National scholars Ana Delgado, left, and Arianna Lopez, right, with inspirational speaker Saran Kaba Jones of FACE Africa at Girls Inc. of Carpinteria’s Women of Inspiration Luncheon. (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

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The recent “Women of Inspiration” luncheon and fundraiser at the Girls Inc. of Carpinteria headquarters was a gathering for empowering girls to be smart, strong and bold, and honored four local women as mentors and leaders within the community.

The luncheon began with welcoming messages from two Girls Inc. members, National Scholars Ana Delgado and Arianna Lopez, who are both continuing a tradition of excellence in the organization that has produced 19 national scholars since 1995.

Both girls confidently strode to the podium to share their experiences with Girls Inc. and their excitement for the future.

“I grew up on this campus and enjoyed participating in everything from drama, to sports, to Operation SMART,” Delgado said. “I consider Girls Inc. my second home.”

Delgado participated in the Girls Inc. Operation SMART program (Science, Math And Relevant Technology), and the 16-year-old sophomore from Carpinteria High School began attending Girls Inc. in kindergarten.

Lopez has been the recent recipient of $20,000 in scholarships awarded to her by Girls Inc. National and spoke of the unique balance of friendship with Delgado and others, plus education that she’s experienced as a member of the organization.

“I’ve been involved with Girls Inc. since I was a small girl. It’s amazing to think we’ve been friends for 15 years!,” said Lopez, a senior at Carpinteria High School. “Girls Inc. has helped me understand the importance of taking a leadership role. It would not be who I am today if it wasn’t for everything Girls Inc. has instilled in me. My experiences have been life-changing.”

Words of gratitude were shared for the event co-chairs in attendance, Nini Seaman and Sandra Tyler, and Nancy Koppelman, who was unable to attend, Executive Director Victoria Juarez, and the staff and board of Girls Inc. of Carpinteria.

Delgado shared with the crowd how, “this is perhaps the most exciting time in history to be a woman,” extolling big milestones for women, including that women now make up 47 percent of the workforce in the United States, 59 percent of college attendees are now women, and that today one-third of our nation’s doctors and lawyers are women.

“We have the power to shape our futures and the world around us in so many meaningful ways,” Delgado said. “Women have made major steps in politics and in business during the past year.”

The women honorees were then introduced to the crowd, Michelle Apodaca, director of Offices of the Chairman, CEO, COO and CFO at Deckers Brands; Donna Jordan, former middle school teacher, four-term Carpinteria councilwoman, Carpinteria’s first female mayor and co-founder of Carpinteria Beautiful; and Jennifer Freed and Rendy Freedman, co-founders and co-directors of AHA!

Board president Clyde Freeman followed the introduction of the women of inspiration and shared enthusiasm for the group and organization as a whole.

“I’m proud to tell you that Girls Inc. Carpinteria is among the top 10 producers of Girls Inc. National Scholars, of the 82 total affiliates nationwide,” Freeman said. “That’s truly an accomplishment for our smaller-size affiliate.”

The luncheon’s inspirational speaker, Saran Kaba Jones, was named by Forbes as one of the “20 Youngest Power Women in Africa” as the founder of FACE Africa, focused on a mission to improve water, hygiene and sanitation services and infrastructure in remote sub-Saharan Africa, while empowering girls and women with training and education. .

“Saran is not only a quintessential role model to women and girls, but her resilience, dedication and passion also make her a shining example of Girls Inc.’s ‘strong, smart and bold’ mantra,” Juarez said. “She has already accomplished more than most people dream to accomplish in a lifetime and, for that alone, she is a true inspiration to all of us.”

Born in Liberia, Jones left at age 8 as civil war in the country broke out, but returned 20 years later to find the need for a solution to the problems of contaminated water. Jones was proud to share her story with such an accomplished crowd.

“It is truly an honor to be able to speak in support of Girls Inc. of Carpinteria on the incredibly important subject of empowering young girls,” Jones said. “Inspiring and supporting girls to reach their full potential is a mission we share at FACE Africa and I’m thrilled to share my story today.”

Girls Inc. of Carpinteria provides cultural arts programs that expand young minds to explore performance, music and writing for teen and middle school-age girls. Healthy lifestyles and relationships are fostered in a setting that encourages engagement in business, athletics, arts and self-reliance in varied skills, including computers, science and history. Each of these unique programs provides a path for future leaders and enhances self-esteem to make responsible decisions.

All proceeds from the event supported the organizations programs serving 700 girls, ages 5 to 18, annually.

“We’re proud to be developing the next generation of young female leaders at Girls Inc.,” Freeman said. “And thank you all for supporting our organization and playing a part in nurturing generations of strong, smart and bold women.”

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.