CEO Dawn L. Brown speaks with KCAL 9 News about EmpowHer’s mission and the Girls to Greatness Teen Summit.
The Small & Gutsy Podcast aims to inform listeners about smaller nonprofits and social impact organizations and bringing their stories to life.
Founder Betty LaMarr and CEO Dawn L. Brown discuss empowering community via the EmpowHer Institute.
The Power of One Similarly, Betty wants us to know the power of ONE. ONE person can make a difference for many people by taking action on that ‘small’ vision....
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Jacqueline Davis is the COO and CFO of rapidly growing 24 Hour Home Care, a 5,000-employee provider of non-medical home care to clients in California, Texas, and Arizona. She oversees all aspects of operations, business intelligence, finance and accounting, people operations, real estate and insurance. She is also the executive sponsor of the company’s Diversity and Inclusion committee.
Jacqueline has more than 24 years of experience in business leadership, financial management, process transformation, global system implementations and operations excellence. She has established a reputation for building world-class teams, as well as aligning business and financial metrics to support company strategy and rapid growth.
Prior to joining 24 Hour Home Care, she spent several years leading finance, accounting, and technology implementation teams for start-ups, global and Fortune 500 companies, such as Snapchat, MySpace, Mattel, Toyota Financial Services, and KPMG.
Jacqueline is a CPA and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from Loyola Marymount University.
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.