Women to Watch Awards Finalists-Rising Star

Meet the 2019 finalists


Kobe Campbell

Licensed Professional Counselor Associate
The Healing Circle LLC

Twenty-six-year-old licensed trauma therapist Kobe Campbell works to change the landscape of mental health by providing education, compassion, and accessibility to communities of color that have been otherwise underserved in Wilmington.

In addition to offering private practice therapy, Campbell provides mental health education and outreach for African American communities.

“Though The Healing Circle provides services to people of all backgrounds, I wanted to provide services that honor the context of people of color and make space for them to be themselves as they heal,” Campbell says.

She integrates her cultural background and theological degree with her trauma training to teach businesses, churches, and organizations about the effects of mental health issues to destigmatize seeking therapy services.

She and her husband founded The Healing Circle Therapy Fund nonprofit to provide financial assistance to racial minorities seeking mental health services and to provide a directory of culturally competent and accessible therapists.


Estefania Gutierrez

David Creech Law Firm PLLC

As the lead paralegal at a prominent immigration law firm, Estefania Gutierrez defends the right to the same American dream her parents were in search of when they came to the States. While managing the office at David Creech Law Firm, Gutierrez works closely with vulnerable immigrant communities, as well as victims of trafficking and other crimes.

“As a daughter of immigrants … I can connect with them,” Gutierrez says, “because I understand firsthand that obtaining legal status means a better quality of life.”

She assists in coordinating psychological evaluations and helping clients develop their arguments of “extreme hardship” as it pertains to their cases.

Gutierrez was also the first person in her family to graduate from college when she completed a bachelor’s degree at UNCW, where she was active in the Centro Hispano group and was a mentor for others.

Although she does not plan to pursue law school, Gutierrez wants to earn a master’s degree in public administration to become a program director.


Lee Rochelle

Guardian ad Litem Program

Lee Rochelle has dedicated the past five years of her life to the most vulnerable children of New Hanover and Pender counties.

As a supervisor with the Guardian ad Litem (GAL) program, she directly oversees more than forty advocates for children, helping ensure that the needs of abused and neglected children are met when they find themselves in the court system.

GAL, Rochelle says, gives children a voice in the system and provides facts and recommendations to the court about what is best for the young people moving forward.

“The advocacy of GALs is so important for the outcome of these children,” she says.

Rochelle, now twenty-seven, grew up in a family that stressed the importance of being actively involved in community and began volunteering with the GAL program when she was only twenty-one before working there full time. She says her job combines both of her passions: children/families and helping others.


Michaela & Annabelle Sanchez

Entangled Dreams

At only eighteen years old, identical twins Michaela and Annabelle Sanchez have already spent more than half their lives creating and sharing music. Their accomplishments are vast in numbers: 150 original songs, live performances at more than 200 shows in seventeen cities and three states, two albums, and two singles, and several music videos.

“(Music) is not only how I express my feelings and my opinions,” Michaela says, “but how I express sympathy and understanding for others. Music is how I can encourage unity and togetherness in general.”

Since graduating from Ashley High School in June, the twins are working full time on their music careers as members of the two-piece alt/rock/pop band Entangled Dreams. Having been homeschooled for the first three years of high school, they were able to launch their music career at an early age.

“When we went into the studio for the first time, we had already been into music for several years – writing and composing, learning instruments, etc.,” Annabelle says. “So, we knew it was just the beginning of a lifelong journey.”

They plan to release their third studio album in early 2020.


Leah Sherrill

Special Pedals

Leah Sherrill is a twenty-five-year-old special education teacher operating a revolutionary 21-foot box truck. In 2015, Sherrill founded Special Pedals, a nonprofit that trains adults with disabilities and then employs them as bike mechanics.

In its founding year, Special Pedals raised enough funds to purchase a box truck, through which Sherrill’s team of mentors and volunteers accept, refurbish, and sell donated bikes, all while operating the job training program.

On most weekends when she’s not teaching at Topsail Elementary School, Sherrill educates participants who wish to become bike mechanics (as well as artists and bike sales representatives) through evidence-based strategies typically used in the special education classroom.

Special Pedals partners with local breweries for Saturday pop-ups, where they sell the refurbished bikes, bringing in enough revenue to serve eight adults. Sherrill hopes to launch a bike shop storefront.

“Another long-term goal,” she says, “is to build a more concrete training program that can be replicated across communities and job options so that we can serve more individuals with intellectual disabilities by creating more creative jobs and opportunities.”

To view the Women to Watch Awards Finalists main page, click here.

To view more of photographer T.J. Drechsel’s work, go to tjdrechselphotography.com.

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Categories: Women to Watch