The Women of Influence Awards honor individual women from the Topeka & Shawnee County community who exhibit excellence in the areas of community service and education, and embody the inspirational roles of distinguished mentor, outstanding entrepreneur, rising star and woman of influence. They serve as a source of inspiration as well as aspiration for all women in the community. Join the Women’s Initiative Committee August 23, at the Capitol Plaza Hotel to recognize the following deeply influential recipients of the Fifth Annual Women of Influence Awards. Click here to register for this event!


Community Service – Susana Ortiz Prochaska  

A woman who has been involved in community service, such as boards, commissions or community groups. She has strong leadership skills and serves as a role model for inspiring others to change their community. She has influenced decision-making on issues and enhanced the quality of life in her community.

Susana was recruited by the Kansas State Department of Education to provide consultation on the Social Emotional Character Development Standards Revision Committee which were recently adopted across the state of Kansas. She currently serves on the working group of the Child Welfare Systems Task Force sponsored by the Kansas Legislative Research Department to improve conditions for youth in foster care. She is a graduate of the Latino Leadership Collaborative of Kansas, continues to support the mission of this program, and frequently returns to provide insight and training for new cohort groups. She has served as a parent sponsor for an after-school chess program for her three active sons and their classmates believing that all children should have access to such opportunities. Susana is an active volunteer and is currently serving on the YWCA – Northeast Kansas Board of Directors.


Education – Sarah Lucero

A woman whose creativity and innovation has impacted education. She has made an impact in training and education for the Shawnee County community. She has strong leadership skills, serves as a role model and inspires others.

Sarah always knew that she wanted to be a teacher, and that goal motivated her to put herself through college by working full-time while taking 20 hours a semester to graduate from Emporia State University before earning a master’s degree from Baker University. After teaching at Whitson Elementary, she became assistant principal at Williams Magnet School. For the last six years, she has been an administrator at Scott Dual Language School. Sarah is known for her innovation and passion for education. During her tenure, she led Scott from one of the lowest-performing schools in the state to becoming the first bilingual magnet school in Topeka as well as the only school in Kansas recognized by the Embassy of Spain as an International Spanish Academy and a School of Excellence. By increasing academic scores, parental involvement, and decreasing student discipline, Scott was also recognized nationally as a Spotlight School of Improvement, by KSDE as a Success Showcase School, and given the Pauline J. Barker School Award. Through her work, Sarah has received honors in Topeka’s Top “20 under 40”, Women of Excellence in Education by the YWCA, Living the Dream, Inc. Robert & Hazel Gomez Alma Award and Mana de Topeka Latina Award. She’s also been named Elementary Administrator of the Year and Distinguished Staff by her TPS colleagues.  


Distinguished Mentor – Jennifer Kirmse

A woman who advises other women in order to help them advance and develop their own path to academic and professional success. She generously shares her time to be accessible to the mentees. Imparts guidance and expertise in encouraging and critiquing the mentee’s leadership, training and other scholarly works. Encourages mentees in networking activities with other professionals. Promotes and makes others aware of the contributions and value of their mentees.

Jennifer has been in the financial services industry for over 19 years and is currently vice president of Business Development at Azura Credit Union. She currently volunteers for the following organizations: Topeka Independent Business Association (TIBA) Chair and Chair of Membership Committee, Topeka Chamber of Commerce Small Business Council and Membership Chair, USD 501 Business Advisory Board, Washburn Leadership Institute Board, Topeka Community Foundation – Grant Committee, and TARC Winter Wonderland. Jennifer has received the following awards: Outstanding Community Leadership and Commitment to the Students of the Leadership Institute 2015, JAC 20 Under 40 and Leadership Greater Topeka class of 2012 and a member of 2017 Latino Leadership Collaborative of Kansas.


Outstanding Entrepreneur – Debra Clayton

A female entrepreneur who contributes to the success of other women and entrepreneurs. She has experienced business growth and promotes sound business practices, a commitment to excellence, and is a contributor to her community.

Debra Clayton is co-founder and president of Clayton Wealth Partners, the first and only fee-only financial planning and investment management firm in Topeka where she serves on the management team. Debra earned her CFP designation in 1995 and is a member of the Financial Planning Association. In 2017, Debra was named to the Topeka Business Hall of Fame by Junior Achievement of Kansas. In 2016, Clayton Wealth Partners (then known as Clayton Financial Services, Inc.) was named Capital City Business of Distinction by GO Topeka as part of the annual Small Business Awards. In 2013, Debra received the Community Volunteer Award from Junior League of Topeka. 


Rising Star – Sarah Morse

An up and coming female executive or business owner with less than five years at a company or in business. She has strong leadership skills and her actions have and continue to make an impact on the community. She is an innovator and inspires others.

After graduating from Washburn Rural High School, Sarah attended Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, and graduated with highest honors with a degree in American History and Literature. Sarah played varsity softball at Emory and was named to the ESPN The Magazine First Team Academic All-American; National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-American Scholar Athlete and named to Emory’s All-Time Softball Team. Sarah then obtained her law degree from the Emory University School of Law. Following a fellowship at the Turner Environmental Law Clinic, Sarah returned to Topeka to practice law. While in private practice, Sarah’s practice focused on employment law, administrative law, medical malpractice and general civil defense. Sarah now serves as corporate counsel to the Federal Home Loan Bank of Topeka.


Woman of Influence – Dr. Tiffany Anderson

A woman who is influential within her company or industry. She displays strong leadership experience and inspires other women. A visionary with a track record of accomplishments.

On July 1, 2016, Dr. Anderson became the first African-American female superintendent of Topeka Public Schools, in Topeka, Kansas where the landmark Brown vs. Board case ended legal segregation. Dr. Anderson’s recent publications include her book, Transforming Schools for Excellence along with several articles on high performing school cultures published in local and national magazines and newspapers. Dr. Anderson earned her undergraduate degree, and later her doctorate, from Saint Louis University in 2001 where she met her husband, Dr. Stanley Anderson who was an accomplished OBGYN and robotic surgeon. Dr. Anderson received her second doctorate, the Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Eden Theological Seminary for her service to the community and society. Dr. Anderson is also adjunct faculty for multiple universities and for ASCD (Association for Schools and Curriculum Development) and she serves on their nine-member national poverty cadre which trains districts across the nation. Some of Dr. Anderson’s awards include in 2017, Dr. Anderson participated in a recognition at the Oscars for being named a 2016 top 100 creative business leader by FAST magazine. In 2016 and in 2017, documentaries were created about Dr. Anderson’s work, addressing poverty and transforming communities. In 2014, Dr. Anderson earned the national recognition from Education Week as one of the national 16 Leaders to Learn From. Dr. Anderson has also been awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from President Obama for volunteerism. She received the Salute to Excellence for Women award by the Urban League, the Stellar Performance award by the St. Louis American and the St. Louis Business Journal’s award for Diversity in Business as some of her recognitions.