Places & Faces
Leading Ladies in Business
11/1/2020 1:00:00 PM



Southwest Louisiana is known for rearing strong, independent, feisty women, which translates well into success in the business world. Our 2020 list of Leading Ladies in Business have an added component of challenge to their stories; their roles have all been affected in some way by Hurricanes Laura and Delta. The women on the following pages represent a wide range of professions: financial management, real estate, education, public and community service, industry, and healthcare. Whether they have been an integral part of the recovery process or their businesses took a direct hit due to the storms, they all have one thing in common – they persevere through the adversity and strive to do the best they can for their clients and our community.


Misty Clanton

Mayor of DeRidder, Louisiana


Misty Clanton was born and raised in DeRidder, La. After graduating from McNeese State University with a Public Relations degree, she navigated through a series of diverse roles; first at a customer service call center and then as a modular home salesperson in Baton Rouge. She served as a financial advisor before landing a Project Coordinator position with the City of DeRidder in 2009. Later, she became Director of Community Services, and in 2018, she was elected Mayor. "Every job I had taught me a lesson and I have used every skill I have gathered on my journey now as mayor,” she says.


Clanton considers it a privilege to be able to help shape the future of her hometown. "I truly enjoy being a part of the decisions that help make our city a better place for now and for the generations to come. It is rewarding to be able to help people, even in the smallest of ways.”


During the many challenges of 2020, Clanton has been reminded of why she wanted to become Mayor. "The difficult days have strengthened the relationships I have with the people I serve as well as the people I work with. These difficult times have also tested and pushed me personally. As Mayor, I had to put the city first and rise above my fears and concerns to meet immediate needs. My responsibility now is ensuring our people and businesses bounce back.”


Awards & Recognitions

 

2010 Alumni of the SWLA Leadership Program

2014 SWLA Women’s Business Network Up and Coming Business Women of the Year

2015 Thomas J. Morris Sr. United Way of SWLA Volunteer of the Year

2015 BeauCARE Rhinestone Round-up Sheriff

2016 Alumni of Leadership Louisiana 

2019 Zeta Phi Beta Trailblazer

 

Volunteer Work

 

Past member of the DeRidder Women’s League, DeRidder Lion’s Club and BeauCARE Head Start Policy Council

Past board member of the Greater Beauregard Chamber of Commerce and current chamber member

Board of Directors for Hope Village and DeRidder Rotary Club

Board of Trustees for the Beauregard Agape Community Clinic

Board of Directors for Fort Polk Progress


On Finding Balance

This is a work in progress. 2020 has been an eye-opening experience that shook us out of our regular routines. I am a mother to two elementary-aged children. Having them out of school or attending virtually has been a struggle with two working parents. I believe in being fully present in each moment – whether at home or work. There have been days when my role as Mayor has rightfully consumed me. There were also times that my children required my complete attention to get through school work. Perhaps balance isn’t possible for me at the moment; however, being flexible is. I am still learning that I can’t do it all, and to give myself a little grace.

 

Best Advice

Often, women try to be who they are not. Don’t try to hide your emotions, your empathy or your heart. Make those things work for you. Use your intuition and let it lead you. Stay genuine to yourself and let that guide your decision-making. If you aren’t excited to go to work each day – look for another path. Find your passion.




Denise Durel

President & CEO of United Way of Southwest Louisiana 


Denise Durel has worked for a non-profit for the past 33 years, starting with the Muscular Dystrophy Association in Lafayette where she lived at the time. In 2009, Durel moved to Lake Charles and began working for the United Way of Southwest Louisiana. "I love being able to collaborate with a wide variety of partners. Great things happen when the right people are at the table. Our team at United Way focuses on connecting the dots to make things happen.”


Durel says she loves being able to creatively help people and she leads by example. For Hurricane Laura, she returned to Lake Charles from Lafayette within hours after the storm. "I wanted to have a grasp on what we, as a community, were dealing with. Clearly, we needed to act fast to document the devastation. I will never forget that day. Simply unbelievable.” 


Once Durel assessed the destruction, she immediately got to work. Though her own home was damaged, she focused first on the needs of the community by partnering with the United Cajun Navy and the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Department and found a location for a central distribution site, which served as the single entry point for in-kind donations to the City of Lake Charles, Calcasieu Parish, and the Office of Homeland Security. "For weeks we operated seven days a week and now it’s Monday – Friday. When we started, we were providing 500 meals a day; but as other organizations began to close their meal service, we have increased and now average 2,000 meals per day.” 


Whether she was shopping at Lowe’s for generators, driving out of town to purchase gas cards, or organizing grocery giveaways, Durel has been on the front line of hurricane recovery for over two months. "I am determined to do whatever I can to meet every request for help. My goal is to find or provide the right resources for every need and thanks to our donors, we have been able to do just that.  We are now preparing to move into the ‘long term recovery’ phase – assisting low income people with repairs to their homes.”


While Durel has certainly received kudos, she says the most important recognition she has ever received isn’t something hanging in a frame or sitting on a mantel. "It’s just the sincere heartfelt thanks and appreciation from the people that we’ve been able to help and from the people of our community.”


On Finding Balance

Early in my career, I was a mom of three young children.  There were many days when it was tough! Most evenings, I would often sit at my kitchen table way into the night just to get everything done for work. Fortunately, I had supportive people around me who understood the importance of my work. It has always been important to me that my team have the ability to be the best parents they can be. 


Best Advice

Be honest with yourself. Know what you do well and know your weaknesses. Work harder than the people around you. Don’t just achieve but overachieve, and always over-exceed everyone’s expectations . . . especially your own.




Tobie Bessette Hodgkins

Tara Bessette Demarie

Owners/Brokers,Century 21 Bessette Realty


Tobie graduated from LSU with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science, a minor in business and plans to go to law school. She changed her mind about law school, and her parents, who had just purchased the Century 21 Franchise, convinced her to get her real estate license and come to work for them. She started out in sales, gradually moved into management, and then obtained her broker’s license. 


Tara graduated from McNeese State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Visual Arts Education. She started her teaching career in the gifted and talented program in Cameron Parish and later taught in Calcasieu Parish. She decided to obtain her real estate license "just in case,” worked a summer break at her parent’s real estate company and she was hooked. She went on to become the Broker for CENTURY 21 Bessette Realty Inc. 


Tobie and Tara took over ownership of the company in 2012. 

 

Tobie and Tara come from a family of entrepreneurs. "Our parents and all our grandparents were self- employed, so early in life we witnessed the results of hard work and the importance of building a reputation of excellence,” said Tobie. "We both feel a tremendous responsibility to continue that tradition of excellence and I think we have succeeded,” added Tara.  


Tobie’s main focus has always been on training and development. "I find it extremely rewarding to work with someone who knows absolutely nothing about the real estate industry and watch them build their business and succeed.”

For Tara, a strong relationship with their agents and staff creates a team approach to individual and company success.  "I believe that real estate is less about selling and more about relationships.  Helping our agents cultivate those relationships and succeed in their personal businesses is extremely fulfilling.”

"We were fortunate not to have major damage to our office from the hurricanes, and Tara and I both felt it was extremely important to reopen the office as soon as possible,” said Tobie. "We had quite a few agents, as well as clients, who had a tremendous amount of damage to their homes and we wanted to do everything we could to support all of them as they worked to recover.” 


While Tobie had just minimal damage to her home, Tara’s had extreme damage, first with Laura and then Delta. "It has been such an overwhelming experience that I have really had to break it down to day-by-day and sometimes even hour-by-hour as we work through it,” says Tara. "I am extremely thankful that Tobie has been able to focus on getting our office back to normal so I can focus on restoring my home.” 

 

Awards & Recognitions


Tara: 

2012 Southwest Louisiana Association of Realtors Realtor of the Year
2007 Junior League of Lake Charles Active of the Year


Tobie and Tara for CENTURY 21 Bessette Realty, Inc:
CENTURY 21 President’s Hall of Fame Office – 2014

CENTURY 21 Ambassador Award - 2007

CENTURY 21 Per Person Productivity Award – 2008, 2011 – 2019

CENTURION OFFICE – 2001 – 2008, 2011 – 2019
 

Volunteer Work


Tobie:

Junior League of Lake Charles

Southwest Louisiana Board of Realtors

Louisiana Realtors Association

National Association of Realtors 

SWLA Economic Development Alliance – 2018 Chair of the Board, Chair-Elect,

Vice Chair Education and Workforce Development, Vice Chair of Quality of Life

Past member of the Workforce Investment Board

Past Member of Junior Achievement of Southwest Louisiana

Alliance for Positive Growth


Tara:

Junior League of Lake Charles – served as President in 2008-2009, Sustaining Advisor to the Board 2019-2020

Southwest Louisiana Board of Realtors – Board Member 2009-2014

Louisiana Realtors Association – Regional Vice president 2017, Board of Directors 2011-2014, LARPAC Trustee – 2013-2016, Risk Management Vice Chair – 2015, Chair 2016, Leadership Chair – 2013, Leadership Team – 2010-2012, Grievance Team,    Marketing and Member Services Team, LR Fall Conference Planning Team 2012/2015

MLS Data Collaboration Team
National Association of Realtors 

National Parkinson Foundation – SWLA / SETX – Board Member

Lake Charles Children’s Museum - Board Member

Children’s Miracle Network – Board Member

 

On Finding Balance


Tobie: 

It was definitely a struggle to balance work and family when my boys, now grown, were young. I tried my best to leave work at the office and focus just on my family when I got home. I also had a very strong support network. Tara and I were fortunate to be able to work together and our kids were very close in age and went to school together for many years, so we were able to rely on each other a lot 


Tara: 

I definitely understand this feeling – good old fashioned guilt. I found it much easier when we all set a schedule and stuck to it. Learning to turn work off is difficult when you own a business, but I set expectations with my husband and sons, and with my work family, and we all respect each other’s time. Family comes first for me so I am very lucky to have an extremely supportive husband and sister.  While some might cringe at the thought of working with family, we have each other’s back and can come in as the pinch hitter when needed.

 

Best Advice


Tobie: 

Network with other women professionals and if your industry has a professional organization, get involved. Know what is going on in your community, with the local and national economy, and continually educate yourself so that you can stay on the cutting edge of your industry.  


Tara:

Education and determination. Even after 20 years in the real estate industry I continually take classes and complete certifications so I can learn about new regulations or education that I can pass on to our Realtors. I also make a point to set monthly and yearly goals with the action steps on how to attain those goals. I review regularly and tweak if necessary. This year, it has been very necessary!



Tonya & Courtney Griffith

Advisors at the Griffith Financial Group of Wells Fargo


Tonya Griffith graduated from Southern University with a degree in Business Marketing, but the financial markets were always her passion. After college, she worked as a pharmaceutical rep in Baton Rouge. When she and her husband returned to their hometown of Lake Charles, they started a family and Tonya took a 3rd grade teaching job so her schedule would match her children’s. Tonya says her pharmaceutical and educational experience strengthened her skills for her current role as a financial advisor – an ability to break down complex strategy to everyday language. "When our team develops a financial plan that successfully helps a client reach their goals, there is no greater reward.”


Courtney Griffith, Tonya’s daughter, joined her mother in the financial advisor business in 2014. She says her career has been more of an adventure than a path. As a high school senior, she earned her emergency medical technician certification. In college, she majored in biology, in anticipation of medical school; but she soon realized healthcare wasn’t her calling. After a period of career soul searching, Courtney changed her major to criminal justice and worked as a patrol officer full time. Though she loved her work, Courtney had to leave the force due to a health issue. It was then that Tonya invited her daughter to a Wells Fargo Women Advisors’ Summit. "While there I met many successful women and heard their stories. I was hooked. I resigned as a police officer and put all my focus on becoming a credentialed financial advisor.”


Courtney says she enjoys helping her clients achieve their goals and live their best life. "My goal in life has always been to help others. Now I can do so in a profound way. My success is tied to the success of my clients.”

After Hurricane Laura, Courtney and her father spent two weeks cutting trees, tarping roofs, and helping others. But she needed to get back to helping her clients, and because there was no power and cell phone coverage was spotty, she packed up her Jeep and headed for Colorado for a working vacation with her dog. "I got there just in time for a snowstorm. It was awesome to be able to go from the heat we all remember from that time to snow. When I got home, I was rejuvenated and ready to tackle anything . . . then Delta came and we left again. We were safe and grateful that Delta didn’t do any further damage to our home.”

The Griffith’s business was located in the Capital One Building and was obviously destroyed. The team had already been working remotely due to COVID, but Tonya moved their practice to a location where she could service their clients with little interruption. "Even though we have a process in place to reach out to our clients, we made it a point to simply call to make sure everyone was fine,” says Tonya. "SWLA is strong and resilient and we are here with our clients working through the recovery process day by day.”


Awards & Recognitions


Tonya: 

2013-2020 Premier Advisor (a distinction held by a select group of Financial Advisors within the firm)

2013 Speaker for Barron’s Chicago Diversity Summit

2016 Recognized as Delta Women in Business in Louisiana


Volunteer Work


Tonya: 

United Way Board of Directors

Teen Connections volunteer (financial literacy education for youth)

SIE program sponsorship for universities in Louisiana and Virginia


Courtney:

Big Brother Big Sisters board member


On Finding Balance


Tonya: Establish time block boundaries. 


Courtney: I believe in maintaining boundaries where possible. Usually on the weekend, I leave my work cell on the charger and enjoy one of my hobbies. I recommend everyone have at least one hobby that has absolutely nothing to do with work. Mine is hiking and camping. I admit I do still check the phone for missed calls, but the weekends are generally my time. During the week, my boundaries are not as defined. Sometimes I work till 6:00 p.m.; sometimes I can shut down at 4:00 p.m. – it just depends on what my clients need and what the team has going on.


Best Advice


Tonya: You are more equipped than you realize. Be kind to yourself, be authentic, and do your own research. If someone closes a door, find a window.


Courtney:  Never give up just because someone tells you that you can’t do something. The only person who can decide if you are suited for something or not is you! Stay consistent and don’t be afraid of change or challenging the status quo.



Margaret Harris

Lead Customer Service Manager, Entergy Louisiana West Region


Margaret Harris says she has always worked in "customer facing positions.” She was employed in retail during and shortly after attending college at Northwestern State University and graduating from McNeese State University with a concentration in Business Management. Since then, she has worked in customer service and managed industrial accounts at Entergy and Gulf States Utilities. "I always sought positions that focus on our customers,” says Harris.


At Entergy, Harris represents the company with local officials and media as well as taking care of a portfolio of customers and providing leadership for their Customer Service team in Southwest Louisiana. "Whether it’s large growth projects or widespread recovery and rebuild, collaboration is key to success,” she says. "I enjoy being a part of just that . . . working together utilizing the talents of the whole team to reach the best outcomes.”


Harris, in her previous role as an Industrial Accounts Manager, was the first woman to join Entergy Louisiana’s Industrial Accounts’ Service group coordinating all aspects of service with large industries. That role grew into also negotiating large contracts. She worked with industrial customers through the planning and execution of very large LNG and petrochemical projects and interfaced internally and externally on large Entergy projects. "In that position I learned so much about our transmission system and about customers’ products and feedstocks, which helped me have a broader understanding of the Entergy system and the customers we serve. The variety in my work keeps me going.”

Harris says working in a service industry provides an immediate opportunity to help customers, solve problems, foster understanding, and add value. As SWLA residents well know, Entergy has played a major role in the ongoing recovery process after Hurricanes Laura and Delta. "Every employee at Entergy has a storm role. We are ‘all in’ for getting power to our customers. We recognize that restoring power gives individuals and communities hope. Investing in people is important to me, whether employees, customers, or the community. That’s part of who I am. I’m proud that Entergy invests in the communities we serve. 


Volunteer Work


Active member and choir member of Henning Memorial United Methodist Church

Chamber Southwest Board of Directors

Volunteers in Aid to Disaster (VOAD)

Red Cross Advisory Council for SWLA

SWLA Public Relations Officers (SWLA PROs)

Partners in Education

Salvation Army supporter and other philanthropic groups


On Finding Balance


I struggle with work/life balance. I do enjoy exercising and walking at the end of the day to move on from the work mode to spend time with my family. At times, balance is challenging. I achieved a better balance when our children, Meredith and Austin, were home. My husband, Wayne, and I enjoyed and attended their activities together.


Best Advice


Choose a profession that brings you satisfaction and joy. Find contentment in what you do. Be true to your own style and find ways to grow in your profession even if it is not looking for the next move up. Make and take time for your family. Find time for yourself to stay mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and physically healthy. It’s important to recharge; worship is an important part of my week.



Megan Monsour Hartman

Public Relations Director for Phillips 66 Lake Charles Manufacturing Complex


Even before she attended college, Megan Hartman’s career goal was to work in public relations for a local refinery. A native of Lake Charles, she attended LSU, majoring in Mass Communications/Public Relations. While in college, she discovered a passion for our state, and sought a job in the Louisiana travel and tourism industry. She landed a media relations role with the Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) before graduation. A few years later, she was hired by CITGO to work in government and public affairs. After several years at CITGO, Hartman returned to the CVB as Senior Public Relations Manager. In 2016, she returned to the energy industry as the Public Relations Director at Phillips 66. "I’m currently living my high school ‘dream job’ and am loving it! It’s rewarding to serve our community as an advocate to impact lives. Whether through philanthropic gifts, volunteerism, or developing strategic community partnerships, serving Southwest Louisiana (SWLA) through my profession is my passion.”


Hartman serves as Public Information Officer during a crisis. COVID-19 and Hurricanes Laura and Delta have put her to the test! "The last few months have been challenging to say the least. My prayers go out to everyone impacted by the storms. While we still have a long road to recovery, it’s amazing to experience what the people of SWLA have accomplished since August 27.”


Hartman was part of the Phillips 66 Lake Charles Away Team during both hurricanes. "I evacuated to Houston and worked in our corporate headquarters’ Emergency Operations Center. I was responsible for communicating with our employees and elected officials about our hurricane plan, our return to work schedule, and employee assistance Phillips 66 provided. Thankfully my husband and our family were able to care for our children while I was away.”


Awards & Recognitions


2018 Graduate, Council for a Better Louisiana’s Leadership Louisiana

2018 10/12 Magazine’s 20 Young Leaders to Watch

2018 Walk to End Alzheimer’s Award for Memories Matter Campaign

2017 United Way Employee Campaign Chair Award

2017 Thrive Magazine’s 13 Thriving 30-Somethings

2016 Women’s Business Network Up & Coming Business Woman of the Year 


Volunteer Work


SWLA Public Relations Officers Chairperson and Founder

Family and Youth Counseling Agency board member

Phillips 66 Political Advisory Committee Advisory Member

Lake Area Industry Alliance Communications Committee member

Phillips 66 Community Advisory Panel, coordinator

Public Relations Society of America, member

Alzheimer’s Association of Louisiana volunteer


On Finding Balance


I schedule an annual weekend alone to stop and think introspectively about my values, my personal goals, and how to realign my core beliefs with my life activities and schedule. It’s also important to find accountability, whether that’s through an honest friend or family member or a life coach.  


Best Advice


Ensure your values and goals are in alignment with your schedule. Stick up for your beliefs, share your viewpoints, and ask questions. Stand up for others who can’t stand up for themselves. Be a team player and give credit where credit is due. Realize you can’t do it all, nor alone. Develop a strong supportive team who cheers you on. Make it a priority to do what you love. 



Holly Holland

Public Information Officer, Calcasieu Parish School Board


Holly Holland never envisioned herself working in public relations. During college at Henderson State University in Arkansas. She majored in Mass Media and was "dead set” on a career in journalism. But God had other plans for her life, she says. After working for a year as a news reporter at KPLC, she took a position at the Calcasieu Parish District Attorney’s Office. Four years later, she began her current role as Public Information Officer with CPSB.


Holland says she finds her job rewarding because it allows her to share CPSB information about the students, faculty, and staff with the public. "As the fifth largest school district in the state, we have lots of amazing stories to share. I’m blessed to work for this district and to bring the district’s stories to life. I’ve always told myself that if I’m doing my job correctly, no one will see me. In public relations, I feel that my role is to give credit where credit is due. Whether it’s our superintendent, a principal, a custodian, or a bus driver. The people in our district serve as my motivation to excel and succeed.”


A life-long resident of SWLA, Holland says she had never experienced anything like the devastation from Hurricanes Laura and Delta. "When Hurricane Laura hit, I was 36 weeks into a high-risk pregnancy. My husband and I evacuated with our son to Baton Rouge, where I delivered our sweet baby girl on September 11. During that time, I did everything I could to help our school district. I wish everyone could see what was happening behind the scenes during that time, and even now. Our leadership worked essentially around the clock. While I was unable to be ‘boots on the ground,’ I offered support and provided communication to our families, as possible. It was incredibly challenging for everyone. It still is.”


Volunteer Work


Fellowship of Christian Athletes– former board member

Trinity Baptist Church – Women’s Ministry team

Sunday Morning Bible Studies Leader

United Way – Cabinet Education Chair

SWLA PROs – Steering Committee

National School Public Relations Association – member


On Finding Balance


I do my best to separate work from wife/mom life, but that isn’t always easy or possible. As with my job, communication is imperative in the family setting. Even if it means not answering emails for a few hours in the evening and simply being present with my family, it’s important.


Best Advice


Always ask for a seat at the table. Even if a meeting or discussion may not directly pertain to you, know what’s happening within your organization. Each person has a different perspective, and that is valuable to a team. Be involved in your organization. Be committed and loyal to it. Believe in its mission. If you can’t do these things, perhaps it’s not the right job or organization for you in this season of life; but when it is, it makes all the difference.



Sara Judson

CEO, Community Foundation of Southwest Louisiana


Sara Judson graduated from the University of Mississippi with a degree in Broadcast Journalism. Although she has never worked at a television station, Judson says her education has served her well throughout her career. "I have been on the other side of journalism in marketing, public relations, and organizational development for CHRISTUS St. Patrick Hospital, former Mayor Willie Mount, Lake Area Medical Center, and former U.S. Senator J. Bennett Johnston. In all those roles and experiences, journalism continues to be a cornerstone of my profession.”


Judson has been CEO of the Community Foundation of Southwest Louisiana for seven years. "I work with individuals, families, companies, other non-profits, who have a passion for making Southwest Louisiana an even better place to live. We connect people who care with causes that matter; be it building a dog park, planting trees, developing our workforce or helping our region recover from two major hurricanes.”


On the eve of Hurricane Laura, Judson and her husband, Mark, evacuated to Baton Rouge for what they expected to be four or five days. They ultimately found a temporary apartment where Sara lived for the month. "The experience of evacuating reinforced for me the importance of friends, family, and people being connected, helping each other.” Tragically, like so many under post-hurricane stress, Judson’s beloved mother, Cissie McLeod, passed away October 19 after spending time in her evacuation with each of her three daughters.  


During Judson’s evacuation, she worked remotely from their partner, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation. "I needed to be in a place where I could communicate with as many people around the country as possible to help raise disaster recovery dollars for our region. Corporate as well as individual dollars started pouring in through the website. To date (late Oct.), we have raised over 6.5 million dollars for relief efforts. Top donors were the Walmart Foundation and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana, who each gave one million, but my favorite donation story is about a contribution that arrived in an envelope postmarked from somewhere in the state of New York, with three dollar bills given anonymously. Someone there watched the news, cared about what was happening in Southwest Louisiana and wanted to help our region. That’s why I love what I do and why I’m so passionate about the kind of work we are doing at the Community Foundation.”


Awards & Recognitions


Graduate – Leadership Louisiana 2004

Sustainer of the Year by the Junior League of Lake Charles 2013

Alumni of the Year – Leadership Southwest Louisiana 2018

40 Under 40 (By the Times of Lake Charles - a long time ago!)


Volunteer Work


Sustaining advisor, Junior League of Lake Charles, Inc.

Board member – Council for a Better Louisiana

Coordinator and Reading Buddy - First Presbyterian Church and Friends 2nd Grade Reading Buddy Program


On Finding Balance


My main source of exercise is walking with friends in our neighborhood. That gets me moving and keeps my mind fresh at the beginning of the day. 


Best Advice


Determine what you are passionate about and match your skills and talents with that passion.



Keri Forbess-McCorquodale

MS, CEAP, LPC-S, LMFT, Owner, Solutions Counseling & EAP


Keri Forbess-McCorquodale knew she wanted to be a therapist when she started college, so her career path was a straight one. She earned Bachelor of Psychology and Master of Counseling degrees from the University of Memphis in Tennessee. When she moved back home to Lake Charles, she was hired as a counselor at United Way Agency and later became the director of their adolescent substance abuse program.


Forbess-McCorquodale calls her introduction to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) field "blind luck,” discovered when working at a counseling agency that also provided EAP services. As she learned more, she knew it would be a good fit. "I love Industrial and organizational psychology, and the ways home and work intersect and influence each other,” she says. "I also enjoy management concepts and helping supervisors become strong leaders, and I really like providing trainings and seminars.” Today, her growing company has contracts with businesses and organizations across SWLA, providing counseling for their employees, management consultations, and workshops on both psychological and work topics.   


"I love the field I am in and the work I do,” says Forbess-McCorquodale. "Supporting clients as they go on their journeys to develop and become healthy is such an honor, and helping companies be successful, and being a resource for management with regards to psychological behavior is very energizing.”


Although Forbess-McCorquodale is feeling what everyone else is feeling after the barrage of two hurricanes – tired, overwhelmed, and ready for this all to be over – she says she has viewed her role during all this as one of calm leadership. "It is my job to provide a stable environment for my team, so we can provide our services to our clients. Our office was completely destroyed, but within days after Hurricane Laura, I had secured a temporary place for my business to move into and my team and I were   providing tele-counseling within a week of that storm.” 


Awards & Recognition


Outstanding Women of America

Active of the Year, Junior League of Lake Charles


Volunteer Work


Junior League of Lake Charles, Sustaining Member (Past President)

SWLA Law Center (President-elect)

Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (Secretary of the LA Chapter)


On Finding Balance


My only child is in college now, but oh, how I struggled when he was younger. I always felt I should be at home when I was at work and vice-versa. I decided to be fully present wherever I was. When I was at work, I learned how to tune in and be as productive as possible. When I was at home, I focused on spending time with my family and not letting the job creep in. My husband, Rob, has always been just as hands on as me, and we shared equally in parenting responsibilities.

 

Best Advice


Don’t try to go it alone. Look for people who exhibit qualities you admire and ask to be mentored.  Educate yourself on the characteristics of successful people, and work to build those characteristics.  Finally, be kind and gentle with yourself; berating rarely motivates, whereas encouragement rarely doesn’t.  



JayVon Muhammad

Chief Executive Officer, SWLA Center for Health Services


JayVon Muhammad describes her career as "quite a journey.” It began when she was a California teen mom who earned her GED at age 18 and enrolled in a medical assisting program. She worked as an OB-Tech at Kaiser Hospital, where she discovered her love of midwifery. Muhammad attended the National College of Midwifery and worked in the field for years. She eventually became a Program Coordinator with the Marin City Health and Wellness Center, where she fast-tracked to CEO. "Midwifery is by far THE best job I have ever had. I struggled with the transition from clinician to administrator because I was so used to doing the hands-on work, working closely with women to bring new life on the planet. When I was offered the opportunity to become the program CEO, I had several thoughts. The first was ‘Can I do this?’ but after that initial thought came, ‘I have to do this.’ The only thing better than helping one family is having the power to help my community, city, nation . . . I have not looked back since. "


In January 2019, she accepted the position of CEO at SWLA Center for Health Services and relocated to Lake Charles. "I create programs that help people like me become better people. I grew up experiencing trauma, abuse and poverty, lessening my ability to be whole, healthy and happy. I want to continue to grow and am currently a student at Bastyr University, working on a Maternal and Child Health Systems (policy) Master of Arts program.”


Being from California, Hurricane Laura was Muhammad’s first hurricane experience. "I could not have imagined the level of devastation a storm could deliver. I had significant damage to my property and SWLA Center for Health Services lost all its medical and behavioral health space. It is a devastating loss to our work, but we’re finding solutions. My response, beginning before the storm, was to take care of the people we serve, from housing people during the hurricane to feeding and providing supplies immediately after – 2400 meals on some days. This work continued after Hurricane Delta. We have to make sure that our community has what it needs. It is our job!”  

  

Awards & Recognition


Humanitarian award by Sanjay Gupta on behalf of Americares.

Over the past 20 years I have received many awards centered around equity work, and I am proud of each one.  

  

Volunteer Work


National Association of Certified Professional Midwifery 

National Association of Birth Centers of Color 

The Quality of Life Road Trip


On Finding Balance


As a society, we must do more to protect women and allow them to be dynamic. After I married, it became easier for me. I had two more children and finished midwifery school. I started a home birth practice that allowed me to be somewhat flexible with my time. My husband supported me, and together we made it work. 


Best Advice


Keep pushing! Women are natural leaders. Don’t let anyone convince you that we have to compete with men to be great. Women are compassionate, smart, dynamic, multitaskers, and we can be tough when we need to be.

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