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Super Women: 4 Moms of the Year

Mom, Mama, Mommy—superheroines are known by many names! Mothers juggle parenting, careers, and housekeeping while still retaining their identities as women with dreams and aspirations of their own. We found some inspiring moms in honor of Mother’s Day (May 9) who’ve defied odds, tasted success, changed lives, and are raising children to do the same.

Gayle Garbolino-Mojica


Gayle Garbolino-Mojica

Mom of 2, Roseville

Gayle has built an impressive resume all while raising two self-sufficient boys: Jack (25), who studied mechanical engineering and is currently finishing a paramedic program; and Max (20), a talented soccer player who’s majoring in finance.

The Placer County Superintendent of Schools is currently on her fourth term and oversees 16 school districts, 150 schools, and over 75,000 students. “I lead by building relationships,” she says of her successful tenure. Her long list of accomplishments includes chair and board positions on countless education committees and receiving of half a dozen professional awards.
What has your journey through motherhood been like?

I’ve lived through the challenges of working, motherhood, and self-care. I [returned to work] after six weeks of maternity leave for my first child. I got my master’s degree in education thereafter and interviewed for an administrative job just three days after giving birth to my youngest, joining the new position when he was three weeks old. When I ran for county superintendent, my sons—five and nine—helped distribute flyers with a cute “Vote for my mom!” pitch.
What’s your parenting style?

Gayle Garbolino-Mojica and her family


I wanted my children to be well-rounded, so I paid attention not only to school but their social life and extracurricular activities. I didn’t want stressed-out kids who had unreasonable expectations that took a toll on their mental health. They’re educated, responsible, respectful, and caring adults—that’s a home run.
What are your dreams for yourself and your children?

I want my boys to be healthy and happy, and I want to make sure that I raised them to be responsible, respectful, and caring. And they are. Now, I wonder what type of parents they will be, and I hope they incorporate some of my parenting strategies when raising their own kids.


One thing that gets you through the day: I strive to be the best person that I can be for that day. Nothing more, nothing less.

Best part about being a mom: I love moving from being an active parent of boys to now being a parent of adult children. Parenting still happens, just in a different way.

Not-so-great part about being a mom: The stress. There were times when my boys were younger that life was stressful. Once I dealt with it, I became a better mom.

Best mom advice: Love your kids but set boundaries. They may seem like angels, but they don’t always act like angels.

Absolute mom must-have: High-quality childcare that you trust. You cannot succeed without it.

When the going gets tough…Throw yourself a 30-minute pity party then get up, shake yourself off, and keep moving forward.

Ashlie Bryant


Ashlie Bryant

Mom of 4, El Dorado Hills

Ashlie is a self-proclaimed type A personality, which comes in handy when you’re the CEO—and co-founder—of anti-trafficking nonprofit, 3Strands Global Foundation ( “My faith grounds me every day and I believe in the power of the human spirit,” she says.

She’s been awarded two State Resolutions and will finish her Public Leadership Credential from Harvard and begin her master’s in public administration from Cornell. To top it off, Ashlie is also a triathlete and mom to four (now five, with the addition of her daughter-in-law, Claire): David (24), who’s a numbers whiz in finance; Grace (20), who loves kids and is studying to be a teacher; Matthew (18), an adventurer and freshman at college; and witty Jonathan (15), a high school sophomore.

Ashlie Bryant and her family.


What has your journey through motherhood been like?
It’s been pure joy with lots of ups, downs, and laughter. Being a 30-year cancer survivor gave me a different perspective on parenting. Each day is a gift, and we pack a lot into it. I’ve made parenting mistakes, but I learned to apologize. This helps my kids see that mistakes can happen but so can forgiveness. 

What’s your parenting style?
I’ve used the love and logic parenting technique for 17 years. I’ve also used motivational interviewing, aka, listening. It meant I needed to learn to not formulate my response as my kids were sharing. It has been one of the toughest things to implement but helps foster trust and openness. Now, parenting is “letting go and letting them fly.”

What are your dreams for yourself and your children?
I want to continue to advocate for children and protect them from exploitation. [I hope my kids] are grounded in their faith, choose jobs that challenge them and fill their cup, choose spouses who make them laugh, and remain close to each other.


One thing that gets you through the day: Hope. It can get you through the toughest times and it sustains me every day.

Best part about being a mom: Every part. I remember telling my mom, “I love this stage.” Then I would say it again and again. She laughed one time saying, “Ashlie, you’ve loved every stage!”

Not-so-great part about being a mom: When natural consequences happen and your child really hurts from them.

Best mom advice: Be present and take lots of pictures with your eyes. Time flies by so fast.

Absolute mom must-have: Animals. They give kids a taste of responsibility and demonstrate what it means to have someone disobey and how to love them anyway.

When the going gets tough…Take a deep breath, pray, and step forward.

Nikki Gardea; photo by Dante Fontana © and wholly owned by Style Media Group



Mom of 4, Cameron Park

Nikki is the consummate go-getter. “I’m focused and driven. I’m a survivor. I truly care about others. And I’m hilarious!” she says of herself. She currently works three jobs and is mom to Gabriel (20), a high-functioning autistic college student who’s won numerous scholarships; MJ (16), who’s graduating high school, working full-time, and headed to college; Lucia (13), who has a learning disability; and bubbly baby Bella (3). “All my kids are fully involved in charity and enjoy helping others,” she says proudly.

Nikki helps run her daughter’s nonprofit, MJ’s Project (, which provides necessities to teens in need. “I grew up in the foster system and lived on the street. There were never any resources available, so I know how vital it is to have basic life essentials and guidance.” Nikki also finds the time to volunteer with Friends of Folsom and is a member of the Fraternal Order of Eagles.

Nikki Gardea and her family. Photo by Dante Fontana © and wholly owned by Style Media Group


What are your biggest accomplishments?
My children! And I’ve successfully created a resource for over 300 struggling teens. I’ve overcome all my challenges, put myself through college, got my kids in, or set for, college, and have risen out of government assistance to be self-sufficient.

What has your journey through motherhood been like?
I was a teen mom, going to college, then attempting to further my career as a young mom. Being a single parent can be overwhelming, and I’ve had to learn how to not be hard on myself. It’s vital to get out and breathe or dance in the rain. I’ve built stuff with my son and daughter and enjoy playing with my toddler. I love making memories.

What are your dreams for yourself and your children?
My dream is to own our own home that no one can take from us. (We just moved from low-income apartments to a house.) My dream for my children is to be successful to where no one can take anything from them!


One thing that gets you through the day: The thought of my kids being successful as independent adults.

Best part about being a mom: I’m able to guide them through all their challenges in order to be successful adults.

Not-so-great part about being a mom: Learning to accept that each child is their own person no matter what you set them up for or hoped for.

Best mom advice: Teach them, guide them, and accept that they will be their own individual.

Absolute mom must-have: Whiteboard, crockpot, and Instant Pot.

When the going gets tough…Remember to be kind to yourself! Just know you did your best and they will always carry the best parts of you.

Daphne Copenhaver. Photo by Dante Fontana © and wholly owned by Style Media Group


Daphne Copenhaver

Mom of 2, Granite Bay

Daphne is decidedly driven and diligent. She graduated college with a degree in biological sciences and proceeded to study health care administration and finance. She worked as a health care consultant and in the California State Legislature, then completed a law degree, and now works for the Kaiser Roseville and Sacramento Medical Centers.

She volunteers her time on the McGeorge School of Law Diversity Board and sits on the board of KidsFirst (, a nonprofit that prevents child abuse. Serious stuff aside, Daphne loves a good book, traveling to Latin America, and creative architectural activities—having recently designed a Spanish tile fountain. “All [this is] just a fraction of my persona…I focus my time and attention on two beautiful children,” she says of Ethan (6) who’s precocious and loves Medieval Times; and Esme (3) who, Daphne says, is hilarious.

Daphne Copenhaver and her kids.


What has your journey through motherhood been like?
Motherhood challenges time management, patience, communication, and discipline. We learn so much about ourselves as we care for our children. I have had to balance my career and be available for my children, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What’s your parenting style?
I believe setting expectations is key as well as appropriate boundaries. That said, it’s sometimes hard to adhere to when a cute three-year-old looks up teary-eyed asking why they’re in time-out after hitting their brother.

What are your dreams for yourself and your children?
I often reflect on what world my children will inherit. The dream for a kinder, gentler, more inclusive, and thoughtful world is worth aspiring to and starts within ourselves; opening a door for someone, saying hello to a stranger, or simply asking how someone is doing is the example I set for my children.


One thing that gets you through the day: Knowing that I get to come home to my amazing, supportive, and funny husband, and our two little ones.

Best part about being a mom: Being someone else’s support system and cheerleader in order to help them to become the best person they can be.

Not-so-great part about being a mom: Always feeling like you’re not doing enough or could be doing more.

Best mom advice: Trust your gut and know that you’re doing the absolute best. Your kids think you’re doing a fantastic job at being their mom.

Absolute mom must-have: Coffee machine.

When the going gets tough…I put myself in time-out or do an activity outside.

BY Tara Mendanha

Family photo by Donna Beck Photography; headshot courtesy of the Placer County Office of Education. Ashlie's family photo by Sarah Phillips; headshot by Ryan Greenleaf  Photography. Nikki's photos by Dante Fontana. Daphne's headshot photo by Augie Chang Photography.

Photos by Dante Fontana © and wholly owned by Style Media Group—please don’t steal our copyrighted photos. For more information about our editorial photos, please click here to contact us <<LINK TO

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