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The headquarters of Girls Incorporated of Carpinteria opened its doors, welcoming supporters to the annual “Women of Inspiration 2014” luncheon and fundraiser with the aim to empower girls to be “Smart, Strong and Bold.”

Three local women, Rebecca Costa Smith, Lindsey Connolly and Cynder Sinclair, plus a local organization celebrating its 10th anniversary, The Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara, were honored as mentors and leaders within the community.

Girls Inc. alumni Smith and Connolly found that they shared a passion for humanity when they visited Haiti in 2008, inspiring the girls to form a nonprofit, Destined for Grace, with thrift stores that uses profits to educate and feed children in Mirebalais.

Sinclair spoke on the impact that the efforts of Girls Inc. have had on the community and the honor that she felt to be recognized by the group.

“The recognition as a Woman of Inspiration for Girls Inc. means so much to me because during the past 10 years as a Carpinteria resident, I have witnessed the powerful impact Girls Inc Carpinteria has on the lives of girls and their families,” she said. “Teaching girls to be strong, smart and bold enriches our entire community today and for generations to come.”

As founder of Nonprofit Kinect, Sinclair said she is inspired by the challenges of helping “nonprofits optimize their leadership and sustainability by sharing from my 30-year career of leading organizations. Nonprofit board and staff members are eager to build strong, viable systems and practices and I enjoy  helping them do that.”

The Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara now boasts more than 600 members and has raised $4.7 million through 64 grants distributed to local nonprofit organizations, including the Girls Inc. Carpinteria Eureka! Program.

Guest speaker Alix Generous shared inspirational messages about how she embraced the challenges she faced growing up with undiagnosed Asperger’s to become a role model.

“People can do whatever they want and nothing’s holding them back,” Generous said.

Generous elaborated on the belief of staying true to personal goals and morals for success, and her impressive list of accomplishments furthers the claim. The 21-year-old has spoken to the United Nations, delivered a TED Talk and helped make a major scientific contribution in applying quorum sensing to alleviate the damage to coral reefs.

“The only thing that will guide you to your true self-esteem is your inner compass,” Generous said. “Listen to yourself and what you believe and ignore the rest.”

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. Additionally, healthy lifestyles and relationships are fostered in a setting that encourages engagement in business, athletics, arts and self-reliance.

“We provide a safe and nurturing environment for girls where they are free to explore their interest, express themselves and develop what we like to call grit,” Girls Inc. of Carpinteria Executive Director Victoria Juarez said. “That means here they can grow beyond their comfort zone, they can take risks because if they fail they are going to be ok and get right back up.”

Co-emcees of the event, Ana Delgado and Maria Zamora, freshmen at Carpinteria High School, charmed and inspired the room of onlookers as they shared their academic accomplishments, goals and career aspirations for the future.

Delgado is enrolled in the popular Girl’s Inc. Eureka! Program, a five-year college-bound summer and school program that offers a variety of classes designed to help young girls excel in various academic fields, including science, technology and mathematics as well as sports, personal and career development.

Delgado, whose favorite subject is science, was recently accepted into the National Geographic scholarship program and will be traveling to the Bahamas, where she will be studying and participating in STEM-related fields and work with some of the top scientists in the nation.

She also took advantage of the Eureka! athletic opportunities offered in the program, taking a swimming lesson class during the summer that motivated her to join the varsity team.

“I have successfully completed the Carpinteria High School’s girls polo season and just recently finished my first year on the Carpinteria High School varsity swim team,” Delgado said.

Zamora, who enrolled in the Eureka! two years ago, said the program has provided her with the opportunity to explore science in fun and new ways.

“The Eureka! Program is challenging at times, but it’s a commitment I will keep because the program will help me reach my future goals,” Zamora said.

Zamora is also enrolled in classes at Santa Barbara City College where she is studying Latin, and she is also busy preparing for a trip that she is taking abroad a year from now where she will be traveling to Europe to visit the Coliseum in Rome, the Charles Bridge in Prague and Parliament in London.

“These two women are only two examples of the Girls Inc. family that we are honored to serve here,” Juarez said. “Our mission is to inspire all girls to be strong, smart and bold. And we know the pathway to do this is through academic achievement. It’s critical and we know it. So at Girls Inc. we continue to partner with organizations in our community to help close the achievement gap.

“Our girls are being exposed to college and career programs so that they can succeed, so that they can see a path forward.”

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