The Chicago Sky has launched a new platform to honor inspiring women beginning in the 2016 WNBA Season. The #RedefinePossible Women’s Leadership Award was created to recognize women that serve as an inspiration to others by making a positive impact in the community and redefining possible for those around them.
What does Redefine Possible mean to you? “Not accepting tradition of what the world tells you, owning your path and creating the trajectory for yourself and walking in your own power.”
The Chicago Sky honors Lizette Williams as the first #RedefinePossible Award recipient. Williams is the Multicultural Marketing Leader, North America at Kimberly-Clarke Corporation, where she oversees marketing over six of the corporation’s brands including Huggies and Kleenex. Williams began her corporate career at IBM where she worked as a consultant for two years before spending over four years at PepsiCo, Inc. She is in her second year with Kimberly-Clark and has received several honors, the most recent being chosen as a 2016 Black Enterprise Top Woman in Advertising & Marketing.
Overcoming obstacles is challenging; however, Williams has proven that obstacles are not blockades. She grew up in the South Bronx borough of New York City and is the first member of her family to attend college. Williams’ credits her single mother for inspiring her strong work ethic and self-reliance early on.
“She was a teenage mom when she had my sister. She worked day jobs, night jobs and in-between jobs to make sure that we had the best life that she could provide for us,” said Williams. “There were a lot of values that she instilled in me from an education perspective and also to be an independent woman.”
Williams is astounded by the female power in the United States today. “We continue to be supported with many female leaders reaffirming us of who runs the world and continually encouraging us,” said Williams.
A mentor to numerous young women, her personal motto is “you lift as you climb.” As Williams rises in the corporate world, she dedicates herself to inspiring and helping others. She advises women to “continue to live life without limits. Lever your female power to your advantage and break barriers. It’s an amazing time to be a young woman in the United States.”
Shanita B. Akintonde
What does Redefine Possible mean to you? “People should not be held down by boundaries, whether it’s self-afflicted boundaries or those that society puts on them…Don’t be restricted.”
The Chicago Sky honors Professor Shanita B. Akintonde as the second #RedefinePossible awardee. Akintonde serves as the Advertising Program Coordinator and Associate Professor at Columbia College Chicago where she has been an educator for more than 17 years.
Before becoming a professor at Columbia, Akintonde worked in advertising and public relations and produced campaigns for companies such as Sprite and McDonald’s. Akintonde owns three degrees, including a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees.
In 2009, Akintonde spent three months in a coma after being in a near-fatal car crash. “I lost control of my car and I smashed into a brick wall. I’m told a lot of this because I don’t remember,” Akintonde recounts. “When the car spun out of control, it went airborne and hit the wall, and I was stuck in a seatbelt. I was pinned in my car.” She suffered numerous injuries, which included several broken bones and internal bleeding.
With 18 months of recovery, six of which were spent in the hospital and 12 months doing intensive rehabilitation from the crash, Akintonde had to relearn many functions like walking and talking. However, she made a full recovery.
The collision served as inspiration for Akintonde; she not only came back stronger physically, but also spiritually. “You don’t really know what you’re made of until you go through something,” Akintonde said. “At the time, it was horrible and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody, but on the other side of it, I’m a much better person, and I know that for certain.”
She used this new found energy and strength to create Women Who R.O.A.R.R (Reject Oppression and Reclaim Respect), a series of workshops and seminars designed to instill female empowerment.
Akintonde credits her strong relationship with her mother and father as a reason why she is who she is today. The best advice she ever received came from her mother, and it was “you are enough.” This has stuck with Akintonde her whole life as she explains it as, “just do as you are. You don’t need anything else.”
Having the opportunities to speak motivationally, Akintonde has passed on her own valuable advice for young women: “know you’re going to make mistakes. It’s not the mistakes that should concern you; it’s what you do from them.”
Jean Lenti Ponsetto
DePaul University Athletic Director Jean Lenti Ponsetto has a clear idea of Redefine Possible: “It’s about knowing the struggle of women in the United States, as far back as getting the right to vote, to the evolution of Title IX and the opportunities Title IX provided for women.”
Lenti Ponsetto has seen that evolution firsthand, since she first joined the DePaul family 41 years ago. She has worked her way up through the department, being named Athletic Director in 2002. She also is widely respected throughout intercollegiate athletics, as shown by the numerous athletic exploration committees she has served on in the past two decades, including being one of the eight women named to the 1999 NCAA Working Group to Study Men’s and Women’s Basketball Issues. Lenti Ponsetto has also been instrumental in transitioning DePaul Athletics from the NCAA’s Conference USA to the Big East Conference.
When asked about role models in the industry, Lenti Ponsetto had no shortage of answers, saying, “I have a couple really good friends in the industry that have been very impactful. One of them was the provost here at DePaul and her name was Dr. Patricia Ewers. She was a real role model to me; she held high leadership positions at the university and she really took me under her wing.”
Some may get tired of the rigmarole of day-to-day life in college athletics. Lenti Ponsetto, however, does not. She still enjoys the everyday rewards of the job, such as, “the interaction I get to have with the student athletes when they’re talking about their aspirations and how they see their growth and development,” said Lenti Ponsetto. “I also enjoy…when our former student athletes come back and I get to hear about what’s going on in their lives and how their DePaul education and experiences has impacted them. That’s incredibly rewarding and inspiring.”
Carrie James, a dedicated mother of two and grandmother to three boys, is the Chicago Sky’s fourth #RedefinePossible Award recipient. Ms. James spent more than 27 years as an employee of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice.
Ms. James is now retired and dedicates much of her time to volunteering and helping others. In 2011, she began volunteering with the Salvation Army ‘Golden Diners’ program, which serves and delivers nutritional meals to senior citizens. Ms. James finds joy in interacting with the senior participants: “I love talking to them and encouraging them, as well as receiving encouragement from them.”
On top of her service with the Golden Diners, Ms. James revels in serving the community through her church. She has been a Sunday School teacher for 24 years and is one of the founding members of her church. Ms. James is also involved with buying clothes and toys for the church’s annual Christmas giveaway.
What does Redefine Possible mean to you? “Taking limited knowledge and not being afraid to step out of your comfort zone; creating trajectory for yourself without fear.
Barbara Ellzey, founder of Reach Leadership Program for Girls, is recognized as the fifth #RedefinePossible Award recipient. Ellzey founded the program in 2009 in honor of her late mother, who inspired Ellzey’s mission in creating an educational program focused on building up young girls in Chicago.
“I had limited knowledge of starting a not-for-profit organization…all I knew was that I wanted to keep my mother’s memory alive,” Ellzey stated. “I wanted to show them [young women] what my mother showed me.”
The Reach Program provides mentoring and leadership training, as well as empowerment workshops to girls ages 5-17. The participants have also had opportunities to engage in group-enrichment activities such as attending Chicago sporting events and live plays.
Ellzey also dedicates her time to service within her church and with other mentor groups, such as 100 Black Men. In the future, Ellzey hopes to create an after-school tutoring program for local students.
She advises young people to never let fear of the unknown become an obstacle: “Don’t be afraid to follow your dreams, even if you have limited knowledge.”
Living by the motto “I always try to do my best and do unto others as I would have done to me,” Elise Jackson has done just that time and time again throughout her life. She continues to do so as she inspires people everywhere, especially young women, to be all they can be by helping others and finding a way to redefine possible.
Having her own definition of ‘Redefine Possible’ Elise explains, “Anything is possible. Just strive and go for what you know. There will always be someone out there that may not believe in you but there’s always someone out there that will believe in you. So if you just put yourself around positive people, then they’re going to let you know all that is possible.”
Elise’s son Elijah was born prematurely and spent seven months in the hospital; he weighed 1 pound, ½ ounces at birth. It was a miracle that Elijah was able to survive the circumstances that he had to face; and, Elise continues to refer to him as “my miracle baby” and shares his story in an effort to encourage people going through similar circumstances to have faith and be strong.
Elise made a commitment to help her employer meet a $1.2M goal for March of Dimes, a foundation focused on eliminating premature birth, by traveling around the U.S. to share her story.
She represented March of Dimes, along with her son and husband, at twelve Kick-Off events, participated in many walk-a-thons/runs across the country, photo shoots for magazine articles, golf outings, company sponsored family days, Boeing Plane delivery and numerous presentations telling her story. She also spent a large part of her time, including weekends and vacations, heading up fundraisers to support the worthy cause. Due largely to her efforts, Elise helped her employer blow away its goal of $1.2M and reach $3.5M raised for March of Dimes.
Tai Duncan didn’t jump at the opportunity to play basketball…at first. “I was just really tall when I was a kid and so everyone kept saying ‘You should play’ and I sort of reluctantly started playing when I was 12.” She’s glad she did.
After playing throughout high school, she followed in her father’s college ball footsteps by playing at Grinnell College and earning Academic All-Midwest Conference honors and Second Team All-Midwest Conference Honors for her athletic performance.
She continued being involved in the sport through coaching after college, and is currently an AAU girls’ basketball coach and skills trainer at Flow Basketball Academy. She is also the Executive Director of the Chicago chapter of national youth sports nonprofit organization, Positive Coaching Alliance.
Ms. Duncan points towards compassion and individual attention as the key to success as a coach. “People can tell when you only care about winning or you’re coaching just for your own record and recognition. At the very basic level, you have to care about the people you’re coaching and their development as people and as athletes.” Investing in young girls as individuals is invaluable, from teaching them about the benefits of good posture to the importance of confidence.
Her compassion is reflected not only through coaching, but also in every aspect of her life. She was very fascinated with theater as a girl, but chose to play basketball and volleyball instead of pursuing theater in high school. For her, that choice didn’t mean she had to give up on her interest altogether.
Through a friend, Tai started volunteering for Lookingglass Theatre in Chicago, and worked her way up to her current position of Immediate Past President of the Junior Board for the theater in just eight years. Ms. Duncan selflessly contributes her increased involvement with Lookingglass to opportunities given to her by other people at the theater.
When her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, she didn’t stand idly by. She got involved with several cancer research foundations and tried to make a difference for her mother and other people suffering. Her mother is a three-time cancer survivor.
Ms. Duncan takes this can-do attitude with her everywhere, including to the University of Iowa College of Law where she received the Dean’s Achievement Award and served as an Associate Note and Comment Editor for the Journal of Gender, Race and Justice. Her career as a lawyer and businesswoman in Chicago is just as impressive as her volunteer experience.
Tai truly is a role model for young girls. Full of kindness, compassion, vigor, brains, and an ability to make anything happen, she hopes to pass on these traits to young girls through coaching and mentoring. “I would encourage women especially to
think outside the box when they’re trying to create the life they want.” She advises taking pieces of things you love and believe in—sports, theater, justice—to make a happy and whole life.
She also recognizes the value in women helping other women, and emboldens her players to prioritize that because it will help everyone in the long run. “If you help other women, good things will come to you.”
Tai is an example of someone who knows who she is and what she wants in life, and made it happen.
Sherina Maye Edwards
The Chicago Sky is honored to award Commissioner Sherina Maye Edwards with the #RedefinePossible Women’s Leadership Award.
For many the expression, “Redefine Possible,” can seem nebulous and hard to define. Not for Commissioner Edwards. “I think that redefine possible means that you have to find things that fit yourself,” said Edwards. “When I think of redefining possible, it really is taking something for yourself and achieving those dreams that you have.” And throughout her life, Commissioner Edwards has embodied that spirit.
Commissioner Edwards aspired to earn an education that would open doors for her to change the world. Through hard work and determination, the Commissioner worked her way to Spelman College, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, cum laude, and a Juris Doctorate from Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C., where she was a merit scholar.
After college, Commissioner Edwards joined the highly regarded international law firm, Locke Lord LLP, where she focused primarily on consumer finance litigation. On February 25, 2013, Governor Pat Quinn appointed Commissioner Edwards to a five-year term on the Illinois Commerce Commissioner, earning her the distinction of the youngest commissioner ever appointed in the state of Illinois.
Since her appointment to the ICC, Commissioner Edwards has taken an interest in electric reliability, water, natural gas and critical infrastructure issues. She has also taken an active role in a number of regulatory commissions focused on utility, infrastructure, research and education. Commissioner Edwards has also given a special focus to championing diversity and inclusion, founding the Women’s Energy Summit in September 2014 in an effort to bring together an elite collection of women to discuss energy solutions for tomorrow while celebrating the accomplishments of today.
In her free time, Commissioner Edwards focuses on helping underprivileged youth rise above their often troubled upbringings and help bring positive change to the world.
“The most rewarding to me is mentoring young women. I volunteer at an elementary school on the west side; and, for me, mentoring those young women who, many of them live in certainly an underprivileged neighborhood in the city of Chicago, many of them come from single parent households and are impoverished,” said Edwards. “And, I learn from them…They have perseverance; they have determination, so that, for me, inspires me.”
Perseverance, determination, and inspiration are all qualities that Commissioner Edwards embodies every day of her life, and all of these are qualities that make her truly worthy of the #RedefinePossible Women’s Leadership Award.
Katina Embrey’s journey towards redefining possible started by doing the impossible: “I grew up in a bad neighborhood with drug addicts and alcoholics; I was the first woman in my family to get a job,” said Embrey. “I was the first person in my family to own a house or get a degree in school. I was the first person to do a lot of things, because we came from being in the system, on public aid. To be a woman that didn’t follow in those footsteps, I was the first person to achieve a lot of things in my family.” And achieve, she has.
For Embrey, a college degree and owning a house provided her the opportunity to open the doors for those in need. She became a certified foster parent to six children for ten years; she would later go on to adopt all six children. She was determined to set a strong example for those children to build upon their dreams and not let anyone tell them they could not do what they wanted to do in their lives.
Embrey works as a Facility Specialist Engineer for the YWCA and she and her team are responsible for rehabbing hotels in downtown Chicago. Additionally, Embry works as part of the YWCA’s CONSTRUCT-U job training program, focused on giving young people their first step to a career in skilled trades. Embrey often uplifts her youth mentees by lending them words of encouragement such as, “You can do it! I’ll be your biggest cheerleader. It’s going to be hard and there are going to be things that you don’t want to do, but you have to be persistent.”
The phrase “Redefine Possible” can seem foreign to some, but not to Embrey, who says, “They didn’t believe we (women) could do it. I just wanted to go out there and show them that we could.” Embrey has shown them all loud and clear the type of contributions a strong woman in a leadership role can bring to the public at large.
What does #RedefinePossible mean to Latasha McCray? “It is something you do on a daily basis. It’s the little things, the little steps you take to teach somebody or motivate somebody every single day.”
McCray has utilized the avenue of athletics to overcome obstacles and teach her community her entire life. Growing up the oldest of four children in the Englewood neighborhood, Latasha had high aspirations. She wanted to be an example and be the first to graduate from college in her family. Excelling in track and field, Latasha received an athletic scholarship to Robert Morris University Illinois (formerly Robert Morris College) to run cross-country. Latasha graduated Cum Laude in 2006, becoming a first generation college graduate. She later returned to Robert Morris to earn her Master’s degree in business.
Knowing how athletics helped change her life, Latasha wanted to give back and help children, “I love sports, and sports have changed my life as far as providing leadership, motivation and responsibility. So I am trying to teach the younger kids now how to do the same thing.”
For two years she coached varsity and junior varsity basketball at Walter Payton College Prep. Currently she serves as the girl’s track and field team at Lindblom Math and Science Academy. Latasha has used these opportunities to inspire her team. There are two mottos she passes on to her athletes: “as a unit, as a team” and “teamwork makes the dream work.” She asks her athletes to put the bigger picture of a team ahead of themselves.
Latasha goes above and beyond for her student-athletes to ensure they achieve greatness. “It is most rewarding when my team does well, takes leadership and guidance well, and it shows on the track and field or on the basketball court. I do not get paid much [to coach], I just do it because I love it. It is more rewarding when kids grasp the concept I am trying to teach and apply it in the field of competition.”
A message Latasha preaches on a regular basis, not just to her athletes, but to anyone aspiring to break barriers is, “if you want it, go for it. The sky is the limit. As long as you put the hard work and effort into it, you will be rewarded in the end.”
Chrishon Lampley knows that she has redefined possible, but she also recognizes that there is always more to be accomplished.
“It’s beyond breaking the glass ceiling; you can keep reaching even higher. I feel very strongly to never stop, never settle.”
Lampley was thriving in 2009 when she and her business partner opened Three Peas Art Lounge, an art gallery with a wine bar. Her hard work crumbled in 2010 when flooding overtook the gallery and insurance would not pay for the repairs. Lampley was left with nothing, but still felt a yearning to continue her work with wine.
She started writing a blog called “Love Cork Screw.” The blog covered topics ranging from the best wine selections in Chicago, to takes on restaurants and pop culture. She turned Love Cork Screw into her own personal brand, distributing two types of varietals in 2013. Now, Lampley has expanded the company, turning her passion into wine that can be found in Mariano’s and other locations throughout the Chicagoland area.
“When you have expectations, and you have your mind set on something and something happens to completely change that, you are caught so off-guard,” said Lampley. “I almost got kicked out of my house, I lost everything. I said no, this is not the end of me.”
Her strength and determination is echoed in the organizations that she donates generously to. She is a proponent of YWCA Metropolitan Chicago and the Metro Board of the Chicago Urban League. Lampley focuses on making a difference in the lives of those who think they can’t accomplish their dreams.
The best piece of advice that she has received is also one that she likes to preach: “You can’t control the uncontrollable. It goes in so many ways that we become affected by so much negativity.”
Jo Anne Smith
Jo Anne Smith doesn’t believe in the word “impossible”; everything can be achieved if you just put your mind to it.
“I think that you just have to keep pushing, be assertive, not aggressive, and persevere through life,” said Smith.
Smith started the nonprofit organization Committed Knitters. The program has been teaching knitting and crochet to incarcerated women in the Cook County Jail for the past nine years. Smith has been a lifelong knitter, while also working as a licensed clinical social worker. She wants to encourage women to believe in themselves and to foster a sense of community in places where it may seem that all hope is lost.
The program ran into some adversity when people told Smith that she would never be able to bring knitting needles into the Cook County Jail. This is when Smith really learned how to #RedefinePossible.
“Some of the people in the class would teach the officers how to knit, and then the officers started to relax. The whole atmosphere around the program shifted,” said Smith.
Smith says that seeing the inmates succeed and feel good about themselves is the most rewarding part of her job. She believes that knitting helps the women to relax and truly see that they can do something with their lives, despite being in a tough situation.
Her work with the Cook County Jail has influenced the lives of many women over the past nine years. She has learned many lessons from the inmates and their life stories. Smith encourages young women to go outside the box and break barriers.
“I think going outside the box, of just typical things that people do, always challenges yourself and challenges others. You can achieve whatever you want; you just have to persevere at it. Even though people told me I could never get knitting needles into Cook County Jail, they’ve been there for nine years and we’ve never had a problem.”
What does Redefine Possible mean to you? “A lot of people would look at certain circumstances I am presented with in rescue as impossible. I never live my life that way…if I put enough energy and enough of my heart into something then I can make anything possible.”
Kristen Gerali, the founder of ALIVE Rescue in Chicago, learned through the misfortunes of animals that tragedy does not necessarily equate to defeat. When Hurricane Katrina wrecked New Orleans in 2005, Kristen did not hesitate to be a helping hand to the animals in despair.
She admitted feeling a transformation upon her return from New Orleans: “I knew that was my passion and that’s what I wanted to do. So I started volunteering a lot at a local shelter.”
Troubles arose about a month after Kristen began volunteering; the founder of her local shelter passed away and resulted in the shelter closing. What was yet to come for the animals was unknown, until Kristen decided to start her own animal rescue.
What Kristen did not know, initially, is that managing a rescue is a lot like operating a business. “When you’re first starting a rescue, you start it with your heart…It’s a business, so it has to be run like a business.” She learned on the go that she had to know more than how to rescue an animal, but everything from running a team of volunteers, to creating a website and graphics.
Her vision changed eventually; she worked at her original rescue for two years and then started ALIVE in 2008, which aims to be a safe temporary home for rescued animals. ALIVE also prides itself on using sustainable materials and seeking the well being of all animals, not just its rescued animals. “I give my all, I give it with 100 percent compassion and I always have the animals’ best interest at heart.”
The most rewarding aspect of her service is when severely hurt and/or mistreated animals are cared for physically, emotionally and behaviorally. Kristen receives the most joy when their hardest cases end in a forever home.
Justine Fedak speaks with the kind of confidence, expertise and energy of a motivational speaker—probably because she is one. Ms. Fedak is the Senior Vice President and Head of Brand, Advertising, and Sponsorship for BMO Financial Group, North America, as well as a board member of Joakim Noah’s “Noah’s Arc” foundation and public speaker. To put her passion in perspective, she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2001 and yet managed to run a half marathon in 2009. She exemplifies the kind of determination she speaks about.
“My ability to play basketball is minus-100,” she says with a laugh, “but my love of basketball is big.” Justine is best friends with Noah’s mother and in 2007 became the first non-family member to join Noah’s Arc, a foundation that supports Chicago’s youth in sports and the arts. Her daughter grew up watching Noah and the Bulls, but was particularly impacted when she saw the Sky play a few years ago. “She was so inspired by them, and even though she’s a small statured person, right away after she saw the Sky she wanted to play basketball at school.”
Justine applauds female athletes for creating wonderful examples for young women and being passionate about what they do. Her advice to young women and athletes is to be yourself and stay active—even if you don’t necessarily participate in sports. She wishes she grew up being taught that you could learn from athletics in ways other than playing. “Because I live with MS and a disability, I’ve derived a lot of strength from watching the perseverance of athletes and the determination that happens as a consequence of sport, as well as the camaraderie of the team.”
Although Justine grew up near Toronto, she has lived in Chicago for the majority of her adult life. It’s her favorite city. You can catch her at various organizations throughout the year talking about living with MS and her success in the marketing industry. When asked to boil her speeches down to a few bullet points, she began with a quote from author Jack Kerouac: “Be in love with your life, every minute of it.” Justine again emphasized the importance of being yourself and being passionate about whatever it is you do. Lastly, she explained that being happy is a choice, and you can wake up every day and choose to be happy.
“Living with MS and dealing with the things that I do, I have come to understand that being happy and enjoying every day, and the people around you for who they are and what they do is absolutely a choice. Our fears are our own self-constructed barriers. We create things that limit us. You can be in the game, or you can be mourning the loss of the game.”
What does Redefine Possible mean to you? “It means exceeding expectations; It means proving people wrong, to be underestimated. There is something motivating to me when I am underestimated. I appreciated when someone underestimated me and they see what I’m truly capable of and how astounded they are.”
Lillian Harris is the founder of three non-profit organizations that aim to provide support for young women by allowing them to see that they do not have to be limited by their circumstances and that they are not “doomed to failure because they had a child at an early age.”
“Starting a nonprofit organization for adolescent mothers, that was a goal I’ve had since the age of 17. I had the vision for providing housing for homeless teens and young moms that wanted go to college. The reason I had this goal is because I am former teen mom. I experienced homelessness most of the time in the pursuit of my undergraduate education,” said Harris.
The three organizations Lillian has founded are: Advocates for Adolescent Mothers, the Educational Empowerment Program and AFAM Infinite Legacy League. AFAM has awarded more than $6,500 to college bound teen moms and young mother’s in college. The organization has assisted three young mothers in graduating from college with bachelor’s degrees. Additionally, the organization has reached hundreds of youth, distributing backpacks and school supplies to young mothers, provided programming and mentoring, and delivering toys and coats to homeless young mothers. AFAM made history this past summer by becoming the first and only nonprofit to deliver After School Matters programs exclusively to teen mothers.
Having been in a similar situation and understanding what young mothers are going through, Lillian is a constant resource for advice and wisdom. “There’s a quote in the signature of my email that I feel really embodies my experience as a former teen mom, born and raised in poverty, also really models what it is in the work we do with young moms and their children,” said Harris. “It is a quote by Maya Angelou, ‘I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.’”
Of the many young mothers she encounters, Lillian tells them, “always create goals, write them down. Do not get discouraged despite what circumstances may look like, stay focused.” This is advice that goes beyond just the young women Lillian encounters. It is something we can all take to heart and use to better our own lives.
The September 13 #REDEFINEPOSSIBLE honoree was actress and advocate Sophia Bush. Sophia is involved with a variety of projects that advocate for young women, focusing her efforts on women’s rights and girls’ education access in particular.
Named one of the most charitable celebrities by CNN, Sophia devotes her free time to bettering girl’s education and the environment. She inspires millions as she uses her personal platform and social media influence to raise awareness and funds for great causes. Since taking to social media to share her passion for change, Bush has inspired young people to join her in raising nearly half a million dollars for charity, built three primary schools in Guatemala and Laos, and now serves as a global ambassador for Glamour’s The Girl Project. Her focus, with The Girl Project, is to break down the barriers the girls face to secondary school education. They are currently working in 96 countries around the world.
This year, she was selected as a member of the Super Soul 100 by Oprah Winfrey, a collection of 100 awakened leaders who are using their voices and talent to elevate humanity. Sophia is one of the creatives, that Oprah says “will inspire you to dream in a whole new way.”
Sophia is also an actress and can be seen in the hit NBC show Chicago PD.
Dominique Jordan Turner
Chicago Scholars President and CEO Dominique Jordan Turner lives by the motto: “I’ll find a way or make one,” as she has lived by this in her own life.
What motivated Dominique to “find a way” began as her journey through school took place. Dominique was the first in her family to graduate from both high school and college. She feels lucky that she has had so many opportunities and through Chicago Scholars, she is able to give back.
Chicago Scholars is a college access space that creates high quality educational opportunities for first generation, and under-served students across Chicago. Her role at the Chicago Scholars as President and CEO has been the most rewarding to Dominique because she has the privilege to serve students as an advocate and it’s a chance change their lives. “I provide the opportunity for hundreds of students every year [and] I know we are changing their lives and their families and, ultimately, the city of Chicago.”
Dominique has been selected for several prestigious leadership opportunities including Leadership Greater Chicago, IMPACT through Chicago Urban League and University of Chicago, the Trinity Fellows Program focusing on Urban Leadership, New York University’s Lead the Way Fellowship, and the Broad Residency in Urban Education. She is the co-Founder of Black Girls Lead, a supportive network for African American women leading nonprofits in Chicago, and serves on the Chicago Public School Board of Education.
With all of these leadership opportunities, she has been given proper recognition including the recent announcement as the 2016 Woman of the Year for Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc. Glamour Magazine highlighted her in their annual 50 Hometown Heroes feature that acknowledges women who are making a difference in their community, and esteemed radio show Café Mocha recognized her with the Salute Her: Community Activist Award.
What does Redefine Possible mean to Dominique? “It’s about taking the rules that are put on society and throwing that out the window and creating and writing your own rules and believe that anything is possible.”
Young women aspiring to break barriers and attain success in their respective industries, Dominique advises, “It’s very similar to the motto, ‘there is such thing as no.’ There’s always a road to ‘yes.’ On the road to success if you want to do anything good, there’s always going to be bumps and detours. When I talk to young women, I let them know there’s always a yes and your job is to find it and to find the people to lead to that ‘yes.”