Date: October 23, 2007

Contact: Kitty Armstrong, KentuckianaWorks, (502) 574-3136,

KentuckianaWorks Announces 

Winners of Workforce Awards 

Outstanding achievers in the field of workforce development from across the entire Louisville region were recognized at a gala dinner at the Kentucky Derby Museum on October 23. This year’s theme was the Winner’s Circle, encouraging attendees to think of the ways they could help raise the level of education in the Louisville area and recognizing those who have excelled in elevating the community.

The KEWA (KentuckianaWorks Excellence in Workforce Achievement) Awards, which were the sixth annual awards event for KentuckianaWorks, recognize innovation and achievement in workforce development and honor outstanding contributions by businesses, partnerships, organizations and individuals. Among the awards handed out at the event were the chairman’s award, which was given by Kimberly Maffet, the chair of the board of directors of KentuckianaWorks. Louisville Metro Mayor Jerry Abramson was this year’s recipient. He was recognized for his strong commitment to KentuckianaWorks. “He is constantly pushing for higher levels of educational attainment in our community,” Maffet told the audience at the event. “He is someone who is truly looking out for the best interests of everyone in the Louisville area. There is no one who has been a stronger champion for Louisville’s workforce than Mayor Abramson. Without his support, Kentuckiana Works could never accomplish the things that we have. We want to give the Mayor this special award to show him how very much we appreciate his support, and how much we value his leadership.”

This year, KentuckianaWorks received a record number of nominations for the KEWA awards, more than twice what it received last year. This shows how much the community values workforce development, says Michael Gritton, executive director of KentuckianaWorks.

“Obviously, we can tell by the number of nominations, and their rich variety and high quality, that the public also cares about workforce development, very much,” said Michael Gritton, Executive Director of KentuckianaWorks. “People are beginning to understand the link between an education and moving upwards in their careers and income, and employers are increasingly helping employees reach their potential. There are so many fantastic organizations and individuals in our region that are creatively trying to raise the educational attainment rates of our citizens and ultimately give employers a more highly skilled workforce.”

Sponsors this year include:  Beam Global Spirits and Wines Inc., Norton Healthcare, Humana, Maker’s Mark, Business First, Muhammad Ali Center, National College, Greater Louisville Inc., the Greater Louisville Building and Construction Trades Council, Sullivan University, and Jefferson County Public Schools.

Awards given out this year include:  Innovative Program/Partnership, Outstanding Employer, Outstanding Individual (Adult and Youth awards), and Outstanding Education/Workforce Development Leader.

Winners of this year’s awards are:

Outstanding Individual (Youth):  Ronnieka Jenise Shackles. Shackles is 17, and a senior at Shawnee High School. She is also working a co-op at UPS. One of her teachers, Dara Cook, says that Ronnieka stands out among her peers through her enthusiasm and great ideas. “Ronnieka treasures people,” Ms. Cook says. “I have rarely seen her when she is not smiling and encouraging others. She is a wonderful student who works diligently in the classroom. She juggles a full schedule with a great deal of enthusiasm.”

Outstanding Individuals (Adult, two winners):  Gail Marie Townsend. Gail is a shining example of how much people can change and prosper with the right support and encouragement. She is a recovering substance abuser, domestic violence survivor and felony offender. She’s been substance-free for eight years now. She decided to change the path of her life by attending college. She recently graduated magna cum laude from Spalding University with a bachelor of science in social work. While attending Spalding, she received an award as the outstanding BSSW student, and was on the national dean’s list. During her education, she was the president of the Social Work association. She plans to earn an advanced degree and wants to open her own therapy practice. Gail received assistance from KCAC.

Tamicky Johnson. Tamicky is a hard-working single mom of four children who worked full-time and raised her family while pursuing her bachelor’s degree. Despite what it’s like to raise children alone, she went through with her bachelor’s degree and is now working for Kindred Healthcare as a registered nurse. Tamicky received help with pursuing her education through the One-Stop Career Center. Her nomination says, “It was her faith and her continual persistence and a strong support system through her family and student and faculty support that helped her to achieve her goals. Once Tamicky walked across the stage to receive her BSN she also walked into achieving the greatest goal and obstacle ever set before her.”

Innovative Program/Partnership:  Project Women’s Louisville Scholar House. The Scholar House provides 56 low-income apartments for single parents pursuing post-secondary education. But the unique aspect of it is that there is an on-site child development center to provide early learning activities and child care for their children so that they can continue to pursue their education. Project Women’s partner in this initiative is the University of Louisville, with support that includes a very low-cost land lease, shared technology, proposals from all areas of the university for student workers and cooperative programs, as well as fundraising support for the Early Childhood Model School. Cathe Dykstra of Project Women will now come forward and accept the award.

Outstanding Education/Workforce Development Leader:  Deborah Carter, chief financial officer of Truck America Training & American Heavy Equipment in Shepherdsville. Truck America Training offers vocational training for those who want to obtain a commercial drivers license.  American Heavy Equipment Training turns individuals into entry level equipment operators for the construction industry.  The schools have worked extensively with the Workforce Investment Act Program in Louisville to provide the quality training need for drivers and operators in our area. Rhonda Marcum of the WIA program says that Truck America accepted less than full pay from its WIA program participants so that they would not have to pay any additional fees above the WIA funding for their training. Truck America also added new types of training at WIA’s request so that those who wanted to learn would have a place to do so. Deborah Carter has been key to ensuring that these requests have been met. Her nomination says, “In my opinion, Deborah Carter deserves this award for going far above and beyond in her actions to make sure that the students are and will receive the best training opportunities possible.”

Outstanding Employer:  Norton Healthcare. Norton Healthcare is one of the largest healthcare organizations in Kentucky. With almost 10,000 employees, this is an organization that’s dedicated to advancing the training and development employees at every level, in addition to being a regional and national leader in developing initiatives that aggressively address workforce challenges in our community. For example, Norton developed Norton University, which allows employees to take classes in a variety of healthcare and general education courses. Its Spirit of CareGiving program is a two-day, interactive program in which employees see their individual potential and rekindle and revitalize their enthusiasm for what they do at work and at home through a process called circular learning. And, the Norton Healthcare Scholars Program, the region’s first scholarship program for health care careers and part of the Norton Healthcare Workforce Development Office, currently has 500 students in school on full-time scholarship and has graduated more than 1,500 students. Since Norton’s Workforce Development Office was created in 2000, more than 3,500 people have benefited from its programs. 

KentuckianaWorks is the workforce investment board for the seven county region surrounding Louisville.  The board is composed of leaders from business, education, government and labor who work together with staff to provide strategic leadership for workforce development efforts in our area.