Education, Human Resources, and Nonprofits

Chamber honors ATHENA winners

September 25, 2017
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Shannon Cohen
Shannon Cohen.

The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce has announced the winner of its ATHENA Young Professional Award and the recipients of five scholarships.

At a luncheon last week at the JW Marriott Grand Rapids attended by more than 600 people, the chamber selected Shannon Cohen as the recipient of its ATHENA Young Professional Award.

Cohen is founder, CEO and principal of strategy and innovation firm Shannon Cohen Inc.

“You think coming to an awards space like this that it would be competitive, but this is a space of sisterhood, and I’m very thankful for that intentionality,” Cohen said after receiving the award. “(When I heard about) all the women who are finalists, I said, ‘Gosh, this is hard. They all slay!’”

As creator of Tough Skin, Soft Heart, a leadership wellness movement designed to support the emotional health of difference-makers, Cohen teaches others the value of self-care. She also is co-founder of Sisters Who Lead, an affinity group for women of color in West Michigan.

The award

The ATHENA Young Professional Award recognizes an emerging leader for her contributions to the community, professional excellence and serving as a personal and professional role model to young women.

ATHENA Leadership Award

The chamber previously announced that President and CEO of Priority Health Joan Budden was selected to receive the ATHENA Leadership Award, which honors a woman who has demonstrated leadership in her professional field, mentored and opened doors of opportunities for women, and contributed time and talent to the community.


In addition, five $1,000 ATHENA scholarship recipients were awarded from the stage. The ATHENA scholarship goes to women age 30 or older working to complete a degree program at an accredited college or university.

The chamber has distributed ATHENA scholarships for the past 17 years. The funds can be used for tuition, books, childcare, transportation or any other needs to help them achieve their degree.

ATHENA Scholarship winners

Aleka Thrash, Cornerstone University

Danielle Derusha, Kendall College of Art and Design

Susan Long, Grand Valley State University

TeAira Reed, Grand Valley State University

Jamie Platt, Grand Valley State University

The chamber

The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce has more than 2,500 member businesses, 80 percent of which are small businesses with fewer than 50 employees.

The chamber works to expand the information, influence and access required to spur entrepreneurial growth and community leadership.

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