Jowanda Cockrum Thomas
Founder of Awakening

Survivor Jowanda Cockrum Thomas was born in Brooklyn, New York and was raised between New York and South Carolina.  She has both a northern and a southern flare about her. She is very family oriented which stems from her family heritage rooted with a foundation in Jesus Christ. God’s Word is what she longs and thirsts for as in Psalm 63:1

Jowanda is an honors graduate of Virginia State University and The Ohio State University graduating with Bachelor & Masters degrees in Social Work.  While attending both colleges Jowanda was active within her field of study, but also her love for gospel music. Jowanda also pledged Delta Sigma Theta sorority her sophomore year while at Virginia State University.

Jowanda has worked as a licensed professional Social Worker for 25.

On January 21, 2018, Jowanda experienced her final emotional and physical abuse from her husband of twenty eight years who she also served in ministry with for seventeen years as First Lady Thomas. Together they parented three amazing children Joshua, Kristin and Jonathan. Jowanda's most recent life change has birthed Awakening Outreach that focus on victims of domestic violence and breast cancer survivors.

November 2004 Jowanda was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer, FIVE MONTHS after a NORMAL mammogram. Jowanda detected the lump through her monthly self breast exam. With prayer, faith, family and friend support, Jowanda made it through. Since these life changing experiences, for thirteen years she headed the breast cancer  called Purple & Pink Purple & Pink has been featured in several newspaper and magazine articles, Trinity Broadcasting Network, local radio and commercials, collaborated with all three major hospitals for outreaches and was  honored with a Making a Difference Community Award in 2011 by Tried Baptist Church.

In April of 2012, Jowanda has become a published author of Laughing Through the Pain (Conquering Cancer with Laughter) forwarded by Dr. William Hicks. All proceeds of this book helps  newly diagnosed breast cancer survivors and their families. Jowanda's currently working on her second book which is a self help guide for domestic violence survivors.

In January of 2016-2017 Jowanda hosted her own radio show entitled Living on Purpose which aired every Wednesday from 12 noon-3:00 pm on AM 1580 WVKO The Praise. She's now living on purpose standing on the promises of God and believing Romans 8:28 For God causes all things to work together for the good of those called according to his purpose.

Maria Durant
Program M.C. 
News Reporter for ABC 6 & Fox 28 News

Maria Durant is a four time Emmy Award Winning Reporter for ABC 6 andFOX 28 News. She has also received numerous Associated Press Awards and has been honored with several awards from the Society of Professional Journalists.


She says she’s always wanted to be a reporter. When she was a little girl she used to go around the neighborhood interviewing her neighbors. Then she’d send the tape to her grandparents so they could see where they lived. As the daughter of a Military Naval Officer the family moved often... so there were plenty of tapes mailed out.


Maria says she feels very privileged to be able to tell stories and to keep viewers informed about what is happening in their community. A graduate of The Ohio State University with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and Political Science, little did Maria know she would someday become a news story herself.


In October of 2006 Maria was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. But instead of hiding her diagnosis, Maria decided to share her story in hopes of helping others. Maria is involved with several cancer organizations, and as a Filipino she especially wants young Asian American Women to know that it can happen to them but that early detection is the key. Maria is also involved with many other community organizations such as the Asian Festival, The Columbus International Program and The National Kidney Foundation. Maria came to ABC6 & FOX28 after working in Huntington/Charleston West Virginia.

Kimberly Cocroft
2019 Community of Excellence Award Recipient

Kimberly Cocroft was appointed Judge for the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas on February 24, 2009 by Governor Ted Strickland.  Prior to her appointment as Judge, she served as Deputy Legal Counsel for Governor Strickland and was responsible for coordinating litigation matters with the Chief Legal Counsels at Ohio’s 26 executive agencies, drafting Executive Orders and Directives, and managing legal representation on behalf of Governor Strickland.

Judge Cocroft also served as a Law Clerk for Justice Alice Robie Resnick at the Supreme Court of Ohio, where she was responsible for drafting opinions that interpret Ohio law.  After completing her service with Justice Resnick at the Ohio Supreme Court, she spent several years in private law practice, specializing in business and employment litigation.

During the November 2010 and November 2016 election cycles, Judge Cocroft was elected to six-year terms as a Common Pleas Court Judge by the voters of Franklin County.

Judge Cocroft is a lifelong member of Triedstone Missionary Baptist Church where she has served on its Trustee Board and Education Ministry, and as a member of several of Triedstone’s choirs.  She is also an active member of her community through her service with the Alvis House Board of Trustees (2010), The Harmony Project Choir and Board of Trustees, The Augusta Foundation, The Franklin County Justice and Planning Board; and as a former board member of the Commission on Continuing Legal Education for the Supreme Court of Ohio, the Committee on Professionalism for the Supreme Court of Ohio FIRSTLINK, and the Gloria S. Friend Christian Academy. In 2017, Judge Cocroft was appointed to a one-year term as Chair of the Judicial Administration and Legal Reform Committee for the Ohio State Bar Association. Judge Cocroft is a frequent guest speaker for elementary, middle and high schools as well as colleges and universities in Franklin County and, in 2016, partnered with Columbus City Schools to develop programming focusing on the consequences of negative choices and the power of positive choices.

Judge Cocroft is the recipient of several awards, including the Award of Excellence from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (2011), the Justice Award from the Central Ohio Youth and Adult Program (2015), The Urban Initiative Award from The Word Church of God in Christ (2015), The Community Service Award from Greater Columbus Community Helping Hands (2017) and the Champions Award from Central Ohio Young Black Democrats (2017). Judge Cocroft was also a featured panelist for a live town hall discussion titled, ‘Stopping Youth Violence in Our Community” sponsored by WCMH 4 News.

Judge Cocroft is a 1995 and 1997 graduate of The Ohio State University, with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Master of Arts in Sports Management, respectively.  She is also a 2000 graduate of the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University.

Israeljah Mendenhall
2019 Deniece Pittman Scholarship Recipient

Israeljah Mendenhall has attended Columbus Academy since Kindergarten. She has spent a lot of her life at the school. Whether she was helping out with the Lower School CASE program, brainstorming ways to make the CA community a better place while in Student Council, or rehearsing for a play or a musical, or even working as a counselor in the Summer Experience program for eight weeks out of her summer break, Israeljah has incorporated her school in her everyday life. She is very grateful and excited to be graduating from CA. She is thankful towards her BOS family and Mosaic family for supporting her dreams and talents. Israeljah will be pursuing a career in Musical Theatre in hopes of being on Broadway.  

The University is going to match what we are giving her!

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