The CCUSA Innovation Challenge would not be possible without the expertise of our panel of judges, who have volunteered their time and energy to consider the many entries we received, eventually whittling the field down to nine agencies.

During the Annual Gathering, the judges will vote on these innovative programs after watching a video created by each agency and posing questions to the agency representatives. Their votes will count for 70 percent of the total score, with votes from the audience making up the remaining 30 percent. The top three vote-getters will each be awarded $633,000.

Janet Bray

Janet Bray is a workforce development expert/coach and consultant and is a senior advisor to the National Association of Workforce Boards. 

She brings a unique perspective and vision to best practices for connecting education and industry for a relevant, skilled workforce. Janet was instrumental in the development of a Youth Apprenticeship Program for the graphic arts industry in the state of Wisconsin and initiated the industry’s effort to develop national skill standards. She has served as a coach and subject matter expert on several Department of Labor grants related to apprenticeships, opportunity youth and upskilling initiatives.  

Janet represents the career and technical education and workforce profession on a number of boards and advisory groups. She is an expert in the subject of workforce development and wants to bring the National Association of Workforce Boards closer to the nonprofits and clients they serve. She is an expert in workforce funding streams and works with Catholic Charities USA to build capacity in the Catholic Charities network agencies.  

Barbara Ebel

Barbara Ebel is the Labor Exchange Administrator for Montgomery County (Maryland) America Job Centers. She has more than 15 years of organization management experience and 18 years of state service directing and managing workforce development programs. Previously, Barbara was the assistant director for the Migrant Program in Michigan, where she helped to create educational programs to improve the well-being and advancement opportunities of migrant families. 

Barbara has received a Champion Achiever Award from the Maryland Secretary of Labor and an Award of Appreciation from the International Association of Workforce Professionals for outstanding performance as chair of the International Development Committee.  

Barbara received the Daily Record’s 2018 Top 100 Women in Maryland, the Latina Power Award by the El Poder De Ser Mujer Foundation and Top 100 Latinos leaders in the DMV by El Tiempo Latino Newspaper. She was appointed by County Executive Marc Elrich to serve on the Montgomery County Workforce Development Board. Barbara has been a keynote speaker domestically and internationally, presenting on workforce development, trade adjustment, organizational management, diversity and disabilities awareness and other labor-related topics. She is a board member of Power52 Foundation, Chimes International, Ana Mendez University and the Madison House Autism Foundation.  

Christianne Ricchi

Christianne Ricchi, past chair of the Distinguished Restaurants of North America, is the owner and executive chef of Ristorante i Ricchi in Washington, D.C. i Ricchi was one of the first traditional Tuscan restaurants in the United States and has won many awards, including Best 25 Restaurants in North America, Food & Wine Magazine, and Top 10 Restaurants in the U.S., American Academy of Restaurant Sciences.  

Christianne received a leadership award from The Women’s Center, served on the committee for Women & Wine 2016 to benefit the Lombardi Cancer Center Georgetown University Hospital and received a 2015 Women Who Mean Business Award from the Washington Business Journal. She was named a “Woman Power Player” by Nation’s Restaurant News and “Hospitality Ambassador of Washington, D.C.” by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington and the Washington Post. She was inducted into the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation College of Diplomats. Christianne has served on both the board of directors of the National Restaurant Association and the board of its educational foundation and has been active as a spokesperson for the association on Capitol Hill, giving statements on behalf of the restaurant industry before Congressional committees and at the White House.