can be found at SCWID.org.

Other WIDSC board members present at the event were Vice President Elizabeth Huy of Alluvionic, Director of Communications Gail Hart of Caliburn International, and Treasurer Kathy Emerson from Kathy Emerson CPA.

“Women In Defense has made an indelible mark on the Space Coast business community,” says WIDSC President Inga Young of 8-koi. “Being able to help the chapter celebrate its achievements over the past ten years is an enormous honor. The real power of this organization is the commitment that its volunteer leaders make to delivering engaging community programs and supporting continuing education for women in the defense industry. I hope to see the next generation of leaders step up to carry on this legacy for another ten years.”

Membership is open to all people looking to support the mission of advancing the role of women in national defense. Government employees are invited to join at no cost while others can join for a $40 annual fee. Women In Defense is an affiliate of the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) and offers reciprocal benefits to include access to the NDIA Mega Directory, Career Center, conferences and training events, business development resources, and other awards and scholarship programs.

The Call for Nominations for the local chapter board is made in the fall, but a special election can be held to fill open positions such as the current Director of Programs. Nominees must be a member of WIDSC in good standing for at least one year prior to their election. Each year, select members of the WIDSC board travel to Washington DC to attend the Women In Defense National Conference where they speak on behalf of the membership and represent the interests of the local Space Coast community. Prospective members are encouraged to visit SCWID.org for more information and reach out to Director of Membership David Jackson to sign up or volunteer for a committee.

The next WIDSC event is the 6th Annual Sandbagger Invitational Golf Tournament at Baytree National which raises additional funds for STEM scholarships, provides sponsors an opportunity for wide area visibility in the community, and players and volunteers a chance to network and cultivate relationships for business development and career advancement. President Inga Young is the point of contact for the golf tournament.

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