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Let's Hear It for the Girls!

Celebrating Local Women

These amazing women inspire and serve others, making our world a better place to live. They share their insights and advice for thriving in today’s workplace and beyond. Each of them represent the caring and accomplished women that work and live in our community. We celebrate each and every one of you!

Paula Cornell, For The Troops

Always do the right thing in life and be the bigger person.

“Do something that you are passionate about,” advises Paula Cornell, who leads the charge to send hundreds of “We Care” packages to America’s deployed servicemembers throughout the world. As founder of the all-volunteer run nonprofit For The Troops, Paula points to the power of teamwork to accomplish big things.

“I am very grateful for all of our supporters, volunteers and Sycamore Village for our donated storefront. Every time I walk into our headquarters, I feel very blessed that so many volunteers are committed to supporting our troops. Our volunteers are amazing! We are so blessed!”

Community support is especially important this year, as the nonprofit reels from the current economy.

“Our donations are down 50% from last year,” the first time in its 19 years in business that For The Troops has faced such drastic funding cuts, notes Paula. Despite these obstacles, Paula is determined to keep the care packages flowing to “America’s Finest, our deployed troops.”  

Whenever possible, Paula pursues her other passion—spending time with her family in Florida. Her granddaughters, Valentina Paula (her namesake!) and Natalia Maria hold a very special place in her heart.

Mara Rodriguez, Zoo Development Coordinator at The Teaching Zoo at Moorpark College

“Love people and use things, because the opposite never works.”

“Stand up straight and smile!” says Mara, aka the "real Cat Lady," a wild animal trainer with 27 years of experience raising and training big cats. “Body language is everything and is the reason I have not been eaten by a tiger; not many women can say that, but I CAN!”

Mara began her career at the zoo at age 20, working full time with the animals before serving in her current role focused on fundraising and raising community awareness about the zoo’s conservation efforts.

While she names her mother, “an educator who was graceful and strong and never judged a single soul,” as her strongest mentor, Mara says a mountain lion named Spirit that she raised for 20 years made the biggest impact on her career.

“Having a relationship with a predator is so unique because it teaches you a whole new level of respect for the balance of nature,” says Mara. “Every single human and animal I have crossed paths with has taught me something unique because I am always looking for knowledge.”

Mara is especially proud of being named the California Community College Employee of the Year for the state of California, completing 10 marathons and raising her son, who she says “turned out to be an exceptional young man because I trained him like an animal using positive reinforcement.” 

Devoted to growing the zoo before she retires, Mara enjoys her downtime eating and drinking at Fusion Grill and Five07 Coffee Bar.

Kathryn M. Stiles, Executive Director Philanthropy, Adventist Health Simi Valley

"If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves," —Thomas Edison

Dedicated to helping expand community access to care through philanthropic healthcare development, Kathryn advises women to embrace their strengths.

“As women, we have special instincts and gifts,” she says, “nurture those and apply them; don't suppress them in the business world.”

Also, “Invest in your health, create a balanced and well-rounded life and focus on love. The energy you cultivate will help you give appropriately to your career,” notes Kathryn, who says homeschooling her children was one of her biggest accomplishments.

She says her parents—a healthcare executive and teacher—taught her the “importance of having faith, giving back and service above self,” values she carries into her own career.

“My dream is to establish new services and improve current services in our region. Philanthropic communities such as ours can play a major role in shaping the future of Ventura County and I am so proud to be one small part of this work.”

Kathryn overcomes challenges with focusing on self-improvement.

“Developing wise intuition is something I work on every day to improve my focus on what truly matters—health and well-being for everyone in our community.”

She can often be spotted at JOI Café: “I am a huge fan because the food is plant-based and it's handcrafted, unique and delicious!!”

Shawna Morris, CEO, Casa Pacifica Centers for Children & Families

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor.”  Max DePree

“Always stay curious and open to learning while using the abundance of wisdom, skill, talent and life experiences you already have to lead wherever you are. It is our time to make a positive impact in our business communities,” says Shawna Morris, Casa Pacifica’s second CEO since the agency’s inception in 1993.

Since joining Casa Pacifica in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, Shawna has successfully led the organization through a strategic planning process that focused the agency on meeting the growing needs of the local communities. 

Shawna’s commitment to ensuring access to education, prevention and mental health services is fueled by her life experience of being a child of an addicted parent. Her daily mission is to reduce the pain and suffering of those suffering from mental illness and homelessness.  

Prior to joining Casa Pacifica, she was senior vice president and chief operating officer at the Menninger Clinic for 18 years before taking over as president and CEO of the Phoenix House California and Texas for 4 years.

A native of Kansas who earned her MPA at the University of Kansas, Shawna is a half-marathon and marathon runner and can be found running the hills and streets of Simi Valley in the early morning.

“I have been blessed to have numerous excellent mentors over the years that have challenged me to grow as a leader,” says Shawna, pointing to members of the Casa Pacifica Board of Directors, including Bill Powell and Rob Wynner, along with the Executive Team, who “have welcomed me as the leader and together we have refreshed the agency to serve more youth and families in need of mental health services throughout Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.” 

A “glass half-full leader,” Shawna notes that “my life perspective, grounded in my faith, does not dull or alter reality but rather provides the necessary hope to fuel my optimism.”

  • Paula Cornell
  • Shawna Morris
  • Kathryn Stiles
  • Mara
  • Mara
  • Shawna
  • Paula