Panhandle Business and Professional Women Announces 2021 Award and Scholarship Winners

Panhandle Business and Professional Women Announces 2021 Award and Scholarship Winners
Kim Ferguson (left) presents Woman of the Year Award to Betsy Vidlak (right) (Strang/RRN/KNEB)
June 10th, 2021 | Dave Strang

Three local professional women, three local college students, and two local employers were recognized today by Panhandle Business and Professional Women for their extraordinary contributions to the community and their role in supporting a strong female workforce in the valley.

The Scottsbluff-based group, which advocates for the support and advancement of working women, has been recognizing outstanding professional women and local employers over four decades.

“We are thrilled to recognize outstanding women and employers in our community, especially in light of the challenges faced through the past year,” said Bridget Peck, Panhandle Business and Professional Women Awards Committee Chair. “We applaud this year’s winners and thank them for their important contributions to career and
community.”

Mai Lee Olsen – Young Careerist
The Young Careerist award recognizes the accomplishments of young, upcoming leaders and provides them with professional development opportunities. 2021’s Young Careerist Mai Lee Olsen is the CollegeNow! Director at Western Nebraska Community College. Under her leadership, students have been able to earn thousands of college hours before graduating high school. She also has been instrumental in the implementation of career pathways at area schools. Mai Lee’s contributions to students, families, and employers in the Panhandle are exceptional.


Betsy Vidlak – Woman of the Year
The Woman of the Year award recognizes a woman with outstanding career achievement, notable assistance to current and aspiring professional business women, strong advocacy for business and professional women issues and meaningful community service. 2021’s Woman of the Year Betsy Vidlak is the Chief Operations Officer at Community Action Partnership of Western Nebraska (CAPWN). She has overseen many programs at CAPWN during her tenure and was instrumental in the restructuring of the agency to ensure its long-term ability to employ over 140 employees to serve over 7,000 people annually. She has earned certifications and held leadership roles various regional and state level committees and organizations related to addiction counseling, medication administration, family development, crisis prevention, and youth outreach. Betsy’s entire career has been dedicated to serving others in the Panhandle.

Flyover Brewery and Scottsbluff Public Schools – Employers of the Year

Panhandle Business and Professional Women recognizes employers within the community demonstrating exceptional responsiveness to the personal and professional needs of female employees. Selection criteria includes championing advancement and professional development for women and supporting inclusive culture, policies and benefits. The group awarded two employers this year; a small business defined as 30 or fewer employees and a large business defined as more than 30 employees.

Large business employer of the year Scottsbluff Public Schools employs over 400 women, with many in leadership roles. The school district promotes leadership opportunities from within the district, and, given that 72% of its employees are women, this process provides significant advancement opportunity for women. Opportunities
include leading committees or taking on administrative roles, and the employer supports professional development to help its employees achieve those roles.

At small business employer of the year Flyover Brewery, the General Manager is a woman, and several other management and supervisory roles are held by women. This employer schedules shifts to accommodate other priorities in its employees’ lives and has promoted at least one woman in the past year.

Alyssa Dishman, Caitlin Pittman, and Jessica Valles – Scholarship Recipients
Each year, Panhandle BPW holds its Sip & Shop Showcase fundraiser for the specific purpose of awarding scholarships. With our mission of advocating for the support and advancement of working women, we make scholarships available specifically to women over the age of 25 who are attending school in the Panhandle or are residents of the
Panhandle.

We know the difficulty of making a career change, re-entering the workforce, or whatever the particular challenge that has led women to being nontraditional college students. This year, Alyssa Dishman, Caitlin Pittman, and Jessica Valles each will receive a $1,000 scholarship. All three women are students at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing.

Panhandle Business and Professional Women is part of a national foundation advocating for gender equality in the workplace and supporting the development of female business professionals. The Scottsbluff-based chapter is the largest in Nebraska. To learn more about upcoming events, scholarships, professional awards and membership opportunities, visit panhandlebpw.com.

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