2013 State Young Mothers of the Year

ALASKA  Ann Keffalos was raised by her parents to experience life to the full and to serve others. In 1994 the adventures began by moving to Anchorage, Alaska. She received her Elementary Education Bachelor degree with a Music minor from the University of Anchorage, Alaska in 1997. She and her husband Chris have four amazing children who are fun and energetic. Ann began teaching piano lessons in 1996 before her children were born to be able to be a stay-at-home mother. She is now the chairperson for the National Piano Guild in Anchorage, Alaska. Ann also participates in school PTA’s, the church worship teams, mentoring young marrieds and young mothers, pre-marriage counseling, volunteering for the wrestling and downhill ski clubs, volunteering in the school classrooms, and touring the United States with her children each summer on road trips. She looks forward to the adventures as her parenting continues.

ARIZONA   Tamara Passey has always had a strong love of family growing up as the youngest of seven children. Writing is her favorite hobby and family members are usually a source of inspiration. She studied English at Brigham Young University and has won awards for her poetry including an article and poem accepted for publication in an international magazine. Tamara has been married to Steven Passey for 20 years and they have three children. Their first child received a liver transplant as an infant and they feel blessed that he enjoys good health today. Tamara loves volunteering at the schools her children attend, serving in her church and community as a teacher and mentor for young women. She is an advocate for organ donation and is a contributor of marriage and parenting articles for FamilyShare.com. She loves story time, family hugs and seeing her children smile.

CALIFORNIA  Stephanie McKnight is a young mother of three children (ages 9, 7, and 1) with one on the way.  She resides in Ramona, California where she is a stay at home mom.  She attended California State University, San Bernardino where she received a Bachelor’s of Arts in Liberal Studies, an Education Specialist Clear Credential, and a Master’s of Education in Moderate to Severe Special Education.  She has had the opportunity to teach children in many different capacities including at risk youth, students with special needs, independent study, and even home school her own children.  She has had volunteer positions within her church that have enabled her to work closely with children.  Stephanie is a volunteer member of the Nominating Committee for the local PTSA board.  She enjoys being outdoors with her family and doing activities such as playing soccer, running, fishing, hiking, playing at the park, or just spending the day at the beach.

COLORADO  Sheyna Marshall joined the USAF Security Police for four years after high school. She graduated the American Military University with a degree in Criminal Justice. Sheyna was a stay-at-home mom for 11 years, and while her husband was stationed in Washington DC, her family was hit by a teenage driver who was street racing. Sheyna's oldest son Christian was killed instantly, her younger son Justin was critically injured and so was her two year old daughter. Sheyna became a court appointed special advocate (CASA) for children. After her husband’s transfer to Colorado, she applied to the Fountain Colorado Police Department and became a Police Woman and she is now with the DUI Task Force. Sheyna began working with Drive Smart Colorado and the PD to bring information to teen drivers about the dangers of street racing, in memory of Christian. She travels to area high schools with a program on driving safe. She has also started “Christian’s Challenge” with the hope that the teens will accept the challenge and keep themselves safe.

DC METRO  Married for 15 years, Krista L. Ritacco lives in our Nation’s Capital and is now a stay-at-home mother to their two young boys. Krista attended the University of Colorado at Boulder, majoring in American History, then moved to Washington, DC upon graduation in order to pursue her passion for politics. After working on Capitol Hill, in the West Wing of the White House, and at the U.S. Department of Education, Krista is now enjoying her most satisfying job of all, being a “Mom.” Over the years, Krista has volunteered with the Gamma Phi Beta International Sorority, the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, her local MOMS Club, the Lombardi Cancer Center at Georgetown University, the Danish School and Club of Washington, DC, the University of Colorado Alumni Association, and the Chautauqua Women’s Club, though her favorite activity is seeing the magic of life through the eyes of her children.

DELAWARE  Kim Hoey Stevenson is a freelance writer who has written for Reuters, Gannett, the Associated Press and publications such as the News Journal, PARADE Magazine and Delaware Beach Life. She has traveled extensively, both personally and professionally. Most notably, she was in Somalia during Operation Restore Hope to cover the change over from US to United Nations forces and what Delawareans were doing as part of those efforts. A graduate of Wake Forest University, Kim used her degree in psychology to help co-author Overcoming Misfortune: Children Who Beat the Odds, a book that explores the positive side of psychology. Kim volunteers with her church and several child based non-profits. She lives in Milford with her husband, David, and their smart and beautiful 8-year-old daughter, Lydia. Kim enjoys writing, cooking, knitting, painting and reading when she gets a chance.

FLORIDA  Born and raised in San Marino, California, Rachel Crane is the fourth of nine children.  While earning her bachelor’s degree in political science, she spent a year in Brazil as a Portuguese-speaking missionary.  Her experiences inspired compassion and her desire to bless others. Rachel and her husband Nathan have been happily married for 16 years. They enjoy canoeing, laughing, and working together with their three daughters and two sons in Tampa, Florida.  By making their home in five states over the years, they have learned to be flexible, run a lean operation, and strengthen one another. Rachel teaches children music, Sunday school, and volunteers in her children’s schools.  Ongoing health challenges provide her with opportunities to encourage others.  In her renewing moments, she enjoys fitness, following political news, and brushing up on Portuguese. Rachel’s parenting philosophy focuses on encouragement, mutual respect, family prayer, and perseverance.

GEORGIA  Tara Trobaugh has had a heart for teaching her whole life. She and her husband Kevin are blessed with three adorable children. Before motherhood Tara received degrees from Jacksonville State University, and the University of Georgia. She worked as a public school music teacher for 10 years, where she received the Teacher of the Year award. She is now a stay at home mom but remains very active. She has volunteered her time to Read Aloud Chattanooga, Choral Arts of Chattanooga, Community Theater, The Chattanooga/Lafayette Emmaus Community and her church choir. She currently teaches music at a local child-care part time and is the preschool worship director at her church. Being at home with her children has been a life long dream

HAWAII  Penny Toilolo lives in Laie, O’ahu and devotes her life to serving her family, her community, and her Heavenly Father. Married to the man of her dreams for 13 years, Viliamu and Penny have six beautiful children ages 11 to 18 months. Earning her Bachelor’s in Business Management she is currently working on her MBA from American Public University, Penny enjoys sharing her talents with anyone and everyone. As a stay-at-home mom, Penny volunteers at the local elementary and high schools as PTCO President, a Cultural Specialist, a Zumba Instructor, and a Spirit Leader. After 15 years of performing at the Polynesian Cultural Center, she now teaches children, ages 3+, in her dance group, TeHamata. She is currently co-piloting a non-profit organization that promotes positive programs for the youth and families of her communities. Penny believes that to build a better world, we must build better communities, and families, one person at a time.

MARYLAND  Teisha Pope is a 28 year old stay-at-home mother of two energetic boys, ages 3 and 6. She and her husband, who met in high school, have been married for almost eight years. As a military spouse, she has worked tirelessly to provide her family with a warm, loving and stable environment. With 5 moves, 3 deployments and 2 children in the past 6 years, she is well equipped to handle anything life can throw at her. After receiving her Bachelor’s degree in just three years, she elected to stay home and raise her children in order to provide them with the stability they needed. Unsatisfied with the local school system, Teisha homeschooled her children for over a year. She has volunteered with several organizations in the military community and received the Commander’s Award for Public Service. Her passion for social, economic and environmental justice led her to complete an M.B.A. in Sustainable Business in 2012.

MISSOURI  When her second child was born with a rare and severe birth defect, the life that Becky Ortyl had imagined came to a screeching halt. Becky, a second child of five and oldest daughter learned the roll of caregiver early on. Becky’s abundant creativity drives her approach to life and academically led her to a degree in Furniture Design. Motherhood had already transformed her into a keen multi-tasker, chef, nurse and household engineer but caring for a child with a Congenital Heart Defect has given Becky the opportunity to re-define her life goals. In 2011, as their son awaited a lifesaving surgery, Becky and her husband Greg established the Mighty Oakes Heart Foundation in order to support families in need and fund research in this area. As her life continues its transformation, she focuses her life on being an advocate, an advisor, a writer and a champion for mothers.

NORTH DAKOTA  A former Arizonan who has become a North Dakota transplant, Kendi Chase, can best be described in one word:  determined.    She has faced several difficult challenges during her lifetime; but due to her good upbringing and strong faith, Kendi has overcome each obstacle.  She is married to her best friend Chris, and together they are raising their five children.  Her greatest sense of accomplishment comes from the work she does in her home.  Blessed with a tender, caring heart, Kendi can often be found seeking out those in need of special care; she has used this gift in blessing her family, members of her church and people in her community.  For two years Kendi taught a daily, early-morning class for high school aged youth from her church. She is a strong believer in the adage, “little things matter.”  Kendi is goal-oriented and recently completed a life goal of running a marathon.

NEBRASKA  Elizabeth Shotkoski was born and raised in Lincoln, Nebraska and still resides in Lincoln.  Born to Jane & Alfred Delano, she has 2 sisters and 2 brothers.  Elizabeth attended the University of Nebraska in Lincoln and was the first of her family to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree.  Her degree is in Communication Studies. Shortly after graduating from the University, she started working for Gallup as a Recruiter, became a mentor in the Big Brothers Big Sisters Program, helped to form Lincoln’s Young Professional group, has served on many Boards, and recognized for her efforts in the community for improvement and economic development. She is currently the President of the Junior League of Lincoln.  Elizabeth is married to Damian Shotkoski who is a Certified Public Accountant.  They have 4 children, Amelia (9), Brooklyn (7), Charlotte (4), & Dalton (2). They are all very involved in the community and various activities

NEVADA  Of Mexican-Catalan-American heritage, Montserrat Wadsworth was born in Salt Lake City to Isamare and Peter Ventura. Her parents taught their children how to work hard and continually serve others. At 15 Montserrat attended Ricks College where she graduated with an Associates Degree in Crop and Soil Science. In 1994 she married her husband, Joseph. They currently live on an alfalfa hay farm in northern Nevada with their nine children. Montserrat thinks spending time with her family is truly heaven on earth, which is probably why she is crazy enough to homeschool all those kids! An active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she has served in many capacities teaching children and youth. Currently she teaches an early morning seminary class every weekday. She maintains a blog and writes for other homeschooling websites. Montserrat enjoys photography, gourmet chocolate, reading biographies, and sloppy goodnight kisses from her children.

OKLAHOMA  Born and raised in rural Oklahoma, Sherry Sage leads a simple yet richly blessed life.  Growing up with two younger brothers, her parents were farmers and public school teachers in Covington, Oklahoma.  She graduated from high school with 17 in her class, and then moved on to experience “big city” life in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  A Psychology major, she graduated with that degree and then went on to complete an M.S. degree in Community Counseling.  She received licensure as a Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of Oklahoma.  Sherry began her career in Oklahoma City, where she met her husband Brandon. They began their family a few years later, starting with identical twins, and now have a beautiful flock of five!  Stella and Harper (age 7), Atticus (age 5), Nash (age 3) and Crosby (age 1). Sherry hopes that her life reflects her desire to glorify God and serve others.

OREGON  A native of Moline, IL, Elizabeth Caswell began studying piano at the age of 7. She earned the Bachelor of Music degree summa cum laude from Augustana College, and the Master of Arts and Master of Fine Arts degrees in piano from the University of Iowa. She made her professional debut in a concert for Queen Silvia of Sweden at the age of 19. She was a member of the piano faculty at New York University, and made her debut at Carnegie Hall in 1996, and has performed at Lincoln Center and throughout Europe and the United States. Elizabeth has also been a church organist and choir director for 20 years. She now works part-time outside the home as a concert pianist, and as an Adjudicator for Oregon Music Teachers’ Association. She and her husband of 20 years, Dr. Paul Schipper, live in Portland, OR with their two children.

PUERTO RICO  Born on April 18, 1976 in the city of Mayaguez, Camille was the oldest of two children. Her parents agreed that since her youth she demonstrated an independence and interest in working for community service. Camille’s primary and secondary studies were completed in Mayaguez where she participated in sports and had a great passion for reading and writing. She completed her undergraduate degree in English Literature with a minor in Education and continued her studies by pursuing a graduate degree in teaching English as a second language. During this time, Camille became the parent of a child diagnosed with Autism which led her to her true calling, serving the population of children with special needs. Camille’s love of children and her passion to make their lives better has helped her achieve success. Today, she provides support for parents who have children recently diagnosed with Autism.

UTAH  Focused on academics, Michelle Lehnardt never considered motherhood while growing up in Salt Lake City, UT. But a strong spiritual prompting as a teenager led her to focus her goals and skills toward building a future family. In her senior year at BYU she met and married, Erik Lehnardt, and bore her first son nine months after graduating as valedictorian. Aware of her own inexperience, Michelle searched for role models among her neighbors and church acquaintances. She watched other mothers, asked endless questions and gleaned tidbits of wisdom from strangers at the zoo or in the grocery store. More than any other source of advice, Michelle turns to prayer for guidance on raising her five sons and little daughter.  As a writer, photographer and videographer, Michelle relies on her children for editing help and puts a camera in their hands at every shoot. Beauty lies everywhere, but her children are her masterpiece.