They are teachers, leaders and trailblazers.

Not only do they strive for excellence in their workplaces, they work to better their communities and inspire the next generation.

Five area women and one Craig High School student will be honored April 23 as Women of Distinction at YWCA Rock County’s annual Her Night to Shine Gala at the Pontiac Convention Center.

Here are biographies edited from nomination materials for clarity and length:

Lori Stottler

Since she moved to Rock County in 1998, Beloit Clerk-Treasurer Lori Stottler has worked in the nonprofit or public sectors and has advocated for a healthy Rock County where everyone has a voice.

It wasn’t easy. Stottler first had to overcome a difficult childhood, wrote one of her nominators.

“Lori’s difficult childhood didn’t cause her to believe she couldn’t. Instead, she used her experience as power and has used her healing journey to help all young people she encounters to embrace their dreams and live a future worthy of their dreams,” the nominator wrote.

Stottler became a public face in 2006 when she was elected to the Janesville School Board, where she served until 2012. She was elected Rock County clerk in 2007 and earned statewide respect for her dedication to excellence and accountability and her knowledge of Wisconsin’s elections systems.

She became Beloit city clerk-treasurer in 2015.

Aside from her professional responsibilities, Stottler sits on the board of the Women’s Fund, which serves Rock County women and children. She also is the founding president of CASA of Rock County, an organization for which she helped achieve tax-exempt status, and she has mentored children through Big Brothers/Big Sisters.

Abbey Donahue

In the male-dominated field of nuclear science, Abbey Donahue, engineering manager at SHINE Medical Technologies, stands out as a force of nature, a leader and a mentor for students.

As a child, she loved science and knew she wanted to design new things. She has spent 15 years living her passion and designing nuclear reactor fuel, nuclear storage systems and medical isotopes.

Donahue has a bachelor’s degree in nuclear engineering and a master’s degree in nuclear engineering with a concentration in radiological engineering. As the engineering manager at SHINE Medical Technologies in Janesville, she is helping to build a facility that will make life-saving medical isotopes.

Donahue shares her love of science and engineering with Janesville-area students. Since she moved to Rock County from Washington, D.C., in 2016, she has done several classroom presentations on careers in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

She will be the keynote speaker at a Saturday, March 14, workshop at UW-Whitewater for girls who are considering STEM careers.

On the national level, Donahue served as president of the board for the North American Young Generation in Nuclear. The organization has produced two children’s books, “Marie’s Electric Adventure” and “George’s Electric Adventure,” which aim to inspire kids to study science. She also volunteers at local nonprofits, including the Girl Scouts and Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin.

Marijuana Pepsi Vandyck

It didn’t take long for Marijuana Pepsi Vandyck, inclusive excellence lecturer at UW-Whitewater, to feel the effects of her name while growing up in Beloit. She was teased by classmates, but her family’s support helped her realize that her name gave her strength.

Vandyck went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in education from UW-Whitewater, a master’s degree in higher education administration from Georgia Southern University and a doctorate in higher education leadership from Cardinal Stritch University.

While studying for her doctorate, she wrote a dissertation on uncommon black names in the classroom. “Black Names in White Classrooms: Teacher Behaviors and Student Perceptions” analyzed how black students with distinctive names are treated by educators in mostly white settings and how that treatment affects academic performance.

The effort earned her a doctorate and gained attention from major media outlets such as the Huffington Post, CNN and BBC News.

Vandyck now serves as an inclusive excellence lecturer at UW-Whitewater in a program that aims to increase the numbers of educators of color.

She established the Marijuana Pepsi Scholarship for first-generation African American students at her alma mater.

Evelyn Galindo

As a Spanish teacher at Beloit Memorial High School, Evelyn Galindo uses her personal experiences and expertise to inspire and advocate for her students.

Galindo holds several degrees, including a doctorate in Central American literature, culture and history from UW-Madison. She has earned scholarships and fellowships throughout her education, as well as the Outstanding Woman Student Award from Northern Illinois University in 2010.

After beginning her teaching career at Janesville Craig High School, Galindo went on to teach at Northern Illinois University, Parker High School, UW-Madison and UW-Rock County. She has been teaching grades six through 12 in Beloit since last fall.

During her time in Janesville, Galindo wrote curriculum with the hope of giving students a better learning experience.

In Beloit, she helped develop a syllabus so Advanced Placement Spanish Literature and Cultures could be added to the district’s list of AP courses. By offering the course, Beloit Memorial expands opportunities for students learning Spanish as a second language, as well as for native Spanish-speakers.

Galindo also advises the Latino Club at Beloit Memorial, mentoring students during and after school.

Outside the classroom, she is involved in a Madison-based art collective that works on social justice issues. She writes for an online publication that brings awareness to immigrant experiences, drawing on her family’s own story of fleeing El Salvador in the 1980s.

Mary Fanning-Penny

Mary Fanning-Penny is well-known in Rock County, and not just because she is CEO and president of United Way Blackhawk Region. She has held leadership roles since she graduated from Winona State University with a psychology degree in 2004.

Her first job was as a legal advocate at YWCA Rock County, where she helped women in crisis navigate the legal system.

Since then, Fanning-Penny has worked in corporate communications at Alliant Energy, as executive director at Rotary Botanical Gardens and as head of United Way.

Aside from those jobs, she is a mother to twin girls and believes her most important role is to model kindness, honesty, integrity and the passion to pursue something larger than yourself.

She serves on the boards of Forward Janesville, the Greater Beloit Chamber of Commerce and United Way of Wisconsin. Throughout her career, she has contributed to more than 50 committees, task forces, boards and coalitions. In 2019, she received the Greater Beloit and Stateline Chambers of Commerce Executive Influencer Award.

Fanning-Penny said she believes in the “sisterhood” of women, a bond in which women are present for and support one another. That belief underlies her mentorships with young women and numerous contemporaries who have sought her guidance.

Gabriella Petruzzello

Gabriella “Gabby” Petruzzello, a senior at Craig High School, sees herself as a blend of scholar, athlete, civic-minded community member and school leader.

Petruzello has a 4.0 grade-point average and has earned academic honors for three years. She challenges herself with Advanced Placement and accelerated courses and also serves as the editor and photographer at her school newspaper, The Criterion.

As a cross country runner, she earned second team all-conference, academic all-conference and academic all-state recognition, and she was a team state qualifer. She was named “most dedicated” runner during her freshman year on the track team.

Petruzzello’s leadership qualities shine when she sees needs that aren’t being met.

Seeing a need for affordable senior portraits, she approached Craig Principal Alison Bjoin to offer her talents as a photographer for classmates who couldn’t afford professionally-taken photos. She also has volunteered to share her experience with depression and anxiety as a classroom speaker and workshop presenter.

When she took online courses in speed reading, mindfulness and stress management, she shared what she learned with Bjoin in hopes of passing on that insight to staff and students.

After graduation, she plans to attend Central College in Pella, Iowa.