SOMERSET, NJ - Several Bridgewater woman are being honored this year as the 2018 Outstanding Women in Somerset County.

The Somerset County Commission on the Status of Women presents the awards during Women’s History Month, as women living in Somerset County are honored in a number of different categories.

“We have many women in Somerset County doing amazing things every day,” said Somerset County Freeholder Patricia Walsh in a release. “It is most appropriate that during Women’s History Month, we take the time to publicly recognize them and say thank you.”

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The women are being honored at an awards dinner March 8 at The Imperia, in Franklin.

The honorees are:

  • Arts: Stephanie Moench, of Bridgewater, taught elementary and middle school art for five years in Bernards Township, and currently chairs the Bridgewater Creative Arts Committee where she has worked to enhance the community through frequent art exhibits at the municipal building. She has begun serving now on the Somerset County Cultural & Heritage Commission, and is active with the Friends of Bridgewater History. This year, she is planning to organize a unique collaboration between artists and the town’s historic building sites. She also runs Stephanie Moench Murals and Create HeART Studio, a take on the paint-and-sip concept. She is cofounder of BridgewaterCare, a non profit that looks to promote community service within the larger Bridgewater area.
  • Education: Michelle Mele, of Somerville, is a teacher at Hillside Intermediate School, in Bridgewater. She has been teaching in New Jersey since she graduated from Montclair State University, and she has certifications in elementary education, secondary social studies and middle school mathematics. Aside from teaching in the classroom, Mele supports curriculum-writing efforts in math and social studies. She has also served as a coach for girls field hockey, basketball, softball and lacrosse, and participates in student extra-curricular activities like student-teacher basketball, volleyball games, Celebrity Chef Challenge and science fair events.
  • Social Service: Fae Cushing, of Bridgewater, works for Alternatives Inc., as a peer and case manager in the transitional housing program, helping people out of homelessness. She completed her associate’s degree in psychiatric rehabilitation at the top of her class in a dual program from Rutgers University and Raritan Valley Community College, and is working toward a bachelor’s degree with a concentration in psychiatric rehabilitation at the Rutgers school of Health Professions. She is president of the Student Government Association at Rutgers SHP for its inaugural year, and takes part in the Rutgers Consumer Advisory Committee on Education and Training. She is also on the governing board of Collaborative Support Programs of New Jersey.
  • Business: Theresa Richards, CPA, PSA, of Green Brook, is a partner at WithumSmith+Brown, PC, and has more than 20 years of accounting and auditing experience. In 2016, she was the first chief talent officer, overseeing the entire life cycle of Withum’s almost 1,000 team members. As of July 1, she will be the director at Withum. She is active in Big Brothers Big Sisters, Somerset United Way, Garden State Go Red for Women Organization, Raritan Valley Community College Foundation Board, Rider University’s Accounting Advisory Council, Somerset County Business Partnership and Agape House. She was a member of the SCBP’s Women in Business Steering Committee, and serves on the Women’s Leadership Development Initiative steering committee. She was recognized by NJBIZ as one of the best 50 women in business, was inducted into the Rider University Accounting Hall of Fame, and received the Raritan Valley Community College Distinguished Alumni Award.
  • Entertainment: Terri Seggio, of Franklin, is a musical director at the Samson G. Smith Middle School, in Franklin Township. She has been teaching and directing children’s theatre productions for 31 years, and was the musical director at Franklin Park School and Conerly Road School, before moving to Samson G. Smith Intermediate School. She has been there for 13 years, and has taught both the gifted and talented literacy program and sixth grade literacy. She also directs the arts portion of the annual district showcase, and the Annual Alumni Cabaret that raises money for the Kevin J. Maskall Memorial Scholarship Fund. For six years, she has directed the teens’ Villagers Summer Musical Theatre Intensive, and partnered with the Franklin Cultural Arts Council to create affordable theatre classes for young artists. She was named Teacher of the Year at SGS in 2012, and received the 2017 Education Excellence Awards in the Arts from the Somerset County Cultural & Heritage Commission.
  • Environmental Initiatives: Kristi MacDonald, Ph.D, of Bernardsville, has a doctorate in ecology and evolution, and is director of science at the conservation non-profit Raritan Headwaters Association. She and her team provide information on the health of the streams and aquifers in the North and South Branch Raritan Rivers, and guide local communities on a conservation and planning practices to sustain clean water. She is also on the Bernardsville Environmental Commission and champions efforts to protect local drinking-water supplies. She has also worked as a conservation scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society as Hudsonia, NY/NJ Baykeeper, and as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer. For several years, she taught biology at Science Park high, in Newark, and is now co-authoring a book about conservation of biodiversity in the New Jersey Meadowlands.
  • Hometown Hero: Rebekah Hayward, of Somerville, is the founder and executive director at Love True, a New Jersey-based not-for-profit organization that works to end domestic sex trafficking through prevention education and restoration. She founded it at age 22, and worked in the anti-trafficking field for about several years. She also sits on the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking Steering Committee, served on the attorney general’s Human Trafficking Task Force Faith Based Sub-Committee and represented Love True while testifying on behalf of the Human Trafficking Prevention, Protection and Provision Act in 2012, which was passed in 2013.
  • Journalism/Media: Brenda A. Nemcek, of Warren, is the owner/publisher and editor of TAPInto Warren and TAPInto North Plainfield/Green Brook/Watchung.  She graduated with a double major in economics and political sciences and had a career on Wall Street and at Foot Locker. After 23 years, she decided to volunteer in the schools and become more involved in the community. She is a founding member and on the executive board of the Warren Township Chamber of Commerce, serves on the Warren Youth Services Commission and the Watchung Hills Parent Communications Advisory Council, has run the Warren Middle School PTO fundraiser for the last five years and is a member of the WHEAT Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit organization with a mission to support the participation of Watchung Hills Regional High School students in programs designed to inspire teenagers to pursue science, technology, engineering and math.
  • Medicine: Tasneem Firdaus Shamim, M.D., is a board-certified ophthalmologist, and has lived and practiced in Franklin Township for 33 years. She uses cutting edge technology for cataract and glaucoma surgeries. She is also a clinical instructor at Robert Wood Johnson and St. Peter’s hospitals. She has won several awards for humanitarian involvement, and is the founder of Muslim Women’s Coalition, which has organized several relief projects for crises like hurricanes and earthquakes. She is a co-leader of the Somerset/Highland Park chapter of the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom.
  • Volunteerism: Nancy LaCorte, of Franklin, is president of the Franklin Township Board of Education, and has been employed by the Franklin Food Bank as a fundraiser and event planner for the past five years. She has worked on political campaigns, township committees, nonprofits and events, and is an AmeriCorp volunteer involved with senior citizens. She has received awards for her work with the troops, including Family Readiness Group Leader of the Year, and the Presidential Gold Award from former President George Bush.