By Jack Molitor
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON — Sherri Boards never expected recognition for what she does. She simply does what she loves.
But on a night when some of the brightest professional stars in the area were honored, Boards shone the brightest.
In her third year as a finalist, Board was presented the 2013 Madison County Athena Award on Tuesday night at Anderson Country Club.
"They say the third time's a charm," Boards said to a room filled with about 300 people, including the 16 other finalists. "And winners never quit. But we're all winners tonight. I thank you for this award, and I applaud you all for a job well done."
This year's award was the 23rd Athena handed out in Madison County, and the 2013 finalist list featured 16 women and one man. The award is named after the Greek goddess of wisdom, courage and justice, and is awarded typically to women who demonstrate excellence in their profession and actively assist other women in realizing their potential.
"This is truly the A-list of game-changers in Madison County," said Athena award organizer Mary Jamerson, president of Myers Autoworld, before introducing the finalists. "This allows us to publicly acknowledge people who would otherwise fly under the radar."
Boards is the owner of Excel Learning Academy, a Christian child care facility that teaches accelerated learning with Montessori techniques, meant to emphasize independence and nurture a child's natural abilities.
The school serves about 90 students, many of whom come from lower-income families. Boards has said it was her desire to bring a private school education experience to those students. The school employs mostly female teachers.
Boards, the second African-American recipient of the award, is also a member of the Black Expo, the Black Chamber of Commerce, the NAACP and a member of the Born Learning steering committee.
"It's a blessing. It was easy because I do what I love," Boards said. "This is all about empowering women, and that's what we're all trying to do."
Boards has also contributed to Madison County through community service. She is a supporter of Anderson Girl Scouts and the Dove Harbor Shelter for Women.
"I just want to thank the Athena program for this opportunity, and I would encourage other women to apply," Boards said.
The other 16 Athena finalists were each honored with community Shining Star awards.
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2013 honorees The following were selected as Shining Star Award winners and Athena Award finalists: -- Sherrie Boards, Athena Award winner -- Terri Austin -- Angela Cassidy -- Rich DeHaven -- Elizabeth Dolenski -- Deb Dunham -- Jahnae Erpenbach -- Kandi Floyd -- Stephanie Grimes -- Joyce Hudson -- Kellie Kelley -- Marie Morris -- Jane Ruff -- Lynn Staley -- Deb Stapleton -- Maleah Stringer -- Beth Tharp