Girls Inc. presented the fourth annual Women of Inspiration Luncheon at its Carpinteria campus on Monday. All proceeds from the fundraiser will support Girls Inc. of Carpinteria’s mission to inspire girls to be strong, smart and bold.
Girls Inc. of Carpinteria teens Ana Delgado, Alitza Gonzales and Maria Zamora emceed the program.
The event recognized three honorees with deep roots in the community for their dedication to service. The Mericos Foundation was honored for its support of the organization’s Eureka! program. Also recognized was Nini Seaman, a parent volunteer, local artist, and dedicated Girls Inc. supporter and former board member. Asa Olsson, a local actress, was lauded for devoting 17 years to building a unique drama program and performance center at Girls Inc. of Carpinteria.
“Each year our luncheon celebrates the achievements of women who are inspiring the next generation of girls to have a voice and to dream big,” said Victoria Juarez, executive director of Girls Inc. of Carpinteria. “Our keynote speaker, Erica Ford, and our honorees, Nini and Asa, are each role models in their own right for all girls. We’re proud to recognize these courageous women who embody our mission to teach girls they are valuable, powerful and deserving of every opportunity.”
The fundraiser luncheon was co-chaired by Nancy Koppelman and Amanda Kastelic and assisted by honorary co-chair Sandra Tyler and committee members Daniella Alkobi, Michelle Hernandez, Theresa Huerta, Victoria Juarez, Sharon Organista and Jacqueline Pawela-Crew. Also showing their support were board president Stefanie Herrington and board members Diane Wondolowski, Patricia Madrigal, Kevin Baird, John Cerda, John Franklin, Clyde Freeman, Micheline Miglis and Gail Persoon.
Ford, CEO and founder of LIFE Camp Inc., was the luncheon’s keynote speaker. Ford is a native of Jamaica, Queens, in New York, where she grew up attending countless funerals for friends. Tragic violence in her community inspired Ford to create LIFE Camp (Love Ignites Freedom through Education), which provides at-risk inner-city youths (ages 13 to 24) the valuable tools they need to stay in school and out of the criminal justice system.
The foundation spawned Ford’s Peace Is a Lifestyle program featuring holistic guru and author Deepak Chopra, an outspoken supporter of her work who makes monthly visits to LIFE Camp to talk to and meditate with the group participants. In partnership with Chopra and yoga teacher Eddie Stern, Ford created the Urban Yogis program, inspiring at-risk youths to choose alternative pathways toward positivity and peace.
Ford and the Urban Yogis lead yoga in the New York City public school system, in detention centers and at the Baisley Park housing project in Queens. She has developed a citywide coalition and campaign to reduce gun violence in New York.
“I admire organizations like Girls Inc. that nurture the greatness in young women and girls,” Ford said. “I am honored to play a part in helping attract support for Girls Inc.’s mission and sharing the vision at this luncheon. Together we can all make peace a lifestyle.”
Girls Inc. of Carpinteria is a member of Girls Incorporated, a nonprofit organization that inspires all girls to be strong, smart and bold. With local roots dating to 1864 and national status since 1945, Girls Inc. has responded to the changing needs of girls through research-based programs and public education efforts that empower girls to understand, value and assert their rights. It provides programs for girls ages 6 to 18 that focus on science, math and technology; health and sexuality; economic and financial literacy; sports skills; leadership and advocacy; and media literacy.
— Noozhawk contributing writer Rochelle Rose can be reached at [email protected]. This article includes reportinf Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.