© 2024 EmpowHer Institute.
Cecilia Owens is the Chief Financial Officer at industry-leading music licenser APM Music, where she oversees accounting, finance, human resources, and legal affairs. With balanced career growth in various industries, including entertainment, social media, advertising, technology, television services, and financial services, Cecilia thrives in changing environments. Her storied career has included deep, functional experience in cash management, financial reporting, budgeting/forecasting, strategic planning, payroll, 401K administration, benefits administration, taxes, business insurance, and banking relationship management.
Before accepting her current role, Cecilia held progressively emergent positions at worldwide leader of satellite television DIRECTV and entertainment giant FOX, where she was responsible for the consolidated SEC financial reporting of websites such as MySpace, IGN, Rotten Tomatoes, and PhotoBucket.
A native of Southern California, Cecilia attended Junipero Serra High School where her admiration for academics flourished. She went on to earn a Bachelor of Science Degree in Accounting from Loyola Marymount University, and an MBA from the University of Southern California. Outside of work, Cecilia is a proud wife, mother, and experienced world traveler.
Joslyn Osborn is a partner with Vaco Los Angeles and is responsible for expanding, leading, and training the executive search team. She has more than ten years of client service and recruiting expertise for finance and accounting professional roles. Joslyn has expanded the Vaco Financial team, driven internal process improvement, and increased revenue and EBITDA by 200 percent.
Joslyn is active in the community, launching The Grid in LA, an informal networking group for emerging CPAs. She also serves as a mentor for middle school girls through her work with EmpowHer Institute.
Hoda embarked on her journey over two decades ago, dedicating her time to both work and volunteer efforts within the nonprofit sector. She has an academic foundation in Social Sciences and Crisis Intervention and Counseling, complemented by proficiency in three languages.
Hoda international experience in four different countries has enriched her personal and professional growth, deepening her understanding, empathy, and knowledge, fostering cultural sensitivity towards diverse human needs and challenges.
Hoda dedicated her career to working with vulnerable families, children, and women, focusing on building resilience, women's economic empowerment, advocacy, and raising awareness about gender-based violence. Notably, she became an integral part of the emergency first response team during the onset of the Syrian Refugee Crisis in the Middle East. Her contributions also led to the establishment of the first child protection center for Syrian children with the SOS Children’s Village International.
Hoda later brought her expertise to UN Women, where she played a pivotal role in the initiation and execution of a Women’s Economic Empowerment program implemented across five countries on a regional scale.
Today, Hoda proudly serves as a Program Manager at the EmpowHer Institute, where she eagerly aligns herself with the organization’s mission and vision.
Alejandra Vides-Austin was born and raised in Maryland, in the suburbs of Washington, DC. She moved to Los Angeles to pursue her passion for adventure and creativity, and fell in love with the West coast immediately. She earned her associate of arts degree in visual communications from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM).
Alejandra feels blessed to have had the opportunities she’s had across education, hobbies, resources, jobs, and more, and has an impassioned desire to find ways to give others the same access. As a woman of mixed-race heritage, Alejandra knows how important it is for young women and girls of color to see someone who looks like them doing the things they dream of doing. She is honored to be able to share her life experiences and uplift the girls of EmpowHer to new heights.
Maya is an educator and youth advocate, holding a Bachelor’s degree from UCLA and a Master’s in Education from LMU. With a diverse background—from mentoring middle school girls throughout her college experience to teaching 7th grade—she brings 6+ years of experience in youth mentorship and leadership. Maya’s passion lies in utilizing the classroom as a platform to address nonacademic needs, particularly the socio-emotional challenges faced by girls of color in their daily lives. In her role as Academy Instructor, she hopes to encourage the girls to embrace their voices and contribute to creating a more equitable world.
As a transracial adoptee, Maya’s journey began grappling with feelings of invisibility and otherness. Balancing between two cultures without feeling like she truly fits in either one, she deeply understands the importance of being seen and heard. Maya’s personal narrative fuels her dedication to co-create a safe and inclusive space with young girls that is designed by them, for them, ensuring they never feel alone, as they navigate the nuances of growing up.
Megan Hobza, MBA, has provided strategic planning and business writing services for over three decades to organizations in the nonprofit sector. For 20 years, she consulted on participant-led program design, grant proposal writing, and community benefits reports for a major metropolitan medical center as part of an interdisciplinary Community Services Department team leading initiatives to impact social determinants of health; these projects were made possible by hundreds of federal, state, county, city, and private foundation grant awards worth over $40 million.
Ms. Hobza’s specialty in consulting for emerging nonprofits has benefited clients in education, harm reduction, environment, healthcare, and the arts. Her cross-sector work as a community-building catalyst in her hometown of Whitter, CA, has included voter education, social justice advocacy, a hyper-local newspaper, and public-private partnerships producing $4.5 million to establish an LGBTQIIA+ center. Her pro bono projects include training young activists from marginalized communities in the grant writing trade.
Ms. Hobza is a past board member of PCDA, Inc. and Echo Park Time Bank, and served as board chair of the Arroyo Time Bank, board secretary of the Whole Place of Whittier, and president/CEO of Sustainable City. In 2015, she was awarded a National Arts Strategies Creative Community Fellowship.
Gloria Carolina Dominguez, is a Vice President, Branch Manager, for City National Bank. Gloria began her career in baking as a Teller over 20 years ago, and has moved her way up to where she is now. Gloria joined City National Bank almost two years ago, and out of all her years in banking coming to CNB has been such an amazing journey.
She joined the Latino Community Network (LCN) Colleague Resource Group right after starting with CNB and the LCN has opened so many doors and has allowed her to work with the Latino community, and it has led her to meeting such amazing people and definitely living her everyday life with a purpose. As one of the co-Chairs she wants to continue on the journey to give back to the community in which she works and lives. Apart from work Gloria is also a very proud mom of two incredible children and one grand-daughter Emma. Both of her Kids (Omar and Lucie studied Engineering). She loves being with her family, hearing their stories, cooking, practicing Yoga, helping, and just being around them makes her happy. Gloria lives her life with a purpose as she knows she only has one life to live.
Jazmin received her Bachelors in Economics from Mills College and her MBA from Mills College, Lorry I. Lokey School of Business. She is a first generation Latina college graduate that is passionate about supporting WOC to achieve their academic and career goals. During her undergraduate studies, she provided mentorship to girls in Oakland Unified School District and Los Angeles Unified School District and college prep and guidance to San Jose’s Downtown College Prep graduates. She has also provided program support to non-profit organizations. During her graduate studies, she consulted with small BIPOC owned businesses to create marketing strategies and business plans. Jazmin hopes to continue supporting women and girls on their educational paths.
N’nandii Alexander is a Los Angeles native, born and raised. She has a Bachelor’s Degree from Boise State University and has 5+ years of experience working as a Special Education Educator. The covid-19 prompted N’nandii to help ease the conflicts families were experiencing with Home/Distance learning, which is what led her to entrepreneurship. She is the proud founder and CEO of a company that provides educational services to a multitude of LAUSD schools/students. N’nandii is passionate about emphasizing equity and inclusion in school cultures and she thrives to equip students of marginalized communities with the tools and resources needed to excel.
Jessica was born and raised in Miami, Florida and moved to California to complete her MFA in Screenwriting. Having lost her parents at a young age, she always felt she lacked peace and true happiness. Finding a passion in Creative Writing, she found a healthy outlet that inspired, not only healing, but Social Justice, as well. At that moment, Jessica made it her mission to teach youth from marginalized communities that their voice was not a choice; it was an opportunity to seek and evoke change. The majority of what we keep silent, speaks volumes – so it is imperative to rewrite the narrative.
With a background in Journalism, Jessica teaches Upward Bound students the true value of ethics and the impact the media has towards it. But her biggest passion lies in breaking generational curses within the girls who look just like her. Having been called inferior or insignificant based on race and sex, she truly understands how words can hurt but they can also heal. Jessica feels it is important to teach young women how diction is the most powerful weapon in the world, they simply have to use it explosively.
Dawn L. Brown joined the EmpowHer team in October 2020. She has more than 20 years of nonprofit management and consulting experience, and has served as the Executive Director of three well-respected nonprofit organizations across California. In each role, Dawn successfully launched fundraising and marketing strategies that increased company revenue, improved program delivery, and expanded advocacy and policy efforts for youth of color from economically disadvantaged communities.
As an advocate and strategic thought partner, Dawn has led advocacy initiatives that successfully became California legislation and/or established best practices for eliminating gender bias within the juvenile justice system, decriminalizing sex trafficked girls, implementing community-based gang intervention strategies, and ending the shackling of pregnant women. Dawn has also served on various advisory boards and think tanks focused on issues affecting women & girls of color.
A proud native of Washington, DC, Dawn has spent the past five years returning home to support her family and supporting local and national initiatives that are fighting to ensure racial justice and eliminate gender bias in America.
Dawn helped to develop educational theater curriculum for public and private schools in New York City and was an Acting Instructor at Atlantic Theater Company in NYC. Dawn graduated from the prestigious Duke Ellington High School of the Arts in DC, received her BFA in Acting from New York University’s renowned Tisch School of the Arts and a MA in Drama Therapy from New York University’s School of Education.
Angel James Horacek practices employment and civil rights law on behalf of employees, focusing primarily on anti-discrimination work. She represents employees in courts, arbitrations, and administrative hearings. She also counsels employees in select pre-litigation matters.
She is admitted to practice in all state courts in California, in the United States District Court for the Central, Northern, and Southern Districts of California, and in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. She was also an extern in the chambers of the Honorable Andrew J. Wistrich of the United States District Court for the Central District of California.
She is the co-chair of the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s Labor and Employment Saturday Seminar Committee, which presents continuing legal educational programs for lawyers and law students several times through the year. She is also an active volunteer with the Los Angeles Black Workers Center in View Park.
Prior to starting her own firm, Ms. Horacek was an associate commercial litigator at an AmLaw 100 firm focusing on business and corporate clients. She then transitioned to representing individuals as an associate attorney at a boutique employee-side litigation firm.
What does it mean to be a change agent, a leader, and a mentor? It means marrying your passion and mission to your work and showing up authentically in your purpose to advance and support the lives of those around you. As a Loyola Marymount University alum, Xavia Janisse had the opportunity to graduate with a degree in Psychology and African American Studies as she worked with renowned educators. Her educational background informs how she approaches her work with youth of color in communities riddled with stigma and inequities. Her field of study allowed her to explore the psychology of gender, psychology of diversity, social justice, and a myriad of other subjects. During her time at LMU, she was able to work with community activists and lead ethnic and intercultural initiatives on campus as well as in the community-at-large.
In addition to her educational background, she works with youth of color at College Track, a college preparatory and completion program that deconstructs systemic and systematic barriers in education. Her work at College Track is student-centric and student-led to ensure the scholars feel empowered to rewrite their narratives through experiential learning opportunities while providing them with meaningful, case-by-case interventions. In her role, she also gets to develop curriculum, implement youth trauma-informed care practices, and instruct/facilitate workshops that support students as they explore and express their intersecting identities.
These experiences have equipped her with the tools and skills to advocate for youth and support them with tangible resources and equitable opportunities to better leverage their educational experience, not just as a student, but as a whole person. Her pedagogy is informed by an interdisciplinary and culturally/gender-responsive lens that uses social-emotional learning as the foundation for enrichment. Her educational background and professional experience support her vision and passion specifically for the advancement of young ladies of color, who are truly her “why”.
Passion and a strong work ethic have defined Staci Janisse’s incredible journey as a child of God, wife, mother, and transformational life coach. Following her academic career at Grambling State University and the University of Kansas, she served a 14-year sentence in Corporate America and is now dedicated to pursuing her God-given assignment. Formerly a Regional Sales Development & Sales Manager, she is now dedicated to helping heal and develop women suffering from emotionally arrested development. Staci recently served as the General Manager of Kale My Name LA in 2022, a 100% plant-based/ globally inspired restaurant owned by social media mogul Tabitha Brown and Neiman Golubovic.
Staci Janisse is honored to walk into her passion serving as the Community Resource Manager at EmpowHer Institute as of November 2022.
This organization falls directly in line with her dream.
Staci’s dream/assignment is to create a Women’s Empowerment Organization that empowers and encourages gracefully broken women to draw strength and tools from their experiences to fulfill their spiritual assignment. As a survivor of cancer and post-partum depression, Staci definitely has a spiritual calling on her life. “I believe supporting women’s empowerment is going to help me fulfill my purpose; women who are suffering from low self-esteem and lacking value are ready to receive the keys to unlock the chains that bound them from fulfilling their spiritual assignments.” I firmly believe, “A woman who heals herself heals her mother, heals her daughter, and heals every woman around her.”
Yvette Marquez was born and raised in Southern California. She has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a psychology minor. During her undergraduate studies, she focused her research on the criminalization of youth and trauma-informed care and practice. She recently obtained her master’s degree in organizational leadership and is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in public administration. Throughout her childhood, she experienced traumas that shaped her passion for service to others. Before joining us, she worked for UnitedWay of Greater Los Angeles and various higher education institutions. Yvette is committed to serving girls from marginalized communities who have experienced trauma, like herself, and is proud to serve at EmpowHer Institute as Program Manager.
Anne Hebert is a native of Colorado. She graduated from Denver’s Manual High School and earned her BA in history from the University of Denver.
Anne has written grants for public and private sector industries. Most notably, Anne wrote and facilitated grants for the Adams County Workforce & Business Center where she worked as a manager overseeing five federally funded programs including: TANF, Employment First (EF), Business Services, and workforce development programs for youth and adults.
Anne’s hobbies include yoga, tennis and reading. She enjoys travel and learning about cultures different from her own.
Shawniqua was born and raised in Los Angeles, Ca. After Completing her B.A in Politics from UC Santa Cruz, Shawniqua began her career with AmeriCorps VISTA helping Opportunity Youth with college and career readiness and community service development. Her experience with AmeriCorps deepened her desire to work in the non-profit sector, leading her to earn her Master’s in Public Administration from Cal State Long Beach. After completing her degree, Shawniqua continued to work with underrepresented youth in the education and community service space. She believes in the mission of EmpowHer and hopes that all girls are given the opportunity for growth and self-exploration.
Angie Ngo is a queer, second-generation Asian-American with immigrant parents who were refugees from the Vietnam War.
Angie Ngo’s passion for serving communities has led her to dedicate her career to non-profit work. Her commitment to non-profits began in her hometown, where she was a manager at a small, grassroots non-profit. For those 5 years, she worked closely with families battling pediatric cancer. In 2020, Angie relocated to Los Angeles County. She worked as a health worker where she helped with COVID-19 testing, vaccination, and vaccination education in marginalized areas. She also is the editor and manager for the author of the children’s book, “I Love Grandma’s House,” a book that introduces to kids the topic of biracial families. Angie is humbled to work at EmpowHer, where she gets to contribute to the strive towards intersectional equity for girls of color.
Dr. Dijanna Figueroa is a Marine Biologist, STEAM Educator, and Social Justice Warrior. She currently serves as the Chair of Innovation and Design where she leads the innovation/STEM team, teacheses kindergarten science, and high school marine biology. She also serves as the Creative Director of the EmpowHer Institute Social Justice STEAM camp. She is an ocean explorer, STEAM educator, science communicator, and advocate for social justice. Her curiosity and enthusiasm for the ocean and all things science are well documented in a variety of films and tv shows including Aliens of the Deep, Discovery Channel’s Mysteries of the Deep, Nickelodeon’s Noggin Knows, and The History Channel’s Ocean Explorers. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology from UCLA and a Ph.D. in Marine Science from UC Santa Barbara. She brings her experience, enthusiasm, knowledge, and love of science into her classroom through hands-on engaging, and innovative experiences. As an advocate for STEAM education- she is committed to adding the arts and design to the science, technology, engineering, and math equation. She has over two decades of classroom teaching experience in grades k-12 and has collaborated with a variety of education non-profit such as the Two Bit Circus Foundation, EmpowHer Institute, Black Girls Dive Foundation, Bridge Builders Foundation, Boys and Girls Club of Los Angeles, National Association of Black Scuba Divers, National Marine Educators Association, and Makey Makey-Joy Labs. In collaboration with the Two Bit Circus Foundation, she helped to install over 500 makerspace innovation labs in schools throughout the greater Los Angeles area. She believes that learning happens everywhere, radical kindness is transformational, and that passion, curiosity, and creativity make the world a better place. She loves watching this play out in the classroom every day.
Kendra joins the EmpowHer Institute team with 10+ years of non-profit experience. Before joining the team, her workforce development program experience involved working with diverse populations, including LGBTQIA+ older adults, transitional-aged youth, the formerly incarcerated, unhoused Angelenos, and junior high and high school girls at multiple LA-based organizations, including the Los Angeles LGBT Center, L.A. Kitchen, and Joan Macy School. She facilitated work readiness courses, organized employment placements for program participants, and managed internship partner relations in her previous roles.
On account of her own life experience, Kendra is passionate about non-profit work that aids young women in marginalized communities to live to their full potential regardless of the barriers they face. She looks forward to dedicating her life’s work to imparting the competencies our girls need to overcome the societal obstacles placed on them during their formative years to have a promising future.
Kendra holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from California State University, Fullerton. In Fall 2022, she will begin pursuing a master’s degree in Public Administration at California State University, Los Angeles.
Siaira Shawn Harris is a youth development and empowerment facilitator & educator, advocate and artist with over 15 years of experience working with youth, artists, educators and organizers across multidisciplinary spaces in the Bay Area, New York and now Los Angeles.
While living in Brooklyn, NY, working for Center for Family Life and in partnership with Planned Parenthood, she led a 10th grade service learning program that focused on sex and reproductive health. That experience showed her that she could combine comprehensive sex education, the arts and civic action to educate and empower youth. Since making Los Angeles home, she has continued her work in civics education and sexual and reproductive health. Training students and teachers in creating democratic classrooms, developing youth voice and guiding youth to take informed action in their schools and communities, while simultaneously educating youth and parents in sexual and reproductive health. She is also an artist and co-runs an independent label and music education hub, Over Everything.
Betty Lamarr conceived EmpowHer Institute out of her own personal journey that took her from pregnant teen at her high school graduation and receiving public assistance to college graduate and corporate executive. After a stellar career in corporate America, Betty relocated to South Africa to lead a Black owned business and create jobs for Black South Africans. Upon returning to Los Angeles, Betty and a small group of women dedicated to making a difference in the lives of disadvantaged girls and women formally established EmpowHer Institute as a 501(c) (3) in 2003.
Observing how young women in South Africa were pulling themselves out of poverty through micro-enterprises, Betty decided to apply an “entrepreneurial solution” to the endemic dropout rate among Black and Hispanic teen girls in Los Angeles.
Betty retired as the CEO of EmpowHer Institute in 2020, leaving a strong foundation and legacy on which we continue to build on today.
Eric Lane earned his M.A. in Administration from Concordia University and recently graduated with his Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from California State University, Fresno in May 2022. Eric has over a decade of development and fundraising experience, working with a plethora of educational institutions and non-profits, including serving as the Director of Development for California Baptist University, where he worked primarily for with the athletics department, helping to raise over $1,500,000 for the unit. Prior to his time at CBU, Eric served as the Director of Development in the athletics department at Cal State Fullerton, where he oversaw fundraising, cultivated donor relationships, and set up fundraising events.
Eric also has spent time in fundraising and grant writing roles at the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles, The Posse Foundation, Playworks Southern California, Culver-Palms and Westchester Family YMCA, Hoops for Kids International, Voice for Asian Elephants Society, Sarcoma Alliance, Feminist Frequency, and Kids Enjoy Exercise Now. When Eric isn’t working, he enjoys spending quality family time with his wife and three kids. He of course loves to get outside, play basketball, and relive his glory days, as he formally played collegiate basketball at Boise State.
Staci Nicole Freeman, PHR, SHRM-CP, is a senior manager on the Partner Affairs Human Capital team at PwC. With nearly 15 years of human capital experience, she has been impactful in various capacities such as recruiting, training, coaching, employee relations, talent management, and leadership development.
Staci’s undergraduate background is in mathematics and computer science, but she was drawn to human resources as a career and has obtained various HR credentials to further her knowledge in the industry. Staci prides herself on being a natural connector and is passionate about future workforce trends, corporate responsibility, strategies that enhance diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and building high performance teams.
In 2017, Staci relocated from Hyde Park in Chicago, to the westside of Los Angeles. She enjoys hiking, painting, hot yoga, meditation, volunteering in the community, and spending quality time with friends, family, and her Lhasa Poo, Parker.
Staci stands tall in life and in the nonprofit world by leaning into her strengths and her unique blend of corporate experience, community leadership, and compassionate motivation supporting those around her in realizing their full potential.
As an advocate and strategic thought partner, Dawn has led advocacy initiatives that successfully became California legislation and/or established best practices for eliminating gender bias within the juvenile justice system — decriminalizing sex trafficked girls, implementing community-based gang intervention strategies, and ending the shackling of pregnant women. Dawn has also served on various advisory boards and think tanks focused on issues affecting women and girls of color.
A proud native of Washington, D.C., Dawn has spent the past five years returning home to support her family, while also supporting local and national initiatives that would ensure racial justice and eliminate gender bias in America.
As a performing artist, Dawn created Stiletto Revolution, a podcast that examines fabulous and frustrating issues impacting Black women, through a social justice lens. She has performed on stage, television, and film, and helped to develop educational theater curriculum for public and private schools in New York City. Previously, was also an Acting Instructor at the Atlantic Theater Company in NYC. Dawn graduated from the prestigious Duke Ellington High School of the Arts in DC, received her BFA in Acting from New York University’s renowned Tisch School of the Arts and a MA in Drama Therapy from New York University’s School of Education.
In her spare time, Dawn enjoys laughing with her godson, advocating for change within the criminal justice system, traveling to new adventures, wine tasting, and shoe shopping. Her favorite color is rose gold and she loves things that sparkle.
Initially, EmpowHer Institute collaborated with the Network for Training Entrepreneurs (NFTE) to use its curriculum and develop a customized signature program called E-BEST (EmpowHer-Building Entrepreneurial Skills for Tomorrow).
The E-BEST program delivered workshops focused on building high school girls’ entrepreneurial skills as a way of engaging, learning, and preventing dropout. E-BEST workshops would impart entrepreneurial values, attitudes, and skills to girls with the highest at-risk rate of dropping out of school. In implementing the E-BEST program it became increasingly apparent that to improve academic performance for girls in marginalized communities, with a nearly 50 percent dropout rate in Los Angeles public schools, we needed to address the experiences and situations outside the classroom — pregnancy, low self-esteem, depression, family violence, sexual assault and other trauma — that profoundly affect their readiness to learn and achieve academically. We also recognized that, in order to be more effective at changing the trajectory for teen girls, it was imperative that we intervene earlier than high school.
In 2012, EmpowHer Institute turned its attention to serving middle school girls as young as 11. We developed the EmpowHer Girls Academy (EGA) and began collaborating with Title I middle schools to deliver the program. In contrast to the E-BEST program, which focused on developing entrepreneurial skills, EGA focuses on developing social and emotional learning (SEL) skills coupled with mentorship. The program utilizes SEL as a means of giving girls the skills they need to overcome the negative experiences and trauma outside the classroom – low self-esteem, depression, family violence, and sexual assault — that affect their ability to engage in school, perform academically, and reach their full potential.
In 2016, we established the EmpowHer Leaders Academy (ELA). ELA provides continued support for EGA alumni as they transition from middle school and navigate through high school. The program utilizes mentorship and tailored workshops to provide girls with the information, support and tools they need to reach their full potential and thrive.
In 2021, we introduced our Summer programs, launching a Social Justice STEAM Camp for middle-school aged girls and a paid internship program for high schoolers.
Since 2003, EmpowHer Institute has positively impacted the lives of 4,100+ Black and Brown girls throughout Los Angeles County.
Claudia Alleyne, M.D., is a neonatologist and Medical Director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) located at Kaiser Permanente’s Anaheim Medical Center. Dr. Alleyne provides medical care to newborns that are born prematurely, critically ill, or in need of surgery. Her medical career began as a graduate of Harvard Medical School with her residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. She served on the Board of Directors of Planned Parenthood Los Angeles for six years, motivated by the belief that women deserve access to comprehensive health care and accurate education regarding contraception and reproductive choices. Claudia has been an active member of the Association of Black Women Physicians (a Southern California-based organization), serving as president, vice president, treasurer, and chair of several committees.
Velonne Atkins is currently the News Business Manager for KCBS/KCAL, the largest local station duopoly in the country. She has held positions at ABC Network News and ABC 20/20. As an entrepreneur, Velonne and a partner, established Cahuenga Coffeehouse, converting an old check cashing space to a hip-happening alternative to the Starbucks coffee experience.
The coffeehouse business was sold and now operates as Caffée Etc in Hollywood, but Velonne relishes in the fact that she was at the helm of what is now a thriving comer/corridor with burgeoning businesses that used many of her plans for redevelopment of the area. In addition to her entrepreneurial ventures, Velonne enjoys travel, particularly to jazz festivals both domestic and international, event planning, and real estate activities. Velonne is originally from Fort Worth, Texas. She relocated to Los Angeles, California, where she completed her Bachelor’s degree at Pepperdine University.
Tony Baylis is the director of the Office of Strategic Diversity and Inclusion Programs at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). Tony is a senior manager who serves as a champion, ambassador, and advocate for diversity and inclusion at LLNL. He manages the Laboratory’s interactions and successful execution in building, partnering, and collaborating with governmental, educational, industrial, community, and multiple stakeholders to assist the laboratory in striving to build an inclusive workforce to meet LLNL’s national security mission. He represents the Laboratory on the topics of diversity and inclusion, STEM, outreach, workforce initiatives, and student programs.
Tony serves as LLNL’s compliance point of contact for equal employment opportunity and affirmative action programs. He also encourages and manages the engagement of the laboratory’s 10 employee resource groups that contribute to the LLNL’s workforce, inclusion, and outreach efforts. He has also mentored students and staff on navigating their studies and careers in science, engineering and technology.
Lastly, Tony serves as an advisor, consultant, and champion to the Department of Energy, minority-serving institutions, diversity organizations and universities, and serves as a co-principal investigator, an advisory board member, and a board member for institutions and projects that promote the advancement of women and people of color in science and technology careers. In 2018, he became the inaugural chair of the ACM SIGGRAPH’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee. He aims to carry out the committee’s goal of creating a welcoming and nurturing community for everyone working in computer graphics and interactive techniques. Tony’s passion is advocating for access, equity, and opportunity for the underserved and underrepresented communities in science and technology. Tony is a member of SHRM, ACM and ACM SIGGRAPH.
Ruth M. Simeon is Principal Consultant for Improvement Technologies and has years of experience as a consultant, senior corporate manager, and nonprofit executive. Her human resources, organizational development and business management expertise has assisted companies in making major shifts in business strategies and practices. Those shifts have positively affected the capability and diversity of leadership, the visibility and career development of underrepresented employees, as well as the improved performance of managers and teams.
Improvement Technologies helps companies design and implement mentoring programs which help achieve business outcomes and strengthen leadership. Ruth wants to share this expertise within the community to help build future leaders at the earliest opportunity. She has a Master’s in Psychology from Pepperdine University. As a Hoosier Scholar, she earned a B.A. from Indiana University and completed executive coursework in finance at Stanford University Graduate School of Business. Ruth is a certified senior professional in Human Resources. She was recognized by the City of Los Angeles for her work as Workforce Investment Board Commissioner. She is a former president of the California Diversity Council, an adjunct professor at Butler University, and guest lecturer at the USC Graduate School of Social Work.
Diedra Porché is the Senior Vice President, Government and Non-profit Banking Manager covering the western region at JPMorgan Chase & Co. She is responsible for the banking and finance needs of municipal and not-for-profit clients.
Most recently, Diedra served as the Market Manager for Los Angeles Business Banking (2012-2017), overseeing the financial needs for clients up to $20 million in annual revenue. Prior to that, she was Division Manager in Houston Texas for the Government Banking Team in the commercial banking group (2007-2012). Having been with JPMorgan Chase & Co for 23 years, her prior positions include various leadership and management roles in retail, business banking and commercial banking.
A Houston native, Diedra earned her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a Master’s in Public Administration from Texas A&M University. Diedra’s affiliations in Houston included serving as board member of the Houston Downtown Management District, education committee member for the Greater Houston Partnership, Director of the executive committee for the City of Houston Bank on Houston program, as well as a graduate of Leadership Houston Class XXVII.
Diedra is currently an active board member for the California Bankers Association representing JP Morgan Chase & Co. She is also a former board member for the YWCA GLA. Additionally Diedra co-chairs the Los Angeles Chase Market Leadership Team.
Diedra is married to Kerry Porché and they have two children, Rachel and Jonathan. Diedra is also a member of Faithful Central Baptist Church where she participates in various church and community activities.
Wendy Fierro is the Social Studies Lead teacher at the UCLA Community School, where she has been teaching history for 5 years. In addition to teaching history, Wendy is the EmpowHer Instructor for 8th grade girls. She graduated from UC Irvine with a degree in Political Science and received her Master’s in teaching from UCLA. Wendy’s interests involve traveling and doing outdoor activities such as camping and hiking. She is also passionate about empowering youth to be agents of change.
Angela received a BA in History and Criticism of Art from Florida State University in 2014. As an undergraduate, Angela interned at the FSU Museum of Fine Arts as a curatorial and education assistant. She played a vital role in the strategic development of the Tampa Museum of Art and the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art, in Florida. She’s professionally certified in Blackbaud Raiser’s Edge, and extends her expertise in optimizing fundraising CRMs and databases. With over six years of fundraising experience in non-profits, Angela is dedicated to executing the goals of a mission-driven organization; motivated by a passion for advancing diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion.
Angela is a Tampa Bay native, she also enjoys weekend excursions to the beach, any genre of live music, and her strong morning coffee.
Ana began studying at Cerritos College where she earned her Associate in Arts degree in Geography. She later transferred to UC Santa Barbara and earned a BA in Geography in March 2019. While attending UC Santa Barbara, Ana lived in a predominantly affluent community, giving her access to healthier air quality. During that time, freeways and railroads were at a distance, Anna didn’t live near industrial sites, and brown smog was not on the horizon. This experience was quite different from her upbringing in Southeast Los Angeles and helped Ana to recognize the disparities marginalized communities endure. Ana realized she wants to use her voice to represent BIPOC residents in marginalized communities and fight for environmental and social justice rights. Ana hopes to utilize her passion for environmental and social justice issues to encourage and empower youth to use their voices to advocate for equity and social change in their communities.
TaSh has a passion for the arts and empowering youth in marginalized communities. When she attended the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, she served as the youth lead for the Lynwood Youth Commission. This experience allowed her to see that she had the ability to make meaningful change. While pursuing her degree at Loyola Marymount University, she volunteered as a math tutor for youth in foster care in LAUSD. TaSh became a substitute teacher with the Long Beach Unified School District because of her love for children.
TaSh strives to make the youth she meets feel seen and heard. It is her hope that she can inspire our EmpowHer Girls to believe that they can also make meaningful change.
Keyonna Keith is committed to serving underserved and marginalized youth through mentoring and educational programs. As an undergraduate, Keyonna worked with the UCLA Urban Collaborative P.A.L.S. Program to provide high school students in Watts mentorship and guidance with college preparation. Prior to joining EmpowHer, Keyonna has worked in the nonprofit sector managing and developing engaging after-school programs that provide tutoring and enrichment activities to students in Inglewood and Compton Unified School Districts.
Keyonna earned a Bachelor of Arts in African American Studies and Political Science from Loyola Marymount University, and a Juris Doctor from UC Hastings College of the Law.