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Making a Splash! Women in Leadership Breaking Barriers at The Kartrite Resort

In honor of Women’s History month and International Women’s Day, we’re shining a spotlight on four members of Kartrite leadership that are breaking barriers by leading in traditionally male-dominated roles and sectors, giving voice to underrepresented groups, and setting an example for the next generation. With historically high numbers of women in leadership positions at the Resort, we are proud to celebrate the achievement, commitment, and passion of Melania Guzman Stevens, Senior Director of Engineering; Ryan Erickson, Associate Director of Finance; Ashley Johnson, Aquatics Manager; and Brandi Gillmore, Security Supervisor.

Engineering Equity: Breaking Barriers with Melania Guzman Stevens

Melania “Mel” Guzman Stevens is the walking embodiment of “Kartrite Strong” as she leads her team of engineers to ensure our building, attractions, and suites are home to thousands of guests each year. A native of the Dominican Republic, Mel came to NYC at the age of 7, returned to the Dominican Republic for high school, and then came back to the States to receive her degree in Industrial Business Management from Middlesex College. With her over 25 years of experience directing engineering programs at various hospitality locations, she is a fiercely loyal and passionate advocate of the Resort. Her recent promotion to Senior Director of Engineering in January is a testament to her vast skillset and dynamic leadership style.

When asked why she chose to work in a sector so traditionally male-dominated, Mel said “Because I wanted to be the agent of change by breaking barriers and creating opportunity for the next generation.” Mel continues, “Strong women don’t lead by copying the way men lead, we lead by embracing our distinct strengths and experiences without apology.”

Beyond the Numbers: Giving Back with Ryan Erickson

With bright pops of brightly colored hair, a collection of crystals strategically placed throughout her office, homeschooling 2 daughters with her wife, and a successful side hustle in the wellness industry– Ryan is a breath of cool, fresh air in roles held traditionally by men. After earning her Bachelors in Business Administration/Finance from Wagner College, Ryan earned her MBA from American InterContinental University and began her over 20 years of work in finance roles. Now, Ryan is helping build the next generation of women finance professionals with her team comprised entirely of women.

Aside from creating opportunities for women to excel, Ryan is deeply committed to advancing opportunities for marginalized groups in our community. As Treasurer of a non-profit organization Sean’s Dream, Ryan’s leadership and passion has directly impacted the lives of individuals on the path out of addiction and mental illness into treatment and recovery. In a County with an opioid overdose rate 108% higher than the state average and rates of suicide that nearly double the state average, Ryan says, “I get to be a part of changing the ways we talk about substance abuse and mental health and helping people find lasting recovery.” She continues, “I joined Sean’s Dream to support my friend who lost her brother to substance use, and by serving, have been able to help the organization support more members of our community.”

This Isn’t Baywatch: Making Waves with Ashley Johnson

Nursing may not have been her fate, but Ashley Johnson is not intimidated by the fast-paced environment of keeping hundreds of guest safe inside New York’s Biggest Indoor Waterpark. A life-long resident of Sullivan County, and a lifeguard since the age of 16, Ashley initially rejected the thought of becoming a lifeguard, rebuffed against the perception of the “Baywatch Babe”. As she’s moved into Aquatics leadership at The Kartrite, Ashley is now a part of changing that narrative. With the high level of skills, knowledge, competency the job requires, Ashley is a vocal advocate for professionalizing the work of her team.

With the Kartrite ranking in the top 10% in waterpark safety worldwide, the team of lifeguards are critical in maintaining these standards. Ashley is careful to be a supportive leader and an active team player, celebrating successes and responding quickly to issues. Ashley says, “as a woman, I was born with leadership skills that helped allow me to have compassion and respect when engaging with a guest, to being hyper observant when I’m on the floor, to responding with authenticity when there’s an emergency.” Ashley continues, “At the end of the day, our guests come first – we want them to leave just as happy and excited as they arrived.”

Securing the Future: Leading the Way with Brandi Gillmore

The first thing you may see when you meet Brandi Gillmore is her immaculately painted long nails. The next thing you’ll see is her uniform, which identifies her as a Security Officer here at The Kartrite. Since 2019, the same year as the property opened its doors, Brandi has been a vital part of keeping guests and staff safe. Because of her dedication to the property and the opportunities she’s sought out to cross-train, she now holds the title of Security Supervisor.

In a field dominated by men, Brandi is unafraid to embrace this stressful and high intensity supervisory role. Being raised in a family of military personnel and corrections officers emotionally prepared Brandi to face escalated guests and diffuse dangerous situations. However, like many young women and women of color, Brandi occasionally experiences imposter syndrome. “Having a supportive team helps me remind myself that I deserve to be here, especially when guests ask things like ‘can I speak to an adult?’” says Brandi. “As a leader, it’s my job to keeping create the kind of opportunities for the next generation of young women who enter the profession, and to provide that support system.”

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