Amber Sheppard Honored as Young Athena Nominee

On October 19, 2022 I was honored as one of three Young Athena nominees for East St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana along with Kentrell Jones (Director for East St. Tammany Habitat For Humanity) and Lauren Betancourt (St. Tammany Parish Schools). It meant a lot to me to be recognized as Tubbs and I were the first service dog/handler team to be nominated. We also know Kentrell and Lauren personally.

Every October, the award is presented to an individual who lives or works in St. Tammany Parish in recognition of exemplary leadership. Young Athenas are those under 40 years of age. The international award is sponsored by Slidell Memorial Hospital and Ochsner. Nominees must meet each of these criteria for eligibility:

• Demonstrate excellence, creativity and initiative in his or her business or profession;

• Provide valuable service to improve the quality of life for others in the community;

• Actively assist women in achieving their full leadership potential; and

• Personify all eight of the tenets of the ATHENA Leadership Model: Authentic Self, Relationships, Giving Back, Collaboration, Courageous Acts, Learning, Fierce Advocacy, Celebration and Joy.

Since 1989, the ATHENA Leadership Award has been presented to deserving recipients in St. Tammany, recognizing mentorship of individuals, in both business and community affairs. The local ATHENA Leadership Award is part of the ATHENA International Foundation. Through the Foundation, exemplary leaders in more than 500 communities have received the prestigious ATHENA Award in the United States, Bermuda, Canada, China, Greece, India, Russia, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.

The 2019 ATHENA Leadership Award recipient was Jackelyn Gallo. Prior recipients include Ellen Lamarque, Kim Bergeron, Kelly Rodrigue, Laurie Jugan, Kathy Lowrey, Slidell Councilwoman Kim Harbison, Tara Ingram Hunter, Sharron Newton, Sylvia Black, Rep Mary DuBuisson, Brenda Case, the late Dr. Jeanne Reeves, the late Irma Cry, the late Pearl Williams, Lydia Alford, Suzanne Parsons Stymiest, Dr. Joan Archer, Stephanie Schedler, the late Marilyn Faust, Judy Wood, Judge Patricia Hedges, Gilda Perkins and Carol Wolfram. Due to the Covid there were no recipients in 2020 or 2021.

This year's Young Athena winner was Kentrell Jones and Athena winner was Karen Vander.

Tubbs the Dog and Amber working as a therapy dog team educating at Bonne E Cole school in Slidell, LA

Our Official Biography Submission

“Who is that girl always dressed in blue with that short little dog?” That’s Amber Sheppard and Tubbs!

Amber is a local attorney here in Slidell who focuses on small business, nonprofit, and service dog laws. Yes, you heard that right: service dog laws. Amber, along with her service dog Tubbs, have been published over twenty times nationally and serve as legal counsel for “mom and pop” start-ups, international brands, and nonprofits.

Amber has been named 40 Under 40 and Best Attorney in East St. Tammany by EDGE Magazine three years in a row. She was featured in Sophisticated Woman Magazine as a top Northshore Attorney, writes a bi-monthly column on Working Dog Laws for the publication, and was recently named Best Attorney for East St. Tammany for 2022 by their readers.


In 2022 she was awarded a pro bono award by the Louisiana State Bar Association and the American Bar Association for her free legal work in the community.

She is currently working alongside the 22nd Judicial District Court through her nonprofit Be Fierce & Kind Canine to implement a landmark therapy dog program in the Child In Need of Care, Juvenile Delinquency, and Mental Health courts. This is the first program of its kind in the Courthouse.

Amber has a perineal smile on her face and is unapologetically open about her own mental health struggles and disabilities in an effort to start dialogue in her community. When considering Amber’s contribution to our community, it’s difficult to separate where her profession and advocacy work ends as it is so intertwined.

As an attorney, she works with businesses, provides estate planning for families, and is an ally to disabled and overlooked populations. As an advocate, she has provided a safe haven for female athletes and coaches in Mississippi and Louisiana (Mississippi Barbell), the LGBT community in Louisiana and Mississippi, and the disabled (Be Fierce & Kind).

 

Pro Bono/Community Work:

1.     Pioneering Community Work

a.     In law school, Amber founded a strength sport nonprofit called Mississippi Barbell which was the first organized Olympic weightlifting club in Mississippi. Under her direction, she meet directed the first USA Weightlifting meets in state history (over a dozen to date), coached world champions, developed athletes from ages 6 to 83, and traveled the nation conducting seminars and educating coaches on behalf of USA Weightlifting. To this day she is the highest ranked female weightlifting coach in Mississippi and the organization is the largest in the state. Before a career ending injury, Amber garnered 9 state records in LA/MS and was a national level athlete.

b.     Tubbs the Dog is the first Rosie Dog in EST HFH Women Build History and a “local service dog celebrity” starting dialogue wherever she goes.

c.     Recognizing a lack of services for LGBT community in LA and MS, Amber does pro bono work to assist those wishing for a name or gender marker change. Because of her work, she is one of the only attorneys listed as an ally for the National Trans Alliance, ACLU-MS, and PFLAG-Jackson groups. Thanks to her work, she has been able to grant dozens of name or gender marker changes for youth and adults in an effort to eliminate bullying and discrimination against them at work or in school. This work is more than just a name change: it helps save the lives of those individuals who can become suicidal.

d.     Be Fierce & Kind Canine

                                                   i.     Nonprofit started by Amber after she was denied access to businesses or ridiculed for using Tubbs as her service dog. It serves to provide education to organizations, community, businesses, and governments so that no one else has to feel that way.

                                                 ii.     Be Fierce & Kind Canine is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides therapy dog programs in courts, adult care centers, mental health facilities, & youth-centered organizations in addition to educating the community on assistance dog laws (service, therapy, and emotional support).

                                               iii.     Organization has proposed a landmark therapy dog program for three specialty courts in St. Tammany: Child In Need of Care, Juvenile Delinquency, and Assisted Outpatient Treatment. Tubbs and Amber will be on hand to comfort courthouse patrons, staff, and witnesses while they wait for court to begin or in the courtroom itself when necessary.

Amber Sheppard and Tubbs the Dog working in the KidSense room at the 22nd Judicial District Court in Covington, LA

 

2.     Nonprofit Work

a.     Amber is the lead attorney for multiple nonprofits in St. Tammany Parish, including One Way Love Ministry, Integrative Warrior Assistance, and Thurman Perry Foundation—all women run organizations focusing on underserved populations like homeless youth, LGBT community, veterans/LEO, women of color, and incarcerated women and their children.

b.     Amber previously served as a Board Member for Black Women Do Heal & East St. Tammany Habitat for Humanity where she implemented the HYP Northshore Chapter to get youth and young adults involved in the organization. Amber implemented the Taste of Home Ownership Event with a local coffee company which utilized coffee flights as a fundraiser for EST HFH; it sold out both years. She also lead the HYP Northshore Rosie team in 2022and in 2020, Tubbs was the first Rosie dog recognized as a team member. She stepped down as a Board Member this summer from both organizations to focus on her health but is still active in both organizations.

c.     Amber and Tubbs visit multiple assistance homes in the area for free to interact with their residents. One place is Summerfield where Amber and Tubbs also go one on one to visit residents in memory care. They also go to local schools like Kinder Haus Montessori and Bonne E Cole Elementary.

d.     The therapy duo are on call for local counseling centers when adults or youth suffering from PTSD or trauma would benefit from them attending sessions. Due to confidentiality, the names of these counseling centers cannot be disclosed.

e.     Amber serves as a Curator/Defendant Attorney for Interdictions in St. Tammany. This means she speaks with and represents, with compassion, those individuals with mental health disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or dissociative identity disorder.

 

3.    Community Presentations and Education

a.      Never one to sacrifice humor, Amber utilizes costumed Tubbs photographs to illustrate legal concepts to the community.

b.     She implemented free small business webinars during COVID to help navigate the new normal and help folx have access to legal information in a way they could understand.

c.      That could be why she is often a frequent contributor for magazines for lawyers (Louisiana Association for Justice) and the community (Sophisticated Woman and Slidell Magazine), continuing education courses for mental health professionals and attorneys, Wills For Heroes (she has volunteered at four of the five events held in 2022), and Lawyers in Libraries.

d.     She has presented state-wide for the Louisiana Bar Association on family law and estate planning for Lawyers in Libraries the last three (3) years. In addition to that she has volunteered pro bono hours to library patrons answering legal questions for the last three years as well.

e.      Amberis actively involved in mental health education and awareness. She presents to counselors, social workers, psychologists, lawyers, and business on assistance dog laws and the court system as it pertains to special needs community and mental health counselor involvement in it. She has presented state-wide for the Louisiana Mental Health Alliance as well as locally for multiple counseling centers, City of Slidell, and attorneys.

 

Amber and Tubbs the Dog working one of the Wills For Heroes events for law enforcement, veterans, first responders and their families. Along with fellow attorney Sarah Fisher, Amber helped complete free will packages throughout the year.

4.    Community Organizations/Mentor:

a.      Amber & Tubbs sit on the St. Tammany Parish Library Community Advisory Counsel for Strategic Planning where they are a voice for those who have disabilities and utilize service animals.

b.     The duo can often be found helping Women N Business (AK Legacy Foundation, nonprofit) and Youths Experiencing Success (she has taught multiple classes for the youthpreneurs in this nonprofit).

c.      We are members of Steel Mimosas, Women N Business, and St. Tammany Chamber of Commerce.

d.     She serves as a mentor for up-and-coming female attorneys through Southeast Louisiana Legal Services and the Louisiana Bar Association. In 2022 she was a mentor through Fidelity’s POWER group of female entrepreneurs. Amber has been active in Career Day at Pope John Paul II High School, Lake Castle Private School North, MC Law, and Southeastern.

e.      As a female coach in a male dominated field, she has become a source of mentorship for dozens of female athletes who became coaches or existing coaches through her work with Mississippi Barbell.

f.       As someone with neurodivergent disabilities, Amber has quietly served as a resource for parents and youth with autism or PTSD. She ensures that every event she hosts through Be Fierce & Kind or HYP Northshore is sensory friendly meaning it is not overly loud, crowded in a small space, or with intense lighting. She helped get a young autistic woman a job that would respect her differences and that young woman has since attended events Amber has hosted knowing it would be a safe environment for her.

 

Awards:

 

Amber has been named 40 Under 40 and Best Attorney in East St. Tammany by EDGE Magazine three years in a row. She was featured in Sophisticated Woman Magazine as a top Northshore Attorney, writes a bi-monthly column on Working Dog Laws for the publication, and was recently named Best Attorney for East St. Tammany for 2022 by their readers.

 

Amber has done so much pro bono work, the American Bar Association and the Louisiana Bar Association recognized her in 2022 with a Pro Bono award. She was the sole recipient for her work 2021 via Free Legal Answers

 

 

Need Help With Your Business or Family Matters?

Want to get started with a business consultation with Amber & Tubbs? You can shoot us an email at amber@ambersheppardlaw.com to start a conversation.

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