As we draw closer to SWSG Pittsburgh’s 2018 Strong Awards Breakfast, let’s take a look back at our winners from 2017. The four individuals we recognized – Dr. Ria David, Brettney Duck, Aya Shehata, and Jessica Garcia – all exemplify the definition of strong women and left lasting impressions on those around them, qualifying them to be the honorees at last year’s Strong Awards.

2017 Award Winners, from left: Aya Shehata, Jessica Garcia, Brettney Duck, Dr. Ria David.

Our Professional Strong Award winner was Dr. Ria David, the president and Co-Founder of Cybergenetics. Dr. David exemplifies the characteristics of a strong women through her company, which is a biotech company that uses a technology called “TrueAllele” to more accurately and effectively analyze DNA in different crime cases, assisting in identifying perpetrators especially of gender-based violence and sexual assault.
Dr. David put herself through college with a scholarship at Hebrew University in Israel, then earned her doctorate through Carnegie Mellon University in American (Business Culture) History. Cybergenetics integrates a mentoring program through their offer of internships for young women interested in the science field, giving interns individual projects to be completed through their time there.
Dr. David also created a college campaign, “Take Back the Power,” that teaches and educates on how DNA evidence is used and able to more accurately in assist in cases of sexual assault. Dr. David graciously and consistently demonstrates the traits of a “strong woman,” and are proud to have honored her.

Brettney Duck was honored as our Young Professional Strong Award recipient. Brettney exhibits strength and the characteristics of a role model as a Founder and Director of G.O. Girls, a nonprofit group that focuses on the need for assistive services for young women who are transitioning from being in foster care into adulthood.
In addition to her work with G.O. Girls, Brettney served as a housing specialist with Neighborworks of Western Pennsylvania. She has also been a Strong Leader in the Strong Women, Strong Girls program. She served on the Adagio Health’s Young Leadership Council and Neighborhood Allies Grassroots Grantmaking committee.
Brettney has been previously awarded Volunteer of the Year by the Eat n Park Hospitality Group. Ms. Duck had earned a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. At the time of the award, she was pursuing her master’s degree in Human Behavior from Capella University. We are honored to have recognized all that Brettney has accomplished in her lifetime and are proud she continues to be a part of the Strong Women, Strong Girls program.

The College Woman Strong Award winner in 2017 was Aya Shehata, a now-rising senior at the University of Pittsburgh. Aya has been a mentor with the Strong Women Strong Girls program since her freshman year. Along with being a mentor, she also served as a freshman representative, as well as the female social chair for the Muslim Student Association.
Aya is a double major in psychology and sociology, a minor in chemistry, and a certification in Arabic. She also serves as a teaching assistant for Arabic. Aya is the community service chair for Rho Psi Eta, a pre-health sorority, as well as conducts research at Magee Women’s Research Institute involving intimate partner violence of women with children. Aya also started her own student organization at Pitt, the Female Empowerment Movement (FEM). This organization strives to empower collegiate women and prepare them for the life they will lead post-grad. Through Aya’s continued determination and dedication to helping and empowering the women around her, she was a perfect fit for the 2017 College Woman winner at the 2017 Strong Awards.

Finally, our Strong Girl Awards went to Jessica Garcia, a now-rising sixth grade student who was involved in the Strong Women, Strong Girls program at Pittsburgh Arsenal. Her first language is Spanish, which has created roadblocks as she attends school and must learn and speak in English.
Jessica works very hard to complete all of her daily work and is growing significantly, according to her mentors and teachers. She serves as a positive role model for her fellow students, exhibiting a genuine caring and willingness to help others. Jessica dreams of becoming a music teacher; however, she currently enjoys math, reading, and gym class. Jessica works hard to encourage others, demonstrating all the characteristics of a strong girl.

Dr. Ria David, Brettney Duck, Aya Shehata, and Jessica Garcia all exemplified and carried out the characteristics of positive women and role models within their lives and their communities. If you know a woman or girl who does the same, please nominate her for the 2018 Strong Awards! Nominations close June 29.