Seen here at the Women of Distinction Award Ceremony held at Cuesta College on March 23 are recipients (left to right)  Mila Vujovich-La Barre (Susan Dressler Educational Leadership Award), Roxanne Carr (Grace N. Mitchell Lifetime Achievement Award), Nancy Walker (Community and Shelly Higginbotham (Public Service Award, Professional), and Community). Not pictured is Janna Nichols, Progress for Women Award recipient.

In case you missed the ceremony, you can view it in full below.




Original post re: Women of Distinction recipients below (posted February 27, 2017):

Cuesta College and the Community Foundation San Luis Obispo County’s Women’s Legacy Fund are excited to announce the recipients of the 40th Women of Distinction awards. This year, the awards honor five Central Coast women for their professional and civic contributions. The honorees were nominated by their peers and chosen by a selection committee. The ceremony and awards celebrate Women’s History Month (March) and recognize the contribution that women have made in the areas of volunteering in the community, their profession and in philanthropy.

The award ceremony will be held on Thursday, March 23, 2017, from 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. on Cuesta College’s San Luis Obispo Campus in Building 5400, Room 5401. Tickets to the event cost $25 and can be purchased by visiting or by calling the Community Foundation at (805) 543-2323. Parking is free for attendants in lot 2. The ceremony will include appetizers, dessert, wine and other beverages.


Community and Public Service Award, Volunteer: Shelly Higginbotham

“Shelly is a true citizens’ advocate,” said her nominator LeeAnne Fisher. “She is thoughtful and compassionate when addressing the concerns and needs of those she serves. She continually expresses and demonstrates outstanding resourcefulness and leadership.” Pismo Beach resident and former mayor Shelly Higginbotham has spent her life serving the community. Upon moving to San Luis Obispo County in 1979, Higginbotham worked as a behavioral specialist contracted by Tri-Counties Regional Center. In the years following, the Cal Poly graduate has served in many public leadership roles, including as past-president of the Cal Poly Child Development Center, the 5 Cities Homeless Coalition, the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments, the Regional Transit Authority, and on the Pismo Beach City Council.  In 2012, Higginbotham was selected as Co-Citizen of the Year by the Pismo Beach Chamber of Commerce.


Community and Public Service Award, Professional: Nancy Walker

Nancy Walker, founder and executive director of The Wellness Kitchen and Resource Center located in Templeton, provides nutritious food, education and emotional support to those faced with cancer, disease, and serious illnesses. A trained Therapeutic Chef, the Templeton resident also created the Pay it Forward Healing Foods Program, providing free food to those in critical need. She conducts monthly English and Spanish-speaking educational outreach classes at the Wellness Kitchen, as well as after school and summer cooking courses for children. According to her nominator Millie Drum, “Nancy is unique in the nonprofit community not only because of her training as a Therapeutic Chef, she uses those skills and her engaging personality to mentor others to pursue a career in the healing culinary arts.”


Progress for Women Award: Janna Nichols

Since 2012, Janna Nichols has served as the executive director for the 5 Cities Homeless Coalition (5CHC), helping the organization to become a community leader in addressing the challenges of homelessness. As executive director, the Grover Beach resident has received numerous grants that have allowed the organization to expand its services to the local homeless population. “She has been successful because she understands that no one agency can do it all,” said her nominator Laurie Morgan. “Janna has created strong partnerships with many organizations and is seen as a leader and mentor in this field.” In addition, Nichols has served on the SLO Human Relations Commission, the SLO County Housing Trust Fund, the Action for Healthy Communities Collaborative, and more. Nichols has also been involved in global humanitarian efforts. In 2015, she traveled to Peru with Eye Care International to provide eyeglasses and optometrist services.


Susan Dressler Educational Leadership: Mila Vujovich-La Barre

As a Spanish teacher for the San Luis Coastal Unified School District for 33 years, Mila Vujovich-La Barre has devoted herself to serving local youth. “Mila is a visionary community service leader who has taken on leadership roles to combat drug use, provide positive alternatives for teens, promote volunteerism, and advocate for smart growth and quality of life on the Central Coast,” said her nominator Allan Cooper. In 1983, the San Luis Obispo resident founded the SLO Chapter of Students Against Drunk Driving and has worked with County Drug and Alcohol Services and the SLO County Board of Supervisors to launch Friday Night Live. She initiated the San Luis Obispo High School 24-Hour Relay Challenge which raises approximately $44,000 each year to benefit drug prevention programs at the school. The Cal Poly graduate is also a bilingual entrepreneur and published author of The Spanish Grammar Notebook.


Grace N. Mitchell Lifetime Achievement Award: Roxanne Carr

Shell Beach resident Roxanne Carr has been a fixture in San Luis Obispo County for more than 35 years and spent more than 44 years as a mortgage banking professional. She currently serves as the senior vice president and division president of The Mortgage House, Inc., which she cofounded in 1995. Previously, Carr served as the West Coast Regional vice president for ARCS Mortgage, Inc. Carr currently serves on the Cuesta College Foundation Board of Directors and as the chairperson of the Friends of the Cultural and Performing Arts Center at Cuesta College. She has served on the boards of the United Way and SLO Chamber of Commerce. According to her nominators Cheryl Willey and Mary Trudeau, Carr helped establish an endowment program for the Prado Day Homeless Shelter in 2015 through The Mortgage House with a $20,000 donation. Today, the fund helps in areas of need like workforce housing, green building, youth and social services, disabled housing, and scholarships in the finance and building fields. Carr also devotes time to the Alzheimer’s Association in memory of her late husband.


For more information on the Women of Distinction Awards event or the Community Foundation, please visit or call (805) 543-2323.