BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Founder and President
As the founder and visionary for STEPS, I always wondered whether STEPS' mission would be supported and adolescent girls' lives changed. Now in our 10th year, I continue to realize the significance of our program. Professional women devote many hours to teaching adolescent girls life skills to enhance their wellness and the girls leave us with quotes such as "It is because of STEPS that I am still here." This is what keeps me committed to STEPS and the adolescent girls in our community.
Founding Member and Board Chair
Vivian Harrison is currently the Chairperson of the Board of Directors for S.T.E.P.S., Inc. responsible for facilitating monthly meetings. She has held different positions with S.T.E.P.S. since 2008 including president, secretary and fundraising coordinator. Vivian helps to interview key candidates to assist facilitating the girls' programs as well as acts as a stand-in assistant facilitator for some of the program sessions. She retired from Pfizer Inc. in 2015 after 33 years of service ending her career in the Business Technology Department as an Administrative Lead in Solutions Delivery. Vivian is the full time day care provider for her granddaughter, Jayla. She enjoys spending time with her family as well as travelling and bowling.
Deborah Evans, M.B.A., C.P.A.
Debbie Evans had a 32-year career in which she was a leader, change agent and mentor at Pfizer Inc. She spent the last 22 years of her career in Groton and New London, Connecticut, where she managed teams of up to a dozen colleagues and was in charge of the $6B-$7B global clinical trials budget, including financial approval and management. Over her career, she led many initiatives that improved Pfizer’s financial and operational processes and systems which made her Finance team and Pfizer much stronger organizations. In 2016, Debbie retired and became a S.T.E.P.S., Inc. Board Member (Treasurer). She brought with her a strong background in financial skills and energy to achieve the goals and mission of S.T.E.P.S., Inc. Debbie has always found the time to give back to her community. Apart from the many local charities she supports, Debbie has opened her home to many area underprivileged youth to give them a chance at living in a more stable and supportive environment. It is this combination of professional excellence and commitment to help the community that distinguishes Debbie as a leader.
Laura Quashnie, M.A. Education
Laura Quashnie has been the S.T.E.P.S.’ liaison for West Side Middle School since 2008. She currently serves as the Secretary of S.T.E.P.S. She has a Masters in Language and Literature for Secondary Education from the University of Saint Joseph in East Hartford, Connecticut. Laura is passionate about the work that S.T.E.P.S. is doing and strives to help the organization to improve as a member of the Board of Directors to help ensure the non-profit’s success in the community.
She is a member of the Board of Directors for the Groton Education Foundation, a non-profit organization which provides grant funds to local institutions who support innovative educational programming to children in Groton. She serves as chair of the Grant Committee. Laura was awarded the 40 under 40 Award through the Chamber of Commerce in 2016.
Jessica Bessette, B.A. Elementary Education
Jessica Bessette has been a member of S.T.E.P.S., Inc. since its inception in 2008. Starting as a Board Member, she soon moved into facilitating the afterschool program for the high schoolers. In 2013, Jessica took on the role of Lead Facilitator, overseeing all of the programs for middle and high school girls in the S.T.E.P.S. repertoire. In 2016, she stepped down from that position, however, she continued her work with the S.T.E.P.S. Board. She is currently in charge of the volunteer base of S.T.E.P.S. and oversees volunteers and tasks during community events. Jessica is a third grade teacher in the New London Public School District at C.B. Jennings Elementary School and resides in nearby Niantic, Connecticut. She was recently voted third place in the Best Teacher category for The Day's "Best of" contest this year.
Gay Clarkson, B.A. Art History, M.S. Art Education
Gay Clarkson has happily served as a Board Member of S.T.E.P.S. since 2018, and she chairs the Fundraising Committee. S.T.E.P.S.’ first annual Fashion Show with fashions by Macy’s in 2019 was a huge success, with the hope that more events like the fashion show will follow. She finds working with the S.T.E.P.S. girls gratifying. Gay is passionate about fundraising and helping people. She has been fundraising and volunteering since she was 8 years old. She is currently serving as President of the local branch of American Association of Women and President of the Friends of the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra. In 2018, she was elected Volunteer of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut.
Kathleen Flynn is a partner of the law firm of Messier, Massad, Burdick & Flynn, LLC in New London where she practices civil litigation. She believes in helping the community by investing time and guidance to our youth. Kathleen is passionate about the mission of S.T.E.P.S. of providing young women with guidance and tools to help them build successful and empowering lives and futures. She has been a board member since October 2019.
Leslie Hawley, Ph.D., M.B.A
Dr. Leslie Hawley is currently an Executive Director in Worldwide Research, Development and Medicine at Pfizer, Inc where she has been employed for the last 26 years. She earned her Ph.D. in Chemistry from UCLA and her MBA from the University of Rhode Island. Leslie has been involved in STEM outreach programs her entire career specifically advocating for equal access to STEM education, tools and opportunities for all students. She joined the STEPS Board of Directors in October of 2019 and is also a key member of the STEPS Public Relations Committee. Leslie believes “it takes a village” to be successful and as a member of the STEPS Board of Directors, she looks forward to helping ensure young women involved in STEPS learn the skills and tools to have empowered and rewarding futures.
Originally from Jamaica, Ornet migrated to the United States in 2002. She attended Johnson and Wales
University in Rhode Island where she obtained an Associate and BS in Hospitality Mgt.
She later transferred to the banking industry where she started out as a Personal Banker. Fast forward
to her 15 years in the industry, she is currently Asst Vice President, Branch Manager II at Liberty Bank in
Norwich, CT. During her time working, she has obtained a Master’s in Business Administration and is a
graduate of the Connecticut School of Finance and Management.
In 2019 she was named New Leader in banking by the Connecticut Bankers Association.
Ornet is an active member in her community. She enjoys giving back and plays her part in improving the
quality of life within our region. She donates her time to helping different organizations.