Trailblazer Stories

Aungelic Nelson

Aungelic Nelson

Editor / National Nuclear Security Administration

My name is Aungelic “GiGi” Nelson and I am currently an editor with the National Nuclear Security Administration. Before that, I was an Air Force historian for ten years. I also currently serve as an ANC commissioner for ANC2C03.

I took school seriously and went to college and got both a BA and an MA in American history. It wasn’t easy. I was born in Los Angeles, but my father was in the Army, so we moved a lot: California, Texas, Kentucky, Germany, and Georgia. So there were definitely gaps in my education. But what that experience did provide me with was a sense of independence and also adventure. I was never afraid to try new things. Getting the Air Force job meant packing up and moving by myself from Columbus, GA to St. Louis, MO. In my ten years with USAF, I lived in New Jersey, Philadelphia, Italy, and now DC. And this is home. I’m not going anywhere else!

What inspires and motivates me daily is the example we have from all those who came before us. They’ve given us a legacy that we absolutely have to live up to.

Why is education important?
It’s only been a little over 150 years that Black people were able to learn to read without fear of dying for the privilege. Our ancestors understood the importance of getting an education. And literally nothing has changed since then. It is still the best way to get yourself where you want to be.
Who has helped you along the way?
I was a good student, but school was not easy for me. Because I went to predominantly white schools, and I was a shy quiet girl, I was often more or less invisible. So I can’t say that I ever had teachers who took an interest in me and encouraged me. What I did have was a family who su
What do you hope for the future?
My hope is that people understand that equity and equality are not the same thing. If I’m 6’2” and you are 4’8” and we are both in front of a 7-foot fence, and somebody gives each of us a one-foot box to stand on, we have equality, sure, but which of us can actually see over the fence? Equity means giving everyone exactly what they need to succeed. And some people require more time/attention/resources than others.
What is one thing you’d like for our girls to know as they continue through their high school education?
This isn’t a quote I heard. It’s more of a realization that I came to some years ago. “Understand that even though society does its best to force you to conform in all sorts of ways, that what the world craves is authenticity. So always be yourself. But be your best self.”
Sisterhood Summit Trailblazer - Sharon Nunn

Sharon Nunn

Research Associate / Yale Program on Financial Stability

Sharon is currently a Research Associate at the Yale Program on Financial Stability, an organization dedicated to improving the world’s knowledge about how to fight financial crises. Sharon is part of a team creating a platform made up of case studies of specific economic interventions undertaken throughout history by policymakers to combat crises. The objective of the platform will be to equip policymakers around the world with insights and lessons learned from these crises so that they are better prepared to respond in the future.

Prior to her research at Yale, Sharon worked as a reporter at The Wall Street Journal, where she wrote about economics. At WSJ, Sharon learned how broader societal prosperity, equity, and our everyday lives are deeply connected to trends in business and finance. She wrote about the Southern U.S.'s increasingly divergent economic outcomes, which has led to pockets of intense poverty and crime. Various policy failures and business decisions throughout the last century are behind the trend.

Her work at WSJ helped her discover a broader interest in finance and economics and a drive to create equitable economic systems that allow all humans to live with security and dignity.

Outside of work, Sharon enjoys high-intensity interval training, reading biographies and arts and culture journalism, and getting to know the various hiking trails around New Haven, CT.

What is one thing you’d like for our girls to know as they continue through their high school education?
Learn to finish things and trust yourself and your abilities. Set small goals for your readings, your homework, your projects. Meet them. Then set a slightly bigger goal. Confidence and the willingness to take risks has been one of the biggest parts of my education and career. To get that confidence, real, unshakable confidence that allows you to take risks, you must learn that you can in fact do what you set your mind to. And that starts in school with the small things. The readings, the homework, the projects. It all builds from there.
How did you get where you are?
Small steps daily, honesty, kindness, and a lot of research.
Who has helped you along the way?
A variety of amazing women, including the dean of UNC’s School of Journalism and Media, a professor who was a former executive at ABC News, and a bunch of wonderful editors at WSJ and the Yale Program on Financial Stability. The help often came when I simply asked for it.
Sisterhood Summit Trailblazer -Donna

Donna Borak


Donna Borak is a veteran business journalist, who has worked for the Associated Press, American Banker, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, and now Bloomberg Tax. She is also an Adjunct Faculty member at New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. She earned a M.S. in Journalism from Boston University and has a dual B.A. degree in Cognitive Science and Philosophy from Lehigh University.

When she’s not writing and editing, she teaches and practices yoga and meditation. She also currently serves as the President of the Washington, DC chapter of WGIRLS Inc., a nonprofit directed at empowering women and children in underserved communities.

What inspires or motivates you daily?
Nothing is more satisfying to me than doing something I’ve never done before. At first, it feels so immensely challenging. You can nearly talk yourself out of it. But I always remind myself of where I might be three months from now, or six months from now, or a year from now, if I did just a little every day. Thinking of the future somehow makes the beginning a little easier. And there really is no better feeling than being able to say, ‘Wow, I did it. I learned how to do that.’

Because the truth is: You will never know how to do it until you do.

We are not born knowing everything. We are constantly living outside of our comfort zones if we are pushing ourselves. We are constantly learning — hopefully. And that’s how you know you’re growing — and becoming the person you want to be in this world. Trust that process even if its messy at times.
Why is education important?
My grandmother and mother prized education above all else. Going to college was never a question growing up. Not studying hard wasn’t an option. It was going to happen — full stop. To them, education was your golden ticket. It gave you the knowledge, the skills, the accume to create the life that you wanted, and more than anything that’s what they wanted for me. They wanted me to have the freedom to decide who I wanted to be in the world.

They knew if I had those tools, if I learned how to lead, if I learned how to build, if I learned how to use my voice, I could create my own destiny, my own path. And isn’t that what we all want for all girls and women? To know innately that with their own efforts, they can grow as big as their imagination and dreams, and it starts with education. To grow taller, we need strong foundations in place to build ourselves upon. We need spaces where we can practice raising our hands. We need spaces where we can try new things with no shame of failing. We need spaces where a girl’s education is valued above all else.
What do you hope for the future?
My hope always is that we as girls and women help each other in both small and big ways because we can do so much more if we work together. There is an African proverb that I love that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together.”

Find people to work with. Stand together. Build together. You can do so much more with each other.
What is one thing you’d like for our girls to know as they continue through their high school education?
Being a girl is so powerful. Don’t ever underestimate that innate power you hold within yourself, because it is tremendous. Make friends with fear. When she shows up, she’s simply telling you, ‘You’re about to do something you’ve never done before.’ What that really means is you’re about to be brave. It can be scary, yes, but you should always be proud of yourself for trying. Trying is the most important thing you can ever do to advocate for yourself. You won’t know all that you can be, and all that you will become, if you don’t try.
Sisterhood Summit Trailblazer - Shawn Smith

Shawn Smith

Senior Physical Scientist / International Programs in the Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards / U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)

Ms. Shawn Smith is the Senior Physical Scientist for International Programs in the Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Ms. Smith joined the NRC in 2002 as a Health Physicist in the former Office of State and Tribal Programs. Since that time, she has held progressively responsible positions within the NRC providing technical assistance to Federal, State, Tribal, and foreign governments on matters addressing nuclear regulation and radiological public health. She also completed a rotational assignment as an Executive Technical Assistant in the Office of the Executive Director for Operations. Ms. Smith is a graduate of the NRC’s Nuclear Safety Professional Development Program.

Before joining NRC, Ms. Smith worked as an Associate Engineer at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics from Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University and has completed post-graduate studies in international public policy at Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies.

What inspires or motivates you daily?
I’m constantly inspired and motivated by my community of family and friends, which I often refer to as my village. It gives me great joy and pride in making them proud. I’m also motivated by continued strides made by women in science and it makes me proud to me a part of that community.
What do you hope for the future?
I hope that more women will pursue science, specifically black women and other minority women. Black women scientists are still rare and there’s still so much shock when people find out that I’m a scientist. I would like it to be normalized, but there’s a long way to go to achieve that. I’m happy to do my part to nudge the hope towards a reality. I was one of those young girls who was told that I shouldn’t study science and that I should study something more in line for girls. So, I also hope that as the community of women scientists grows
What is one thing you’d like for our girls to know as they continue through their high school education?
Listen…and be a sponge for information. Learn as much as you can about as much as you can. Listen and absorb the information presented to you from people because you never know when that information will be of use to you. You can learn something from everyone, the janitor, the fast
Sisterhood Summit Trailblazer - Chavonda Jacobs-Young

Chavonda Jacobs-Young, Ph.D.

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) / Agricultural Research Service (ARS) / Acting REE Under Secretary and Acting USDA Chief Scientist

Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young is the Administrator of the ARS, USDA’s chief scientific in-house research agency, and is currently serving as the Acting Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics and the Acting Chief Scientist of USDA. Prior to joining ARS, Dr. Jacobs-Young served in several scientific leadership roles including Director of the USDA Office of the Chief Scientist, Acting Director for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), and Senior Policy Analyst in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. In these roles she transformed USDA’s scientific coordination and made a lasting impact on the conduct, quality, integrity, and access to science for customers. In these roles she also elevated the visibility of agricultural research globally.

Dr. Jacobs-Young is a native of Augusta, Georgia. She holds M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Wood and Paper Science and a B.S. degree in Pulp and Paper Science and Technology from North Carolina State University. She is also a graduate of American University's Key Executive Program. Dr. Jacobs-Young is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration, an If/Then Ambassador for the AAAS, and a 2016 recipient of the Presidential Rank Award.

What inspires or motivates you daily?
I am motivated daily by the opportunity to use my expertise and leadership skills to advance science and address important global challenges like climate change, nutrition and health, and growing our food.
Why is education important?
Education is important because it equips us with important skills and competencies to pursue our dreams. Education also opens doors to possibilities.
Who has helped you along the way?
Throughout the years and through every stage of my education and career, I have had amazing mentors. I believe that mentoring is important and so I make it a priority to pay it forward.
Sisterhood Summit Trailblazer - Elsie

Elsie Guerrero

Elsie Publishing Company

When you think of Elsie Guerrero, you think of a superwoman because she does it all!

Elsie Guerrero is a publisher, and author of Elsie Publishing Company and the founder and organizer of Advancing Latinas into Leadership Mentoring Program. She is also a profound leader with a desire to make a difference in her community.

Elsie Guerrero is the founder and organizer of Advancing Latinas into Leadership Mentoring Program (ALLMP), a non-profit that helps high school Latinas prepare for their lives after high school professionally and academically through mentorship, college preparedness, and professional development. Through ALLMP, she has mentored young Latinas in different high schools and awarded five high school students a book scholarship for their first semester of college. Elsie also established an ALLMP network platform for professional Latinas on LinkedIn and Facebook to connect women with common interests and help empower each other and the next generation of Latinas.

Elsie is also a publisher and children's book author of Elsie Publishing Company, LLC. She writes children’s books on social issues, such as children with disabilities and the Latino community to bring awareness about the topic and promote inclusion. In four years, she published twelve books and plans to publish more soon to eliminate discrimination, bullying, and any misconception society may have about children who have a disability and/or the Latino community. The majority of the books were inspired by real children and real-life situations. She partnered with Assembly member Cristina Garcia to publish Bringing Back History: The Untold Story about the Mexican Repartition, a story based on AB 146 and the students of Bell Gardens Elementary School.

She hosted two book tours and has read to children all over the United States. Places like California, Texas, Kentucky, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. As much profits as possible from the profits of the books, Elsie gives scholarships for Latinos and disabled youth. One hundred percent of the profits from her children’s book, Puerto Rico: Its own Land, goes towards building playgrounds in Puerto Rico. She has been featured on Telemundo, NBC Latino, and Newsweek Mexico. Elsie was also featured in the international movement, Today’s Inspired Latina. Her best-selling book is How Emily and Eli Became Friends, a story about autism. Elsie has donated books to detained children on the Mexican border and children in Jamaica. She was recently featured as a 2020 Latina Influence of the Year with the Hispanic Lifestyle Magazine.

Elsie also does advocacy efforts in helping undocumented families learn about their rights under the federal law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). She helps families learn about the rights they have as a parent with a child who has a disability. Her goal is to ensure that their children are getting the free and appropriate education and/or related services that they are entitled to under IDEA.

She recently obtained her Juris Doctorate from the University of the District of Columbia School of Law. While in law school, she served as president of two organizations: Law Students for Disability Rights (LSDR) and Latinx Law Student Association (LLSA). Elsie also was a student attorney in the Immigration Clinic where she focused on children’s asylum law. Her achievement was well received at her law school, which awarded her the Rising Student Leadership Award.

Along with her Juris Doctor, Elsie also earned her bachelor’s degree in Government (Political Science) with minors in Philosophy and Sociology from Sacramento State University, Master of Public Administration with a concentration in Judicial Affairs from Golden State University and a Master of Public Affairs and Practical Politics from the University of San Francisco.

Why is education important?
Education is important to me because knowledge is power. As Nelson Mandela once said, “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” When you are educated, you become unstoppable because you have the tools to succeed. For instance, your arguments become stronger because you have instilled more knowledge in your brain. You learn about history, social culture, and other amazing topics that will change your perspective and open your mind. And for minorities, it paves the way for another tradition in our family. According to the American Bar Association, 5% of African Americans, 5% of Hispanics, and 2% of Asians make up the U.S. population of lawyers. The Association of American Medical Colleges reports that 5.8% of Hispanics, and 5% of African Americans are medical doctors. The numbers are low because in minority community, surviving is the goal and education is a privilege.

However, education opens doors to better careers. You can’t be a nurse without a nursing degree. You can’t be a teacher without teaching credentials. You can’t be a lawyer without a law degree. You can’t be a doctor without a medical degree. And in today’s world, you can’t get a high-paying job without a high school diploma. Education helps you grow personally and professionally.
Who has helped you along the way?
My mentors helped me along the way. I would not be the person I am today if it were not for my mentors. Being the first in my family to graduate high school, attend college, graduate college, and also get a job that normally my family would not get were challenges that my family did not understand. They did not understand the struggle and scarifies because it was new to them. So, my mentors were the people who helped me learn about scholarships, internships, job opportunities, and gave me personal support. One of my mentors, wrote me a letter of recommendation for grad school, while my other mentor wrote my letter of recommendation to intern at the Capitol. They both helped me with challenges in adulthood. Because they believed in me, it made me the person who wanted to give back to the community. The person who wanted to mentor the next generation. Helping others along the way like those who helped me.
What is one thing you’d like for our girls to know as they continue through their high school education?
Strive to be the best but enjoy the journey along the way. Get good grades, so you will not have to experience a door closing on you. Good grades will get you the internship you want, the college you wish to attend, scholarships, and open doors to a wide of opportunities. Also, make the best out of your teenage years because once you are an adult, real responsibilities come. Join every club, organization, or sport you wish to participate in and do it! If it does not work out, at least you tried. Enjoy the high school experience because you only get it once in a lifetime.
Sisterhood Summit Trailblazer - Catalina

Catalina Talero

Foundation Director / Tikkun Olam Women’s Foundation

Catalina Talero serves as the Foundation Director of Tikkun Olam Women’s Foundation. Prior to this, she served as the Director of Individual Giving at the Fund for Global Human Rights, an international team that is informed by feminist principles in every aspect of its work. She has owned her own company, Envaluate, since 2011. She has worked as a programmatic and strategic development consultant for organizations such as: Search for Common Ground, International Center for Alcohol Policy, and George Washington University. Her experience in senior-level nonprofit service had previously been gained at organizations such as Global Kids, One World Youth Project, and Asian American LEAD. Born to Colombian parents shortly after they arrived in the U.S., Catalina is fluent in Spanish, conversant in French, and her substantive expertise is in civic education. Prior to specializing in philanthropy, Catalina was a program officer for the U.S. Department of Education. She received an honors bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Toronto and a master’s degree in human and organizational development from George Washington University. During her time at GW, she received a Fulbright fellowship for research focusing on civic engagement and peace education among youth in Colombia while affiliated with Universidad de Los Andes in Bogotá.

Why is education important?
I find that my education is valuable to me because it has taught me how to think, as opposed to teaching me what to think.
What inspires or motivates you daily?
My purpose in life inspires me and motivates me daily. That purpose is to do all I can to transform disempowerment to empowerment, while creating abundance and joy along the way. Everything I do in life, from the moment I wake to the moment I fall asleep, is in service of that purpose. Living my life on purpose -irrespective of any challenges I may encounter- makes me very happy.
Who has helped you along the way?
My Mom, other family members, teachers, mentors, friends, and community allies. Without these people helping me along the way, I simply would not be here today.
What do you hope for the future?
I hope we stand together to save our deeply debilitated democracy, and the planet that we have made it our business to destroy, whether purposefully or inadvertently. I hope that students reading this inherit a transformed democracy, and a revitalized planet. I hope they never allow either, or both, to become as damaged as the generations preceding them have. I hope they know that the future is theirs. I hope they prepare, and that we prepare them well, to lead the way.
Sisterhood Summit Trailblazer - Zainab

Zainab Abbas

Founder & CEO / SciTecch2U Inc.

Zainab Abbas is the founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SciTecch2U Inc. She is a mother of six, Black Muslim American female. She received her B.S from Knoxville College an HBCU in Knoxville, TN and her M.S in Developmental Biology at the University of Cincinnati. Her work with Proctor and Gamble Pharmaceuticals, Walter Reid Army of Institute of Research, IGEN, BioVeris and Panbio Diagnostics and Fortis College gives her diverse knowledge in STEM disciplines. She was an active member of "Women in Bio Youth Committee" for three years. When she is not homeschooling six children, she is busy a busy soccer mom and working to help her community. She enjoys reading, traveling, and cross-fit.

How did you get to where you are?
SciTech2U Inc. in an organization that rose from the ashes of a shattered dream. In 2009, when I was an instructor at a local college, I had a young African-American male student who was tardy and absent frequently and did not apply himself in class. However, I saw potential in him. One day I pulled him aside in the chemical and glassware room and spoke to him, very much like a mother to her son or big sister to her brother. He listened intently. His grades went from Fs to As, and he began to attend class regularly and on time. Two weeks later, the president of the school walked into my classroom with two plain clothed police officers, handcuffed my now stellar student and hauled him away. There was nothing I could do. There was nothing I could say to change their minds. I could not even tell them the progress he had made. His dream was shattered. I never saw him again. I had a nagging feeling to make a change in the lives of men like him and others. Two year later I founded SciTech2U in April 2011 to inspire young Black and Brown youth who are at risk of academic impoverishment to exciting ways of learning STEM subjects. This would be my way of nurturing children who may suffer life challenges so that they could prosper later in life and break the “pre-school-to-prison pipeline.”

I [started] SciTech2U with just a few hundred dollars of my money in 2011, and in 2018, I filed for and received SciTech2U’s 501(c)3 status. Since its founding, SciTech2U has grown from a small after-school program operated from home, local masjid and community center with 10 students to a fully-fledged after-school and out-of-school program serving more than 100 students a year.

I am motivated daily by my belief in God, wanting to do good, wanting to improve the state of the world and making a difference that will have a lasting positive effect.
Why is education important?
Education for me is a life-long process. As humans we are learning from the time we are born until we reach our grave. We learn how to see, smell, walk, communicate and so many other things. Education in other words knowledge is a process that improves our state of being. We are an improved world as result of education. There is endless knowledge in this world and I feel one can not learn it all. When children are nurtured in the sciences they come to this understanding and realization themselves. With the tool of knowledge our world may be improved even more.
Who has helped you along the way?
I thank God and prayer for getting me this far. My husband, Kevin Bryant, children, sisters, nieces and nephews have been instrumental in supporting my journey through out the years. My mother’s constant prayer and cheers has kept me going. Since the last year, SciTech2U has increased its board of director memberships. The board members of SciTech2U have been supportive and encouraging.
Sisterhood Summit Trailblazer - Jacqueline

Jacqueline Ames

Director of Treasury Management

Jacqui Ames was recently appointed as the Director of Treasury Management at EagleBank, a $10Bil local community bank in the Metro DC area. Jacqui has over 35 years of banking experience with an educational background in business management, accounting, and finance. Over the last 35 years, Jacqui has worked in various capacities within the banking industry to include branch management, premier banking, investments, insurance, international banking - foreign governments/institutional banking, and portfolio relationship management. One of Jacqui’s achievements was winning The Group Global Award For Top Sales Achievement.

Jacqui is also celebrating her 15th year work anniversary at EagleBank and is proud to be part of a successful bank that thrives to deliver its core values - Relationships FIRST.

Jacqui’s motto is Leadership By Example and believes that a true leader is one who is willing to lead by action.

Why don’t you start by telling us a little about yourself?
Born to a South Indian, Malayalee father, Simon Nelson and Anglo Indian(Caucasian/North Indian) mother, Mary Augustus who migrated from Trivandrum, South India to Singapore for a better life, the youngest of seven sisters and a brother, I moved to Long Island, New York at 19 when I married an American and started my journey of discovering the many opportunities that America promises to immigrants like myself.
How did you get to where you are?
Perseverance, determination to excel in every task assigned or endeavour, staying focused, hard work, dedication, continued education and an encouraging and supportive family.
What inspires or motivates you daily?
Waking up each morning to a new day where I can make a difference. From having a positive attitude, to loving my job and the value I bring to the table – my ability to positively contribute to society, my family, my employer, our clients and colleagues and the self-fulfillment I feel at the end of the day, which is very rewarding in itself.
Why is education important?
I believe Education plays a very important role to one’s success. Education provides one the necessary knowledge to make more informed decisions. Education opens doors to more opportunities in life that perhaps the lack of it limits a person’s horizon.
Sisterhood Summit Trailblazer - Demetra

Demetra Moore

Small Business Coach

Demetra Moore is a small business coach with a passion for helping others reach their highest potential. This is a love she discovered over a decade ago while working as a mutual fund trader for a Fortune 500 company. In 2007, Demetra made the decision to pursue her longtime dream of entrepreneurship by starting her firm Moore Out of Life, Inc.

This Certified Professional Coach (CPC) sharpened her personal and professional development skills at the International Coaching Federation (ICF). Today, she is empowering students and entrepreneurs to create the life of their dreams. Demetra is also helping hairstylists, barbers, make-up artists and other cosmetology professionals take the beauty industry to the next level through her platform, Seeing Beyond the Chair. In addition to coaching, Demetra has also shared her knowledge with others as a columnist for Huffington Post and Huami Magazine. She has also been featured in Black Enterprise, HYPE HAIR, Wealth Place, and Connected Woman Magazine.

Demetra currently resides in Charlotte, NC. When she’s not working, Demetra loves spending time with friends and family, reading, traveling, and experiencing what the world has to offer.

What is one thing you’d like for our girls to know as they continue through their high school education?
Don’t spend your time looking at what others have and comparing yourself. Focus on your development and the value you bring.
What has helped you along the way?
I am a lifelong learner of my craft. I consistently focus on my development and challenging myself to better each day.
Who do I look up to and why?
I look up to women like Cicely Tyson and Maya Angelou to name a few. They lived a life that exemplified this quote: When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me’. Erma Bombeck
Website Image Sonja Well

Sonja Wells

City First Bank EVP and Chief Lending Officer

Sonja Sanders Wells is the Executive Vice President and Chief Lending Officer for City First Bank and has over three decades of experience in commercial lending with a track record of achieving exceptional results. She oversees the bank’s $200 Million loan portfolio and is an expert in customizing commercial credit facilities specific to client needs and industry segments, inclusive of leverage and leverage source loans in NMTC transactions.

Sonja is a member of the Executive Management team and is responsible for the strategic direction of the Commercial Banking Group. She is the bank’s brand ambassador and maintains relationships with industry influencers and key community and strategic partners to expand and enhance City First Bank’s reputation in the marketplace.

City First is a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) that was founded in Washington, DC twenty-five years ago to serve low to moderate income communities in Washington, DC, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania, in direct response to the systemic disinvestment in our most vulnerable communities. To date, City First has deployed over $1.3 billion in mission critical capital to Affordable Housing Developers and Investors, Nonprofits, Charter Schools, Community Facilities and Small Businesses. City First works alongside a community of local leaders, a dedicated network of a CDFIs, B-Corps, and a Global Alliance of Banks whose values are aligned with sustainable frontline solutions to support the financial health, well-being and equitable prosperity of our communities. |

Prior to joining City First Bank; Sonja was a Vice President and Senior Relationship Manager at M&T and a Business Banker for First Union Bank/Wachovia now known as Wells Fargo.

Prior to her Commercial Banking and Real Estate career, Sonja was a Shopping Center Leasing Executive for the Taubman Company in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, a Marketing Executive for the Rouse Company in Columbia, Maryland and a Retail Buyer and Executive for several high-end retail specialty stores along the East Coast.

Sonja is a member of the African American Real Estate Professionals, the Southeast Community Development Corporation and Wildflower Public Charter School’s Board of Directors, and the Maryland Casino Business Investment Fund’s (MCBIF) Loan Committee. Sonja is active in several professional and community organizations throughout DC, Maryland and Virginia.

Sonja is the Immediate Past Chair of the Board of Directors for the Baltimore City Community College Foundation and was formerly the Vice President of the Butcher’s Hill Neighborhood Association’s Executive Board, member of the loan committee for Maryland's Department of Housing and Community Development's Neighborhood Business Works program, the United Way of Central Maryland’s Marketing Committee, Howard County Hospital’s Marketing Committee, the Columbia Association’s Marketing Committee and numerous other philanthropic and community organizations.

Sonja is a graduate of Boise State University with extensive certifications, training and experience in Commercial Banking and Real Estate, Marketing, Retail Management and Buying.

Sonja and her husband of 25 years reside in the District of Columbia. Her husband, Ernest N. Wells, Jr. is Department Head and Systems Engineer/ Electronic Engineer for the U. S. Department of the Navy in Washington, DC.

Website Image Sonia Jarvis

Sonia Jarvis

Professor at Marxe School of Public and International Affairs Baruch College, City University of New York

Professor Sonia R. Jarvis is an accomplished attorney and scholar whose research and teaching have focused on race, politics, and the media. As a practicing attorney, her practice focuses on civil rights, civil liberties, and counseling nonprofit organizations and minority businesses. She served as a law clerk for renowned Federal Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr. when he was the US District Court Judge for the Middle District of Alabama and then promoted as a US Circuit Court Judge for the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Professor Jarvis has written several book chapters and papers and is currently co-authoring a book entitled "States of Confusion: How New Voter ID Requirements Fail Democracy and What to Do About It" (under contract with NYU Press). An active member of several professional associations and academic organizations, she has served in a variety of administrative positions, including most notably as the Executive Director of the National Coalition on Black Voter Participation, Inc., and Managing Director of the Center for National Policy Review Clinic formerly based at Catholic University Law School.

A frequent commentator on public issues, she has testified before Congress and has been interviewed by almost every major media outlet in the country, such as National Public Radio, the Washington Post, PBS News Hour, and CNN. Professor Jarvis has taught undergraduate and graduate courses on race and politics, intergroup dialogue, media analysis, law and public policy, women's rights, and public policy while bringing a wealth of practical and theoretical knowledge to the courses she teaches at Baruch. She first joined the Baruch Faculty in 2004 as the Lillian & Nathan Ackerman Visiting Distinguished Associate Professor of Equality and Justice in America and was appointed as a Distinguished Lecturer in 2007. She graduated with a B.A. in Political Science with Honors and Distinction, and a B.A. in Psychology both from Stanford University, and a J.D. from Yale University Law School.

Website Image Gina Adams

Gina Adams

Senior Physical Scientist / International Programs in the Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards / U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)

How did you get to where you are?
Mentors, luck and grit. I am a first-generation college graduate from a low/middle class family. I feel very lucky and privileged to be where I am today. I was born in 1987, when Romania was still under the communist regime, but in 1989, there was a revolution and I grew up enjoying the freedoms of democracy. In middle school, I had a great chemistry teacher. She mentored me and I enjoyed chemistry so much that I even attended the National Olympiad for several years. In high school, I didn’t find a good teacher to mentor me, so I had to prepare for the olympiad by myself. In 10th grade, I didn’t read a problem right, so I placed 4th and was so angry that I decided to quit chemistry and study math and physics instead. I still regret that rash decision today. But with math and physics under my belt, I decided to study electronics so I can get a good paying job as an engineer. In my sophomore year, I was lucky to find another great mentor and she encouraged me to consider research as a viable career path. She supported me and I took advantage of paid internship and volunteering opportunities in Poland, Germany, France and Italy. I also received some scholarships, including one from General Electric. My mentor was a former Fulbright alumna and she encouraged me to apply for an International Fulbright Science and Technology Award, a flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Government. I was fortunate to be funded to do my doctoral studies at University of California Santa Barbara. I graduated with my PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2015 and I had to return to my home country for 2 years before I could get a work visa in the United States. With funding from the European Commission via the Marie-Sklodowska Fellowship program, I worked as a scientist at the Romanian National Institute of Microtechnology from 2016-2018. In November 2018, I joined the George Washington University as an assistant professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering department. I feel that I was very fortunate to find good female mentors early on in my formative years. They taught me how to persevere. I wouldn’t be where I am today without their help. I hope that I can now pay it forward and help the next generation of scientists in a similar way.
Why is education important?
Our society values education and a good set of skills and prestigious degrees help find a good paying job, even in times of economic turmoil, thus ensuring a prosperous and comfortable life for the educated individual and his/her loved ones. But I think education also helps the individual develop a sense of self-worth that is invaluable. A good education empowers people to find out what they are good at, build confidence in their problem-solving abilities and prepare them to face the unknown of their professional future. But I think this can go beyond professional development. For me, I think this confidence has translated into an increased personal assertiveness and better decision-making capabilities as well. I serve as great examples for family and friends.
What is one thing you’d like for our girls to know as they continue through their high school education?
Try to work on building confidence in your professional abilities. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, clarify points that you are not sure about, etc. Do what you can to make sure you understand the core concepts well, so you can move forward with confidence in your studies. Have patience with yourself in this process. It takes time to develop competency and some concepts are more abstract and difficult than others. Address any gaps in prior knowledge that you might have and keep doing your best given your situation. Perseverance and discipline are some of the most important skills that you can develop. Keep in mind that the “impostor” syndrome is real, in which an individual believes that they are not as competent and intelligent as others perceive them to be. Research has consistently shown that women and in particular, ethnic minority women, are prone to this. Having mentors among your teachers and even your peers that you admire, can really help minimize the impact of these thoughts and help you stay focused on your goals.
Website Image Rebecca Burney

Rebecca Burey

Rebecca is an attorney at the Youth Advocacy Coordinator at Rights4Girls, where she focuses on the intersection of female sexual abuse, sex trafficking, and juvenile justice system involvement in Washington, DC. In addition to policy reform, she leads Rights4Girls’ youth advocacy workshops where she engages and empowers young people in the District to become powerful agents for change. Rebecca has extensive experience working with survivors of violence and trauma and serves as faculty for the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges’ (NCJFCJ) judicial institute, where she helps train judges on domestic child sex trafficking. She also co-edited I am the Voice: Girls’ Reflections from Inside the Juvenile Justice System.

Prior to her work at Rights4Girls, Rebecca served as a sexual assault counselor and first responder for the Listening Ear Crisis Intervention Center in Lansing, Michigan where she worked with nurses, prosecutors, and police officers to coordinate care and advocacy for sexual abuse survivors. She has also worked directly with youth involved in the DC foster care system as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) and has mentored delinquent youth during incarceration in local detention facilities.

In addition to crisis intervention and legal advocacy, Rebecca has supported youth through traditional teaching and mentorship. As a teacher in the Peace Corps, she created female empowerment workshops for her students in Tanzania. She also has experience working with homeless and refugee youth and is passionate about the intersection of race, class, gender, and violence.

Rebecca holds a B.A. in Political Science and Ethnic Studies from Brown University, and a J.D. from Georgetown Law where she was a Public Interest Fellow. Rebecca is a former Equal Justice Works fellow and a current fellow in the National Juvenile Justice Network’s Youth Justice Leadership Institute. She is a member of the District of Columbia Bar.

Why is education important?
Education is important because it teaches you how to think critically about the world around you and engage with different opinions and perspectives. Each subject you study also has real life applications – whether it is learning how to communicate your ideas effectively through the English language, attaining math skills that will help you manage your money and finances, understanding biology and how your body works, or using historical events to contextualize why our society functions the way it does today. Education is the one thing that nobody can steal from you. Once you have it, it’s yours. Knowledge is truly power and the more you learn, the less likely you are to be influenced by ideas unsupported by facts.
Who has helped you along the way?
There is a saying that “It takes a village to raise a child” and I have found that to be true throughout my life. I have been helped by so many people along the way. I was fortunate to grow up surrounded by strong Black women — from my grandmother to my mother and godmother. All of these women poured into me and encouraged me to be the best version of myself. My parents strongly believed that education was the pathway to success and financial stability, and they sacrificed so that I could go to the best schools I could get into. I also had teachers who invested in me and provided me with the tools and confidence I needed to achieve the next level of education or the next level of my career. I am fortunate to have a number of mentors who guide me to this day and provide invaluable life advice.
What do you hope for the future?
I hope that in the future we will have a truly fair, equal and just society where people are all treated well regardless of their race, gender, or sexual orientation. I want a world where girls are free to do whatever they dream of doing and are supported along the way. Girls should not have to worry about violence against them or sexual harassment and discrimination. I also dream of a society where children can be kids and aren’t consumed with concerns about where they will sleep or where their next meal should come from. Our country can and should do so much more to invest in the next generation and help kids thrive.
Website Image Lesley Sanders

Lesley Sanders

Clinical Psychologist

I am a licensed clinical psychologist who works in private practice in the Washington DC Area. I am certified in the following areas: Infant Mental Health, Maternal Mental Health, Integrative Medicine for Mental Health, Conflict Resolution and Mediation, as well as assessments. Also, I have been entered as an expert in both DC Superior Court and Montgomery County, MD Circuit Court. On a more personal side, I am a proud mother of 2, trying my best to navigate COVID and homeschooling.

How did you get to where you are?
I am where I am because of others who have extended their time, knowledge, and kindness. We cannot achieve our highest heights by ourselves. Along with others’ support, determination and persistence also assisted me in my journey. I am passionate about bridging the gap between medicine and psychology, as well as helping others to feel empowered about their health and wellbeing.
Why is education important?
Education is important because what is gained/learned, it can never be taken away from you.
What do you hope for the future?
I hope for a future absent of hatred, discrimination, and inequality; but filled with more kindness and compassion for others.
Website Image EFUA OBENG

Efua Obeng

Associate Professor at Howard University

Dr. Efua Obeng is an associate professor and chair of the department of marketing at Howard University. She received her undergraduate degree from UNC Chapel Hill (Go Heels), master's degree from Duke University, and PhD from the University of Pittsburgh. She is a proud member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated and hopes to inspire you as the future leaders of this world.

What inspires or motivates you daily?
I’m constantly inspired and motivated by my community of family and friends, which I often refer to as my village. It gives me great joy and pride in making them proud. I’m also motivated by continued strides made by women in science and it makes me proud to me a part of that community.
What do you hope for the future?
I hope that more women will pursue science, specifically black women and other minority women. Black women scientists are still rare and there’s still so much shock when people find out that I’m a scientist. I would like it to be normalized, but there’s a long way to go to achieve that. I’m happy to do my part to nudge the hope towards a reality. I was one of those young girls who was told that I shouldn’t study science and that I should study something more in line for girls. So, I also hope that as the community of women scientists grows
What is one thing you’d like for our girls to know as they continue through their high school education?
Listen…and be a sponge for information. Learn as much as you can about as much as you can. Listen and absorb the information presented to you from people because you never know when that information will be of use to you. You can learn something from everyone, the janitor, the fast
Website Image ERICA DOE

Erica Doe

YWCA NCA’s Youth Programs Manager

Erica Doe is a Washington, DC native committed to the use of therapeutic creativity in the social-emotional development of youth. She is the daughter of immigrant parents from Liberia, and the first in her family to graduate from college. As such, she is especially inclined to work with students of color who will be the first in their families to attend a college or university. After earning her Bachelor of Arts from Columbia University, and her Master of Social Work from Syracuse University, Erica received a Fulbright Fellowship through which she served as a University Teacher and College Advisor in Johannesburg, South Africa. She currently serves at the YWCA NCA’s Youth Programs Manager, overseeing all program activities, including curriculum development and measurement of outcomes. Erica is a licensed graduate social worker, and has ten years of education and youth services experience.

What inspires or motivates you daily?
I am inspired daily by the young people I serve. They give me hope for the future, and show me that the work I do is not in vain. They enable me to maintain a bright smile, sustain joy, and exercise creativity. I love young people, and I’m motivated every day to implement services that enable them to be their best selves.
Why is education important?
Education is so important because it provides opportunities for growth, be it academic or social. Education exposes individuals to possibilities they never would have dreamed possible. It enables them with tools to help them envision, explore, and create the life they desire for themselves and their communities.
How did you get to where you are today?
I got to where I am by leaning on the support of my personal and professional tribes. They have stood by me at every stage of curiosity and courage, from leaving the comfort of home to attend Columbia University, to teaching at one of the top universities in Johannesburg, South Africa. Folks like my parents showed me what it looks like to persevere through pain and challenges. Folks like Monica Gray, CEO of the YWCA NCA, have been an example of what is possible for me as a Black woman in the sphere of youth services. My friends have been my biggest cheerleaders, and my motivation to continue reaching for the stars. My faith has carried me through every endeavor.
Website Image Joyann Phillips Rohan

JoyAnn Phillips Rohan


JoyAnn Courtney obtained her BS degree in biology from Spelman College and her Ph.D. in molecular and cellular biology at Baylor College of Medicine. She uses her multidisciplinary experiences and training to engage in activities that assist in reducing cancer and health disparities. She’s also passionate about improving lives and brings her outgoing personality and creativity to the party (aka work, project, activity, event, etc.). JoyAnn is a sister, a daughter, an auntie, a 9-5’er, an entrepreneur, a mother of 2 daughters, a wife, a church goer, enjoys cooking, creating connections, being resourceful, an idea generating machine. JoyAnn is committed to research, education, and service in her professional and personal life.

How did you get to where you are?
I attribute where I am today to exposure, prayer, and mentorship. I’ve been involved in science enrichment programs since elementary school. Over the years I’ve participating in summer program across the country. These experiences continued to reinforce my interest in science. My mother, a non-scientist, was a single mother that started graduate school after I was born. She was active in the church and community. And likewise, I followed her lead. She taught me the importance of education and how determination and perseverance resulted in success. I’ve approached challenges with the attitude of…this can be done and time to get creative on how I can accomplish my goals. I tried to build my circle of support with individuals that have my best interest at heart and have the know-how experience. Mentoring plays an important role in my continued success.
What is one thing you’d like for our girls to know as they continue through their high school education?
Expose yourself to new things and opportunities. Every opportunity can help you decide about things you love to do versus things that you’re not so much interested in…experience is a confirm/eliminate tool! Use it more often! You don’t know what you don’t know until you’re exposed. Try a new dance class, a new subject, or a new interest group.
What inspires or motivates you daily?
My daughters inspire and motivate me daily. They also teach me how to have more fun!
Website Image YaVonne Boyd

YaVonne Boyd

CEO of the Community Wellness Alliance (CWA)

YaVonne Boyd is the founding CEO of the Community Wellness Alliance (CWA). Throughout the District of Columbia, CWA has partnered with community and governmental Agencies around health solutions for local residents. The mission of CWA is to the bring health and wellness awareness through education, outreach and advocacy utilizing partnerships and collaboration to improve health outcomes of residents of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.

Mrs. Boyd has over 20 years of public health and community-based experience. She has extensive experience through her professional career and volunteer work in addressing health disparities. Her deep passion is being vested in the community as a native Washingtonian who is focused on improving the health and environmental awareness for under resourced residents.

Prior to launching the CWA Mrs. Boyd served as the DC Cancer Consortium’s (DCCC) Executive Director. In that role, she oversaw and provided direction to staff that represents the interests of the Consortium and its members with DC Council, the Mayor’s office, Department of Health, managed care organizations, and key non-governmental stakeholders. During her tenure with DCCC she implemented an internship program to support local organizations and a training program to help with the infrastructure of small organizations. Before joining the DCCC, Mrs. Boyd worked at the DC Department of Health for over 9 years where she worked in tobacco control and access to care. Through her volunteer and professional work Mrs. Boyd has contributed to enhancing the quality of life.

Mrs. Boyd holds a BA in sociology, a master’s degree in organizational leadership and is currently matriculating through her doctoral dissertation in the field of organizational leadership.

What inspires or motivates you daily?
Everyday is an opportunity for a fresh start. Who has helped you along the way? Everyone has helped me in one way or another. If it were someone that modeled good behavior, management styles, communication skills etc. that was something positive that I could incorporate into my life. For those who did not, I learned what not to do and how not to act. There is always something you can learn. Who do you look up to and why? I look up to my maternal grandmother. Her kindness and giving spirit is the reason I fell in love with serving the community. She served until she was no longer able to.
Who has helped you along the way?
Everyone has helped me in one way or another. If it were someone that modeled good behavior, management styles, communication skills etc. that was something positive that I could incorporate into my life. For those who did not, I learned what not to do and how not to act. There is always something you can learn.
Who do you look up to and why?
I look up to my maternal grandmother. Her kindness and giving spirit is the reason I fell in love with serving the community. She served until she was no longer able to.
Website Image SHANNON H. JONES

Shannon H. Jones

Director, Equity, Inclusion, Diversity, and Wellness

My name is Shannon Jones – I’m proud to have been born and raised in Northwest DC and also proud to have attended and graduated from all D.C. schools from elementary through college including Howard University for undergrad and American University grad education. Personally, I’m a wife in a blended family with two sons, one stepson, and one stepdaughter, two dogs, and a cat; and the baby sister to your GGA principal, Shayne, and aunt to her daughter.

Professionally, I have the awesome opportunity to lead the equity, inclusion, diversity, and wellness program for the over 8,000 Kaiser Permanente staff in the DMV. Kaiser Permanente is one of the nation's largest not-for-profit health plans, serving 12.4 million members in the US. In the DMV, we serve over 768,000 members through 34 medical offices. I’m charged with helping ensure that equity and justice is embedded into everything we do – from how we hire and develop our workforce, to the members we care for and in the communities we serve. Additionally, I work to support our staff in aspiring to be the healthiest workforce in healthcare. I’ve been with the organization for over 20 years and have been mentored and sponsored by many to get to where I am today.

How did I get here/why education is important?
I got here with a lot of grit, self-motivation, being confident in who I am, and having the desire and humility to develop others to lead. The world wasn’t really expecting much of me, at least I didn’t sense it, as an African-American girl, but my family, particularly my mom expected me to do great things. She was a strong advocate for education and encouraged me to always be open to learning. I remember in the summers when most of our friends were playing outside, my mom set up summer school in the basement with a full list of things for my sister and I to read and learn. Watching our mom, who was disabled, go back to college and graduate with honors when we were young, showed me that despite the odds being stacked against you, that with self-determination you could achieve your goals. She demonstrated what it means to persevere, not being able to walk, having to demand that her classes be located on the first floors of buildings at Howard, because at the time the Americans with Disabilities Act had not passed; getting a teaching job as a substitute teacher because she really wanted to work and educate children, but she didn’t have the strength to do it full time so she did what she could which set a really strong example for me and my sister. It’s funny when I think about our careers – how Shayne followed in her footsteps to become a teacher and now an administrator and how I also became a different kind of teacher of sorts, with my career starting in health education and now oversight for wellness and diversity education. I also got here because I had advisors, mentors, and sponsors who believed in me, saw something in me, and pushed me to do more than what I thought I was capable of.
Who has helped you along the way?
I’ve had many to encourage me in my personal and professional journey. From my guidance counselor in high school who helped me to find ways to get scholarship money to pay for my education understanding that my mom who was a single-mom wasn’t able to afford paying for college, to my college advisor at American University who I thought didn’t like me, but was really pushing me out of my comfort zone. She remains a trusted advisor today – more than 20 years later. To leaders in my organization who gave me a chance to lead even though as an introvert and always being called the quiet one didn’t quite fit the normal mold of leadership but they believed that I could inspire and motivate others, to my husband who tells me that I underestimate myself and that I can do anything I set my mind to do. I also appreciate leaders in my organization who have taken the time to get to know me as a person, to give me advice, provide real feedback on my strengths and where I could improve, and for trusting me to do the important work required to create an equitable, just, and healthy workplace.
What is one thing you’d like for our girls to know as they continue through their high school education?
I want the girls to know as they continue through high school to dream big! I want them to take advantage of all of the opportunities given to them through their education at GGA as I know that you are focused on building a strong community of girl servant leaders. I want them to know that there are no limits on what they can do if they are determined, motivated, and intentional about the goals they want to reach. I want them to step out of what’s comfortable and push themselves to have new experiences and build new relationships to help them grow their community and network. And finally, I want them to know the importance of getting to know themselves, being comfortable in their own skin, establishing their core values, and staying true to who they are.
Website Image Kim Lawson

Kim Lawson

Cybersecurity Specialist, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Kim Lawson-Jenkins has worked for more than 40 years in computer science. She has designed, developed, and fielded software for Motorola cellular telephone systems in Europe and Asia. At the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington DC she designed and developed secure communication devices for the U.S. Navy. Currently she is a cybersecurity specialist at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Kim has a bachelor degree in Computer Science from the University of Illinois, a master's degree in Computer and Telecommunications from the George Washington University, and an Applied Scientist degree in Computer Science from the George Washington University. She is married and has one son.

How did you get to where you are?
I’ve been a trailing spouse during almost all of my career. I began my career in 1982 working on a simulator for the Tomahawk Cruise Missile at McDonnell Douglas. After 1 year I got married and moved to the Chicago area to work for Motorola designing, developing, and installing on cellular phone systems. In 1991 my husband took a job with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and I followed him to the DC area. When I informed Motorola I was leaving the company, my supervisor offered to let me work remotely from Maryland and travel one week a month back to Chicago or somewhere else in the world required for my work. I continued this arrangement with Motorola until 2003 when I left the company and started a graduate program at the George Washington University to study computer security on a full scholarship. In 2006 I entered federal service full-time as a computer scientist at the Naval Research Lab in Washington DC. It was a great job working on secure communications for the Navy but after 10 years of a high pressure job with a killer commute (100 miles round trip every day), I was ready for early retirement in 2014. My husband mentioned that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was hiring cybersecurity specialists and this job would be only a 30 minute commute from our home. I applied for the NRC position and was hired. My current position at the NRC involves ensuring that companies that process nuclear material perform their tasks with secure digital equipment that are protected from cyber attacks.
Why is education important?
Education is important in that it demonstrates a person’s capacity to learn and to open their mind to something new. It is especially important during the times in which we live. Eighty years ago a person with a grade school education could get a job in a factory or company, learn a specific trade, provide a good life for their family, and retire. We don’t live in that world anymore. People have to learn new things every day just to navigate within this world during the information age.
Who has helped you along the way?
People who have had open minds have helped me along the way. The person who hired me at McDonnell Douglas when I was the only African American and woman among 150 white males had an open mind. So did the people who developed the first cellular telephones. They hired me and within a few years sent me to places like Austria, Israel, and Sweden to install systems that we developed. A professor at the George Washing University told me to apply for a scholarship in cybersecurity and it led to my career in cybersecurity for the last 20 years. I have been very, very fortunate in my career to encounter and work with people who have open minds. They have given me the opportunities to have a very fulfilling career.
Who do you look up to and why?
I look up to my family. My grandfather had a third grade education and my grandmother had an eighth grade education. Yet they provided their family with a good living and raised 2 children who went to Howard University and Tuskegee Universities. My father who was the president of the East St. Louis chapter of the NAACP for a decade showed me how important it is to be engaged in human and civil rights. My mother who taught in the public school system for 40 years demonstrated the importance of public education. She refused to send me and my sister to private schools; she said that if she worked in the school district then her children should be educated in the school system. I have been incredibly blessed to have family, friends, and colleagues who have been incredible role models and who encourage me to strive to do my best.
What is one thing you’d like for our girls to know as they continue through their high school education?
I have to mention 2 things. They should always do their best because when they do, they can find comfort in that, even if they don’t succeed in every endeavor. Always learn, because it will help them to be ready to take advantage of new opportunities at a later time.
Website Image JOAN ROLF

Joan Rolf

Foreign Affairs/National Security

I spent over twenty years in the U.S. Government including work at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. My career focused on building international partnerships between government agencies and organizations in science, technology, and innovation. Two highlights of my career were working at NASA, where I was able to observe space launches, and working for six years in the Obama Administration. Additionally, as the spouse of a Naval Officer, I moved around frequently and was able to live in Japan, Italy and many parts of the US. This made building a career challenging but I embraced the concept that the road to success for me was not a straight road but would include many off ramps. I hold a Bachelor of Science in Political Science and French from the State University of New York and a Masters Degree in Government/Foreign Affairs from Georgetown University.

Why is education important?
I grew up one of six children and we had limited financial resources. My parents did not go to college and were holocaust survivors. I put myself through school with loans, work-study, and grants. Many of my fellow students also came from middle to low income homes. We knew that college was the only way for us to achieve our goals. I tried to take advantage of what college offered- I studied abroad, spent a semester in Washington DC, and went on to graduate school. I believe that education is life long and comes in different forms (college, trade schools, technology certifications) and we must continue to learn because the world constantly changes and technology continues to push us forward in new ways.
Who has helped you along the way?
Family and school mentors helped me along the way. Family gives you moral support and helps you feel you can do things when you are not sure you can. Mentors in high school and college provided me the academic support and direction that I needed to ensure that I could continue to pursue my educational goals with limited financial means. Mentors gave me the confidence to ask questions and were people I could go to when I needed help and support.
What is one thing you’d like for our girls to know as they continue through their high school education?
I would want the girls to know that education is very important, it will get you where you want to be, even if you don’t yet know where that might be. Pick what interests you! And, remember no one does anything alone. Reach out to anyone in school or in an after-school program or professional who can be a mentor.
Website Image Annelle Primm

Annelle Primm

Senior Medical Director of the Steve Fund

Annelle Primm, M.D., MPH is the Senior Medical Director of the Steve Fund, an organization focused on the mental health of young people of color including college students in the transition from adolescence to early adulthood. She is also co-founder, chair, and convener of the All Healers Mental Health Alliance which mobilizes organizational collaboration to provide healing services for disaster-affected marginalized communities. Dr. Primm previously served as Deputy Medical Director of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and Director of the Johns Hopkins Community Psychiatry Program. She received her undergraduate degree from Harvard University, her medical degree from Howard University and psychiatric training as well as training in public health from Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Primm is a published author and the recipient of numerous awards and honors including Distinguished Life Fellow of the APA. She is currently an adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University, New York University, and Howard University Schools of Medicine. Dr. Primm is a member of the Black Psychiatrists of America Council of Elders.

Why don’t you start by telling us a little about yourself?
I am a community psychiatrist who provides treatment for individuals in the form of psychotherapy and/or medication for mental health concerns such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. I also have a public health background which has prepared me to think about health from a population perspective and develop programs that focus on communities, not just one person at a time.
How did you get to where you are?
I got to where I am by setting goals and continuing to work towards them, no matter what the barriers and obstacles were. I have gone through difficult circumstances in my life. My mother died of breast cancer when I was 19 which made me very sad and I almost gave up on my plan to attend medical school. With the support of family members, friends, teachers, and counselors, I kept pushing forward. Certain ways of thinking have helped me get through stressful circumstances. Remembering that “this, too, shall pass” and thinking of “the glass being half full vs. half empty” are examples of the kind of positive messages that I have kept in mind along the way. Being grateful for what I have and working with that to make my dreams come true has helped me to get through tough times.
Why is education important?
Education is important because it is the foundation for your future occupational success and economic independence no matter what your career path is. No one can take away your education. It is yours to use to expand your horizons and open the door to opportunities that position you to achieve your goals. Continuing to educate yourself allows you to maintain lifelong learning and stay up to date on new knowledge in whatever occupation you choose.
Website Image Erin Stewartson

Erin Stewartson

Civil Engineer

Erin Stewartson graduated from the A. James Clark School of Engineering with a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering in Spring 2020. She was a Banneker Key Scholar and a National Science Foundation Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Undergraduate Research Fellow who researched compost implementation in highway slopes. Erin had two previous internships with Turner Construction Company working as a field and project engineering on the Ronald Reagan National Airport and the Conrad City Center Hotel. She was awarded the Robert L. Morris Award in Environmental Leadership (May 2020), the American Concrete Institute Excellence Scholarship (May 2020) and the National Science Foundation GEM Ph.D. Fellowship (June 2020). Erin is currently at The Ohio State University pursuing her doctoral degree in Civil Engineering and Material Science researching methods for more sustainable waste material integration into the construction industry. At OSU she is a member of the Society of Black Graduate Engineers, the Black Graduate Student Professional Caucus, and the American Concrete Institute OSU chapter. She enjoys singing soprano in multiple gospel choirs, traveling to new places, and spending time with her family

What inspires or motivates you daily?
My desire to help people with my research motivate me to keep pursuing knowledge, truth, and innovation. My support system speaks life into my dreams and I take their encouragement with me into every difficult exam, every research meeting, and every space where I am the only woman present.
Who has helped you along the way?
God is my first line of support and I am very vocal about Him because he has brought me through so many challenging points in my life. My constantly growing village is full of so many people of color who have helped me along the way. Some of my first supporters and advocators are Dr. Karl Reid, the Executive Director of the National Society of Black Engineers, my mentor Keith Wilkerson, owner and founder of College Thoughts, Rosemary Parker, Director of the Center for Minorities in Science and Engineering at the University of Maryland in College Park, and my mom, my ultimate definition of a driven woman.
What is one thing you’d like for our girls to know as they continue through their high school education?
Don’t listen to people who speak death to your dreams because you belong in every space you desire to be in.

Gladys Rosa-Mendoza

Innovation Strategist and Design Researcher

I am an Innovation Strategist and Design Researcher who strongly believes in the power of solid research and visual storytelling techniques. I have helped companies from the Chicago Tribune and the LA Times, AT&T, to McDonald’s and now at Facebook shape the future landscape by taking the research from just abstract numbers to involving company stakeholders in the world of their customers and hear their voices. I am currently an Experience Researcher and Strategist at Facebook working on projects and topics at the 40,000 foot level. I live to understand people and to design beautiful and useful experiences, services and products for them. I have a thorough understanding of the value visual storytelling has to build a brand within a business and consumer context. I am also an educational product developer that have created over 400 products for the top 3 educational publishers and have authored my own award-winning series of children’s books for the pre-kindergarten dual language market.

Why don’t you start by telling us a little about yourself?
I was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I am one of four girls. My father was in the US Army and we moved around every 2 to 3 years. I lived most of my school years in Panama (the Canal Zone) as my father was based there. My high school years I spent in Hinesville, Georgia. We spoke only Spanish at home and English when we were out of the house. So very interesting back and forth to say the least but it gave me the opportunity to learn both languages in a very easy way.
How did you get to where you are?
The hard answer is by doing the work that most people don’t want to do and persevering when things get tough. Basically, by doing what I love. In the beginning I had a love for drawing and art as a whole. I wanted to be an architect. I did not really know what to do with that and my parents did not know anything about what the possibilities were and how to go about it as no one in our family had ever gone to the university. As time went on, I learned more about it and people came into my life who helped point me in the right direction—towards graphic design.
What inspires or motivates you daily?
What inspires or motivates you daily? I like to help and learn about people. I am a Design Researcher and Strategist, and it is my job to enter into other people’s worlds to understand their needs, wants, desires, and struggles. I love finding out what people need and want and then turning those insights into products and services to help them live their dreams—and make it a win-win for the company and the users. That excites me.
Why is education important?
Formal education helps get you to the table. Informal education helps you do your job better and keep you there. It is important to get a formal education, and it is equally important to get an “informal” education at the school of hard knocks. I work with many people who have Ph.D.’s, but they do not know how to function outside of the academic world and do not have the soft skills that they need to function in the world and relate to and touch people. I would also suggest to not go from one degree to the next. Take some time to work in between your degrees in the “real” world, and make sure you do internships between high school and college each year. It will make you more effective and valuable to yourself and give you an opportunity to really see what you like and don’t like. You will learn valuable lessons about human behavior which in the long run will be a tremendous learning. Trust me, in the end YOU will stand out in the marketplace.
Who has helped you along the way?
My mother was very strong person and really went after what she wanted. She would not take no for an answer and always persevered and would not let anyone run over her.

My father is a very gentle and loving man and always helped me to go after my dreams. When I got a scholarship to go the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, he was the one that stepped up and said that he would send me a monthly stipend so I could make it work… even though I knew it was going to be a big stretch for him.

My husband, he believes in me and is always telling me how I can and should strive for more. He believes that I can do anything and it is always nice to have someone like that in your corner.
Who do you look up to and why?
I always find it fascinating to see people that are working so hard for something that is bigger than them. Which is why I look up to Martin Luther King. Someone that was fighting for the rights of all people not just himself. In a ‘round about way I feel that I do that here at Facebook—trying to help people all around the world make meaningful connections and not just making connections for me.
What do you hope for the future?
I hope I have more opportunities to do what I love and to pass my experience to those who are coming up behind me and give them a hand to move up as well. I hope that I can help break the grip of poverty, the racism of low expectations, and helping children on the front end of education to get what they need to be successful in any situation.
What is one thing you’d like for our girls to know as they continue through their high school education?
People say you can be anything you want, and I truly believe that is true, but you will have to make sacrifices and work hard to get there. You cannot do the same thing everyone else is doing and hope to get to where you want to go. Your dream requires that of you. Remember, it is YOUR dream, and you are the one who needs to make it happen. I knew I loved design, and I was willing to do whatever it took to get to the best art school for me—working at Mcdonald’s for $3.15 so that I could pay for my plane ticket to Chicago—being on food stamps and eating ramen and mashed potatoes every day. Going from 90° in Puerto Rico to 20°s in Chicago. Riding the subway late at night… Working 12-hour days doing the work no one wanted to do to get a taste of what I wanted. Are you ready to realize your dream? Do you want it, or are you just talking about it? Remember, it is YOUR dream, and you are the one who has to make it happen. Keep knocking on the door until it opens and when it opens you will see that is even more than you expected. You need to have a vision of who and what you want to be in the future and start acting like that now. You must be willing to work hard and to focus on your goals. You must be willing to get up from failure and continue to focus on what you want. In the good times, you need to keep your vision in front of you so that you can continue to do the things you need to do to get to where you want to go. You must be willing to do what most people will not do, and if you do that, I will see you at the top.
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Jamecia Muckelvene-Jackson

Executive Officer

Jamecia Muckelvene-Jackson is an Executive Officer at one of this nation’s leading federal agencies, she has spearhead and ignited a non-profit to raise cancer awareness , she is a writer and an author of a children’s books, and she is a wife, mother, daughter and sister of a family that is inspired by her many accomplishments.

Jamecia is a self-styled freelance writer. She draws inspiration from her experiences as an African American Family woman. Jamecia's early years were spent traveling extensively due to her father's postings in Asia, Europe, and across the U.S., experiences that provided her a unique worldview and continue to inspire her creative pursuits today. Outside of her federal service position and written word, Jamecia's passion for shedding light on African-American challenges and seeking out ways to inspire and motivate them through her writings and non-profit efforts.

Her first published work, The Very Awesome Adventures of RuRu & Rudy, was written in collaboration with her sisters and dedicated to their father's memory and written to bring representation of young black girls to life during the holidays. When away from the writing table, she finds herself at the centre of her family - with her husband and two children named, naturally, for her parents Pearline & James.

Jamecia’s favorite quote comes from her visits to a museum in New York where her son’s image was featured and created by Tawny Chatmon in her Inheritance series. The quote is from an unknown source and it reads, Our Children inherit what we do not resolve.

What inspires or motivates you daily?
The youth around her who have innovated and new ideas of what this country will look like decades from now. Their wiliness to live each day and seek freedoms from the media highlights of negativity.
What is one thing you’d like for our girls to know as they continue through their high school education?
To know that no matter what experiences may make them sad or angry it is okay for them to allow themselves to feel those emotions for an hour or a day, but when the next day arrives, be inspired that it is just that. A new day for them to create and experience all the positives of life.
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Christine Guthrie

Executive Leadership Coach, Public Relations Strategist and U.S. Air Force Reserve Officer

Christine leads with love, speaks truth with sincerity and inspires others to bring their truest whole selves to the table. She serves as an Executive Leadership Coach, Public Relations Strategist and U.S. Air Force Reserve Officer.

She is now the Founder of Authentic Ascent, LLC, an Executive Leadership Coaching & Consulting business. She specializes in helping professionals lead with authenticity to transform into their best selves both personally and professionally. Together, she and her clients deepen conversations and shape organizational culture. Her vast experience makes her the ideal thought partner to help leaders create meaning in their own lives and in their organizations, resulting in motivated employees, customer commitment and increased productivity.

In her Air Force role, she helps national and international leaders create communication strategies to address topics such as: diversity, talent acquisition/retention, diplomacy, misconduct, marketing and policy. She is a Bronze Star recipient who has led international consultation, worked with the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Air Force, governors, African & European Ambassadors, CEOs of space industries, movie directors, national media outlets and sports organizations. She continues to manage, develop and lead the Department of Defenses’ # 1 Media Training program for defense senior leaders.

Why is education important?
I believe education is a pathway to success. It helps you to think more critically, it builds on skills necessary for your future, and it often allows you to turn your dreams into reality. But I believe in order to truly thrive, education AND character are necessary. So, discover what you like, and try to learn more about how you can use your gifts to transform the way we live. What inspires or motivates you daily? My family inspires and motivates me. My husband is so supportive of my dreams. And my three little humans are the best gifts. I know they are watching what I do, and what I say. So, I’m consistently reminded to try and do the next right thing. What do you hope for the future? I hope I can contribute to creating a world where people embrace who they are, use their voice to speak up and use their unique talents to change the world positively. I think that’s why I love what the Girls Global Academy is doing. They are empowering young girls, to succeed on a global level, because every single one of them matters. Each of them will change the world someday.
What inspires or motivates you daily?
My family inspires and motivates me. My husband is so supportive of my dreams. And my three little humans are the best gifts. I know they are watching what I do, and what I say. So, I’m consistently reminded to try and do the next right thing.
What do you hope for the future?
I hope I can contribute to creating a world where people embrace who they are, use their voice to speak up and use their unique talents to change the world positively. I think that’s why I love what the Girls Global Academy is doing. They are empowering young girls, to succeed on a global level, because every single one of them matters. Each of them will change the world someday.
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Justine Benson

Creator of EF Travel

I work as an integrated producer for EF Education First, an educational travel company. My role includes a mix of project management, operations, process improvement, vendor relations, and a hint of finance, all in the service of helping my team create marketing materials that showcase how important it is for students to see the world. My journey to get here has been a series of accidents and maybe a little bit of fate. As a young adult, I always dreamed of being a teacher and, after six years in education, including four as an eighth grade Social Studies teacher, I found that my heart wasn’t in it anymore. I loved my students and owed it to them to step aside and find a new path in life, even if I didn’t know what that meant at the time. I landed a job at a marketing agency, where I discovered that I had a knack for project management, perhaps due to all that time spent managing a classroom. I went back to school, earning my MBA from Kellogg School of Management in Chicago, then returned home to Massachusetts where I found my current job. I am lucky to work in an education-focused company where I can help my colleagues work smarter and more efficiently, while sending students all over the world to expand their understanding of other people and cultures.

After work, you can find me playing bass in two Boston-area bands, climbing a mountain, snuggling in front of the TV with my dog and cat, playing Mario Party with my wife, or volunteering at Girls Rock Campaign Boston, an organization that empowers women and girls through music education.

How did you get to where you are?
I got to where I am by prioritizing my mental health and wellbeing above all else. If I ever find myself down, for any reason, I take the time and space to determine what is wrong and how I can lift myself back up, even if the steps I need to take are uneasy or difficult. Only when I find peace am I able to prosper.
Why is education important?
Education is the key to understanding the world around us and leaving it better than we found it. Studying art, literature, and history allows us to better empathize with and understand the experiences of people whose race, religion, ability, gender, or sexuality may be different from our own. Studying science helps us understand how the world around us functions and how we can protect it. Studying math strengthens our ability to approach problems with reason and logic to find the best solution. Ultimately, a well-rounded education teaches us to think deeper and more critically, enabling us to question what we are told and determine our own values and beliefs.
What is one thing you’d like for our girls to know as they continue through their high school education?
Too many in this world still fear a strong, capable, ambitious woman and they will do everything they can to tear you down. Be compassionate with yourself and know that you deserve a seat at the table as much as anyone else. You don’t need anyone’s permission to be unapologetically you.
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Gidget Benitez

Health Policy Counsel to Congresswoman

Gidget Benitez serves as Health Policy Counsel to Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky on health care policy and women’s issues. She is responsible for all legislative matters on Medicare, Medicaid, racial disparities and equity in health care, and more. Gidget previously served as a Legislative Assistant to Congresswoman Val Demings on a wide portfolio of issues including health policy and COVID-19, transportation policy, and civilian technology. Prior to this, Gidget was the 2018 - 2019 Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) PepsiCo Law Graduate Fellow, where she clerked for the Honorable Hiram E. Puig-Lugo. She also served as Law Fellow to U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth, where she drafted language for the Police Training and Independent Review Act of 2019, the language of which has been included in the “George Floyd Justice in Policing Act,” a House appropriations bill, and the Congressional Black Caucus’ “Jobs and Justice Act.” Gidget has a deep interest in the intersection of health, technology, and equity. She is a licensed attorney in the state of Maryland and a Marvel Universe fan.

How did you get to where you are?
This is a big but really important question. I was raised by single mother, a Caribbean woman who raised me to believe in the importance of education. But, we struggled. No matter what happened – through homelessness, moments of feeling like I was behind my more privileged peers, everything – I stayed focused on my education and I asked questions. I got to where I am by hard work and logical thinking, asking questions when I didn’t understand something, and seeking out answers when someone couldn’t tell me something. I read and I wrote my way into college and law school. I embraced my curiosity and sought answers. And perhaps most importantly, I always expressed gratitude and kindness to those who were willing to share wisdom with me, and I shared what I learned with those around me who were willing to work as hard as I was to make their dreams come true.
Why is education important?
Education is important because you take in knowledge and can use it to achieve your goals. It gives you a choice in your life. It’s also important to remember there are different forms of education: you can get a college degree and a graduate degree, and you can also teach yourself a skill and become a business owner. Getting an education and educating yourself means that you can think for yourself, create options for yourself, and make a positive impact in your life and community.
Who has helped you along the way?
There’s a quote that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” It’s true. Mentors and wisdom from other adults have helped me tremendously, not because they handed me anything – but because they believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. Their confidence in me has often inspired me when I’ve felt low, because I respect my mentors and their opinions. When someone you respect shows you they believe in you, it makes a difference. Go far, together, and when you go far, look back and bring someone with you.
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Angela Pinkney


I have lived in Washington DC for the past 9 years. I was born in Maryland but moved to DC and attended University of the District of Columbia. I also attended online Colleges (University of Phoenix and Capella University) to be able to get my counseling license. I was also a foster parent for several years and I have started two businesses of my own. My Nonprofit "Better Off Independent (BOI Inc.)" and my private practice "Finding My Peace, P.C.".I am currently back in school for my doctorate in Developmental Psychology.

How did you get to where you are?
There is a Walt Disney movie titled “Meet the Robinson’s” It is about a little boy who feels he is too old to get adopted and he begins to doubt himself. He has an opportunity to see his future and his slogan in the future is to “Keep Moving Forward”. It is one of my favorite movies. Regardless of what obstacles I may have had to overcome within myself or through my environment, I stayed focus on what I wanted to and am still working on achieving.
What inspires or motivates you daily?
Everyone around me. I want to see everyone around me prosper and be happy. But not just that, doing it on their own without having to rely on anyone. Being self sufficient is my goal for all around me. Being able to say this is what I did is the greatest accomplishment anyone can have.
Who do you look up to and why?
This may sound silly, but Wile E Coyote. No matter what obstacle he faced. Acme made it happen and he did not give up for anything. His determination is worth admiration. We all should be so focused and determined with our own lives to move forward and get what we need in order to no longer need. Self-sufficiency is a wonderful thing.
What is one thing you’d like for our girls to know as they continue through their high school education?
“Keep Moving Forward”. There are no failures, only learning experiences. If an obstacle occurs, you figure out a way around it. Give up is not in our vocabulary. If it is something you really want, show it, prove it, and go do it. All of these things will get you wherever you want to be, it is all about focus and not letting anything deter you. People will tell you that you have to leave your friends behind. You don’t. You need to pick the right class of friends in the first place so that you can prosper together. You will need help, you will need support and it is possible. You don’t give up on your dream, you find friends with the same dream and the same determination and the same focus and you all work together, support each other and get where you need to be.
Sisterhood Summit Trailblazer - Loretta

Loretta Woodward Veney

Motivational Speaker and Author

Loretta Woodward Veney is a motivational speaker and trainer who has delivered more than 300 speeches and presentations on dementia and caregiving since 2014 and she offers a wealth of information, encouragement and humor to her audiences. Throughout her life Loretta, author of Being My Mom’s Mom (2nd edition 2019) , Colors Flowing from My Mind (2019) and Refreshment for the Caregiver’s Spirit (2nd edition 2020), has chronicled family events through journals, photos, and videos, seeking to capture every moment. Her documentation came in very handy in 2006 after her beloved mother Doris became the first female in the family to suffer from dementia. Loretta began learning everything about the disease becoming a fierce advocate for her Mom in the process. Loretta and her Mom have been featured in articles in the Wall Street Journal, Psychology Today, The Washington Post, The NY Times, AARP Caregiver Stories, as well as a PBS special entitled Alzheimer’s the Caregiver’s Perspective. In 2019, Loretta was selected as Trailblazer of the Year by Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Who inspires or motivates you daily?
I got to where I am by prioritizing my mental health and wellbeing above all else. If I ever find myself down, for any reason, I take the time and space to determine what is wrong and how I can lift myself back up, even if the steps I need to take are uneasy or difficult. Only when I find peace am I able to prosper.My Mom has motivated me my entire life. She insisted that my sister and I get our college degree before marriage so that we would be able to support ourselves if we ended up on our own. Education is such a key because it can set you apart from others. Mom raised us as a single Mom and told us that we could be anything we wanted to be and we believed her, which is exactly what I’d tell the high school girls! I get up every day knowing that now, in year 15 of Mom’s dementia it’s likely too late for a cure for her. But I’m going to fight to find a cure for Alz so that other families won’t have to experience this horrible disease. I still look up to my Mom, because even though she understands very little about her surroundings, she fights every day to stay alive. I’ve named her Wonder Woman.
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Amber Jangha

Dental Administrator

Amber Rutland Jangha is currently the Administrator of Dynamic Dental Care, a dental practice with locations in Silver Spring and Columbia, Maryland. Prior to this role, she held several positions in international development, including Managing Director of Programs at OIC International, Financial Analyst at the Export-Import Bank of the United States, and Analyst at Modern Africa Fund Managers. A graduate of Brown University, Amber also completed the dual degree programs at the Johns Hopkins School of International Studies (SAIS) and The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, earning an MA in African Studies and International Economics from SAIS and an MBA from Wharton. Amber is married and the mother of three children. When she is not working, she enjoys spending time with her friends, travelling to the beach, and trying her hand at gardening.

Who has helped you along the way?
I have been blessed with wonderful and encouraging family members, teachers, church members, friends, and professional mentors at every stage in my life. When I participated in a summer student exchange program to Egypt as a high school student, I remember the small donations that the members of my church gave me: $20 pressed in my palm, a warm hug, and an encouraging word to be safe and learn. I would not have been able to afford the full cost of the trip without those donations, and I am forever grateful for those acts of kindness and encouragement that started early in my life. I think that the key to receiving help along the way is to pay it forward and spend time thinking about how you can help someone else. Can you volunteer to read to younger kids at after school program? Can you volunteer and organize a community cleanup or other activity? Does your place of worship need some help with filing or typing or establishing a social media presence? When you help others, it makes people want to reach out to you to see how they can help you. It is a virtuous cycle of giving and helping others, too.
Why is education important?
Education is important because it gives you options to pursue multiple and varied opportunities, whether they are professional or personal. And education is not only formal schooling with books and tests; education is certainly a lifelong pursuit. When I look back at my career, it does not reflect a straight path but a ladder where the new skills that I learned set me up for my next opportunity. At each of my jobs, I focused on continuing to learn different skills that I could utilize in my next role. So I was able to change industries and roles because I could leverage my myriad skills in new and different ways. As economic globalization and technological disruption continue, it is important to focus on lifelong learning so you have the critical thinking and technical skills to pivot to new opportunities.
What is one thing you’d like for our girls to know as they continue through their high school education?
Choose to spend your time wisely. The greatest gift we have every day is the ability to choose our mindset and how we will spend our time. Focus on seeing the bright side in tough situations and on seeing the opportunities you have to make a difference for yourself or for someone else. Every day should not be all work and no play (yes have some fun!), but make sure you get some work done today and have a plan for the work you will focus on tomorrow.
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Veta Richardson


Veta T. Richardson has been president & CEO of the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) since 2011. She reports to a board of directors of twenty-four lawyers and leads a staff of about 80 employees who are based in the United States, England, Belgium, Hong Kong, and Australia. Lawyers join ACC to learn and network with one another so they can do a better job at being the lawyers for global corporations that must comply with lots of complicated laws and regulations. Prior to being named ACC’s CEO, Veta was a nationally recognized leader regarding diversity and inclusion in the legal sector, and she served as an advisor to three U.S. Presidential Administrations (Clinton, Bush, Obama) while she was executive director of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association. Before becoming a chief executive in the nonprofit sector, Veta was in-house corporate counsel to a Fortune-500 energy company where she went to work right out of law school. In addition to her full-time job as CEO of ACC, she also teaches a course at Georgetown Law School. She received both her Bachelor of Science in Business Management and her Juris Doctorate from the University of Maryland where she also pledged Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. When the pandemic is behind us, she looks forward to being able to travel again and see more of the world. She has already visited 50 countries, with more to go.

How did you get to where you are?
Being smart and knowing how to turn No to Yes when it came to job opportunities.
Why is education important?
It’s the building block for your future regardless of what you may aspire to be.
What is one thing you’d like for our girls to know as they continue through their high school education?
There are a lot of people and things around you that will be there as distractions to get in your way or cause you to lose sight of what’s really important. You are in this school to get the best education that you can and that requires work and commitment on your part – yes good teachers are important but they are only part of what’s required – the most important thing that divides successful people from those who do not achieve their dreams is the investment you make in yourself. People who get distracted and side-tracked by “shiny objects” (a metaphor for things that catch your attention and stray your focus from what matters) spend their lives forever making excuses for why they come up short. Don’t let that be you – because the best thing you can do for yourself is invest in your mind and your educational preparedness.
Why don’t you start by telling us a little about yourself?
I grew up in Philadelphia and when I was your age, America was a lot less diverse. My father was a pharmacist, my mother was a homemaker. Both grew up poor and worked hard to provide for me and my sister to have a better life. I was the only black girl in my class all through school up until I went to high school. So I always stood out and my parents taught me I needed to stand out in positive ways because whatever I did would be noticed more than the other white kids. No way to “blend in.” As a result, I had top grades, participated in sports and school activities, ran for class office and won, honor roll, Girl Scout’s badges, clean, neat, well dressed. Those were the expectations and my parents stressed the importance of studying hard and getting good grades. My sister and me knew that was our “job.” Those lessons have served me well all my life and I’ve continued to strive to stand out for all the best reasons.
What inspires or motivates you daily?
I start every morning with gratitude and being thankful for a new day, all that I have, the people I love and who love me in return, to have a job, a house, food to eat, money to pay my bills. I do not take any of these for granted and I appreciate all I have been given while at the same time, not losing sight of how others need help. So I am inspired by a sense of gratitude and giving and not in a religious sense because I am not a religious person. So for me, it’s about having good values and a sense of humanity and a strong character.
Who has helped you along the way?
Lots of people but my family has been the foundation of my success because they believed in me when no one else did and supported me to overcome any obstacles I faced.
Who do you look up to and why?
I adore Ruby Bridges and her photo hangs over my desk along with Thurgood Marshall. I especially love Ruby because she was the most courageous 6 year old girl and when I look at her and think about any problems I need to overcome, I say to myself, if a 6 year old girl had the courage to change this nation how dare I shrink from whatever challenge I am facing? She always inspires me to be courageous.
What do you hope for the future?
I hope that America is able to bridge its very serious racial divides because for hundreds of years that failure has held us back as a nation and limited opportunities for so many. But bridging those divides will be difficult, uncomfortable and require an honesty and candor that many will not be able to handle but we must press on. I hope for a future where having white skin no longer results in privilege and being black or brown or Asian no longer results in discrimination and worse.
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Benita LaNae Bowman


Benita LaNae Bowman- Born and raised in Washington DC, A Muslim woman (that converted to the Islamic faith in 2010), graduated from Howard Dilworth Woodson SHS in 1998 and continued her education at Keystone Job Corp graduating in 1999 after obtaining her CNA license. Benita's interest in helping/caring for others, and saving lives came from her seeing so many of her childhood friends and family dying, some from senseless gun violence and her not being able to assist them. Benita's ambition and willingness to be a part of the helping solution persuaded her studies at East Coast EMS. She graduated from East Coast EMS in 2000 with her certification as an Emergency Medical Technician. In July of 2001 Ms. Bowman joined the Washington District of Columbia Fire and EMS Family as an EMT Basic.

In March of 2006, Ms. Bowman made a lateral crossover from the position of EMT Basic to the uniform fire division of the department as a Firefighter/EMT private. During this time Benita trained, gained skills, knowledge and education to amplify her abilities to make a difference. Simultaneously, not only did Ms. Bowman's work life become more challenging but so did her home life. Benita is a mother of (3) children, a 9 year old son on the autism spectrum and her most recent birth being a set of twins (1boy,1girl)who are now 2 1/2 years old.

In September of 2018 just one month after the birth of her twins, Ms. Benita L. Bowman was appointed to the rank of Sergeant. Ms. Bowman was a bit apprehensive about taking the test. She did not know what to expect after she started her walk with the Islamic faith and the donning of her hijab (head garment). Surprisingly, her journey within the DC Fire and EMS Department has been nothing short of educational, encouraging, exciting and outstanding . She looks forward to finishing her career out. Ms. Bowman was the first covered Muslim Firefighter, and as of now the first covered Muslim woman appointed to the rank of Sergeant in DC Fire and EMS Department history and proud of it. You will find that Benita works very hard at being an awesome mother, advocate and outstanding Sergeant/Firefighter/Emt . To date Ms. Bowman is a 20 year veteran of DC Fire and EMS.

My biggest inspirations and motivation
Are My children . They are the best thing that I ever did in this lifetime! How could I ever let them down. They are truly my biggest accomplishment. What is one thing you’d like for our girls to know as they continue through their high school education: Never be too prideful to ask for help, Never quit on you, always push through! Remember to always FINISH EVEN IF ITS LAST! For victory has no numbers!
What is one thing you’d like for our girls to know as they continue through their high school education?
Never be too prideful to ask for help, Never quit on you, always push through! Remember to always FINISH EVEN IF ITS LAST! For victory has no numbers!
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Maggie Conley


Maggie Conley is the Director of the Justice Team for the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas (an order of Catholic religious women) and in that role engages in advocacy and action around immigration, earth, racism, nonviolence and women. She has dedicated her professional career to social justice work through the Catholic Church. She lives in Maryland with her three children (2 daughters and one son) and is very active in community roles including Church, school and athletic organizations. Originally from Northern Virginia, Maggie studied communications at Xavier University and knew that she would never be effective at her job (paid or unpaid) unless it was something she believed in and helped her to grow.

What inspires or motivates you daily?
Knowing that there is always more to learn and a new and different way to do something that I have not done yet. And surrounding myself with people (of all ages) that I can learn from and laugh with.
Why is education important?
Education is important because it teaches us things that are important to help us function in society and independently. But to me the real gift of education is that it helps us to learn how to learn and how to satisfy some of our curiosity, but not so much that we do not want to keep learning. Education should be about moving ourselves forward and growing and understanding where our gifts and talents are and how we can continue to develop those and more. While our formal education may end our desire to learn and be part of an educational process never should.
What is one thing you’d like for our girls to know as they continue through their high school education?
High school is a great opportunity to explore a lot of things, try things for the first time, and learn from people who truly care about you and are committed to your learning and group. But it is also just the beginning… high school was where I started to want to be a leader and take risks and develop who I am today, but there were parts of it that were hard for me. I was glad that was the beginning and not the end. It laid important foundations for me socially, academically and civically and I probably recognize that more now that in a did when I was in the middle of it.
Who has helped you along the way?
Not so much one person or individuals, but I think the people who have helped me along the way are the ones who have pushed me. Whether they be my teachers or professors who weren’t satisfied with my minimal work or my colleagues and friends now who ask me hard questions that cause reflection and then action. It is people who believe I am strong enough to engage in debate and growth and to be included.
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Renee Ingram

Non-Profit Creator

Volunteer Work –

In 1994, E. Renée Ingram established the African American Heritage Preservation Foundation, Inc., ( a not-for-profit organization designed to provide awareness of endangered African American historic sites and to serve as an educational resource center for individuals, community groups, educational and historical genealogical societies, and government entities. This past year, the Foundation launched a free mobile app, “African American Sites,” which has more than 1,600 sites throughout the US focused on African American Museums, National Historic Landmarks, State and Local Historic Places, Heritage Trails, Military Sites, and Endangered Historic Places that are in need of preservation and restoration. She currently serves on the Board of Trustees for Preservation Virginia and has served on the Board of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Afro American Historical and Genealogical Society and the DC Preservation League. She is also a Life Member of the Association of Black Women Historians and is a member of Cultural Tourism DC. Renée has written several publications regarding African American history. She has written biographical sketches on accomplished African Americans for the African American National Biography edited by Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham.

Corporate Work –

Renée has served as a senior executive with several national non-profit organizations including Vice President and Treasurer of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Chief Financial Officer of America’s Promise the Alliance for Youth. In 2010, she started Diversified Enterprises Group, LLC in Washington, DC., which provides business management, financial management and energy efficient services to commercial and government entities. Renée has Bachelor of Science Degrees in Business Management and Human Resources Management from Northeastern University and an MBA in Finance from the University of Denver.

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Charon Ellis

Social Worker

Charon Ellis has dedicated her career to improving fragile populations' lives, which has ranged from the mentally and physically challenged adults to disenfranchise low-income and disadvantaged families living in impoverished communities and most recently to children and families involved or at the border of involvement with the child welfare system. Ms. Ellis experience includes adoption and placement, foster care monitoring, and child removal from the State of Ohio. Ms. Ellis has worked on programs at the federal and state level. She possesses a strong background, training, and education in urban and community planning, which endowed her with the skills to provide administration and management oversight to organizations providing cradle to the grave services in the Washington Metro area. Some notable accomplishments have been transforming several underperforming community-based organizations to a level of prominence within the social service arena by developing and instituting systems, programs, and financial controls, leading to financial and management integrity and accountability. She is a skilled trainer and has conducted workshops on small business development, entrepreneurship, marketing, and business plan development. Ms. Ellis raised four daughters and one son and is the proud grandmother of six grandsons and two granddaughters. Ms. Ellis has earned a Master's of Social Work, Catholic University of America, a Master's in Urban Policy and Planning, University of the District of Columbia, and an undergraduate degree in Social Work and Psychology, Wilmington College, Wilmington, Ohio

Who do you look up to and why?
As cliche it sounds, I have always looked up to my mother. As a child, my five brothers and I possessed all of the comforts of life (a house with literally a white picket fence, a dog, food, parochial education from K1 thru 12 grades, a car), and most importantly, love. My mother, a self-made divorced woman, worked two jobs to provide those comforts; and for that reason, I will forever be indebted to her. The essence of me is grounded from the foundation she instilled in me during my formidable years. As an African American, I was fortunate to have a mother who raised me to be proud of my Negro, to Black, and now African-American heritage. While systemic racism may view my ethnicity as a detriment to my being or success, it is, nor will it ever be. I was reared to believe that I am the descendant of African Kings and Queens. My family legacy of slavery was narrated into a story about survivorship. I was told my ancestors were the strongest of the strong, who survived the ship rides to America despite horrific circumstances, and because of their strength and faith, they made it, despite the circumstance. My mom instilled in me a belief that I could accomplish everything I set my mind to achieve. Therefore, my legacy is that of faith, royalty, endurance, and resilience. Idyllic huh? My legacy came with an unwritten but much-spoken pledge. In honor of my ancestors, I make something of myself to pay homage and honor their sacrifices. I was not just expected; it was demanded. Hence, my upbringing came at a high price-naiveté and hard work. Though somewhat sheltered, I was told that others would view me based upon their perceptions and prejudices; but to always remember who I am-“Make Them Proud.”
What do you hope for the future?
I want for the future, a world where women, specifically African-American women, do not have to “dumb down” their intelligence for fear of a male feeling emasculated by their brilliance, resulting in the assassination of her character or being. Also, my hope for the future is simplistic, a world where women are not judged as less capable than their male counterparts. While there is much chatter amount white privilege, little is spoken about “male privilege.” The unspoken privilege of men is a long-overdue conversation. While the “Me 2 Movement” did shine some light on the issue, no resolution was found to dismantle systemic sexism. True, women have made great strides politically, educationally, and professionally. Nonetheless, casual microaggressions still exist and must be confronted by all for a lasting change to occur. I implore my young princesses to be that change, as I have, not just for yourself but also the next generation of women.
What is one thing you’d like for our girls to know as they continue through their high school education?
High school is the beginning chapter of your life. Enjoy your high school days, despite the challenges. This is the chapter in your life to develop a sense of your identity and belief of self- worth that will guide and influence your behaviors for the rest of your life journey. Many of you may not yet be decided on a career path, and it is okay; you have a few minutes left. Take your time and embrace this chapter of your life. There will be times you will despise high school. Other times, you will love it. While on your educational journey, embrace it like riding a roller coaster; there will be ups, downs, twists, and turns; but eventually, it will come to an end. Select a friend(s) to experience the ride with you. While finding yourself, spend time with family and friends because the high school experience will be over in a “blink of an eye.”
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Business Line COO

Hi! My name is Bindu. I'm 44 years old and have done a lot of different things in my life. I was born and raised in the DC area. I went to The George Washington University for undergrad and UMBC for grad school. I've worked as a library page, waitress, bartender, paramedic, ER tech, office administrative assistant, software developer, IT project and program manager, and I'm about to start as Chief of Staff/Business Line COO for the Tech Modernization division at Freddie Mac. About 17 years ago, I took a break from working full time to stay home with my kids. For 10 years, I stayed in touch with my work contact, kept up with technology and innovation, and was able to return to the full time work force. I've always looked at life as full of possibilities and life has never disappointed me. I believe in approaching every situation, conversation, everything with curiosity. Everything in your world is an opportunity to learn.

Who inspires or motivates you daily?
Every day holds a new possibility: An opportunity for a new start, if something didn’t go well. A chance to understand why you were sad or angry about something the days before or to become excited, sad, angered, inspired, or happy about something new. Some days are quiet and I get a chance to learn about myself. I look forward to finding out what is to come as the layers of the day peel away.
Why is education important?
Keep going, no matter what. Sometimes failures can bring you down, but they always lead to something else. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. People will respect you for wanting to learn. Always check in with yourself to make sure YOU are ok.
Who has helped you along the way?
I’ve found that just about everyone I’ve met has had some part in helping me along the way. I’m fortunate to have had loving and supportive parents and a large family. I also have a wonderful best friend I’ve known since high school who has always kept me grounded. I’ve had good and bad coworkers and bosses who have taught me everything from how to code to how not to manage people (how to be a good leader). The security guards at the buildings I’ve worked at have helped by saying hi and being so kind every day, allowing me to feel safe and welcome. I have a large group of supportive women friends I’ve made through the years. They are always there for the good or bad. We cheer each other along, no matter what.
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Gayle Fisher-Stewart

Retired Police Captain and Ordained Priest

A native Washingtonian and educated in DC Public Schools, she spent 20 years with the Metropolitan Police Department, retiring with the rank of captain. After consulting and teaching at the university level, she was ordained priest in the Episcopal Church and currently serves as interim rector (pastor) of the historic St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Washington, DC.

What inspires or motivates you daily?
We don’t have to live the way we do. We choose to live with bigotry, hatred, fear of the other, and poverty. If we would stop being self-centered, and selfish, everyone could have what they need to thrive because God has already provided everything.
Why is education important?
Education helps you imagine, to envision, what can be and provides a sense of self-awareness. Education helps you know from whence you come and provides a guide to the future
What is one thing you’d like for our girls to know as they continue through their high school education?
Education is life-long — from the womb to the tomb. Never stop learning.
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Jennifer Amuzie

Writer and Political Organizer

Jennifer Amuzie is a resident of Ward 6 in Washington, DC. She has roots in Igboland of Nigeria, the low country of south Georgia and is growing roots in her "community in struggle" by organizing with Sanctuary DMV, the ICE out of DC Coalition and the Defund MPD Coalition. She earned her Bachelor's and Master's degrees at Georgia Southern University (formerly Armstrong) in Savannah, Georgia, and contributed an essay to the bestseller and Illumination Book Award winner, Preaching Black Lives (Matter).

How did you get to where you are?
I definitely got here the long weird way; just by making friends, learning new skills and offering to help people using the skills that I learned. I did really well in high school but really poorly in college. After a couple of years working at a coffee shop, a luxury resort, and doing clerical work for an elementary school, I went to the program head of the graduate program and ask him to take a chance on me based on my GRE scores. While I was in grad school I started organizing with the Savannah Undocumented Youth Alliance. At the time, all of these students who grew up in Georgia were being forced to pay out of state tuition well kids from Tennessee and South Carolina had reciprocity and could come get in straight tuition. It was deeply unfair. We called State legislatures and met with the board of regents and shared our stories and I it was also making friends with them and realizing that this was something that I was good at – building relationships, elevating stories, effecting change. When I moved to DC, I wanted to work in portable communication one of the first friends I made invited me to Sanctuary DMV house meeting, and that became my political home. So I’m doing press work at our rallies and marches and I’m also learning what abolition is at the same time. I am building relationships with the Maryland delegation doing deportation defense work and I’m also meeting with DC council members I’m drafting language to make sure that the MPD isn’t using stop and frisk or jump outs to collaborate with ICE. It took less than five years to discover that I’m really good at effectively organizing for my community.
Why is education important?
Education is so important because it gives us knowledge of the world around us and the tools to change it. For someone like me who grew up in the rural south, education is about knowing that a better world is possible, that I’m not crazy for wanting something different. And then moving to DC, every door that was opened to me was opened because I have a Master’s degree. We can definitely talk about clericalism and how unfair it is that legitimacy is given to people who have the capability to do undergraduate and then graduate work, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that education is a vehicle to power.
What is one thing you’d like for our girls to know as they continue through their high school education?
Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. I asked my math teacher and high school counselor to double my up on math and 10th grade so that I could be on track for advanced classes and all of them and 12th grades. I emailed every head of admission at every school that I applied for in the fall before I sent my application in to tell them that I was excited about their school and introduce myself and ask questions, and I’m pretty sure that’s one of the reasons why I got into every school that I applied for. On the flip side of this, I was flown up to the University of Pennsylvania for the weekend. I hadn’t received my admission yet and so I thought it was too bold of me to go to the financial aid office and ask for my financial aid package to have more grants and fewer loans. It’s something that I still regret to this day! I wish that I had asked to be connected to all the retention and support tools that schools have when I was struggling in college. And my first job when I moved to DC, I took their first offer even though I wanted to ask for more. It turns out that they had budgeted over $10,000 more for that position. It’s always worth it to ask!
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Nuria Diallo Padro


Nuria Diallo Padro, MBA, M.Ed. is a global consultant specializing in strategic management and community engagement. As the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Continued Success Global, Nuria empowers organizations, groups, and individuals to embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) as they navigate change, strategic planning, learning and development, and strategic communications. Nuria has over 20 years of experience in community and global projects, and is taking this unprecedented time in our history to build and sustain communities through programming and virtual collaborations. Nuria has been recognized for her leadership, service and commitment to equity and advocacy by national organizations and world renowned universities. Nuria currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Penn State Alumni Association, the Steering Committee for Girls Global Academy in Washington, DC, and as President of the National Society for Leadership and Success at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas.

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Kim R. Form

CEO & President of Martha's Table

Kim R. Ford serves as President and CEO of Martha’s Table. Ford previously served as Deputy Assistant Secretary and Acting Assistant Secretary in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education. Ford provided leadership, direction, and management on over $2 billion dollars in career and technical education, adult education, correctional and re-entry education and community college initiatives, which collectively serve over 25 million students annually. Previously, Ford served as the Dean of Workforce Development and Lifelong Learning at the University of the District of Columbia Community College (UDC-CC). She promoted an environment of student success focused on building community, instituting feedback loops and helping students transition into higher levels of education and careers. Prior to joining UDC-CC, Ford served in the Obama Administration’s Recovery Implementation Office, which was responsible for implementing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. She directed working relationships between the Office of the Vice President and eight federal agencies on over $350 billion dollars of Recovery Act programs. Ford holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Business from Vanderbilt University and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Pennsylvania.

What do you hope for in the future?
In the future I hope that all DC residents living here now are given the opportunity to stay and THRIVE.
What is one thing you’d like for our girls to know as they continue through their high school education?
I would like all students to know that education is important. Earning a high school credential will allow for you to do many things. You can go to college, earn other credentials, enter the workforce etc. but having your high school diploma is the start, so keep going!
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Anjali Wells

Artist and Art Educ

Hey im Anjali! I am an artist and art educator born and raised in Maryland. I love animals, nature, and bright colors- you often see all of these in my artwork. I am dedicated to bringing the power of art and art making to everyone I meet, especially those who may not know about it yet! As a result, I recently started a non-profit organization called Creative Outlets Arts Center aimed at teaching people how to use art for mental health and providing students in need with the resources to do so. Check us out on Instagram @CreativeOutletsArtsCenter and tag me in the art you are making, i would LOVE to see your creativity!

What do you hope for in the future?
I hope that in the future people will be more compassionate towards both themselves and others. We’ve existed in a world that creates so many expectations and pressures for no real reason- we have the power to change that and create a life that celebrates and encourages the success and happiness of every person.
What is one thing you’d like for our girls to know as they continue through their high school education?
Girls, you can do ANYTHING. This can seem overwhelming at times, it can be hard to figure out what it is you want to do exactly but don’t ever give up on yourself. Trust in your intuition and you will always do what is right for you in any given moment.
Why is education important?
Education gives you the tools to eternally grow. The skills you learn in school serve you for the rest of your life and allow you to adapt as needed and reinvent yourself whenever you feel like it!
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Fanta Kamara

Program Specialist

Fanta Kamara is a Program Specialist in the Office of Minority Health Research Coordination of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at the National Institutes of Health. The Office was established in 2000 to address the burden of diseases and health disorders that disproportionately affect minority populations. As a Program Specialist, Fanta assists several OMHRC initiatives, including the Short-Term Research Experience for Underrepresented Students (STEP-UP) and the NIDDK Diversity Supplements Program, and recently completed a programmatic review and historical analysis of OMHRC programs since 1970. Prior to joining the NIDDK, Fanta was a Management Analyst in the Property Management Branch/Division of Logistic Services of the NIH's Office of the Director. In that role, Fanta was instrumental in developing the NIH Property Community Collaboration SharePoint Site and revamping the Branch's Site Assistance Visit program. Fanta is a 2020 recipient of the NIH Director's Award for her work on the NIH Optimize: Property Initiative, on which she served as the lead to the Communications subcommittee and as a member of the Data Analytics subcommittee. Fanta attended the National Cathedral School, an all-girls' school in D.C.. Following high school, she earned a B.S. degree in Health Science from Northeastern University in 2017 and earned a M.S. degree in Biotechnology from Johns Hopkins in 2019

Who has helped you along the way?
I have had so many people help and guide me along the way, starting with my parents, siblings, and friends. Other notable people include: my aunt, Betty Kamara; Marilyn Wilson, my Kindergarten teacher and close family friend; school chaplains: Rev. Elizabeth Powell, Josie Jordan, and Rev. Stacy Williams-Duncan; my Upper School Director, Dr. Elinor Scully; my 10th grade English teacher, Casey Baines: my college guidance counselor, Erin Johnston; my work-study supervisor at Northeastern University; and my mentor, Emily Ballou. Each of these women have played an integral role in my life. Most them have written at least one recommendation letter for me, whether for a summer program, college, or a job. As a quiet and introverted person, these women have encouraged me to use my voice and leave my comfort zone. They inspire me to think critically and creatively, and to strive to be the best. It is so important to have people in your corner who always support and believe in you.
Why is education important?
Education is a life-changing opportunity, particularly for women and girls. However many women and girls in some areas in our country and our world, are unable to complete their education due to many systemic barriers. These barriers include, child marriage, sex-based violence and discrimination, and what is known as “period poverty.” All of these barriers are closely linked. According to the World Bank, “girls worldwide miss 10-20% of school per year due to lack of menstrual supplies, inadequate sanitation, toilets, pain and social stigma.” Once a girl marries or becomes pregnant, it is very difficult for her to remain in school. They are more likely to be unemployed, or if they are, earn much less than their counterparts and are less likely to have any input at home. Girls’ education is the world’s best and smartest investment. Women and girls make up half the world’s population. Educated women and girls are empowered to make their own informed decisions, have higher wages and salaries, have higher economic productivity, are more politically engaged and involved, and more. Girls’ education is the world’s best and smartest investment. Women and girls make up half the world’s population. Educated women and girls are empowered to make their own informed decisions, have higher wages and salaries, have higher economic productivity, are more politically engaged and involved, and more

Girls Global Academy (GGA) is an all-girls public charter high school in Washington, DC.  We will provide a diverse group of young women a global education that ignites empowerment and develops the confidence to influence change for global benefit.

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Phone: 202-600-4822
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