Penguin Women on the Move 2021

March represents Women’s History Month and the Department of Women and Gender Studies and the Office of Alumni Engagement at Youngstown State University are recognizing some of our fabulous female graduates. The theme for Women’s History Month 2021 is We Won’t Be Silenced! YSU is celebrating the accomplishments of four alumnae who were selected to be featured in our fifth annual display entitled, Penguin Women on the Move. As the narratives will show, these women have gone above and beyond with their personal, professional, academic and/or philanthropic endeavors. We are pleased to highlight these alumnae for truly being “Y and Proud.”

Aliyah Sabree

Aliyah Sabree is a judge at the 36th District Court in Detroit, MI and presides over the twelve-member traffic/criminal division.  In addition to her daily duties on the bench, she is an executive team member and highly involved in the day to day operations of the court. 

Prior to her current position, Aliyah served fours years at the City of Detroit as Associate General Counsel for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, the Mayor’s Liaison to the City Council, and the Attorney Advisor to the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners. 

Judge Sabree began her career with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office as an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney in the Special Operations Division where she spent close to four years prosecuting violent habitual offenders. While there, she tried over thirty jury trials and conducted educational trainings in schools across Wayne County on a variety of topics, including the criminal justice system, sexting, cyber-bullying, and truancy.

In 2010, Sabree earned her Juris Doctorate from Michigan State University College of Law with a concentration in Alternative Dispute Resolution. She was an Executive Board Member for the Black Law Students Association and a member of the Diversity Consortium. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Biology from Youngstown State University while on a full athletic scholarship for basketball. 

Judge Sabree is an active member of the Association of Black Judges, the Wolverine Bar Association, and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. In her spare time, she offers assistance at expungement fairs, mentors young women, and volunteers with local Detroit organizations to help improve the quality of life for Detroiters. Judge Sabree has spoken on dozens of panels across the globe and is passionate about alternative solutions to incarceration and imposing fair, practical, and effective sentencings.

Jessica Williams

Jessica Williams, is a two-time YSU alumna, who graduated with high honors in 2015 and 2019 with a Bachelors of Social Work and Masters of Social Work, respectively. During her time at Youngstown State, Jessica worked as a Desk Attendant and Resident Assistance in Housing and Residence Life, and a Peer Mentor in the Summer Bridge Program and Upward Bound. She was regarded as a dedicated employee and student, maintaining her roles of employment and remaining in the top fifteen percent of her class. Jessica went on to gain membership into the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, and Golden Key International Honor Society. 

Additionally, while at YSU, Jessica discovered her passion for Social Work, specifically focusing on the child welfare field. She later participated in the University Partnership Program, a highly competitive program that gives Social Work students knowledge and training specific to child welfare. Upon completing her undergraduate program, Jessica secured employment at Trumbull County Children Services, and once she gained her graduate degree, she rose quickly to the ranks of supervisor.

Presently, Jessica continues her employment at Trumbull County Children Services as an Assessment Supervisor. At this time, she is the youngest and only African-American supervisor at the Agency and attributes her success to her hard work and dedication, as well as having access to positive, supportive, and admirable mentors within her Agency. In addition to supervising a team of Assessment Caseworkers, Jessica also mentors University Partnership Interns from YSU, who also hope to have careers in child welfare. Jessica is also part of community organizations, including The Trauma Informed Committee of Trumbull County and serves on the Board for COMPASS Family and Community Services. She aims to educate the community that social work is based on building and strengthening families by addressing the root concerns.

Kelly Ziccardi

Kelly Ziccardi is an engineer at Honda of America Mfg., Inc. (HAM), and currently serves as a New Model Project Leader in the New Model Department at Honda’s Marysville Auto Plant (MAP).

Ziccardi joined Honda in June 2007, as a staff engineer working on numerous assignments through MAP’s Engineering Development Program and then later in its Paint Department, as a member of the Technical Planning Group. It was there that Ziccardi first gained experience with new model projects, serving as the Bumper Paint Project Leader for the 2013 Honda Accord and 2014 Honda Accord hybrid.

In 2013, Ziccardi transitioned into a new role as the MAP Engineering Development Program Coordinator. In this position, she mentored entry-level engineers and helped them gain exposure to multiple plants, divisions, and departments within HAM. She then assumed her current leadership role in 2017.

Born and raised in Ohio, Ziccardi grew up in Mineral Ridge and attended Youngstown State University on a valedictorian scholarship. She was named Youngstown State University’s Engineering Woman of the Year for the graduating class of 2007, based on scholarship, service, and engineering achievement. 

Ziccardi currently resides in Marysville, Ohio, with her husband and son. In her spare time, Ziccardi is a parent volunteer with a local Cub Scout program. She has also been an active fundraiser and team member in the Relay for Life events of Mahoning County, Ohio, and Poland, Ohio, for the past nine years. 

Melissa O’Connor

Born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio, Melissa received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Forensic Science in August 2012 from Youngstown State University.  During her time at YSU, she had the honor of being elected to serve as president of the Forensic Science Club. 

While living in Youngstown, Ohio, Melissa interned for a state-of-the-art advanced specimen testing laboratory for hair drug testing at Omega Laboratories.  In addition, she had the privilege to intern alongside Dr. Joseph Ohr, the Forensic Pathologist for the Mahoning County Coroner’s Office, assisting in crime scene investigation and autopsies. After Melissa graduated from Youngstown State University, she wanted to try something new and daring.  She moved to England to pursue a Master of Research degree in Post-genomic Biology from the University of York. As part of her graduate studies, she studied DNA mutations in the neuron synapses of Frontotemporal Dementia and Huntington’s Disease using Drosophila models and mouse models. After Melissa finished her graduate coursework, she worked for a biotechnology company in Oxford, researching the production of biobutanol and acetone from renewable resources of carbon via the ABE fermentation process.

After her visa expired in February 2014, Melissa moved back to Youngstown, Ohio and started applying for forensic science jobs throughout the United States. After many job interviews, she was offered a forensic scientist position for the Philadelphia Police Department. She has worked for the Philadelphia Police Department since July 2014, where she is qualified in serological analysis and DNA bench work. She is currently being trained in DNA analysis.  In January 2020, Melissa was inducted into the VIDOCQ Society.  The society is made up of a group of selective volunteer forensic experts and investigators who serve as confidential consultants to assist law enforcement in solving difficult cold cases.  

In March 2020, Melissa organized and ran a forensic science community outreach project for kids grade 6 to 8, where she and her co-workers explained various disciplines in forensic science.  Information learned in the morning classrooms were later applied in solving a mock crime scene.  Currently, Melissa organizes and runs forensic science online webinars for students who may be interested in a career in forensic science. 

Melissa’s passion for learning and trying new things led her to pursue a genealogical certification from Boston University and now she is a Certified Genealogist as of June 2020.  Melissa specializes in forensic genealogy, which is an emerging practice of utilizing genetic information from direct-to-consumer companies for identifying suspects or victims in criminal cases.  In addition, Melissa is studying to become a certified personal trainer while running a healthy lifestyle business.  She looks forward to representing Philadelphia again in the Miss Pennsylvania for America pageant in 2021.