Category: Momentum News

Any news related to Momentum alumnae, events, accomplishments, etc!

Birmingham Southern and Momentum Host Women’s Success Event

Post contributed by Mindy Santo, Momentum Mentoring Coordinator

Recently Birmingham Southern College (BSC) reached out to Momentum Leaders to participate in their Women’s Success Event. The BSC Director of Internships, Katy Smith, joined forces with the Panhellenic the largest Momentum/BSC event to date. Momentum has a history of collaborating with the college to provide mentors for panel discussions, conversations with students, and class presentations.

Members of our Upward Alumnae Council (UAC) mentoring committee, and Momentum Mentoring Program mentees shared their expertise with students speaking about the following topics: The Value of Mentoring, How to Navigate Imposter Syndrome, and best practices for Intentional Networking. The students even got an opportunity to apply the networking skills learned during the intentional networking session!

The Women’s Success Event was completely student-led, planned, and organized down to the signage that was shared throughout the campus and online. The event reached over 150 students, many of whom had great feedback about their experience. In fact, as we were wrapping up the event, all students and Momentum volunteers participated in a Mentimeter exercise to allow students to engage and ask questions anonymously. They even shared well-deserved accolades to several of our mentors! Momentum will certainly partner with BSC again to reach more women as they prepare to enter the workforce.


“It’s so comforting to know I’m not alone”

“Definitely offer this at other schools”

“It was fun and should be an annual event”

“I think this went well, especially for the first time!”

Based on what the students shared, we think the Q&A would be beneficial to our diverse audience of professionals, business owners, students. We’ll post some of that dialog on our social media throughout the month of February 2023.

The event was a perfect opportunity for Momentum to create a framework that we can apply to more university partners in our network. We’re excited about what’s next with our college partnerships!

Darla Morrison, Momentum Program & Event Manager, Maya Madden, former Momentum Intern and current BSC student, and Mindy Santo, Momentum’s Mentoring Coordinator helped to organize the event.














Announcing Upward Alumnae Council

Momentum is pleased to announce the formation of our inaugural Upward Alumnae Council. The Upward Alumnae Council is the managing body of the Upward Alumnae program and was created to further support the Momentum mission by engaging its membership in three main areas:

  1. Community service
  2. Mentoring
  3. Professional and leadership development

Council members will work together in building the Upward alumnae network, providing educational opportunities for members, and hosting community service and impact initiatives.

Yolanda Johnson, UAC Chair

Meetings for the Council will be held bi-monthly during its inaugural year and is chaired by Yolanda Johnson, Upward Class 1 Alumna and National Director, HR Strategy and Org Development for Encompass Health.  In her role as chair, Yolanda will be an ex-officio member of the Momentum Leaders board of directors. Yolanda says she is “excited to serve her Upward Alumnae peers in this capacity and looks forward to opportunities to continue to strengthen women leadership within Birmingham.”

Other Upward Alumnae Council members, serving a two year term, include:

  • Sam Knight
  • Lauren Leach
  • Jamie Lewis
  • Melissa Mann
  • Kate McCombs
  • Denise McFadden
  • Carson Phillips
  • Alaina Ploski
  • Amelia Ricks
  • Mo Shorts
  • Lee Thrash O’Neil
  • Nan Wagner

Welcome, Katie Hannah!

Momentum is thrilled to welcome Katie Hannah as our New Director of Development. Katie Hannah brings years of diverse and innovative nonprofit marketing and fundraising experience to Momentum. She is responsible for cultivating financial support of our programs and ongoing statewide expansion. She will work diligently alongside our individual donors and corporate sponsors to advance our mission and impact the women in our state.

In her previous roles with Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama, Katie created and expanded giving programs, executed record-breaking fundraising events, and strategically led donor communications. Most recently as Director of Marketing and Fund Development at Alabama Goodwill, she led communications, public relations, and development efforts in a 38-county territory. Simultaneously, she also planned and executed the in-store marketing and openings of six new locations across the state.

Katie has experienced Momentum’s impact firsthand as a member of Upward Class 4. She is a Cum Laude graduate of the University of Alabama with a B.A. in Communication and Information Sciences and is also a member of AFP Alabama.

She is a native of Birmingham, and lives with her husband Tyler, their two-legged children – JT and Drew, and their four-legged children – Mulli and Arnie. She is a podcast aficionado and enjoys golf and travel.

FUN FACT: Katie was first runner-up to Miss Alabama in 2014.

ENNEAGRAM NUMBER:  8 (loves a challenge and strong advocate for others!)

THOUGHTS ON UPWARD: “Upward has been a true gift! The experience has provided me with tangible tools and knowledge to become a better leader – both personally and professionally. I have connected with a diverse group of women who have already become lifelong friends who are supportive, motivating, and inspiring to be around.”

OPPORTUNITY AT MOMENTUM: “I know that the sky is the limit here at Momentum, especially being surrounded by such smart, compassionate, and accomplished women! I am honored to have this opportunity and look forward to the growth I’ll experience through getting to work alongside our team, supporters, and classes.

I am excited to roll up my sleeves and connect our supporters and sponsors with the incredible impact they’re making. It cannot be overstated just how important our programs are in shaping the lives of women, and in re-shaping societal norms. I look forward to providing new philanthropic opportunities for everyone to become engaged in the Momentum movement!”


The Future of Work

This article appears in This is Alabama, March 1, 2022


April Benetollo, CEO of Momentum

Everyone wants to know what the “new normal” will look like for offices and workplaces. Part of that will be responding to issues exposed by the pandemic. Many of the inequities that have held women back from positions of leadership, such as the burdening costs of childcare and “invisible work” were highlighted as the line between family and work was blurred during the pandemic. Despite these challenges, women in Alabama, from business leaders to early career risers, have the chance to change the workplace for generations to come.

Momentum Leaders, a premier organization for working women, has been actively working to change the landscape of possibilities for professional women since 2002. Momentum is structured to help women develop leadership skills, increase the number of women in leadership in the state and grow their visibility through skills-based training and mentoring. In turn, these women shape policy in their organizations and communities, impacting hundreds of women in their workplace and local networks.

Read the full article here

Meet Sharon Lovoy!

Sharon LovoySharon Lovoy will be leading a session at our 2022 Momentum Conference called “The Swiss Army Knife of Conflict Resolution– The Skills To Make A Difference.” The session will provide attendees with tools to problem-solve and to dissolve conflict within the workplace in healthy ways. Read below to find out some more behind-the-scenes information about Sharon!

How did you get started in your profession?

“I was head of Human Resources for two different organizations and then I was laid off on 12.2.1991 along with 49 other people. It was devastating! The bank that laid me off was ordered by the government to cut positions immediately. My former leader and mentor, Jack Phillips, encouraged me to start my consulting business so I could come back legally and work for them. Together we created my organization’s name—Lovoy’s Team Works, Inc. Luckily, I had done free workshops for other companies for 15 years before I lost my job. Those free workshops gave me a ready set of clients which now number 350! I’m so thankful for the opportunities to work with Mercedes, UAB, Shipt, and many small companies as well. I actually wrote about all of this in a book entitled “Building a Successful Consulting Practice” by Jack and Patti Phillips. I contributed a chapter “You are Known by the Company You Keep,” where I detailed the many mistakes I made starting my company and how my failures led to success.”

What’s your connection to Momentum?

“I have several!! April Benetollo, the CEO, was formerly at Daxko, a client of mine. The added bonus is that we go to Zumba together. We have been friends for years. Additionally, I’ve been a longtime fangirl of Andrea McCaskey. I spoke at an earlier Momentum conference and later became an Executive Coach for Class 18 and Class 19. I also did a session on Crucial Conversations for the Emerge class and I did a book club on the same topic (I’m a Master Trainer in Crucial Conversations). I intentionally connect to every woman I meet through Momentum because that is where you find the amazing women!”

Who should come to your breakout session?

“Anyone who is experiencing conflict at work and/or at home! That pretty much means everyone! It’s hard to remember a time when we had peace and joy.”

What will people gain from coming to your session?

“I will give participants an easy-to-remember tool to help resolve conflict (AKA: The Swiss Army Knife of Conflict Resolution)!”

How did you have to adapt in your work because of the pandemic?

“When the pandemic first hit, I literally thought my life as a coach and facilitator was over. I then took stock of what I could do virtually, sent myself to a high-level class on virtual facilitation, and quickly started adapting all of my presentations to the new format. Additionally, I took this opportunity to attend many classes online. I’ve been a Master Type professional for many years, but found more training in that area. I also sent myself to Breakthrough Coaching classes where I got my Advanced Practitioner Certification. My coaching business has literally exploded! I’m also looking forward to in-person. It has turned out to be a rich and rewarding time.”

Are there any resources (books, podcasts, etc.) people can start checking out to prepare for your session?

“I’m submitting my book, Cure Your Staff Infection: The Leader’s Guide to Dealing with Work Place Drama, Contagious Bad Behavior and Knots in the Pit of Your Stomach to a publisher. It is has been a labor of love. Joseph Grenny, author of Crucial Conversations, wrote the foreward.”

What’s Birmingham’s best kept secret?

“I think the best kept secret are the beautiful Rails to Trails in Birmingham and the surrounding area. Bike riding became my salvation and feeling of freedom during the throes of the pandemic. I’m waiting for better weather to get back on my bike.  I also got pickleball paddles for Christmas. Stay tuned as I start lessons soon!”

Any other fun facts about yourself or your career?

“My most exciting project happened during the pandemic. Retired General Wesley Clark, Retired Supreme Commander of NATO, asked me to be his lead facilitator for a new project bringing together Democrats, Republicans and Independents. His Executive Director, Mary-Lee Smith, Patti Phillips, and I developed the Civility Leadership Institute. We took written applications and ultimately selected 28 diverse individuals to be a part of the inaugural class. They joined in training to learn about each other’s Personality Types, to gain Crucial Conversations skills, and to engage in Roundtables with national figures who are the opposite sides of issues.

The ultimate goal is to design playbooks to repeat this process to increase mutual respect, courage and integrity all over the country. Our first cohort started in July 2021 and is still meeting. Cohort 2 applications will be taken in March 2022. I would encourage anyone interested in being a part of helping our country to reach civility, apply for this process. My cell is 205.913.2982 and I’m willing to talk with anyone who wants to apply.”

Our upcoming 2022 Momentum Conference will highlight Sharon Lovoy, as well as other breakout session speakers who focus on leadership and empowerment. Registration ends on March 1st!

Co-mentoring Through the Decades

Each Executive and Upward class is split into co-mentoring groups, which consist of a diverse selection of women leaders in Birmingham. If you are interested in finding a mentor, Momentum has a free matching program.

Some of our groups have been connected for over a decade.  Tricia Kirk, Katherine Bland, Connie Pruett, Rusha Smith, all from class 6, and Katherine’s wife Peggy Vandergrift. According to Katherine, “We are family. We celebrate life’s blessings and we lift each other up through difficult times. My Momentum family has supported me and inspired me, especially when I was diagnosed with Ovarian cancer.”

Alumnae with similar profiles will not be put together. For example, there will never be a group with 5 lawyers or accountants. What’s surprising about the group?

“You would never put this group together. We come from different walks of life, career paths, rural and urban upbringing, ideologies, and so much more. But, we respect and embrace our differences,” Katherine Bland.

Others are newer but just as engaged. Mo Shorts, Alaina Ploski, Carly Miller, Danielle Hines, Efstathia Andrikopoulou, and Felicia Pike are in a group from the Upward class. Their advice?

“Be intentional. It is worth it.”

“All members need to be equally invested for this to work.”

“These women are unbiased third parties and they can give you great perspective on the challenges you face. Even if you are nervous, you will feel better putting it out there for consideration.”

Both of these groups remained consistent throughout the pandemic. How was this possible? The Upward group stayed connected through a daily group text. They also had virtual meet ups until it was safe to meet in person. One participant shared, “I am geographically far from my family and friends, so having this group has been a true gift – knowing I have friends close by and people to reach out to if I need. Simply by existing, the women who make up my group have supported me through what has been a very strange time.”

Having a strong group of supportive women means you can call someone up for a drink or a walk at any time. “What seemed so big, with them, is now so small. They have a way of putting things in perspective.” Momentum’s mentoring program pairs mentees and mentors who share a specific goal or skill they want to work on together. Although you are only required to have a six month relationship, many pairs stayed connected beyond that time period.

The Executive group had even more ideas for connecting through COVID. “We continued our gatherings through Zoom. We even bought the same appetizer tray from the grocery store so we were still ‘sharing’ our appetizers. When it was safe, we had a gathering outdoors and recently moved to outdoor dining in restaurants,” Katherine Bland.

Despite a bizarre year, we are thrilled to hear of moments of support and encouragement. Women need true connection now more than ever. Reach out to Mindy Santo, Mentor Coordinator, for more information. Here’s to a better 2021!

Looking Back on 2020

They say hindsight is 2020. I don’t know about you, but looking back on this past year, things are kind of blurry.

What I do know with great clarity is that the COVID-19 pandemic has tested us, pushed us, made us pivot, and strangely brought us closer together even as we must stay physically distant. What a strange time. While the pandemic is not over, 2020 will be over very soon. There are days I want to forget it, but most days I feel deep gratitude for what I have learned and what we have been able to accomplish together. It is in that spirit of gratitude that I offer a retrospective Momentum 2020.

Q1 2020 – Your Vision, Your Future

Q1 was all about preparing for Momentum’s most expansive conference ever. It’s hard to believe that as we were loading into the BJCC, we were fielding calls about whether or not the conference would happen, getting updates on speakers, learning to wipe down everything we touched, insist on elbow bumps, and more. Still, we had 1,200 attendees, hosted nearly all of the scheduled breakouts, introduced three amazing keynote speakers, and had 100% participation by our EXPO hall partners. Since the conference, I’ve had many women tell me how fondly they remember the experience, and how grateful  they were to be able to attend. In case you missed the conference, or just want to relive those two special days, watch the conference recap below.

You can also watch “encore performances” of many of our session speakers on our new YouTube channel.

Q2 – Validating Virtual

Like many organizations, Momentum made the pivot to virtual practically overnight. The whole team really rallied to implement the tools and processes we needed to continue to deliver classes and content that would do online what we normally do in person: educate, inspire, and strengthen support networks for women to advance in leadership. We are so grateful to all of our session speakers who volunteered their time to offer their content online during our Intentional Tuesday and Wellness Wednesday series. We hosted a total of 20 online events in Q2, with anywhere between 25 and 200 participants. We could have never accomplished the online programming, YouTube channel, online resources, COVID-19 service projects, and expand our mentor matching program without the addition of our Mentor Coordinator, Mindy Santo, and four fabulous interns:  Audrey Smith and Loren Leach from Samford, and Allie Hayes and Nikita Udayakumar, from UAB.

In July we hosted a drive-by graduation for Class 17  so they could pick up their diplomas, enjoy a toast, and say good-bye (masks on!)

We were so happy to see the group together once more, and they were grateful for the experience.

Media partners Social U and Bham Now did a great job keeping Momentum visible through the summer. If you haven’t already, please follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. In case you missed the articles in Bham Now, you can find them here.

In Board of Director news, we thanked Cheri Canon for her service as Board President, welcomed Nancy Kane as our new Board President, and announced Michele Elrod as our new President-Elect. Additionally, we welcomed four new talented board members: Natalia Calvo-Senovilla, Tiffany DeGruy, Tere’ Edwards, and Karla Wiles. We feel very fortunate to have such an engaged and supportive Board of Directors who give their time and talent to Momentum.

Q3 – Momentum Matters

Q3 was a testament to Momentum’s relevance in so many ways. Data was just starting to emerge on the number of women downsizing their careers or leaving the workforce all together due to COVID-19, as highlighted by McKenzie in their Women in the Workplace study. At Momentum, we decided to add another tool to our virtual programming toolbox: the Momentum Matters podcast! ‘

The podcast allows us to remove geographic barriers and reach listeners everywhere to inspire, educate, and raise awareness for the challenges working women face on their path to leadership. Getting set up for the podcasts, which we also video for our YouTube channel, was more complicated than we thought. After the first interview, we knew it was well worth it to be able to share the stories of the inspiring women leaders who are part of the Momentum network.

Q4 – Onward and Upward

We’ve had no shortage of amazing women leaders to interview for Momentum Matters! Our fall focused on race and equity, with intriguing conversations with Elizabeth Huntley, Bobbie Knight, and Myla Calhoun. January will highlight health, both physical and psychological.

Upward 2020 “Drive Through” Graduation

In October we celebrated the graduation of our second Upward class with a drive-through graduation. This group of 60 dynamic emerging leaders did not miss a beat when their Momentum classes went virtual and have remained engaged by joining the Momentum Alumnae Program.

“Thank you for making the Upward program so valuable. I admit, I had my doubts as the pandemic raged and the class went virtual. Happily, I was proven wrong! The experience showed me that where I had seen fear, I can now see opportunity and excitement instead. I also realized that intrinsically, I am not missing anything. All of us experience self-doubt and have work to do.”

Chelsea Brewton, Upward Class of 2020

We have seen a steady stream of membership renewals and Honor Roll gifts since our November mailing went out. To those who have already taken this step, we truly appreciate your support. You keep Momentum going!

If you have not yet renewed your MAP membership or would consider a year-end gift, please take a moment do so. Memberships and Honor Roll gifts are an important part of Momentum’s ability to serve a growing number of women leaders statewide.

What we make of 2021 is up to us. As leaders, our community, our teams and our families look to us to be the example, charter the course, and set the pace. May we all reflect on the lessons learned in 2020 and lean hard into our resilience for a prosperous and meaningful 2021.




April Benetollo

Momentum Fundraiser with Holland and Birch

The holiday season is a time for giving and spreading cheer, however, with that comes the stress of finding the perfect gift for your loved ones.  Are you having trouble finding a gift for a special woman in your life? Momentum has you covered! We are thrilled to announce our fundraiser with local jewelry company, Holland and Birch.

Holland and Birch’s special Momentum pieces include a bracelet, brass cuff, and charm necklace, or the option to purchase just extra charms to add to your own jewelry collection. The best part is, each piece can be stamped with your choice of Momentum phrases like Momentum, Upward, Breathe, or even your Class Number to name a few options. They are simple enough for everyday wear but are a thoughtful statement to celebrate the women in your life and in our community.

Momentum is dedicated to advancing not only professional but personal development of women leaders across Alabama. We strive to create an empowering and uplifting community for women to use as a resource so they are equipped to make an impact in their own communities wherever they go. All proceeds from the sales of the Holland and Birch Momentum collection will go towards providing scholarships for women participating in Momentum’s programs. Without the community’s support, we would not be able to continue building upon the powerful network we have created across the state of Alabama.


Giving Tuesday

The much anticipated holiday season is finally upon us! Going into Thanksgiving this week, we move into a time of reflection and giving thanks despite the unexpected year 2020 has brought us. While many people look forward to the spread of food on the table on Thursday, and the chaotic shopping Black Friday and Cyber Monday bring, here at Momentum we look forward to Giving Tuesday. If you aren’t familiar with Giving Tuesday, it’s a global generosity movement and a day of giving to the organizations that work towards transforming their communities.

One way you can support Momentum Leaders this #GivingTuesday is to make a contribution to support women in leadership. Momentum relies on community support in order to continue our premier leadership programs and offer events within the community. Without this support, we would not be able to operate as a resource for women in leadership in the Birmingham area.

Another way you can support Momentum is to volunteer. Momentum is always looking for volunteers to help with our various events and programs. If you are interested in serving the Birmingham community by partnering with Momentum, be sure to check out our volunteer interest page on our website for more information.

Please consider supporting Momentum during Giving Tuesday 2020. Your gift will help us to continue to advance women in leadership as they continue to make an impact in their own communities.

Birmingham’s Moving Upward

It can be difficult to stay motivated as we push on toward a world without COVID. We may be biased, but we’re pretty proud of how our leaders are making a difference in our city. Our Upward program was created specifically for women in the beginning of their career to develop the next generation of talented leadership. Here’s just a few of our Upward alumnae who work diligently to create dynamic change.

  • Lauren Leach, Associate Vice President of Planning & Population Health, UAB Medicine
    • Leach has been working to coordinate unique solutions for working parents during the pandemic. After recognizing the need for childcare assistance for over 1,000 UAB employees, she helped strategize short-term relief.
  • Lee Thrash, Donor Relations Manager, United Ability
    • When United Ability closed due to COVID, she had to adapt quickly to continue promoting their cause. “…everyone had to change the way they operated. It really showed us all how amazing the participants in United Ability’s programs, the staff, and families really are – how much we all care for each other.”
  • Monica Aswani, Assistant Professor, School of Heath Professions, UAB
    • Dr. Aswani joined COVID taskforce UAB United on the Incident Command Committee to help flatten the curve of COVID cases.
  • Brenessa Lindeman, Associate Designated Institutional Official for the Clinical Learning Environment, UAB
    • Medical care is a valuable resource during the pandemic, and efficiency is of the utmost importance. Lindeman worked to introduce new technology at UAB that adds apps to patients’ electronic records so clinicians can provide improved patient care.
  • Britney Summerville, Vice President of Community Engagement, Shipt
    • Summerville founded Birmingham Bound, a program aimed at growing Birmingham’s tech community. “The organization is also ‘spreading the word across the nation that Birmingham is a tech ecosystem that should be on their radar,'” according to Summerville.