In the Spotlight



BY JEN OLENICZAK BROWN

This column is dedicated to uplifting incredible women that might not be featured in the local news about their accomplishments.

These are abridged versions of these incredible women: please find them and ask them more!

Joy Nelson Thomas

What makes you YOU?

 My strong beliefs and mindful determination define me most. In my work, these traits fuel me to fight for all girls having equal access and opportunities, and they help me achieve a balance of patience for my efforts. I’ve learned all good things come in time and yet I firmly believe there’s no time like the present.

What are you most proud of?

My selfless ways. If I didn’t have a passion to make a difference I wouldn’t have had the chance to reach girls and provide them with skills they will need to live a thriving life.

What keeps you going when things are tough?

I developed grit that is not easily shaken. When things are tough I just remember that four years ago someone told me not to open LEAD. Since then, we have served over 450 girls, making a remarkable impact. I always remember those words and I remember tough times don’t last, tough people do.

What keeps you up at night?

The thought that some girl may be awake with me, but for a different reason. She may be hungry, she may be scared after being exposed to violence, she may be up crying after being bullied, as I did many nights when I was a teen victim of bullying. She may be working hard but all the cards are stacked against her because of her family dynamic. I’m up for her at night putting together a strategy to make sure she has a fighting chance.

Natasha Smith

What makes you YOU?

I’m not sure how to answer this in a “human” way. If I were interviewing for a job, I’d probably say it’s my ability to persevere. In reality, I think it’s my stubbornness, which I suppose is the flip side to perseverance. Don’t tell me I can’t do something. Don’t tell me I’m not right for something. I will prove you wrong.

What are you most proud of?

 It’s cliché, but it’s my kid. My son enjoys drinking water — how many 10 year olds do you know who request a glass of cold water with dinner? He’s polite. He’s already interested in making the world a better place — he started organizing for cleaner (i.e., lead-free) water in the 2nd grade (when we were living in Chicago). I suppose that last part he gets honestly — community activism goes back in my family for generations. My grandmother was Dr. Virginia Newell’s campaign manager in her first run for East Ward Alderman, and I just had another win with Mayor Joines’ primary win. I’m proud that I’m helping to continue the Gray/Tanner/Smith legacy of community work in Winston-Salem.

What keeps you going when things are tough?

Taekwondo. When things are rough, I go to class and take it out on the targets (and sometimes fellow students – HA!). I’m incredibly thankful to Tiger Kim’s for giving me a positive outlet for any frustrations that come my way — and working in politics means I have a constant supply of frustrations.

What keeps you up at night?

The fear that all I’m doing won’t make a difference. My son loves to tell people that, “My mommy works all the time. Politics, politics, politics.” Granted, that work gave him the opportunity to meet President Barack Obama, visit the White House, and chat on the phone with Senator Tim Kaine. But what if nothing changes? What if I could have been closing my laptop at 5 pm and having fun with my kid? What if I’m not doing enough?

Celeste Holcomb

What makes you YOU?

I bring big dreams to the table, and I like to inspire and encourage people, so I’m constantly trying to understand how a large vision translates to material action. I struggle to synthesize the desires of my mind and the limitations of the real, but the times when I test these limits is when I feel most authentic.

What are you most proud of?

I think people put a lot of faith in me to be capable and to be the person that can get something done. I feel most proud when it seems like I’m living up to the best of what people believe about me.

What keeps you going when things are tough?

I deal with chronic illness and had a tough childhood, and I often look backwards to confirm that things really are improving. To affirm that I now have agency and resilience because of the life I’ve built within adversity, and that I can continue on this path.

What keeps you up at night?

I think a lot about what I will be leaving when I die. The finality and mystery of it creates a sense of urgency for me to make a positive impact on everything I touch.


Comments