The Rising Stars Awards are given to Millennial women who have demonstrated excellence in their professional endeavors.

They are accomplished professionals working for the advancement of girls and women in the Arts, Business, Public Service, and STEM.

As women continue to strive for parity in pay and power, we believe acknowledgement and knowledge sharing are critical. As Millennial women shape the possibilities for girls in the future, we are excited to create a stage that highlights positive achievement and personal development.

We are excited about our upcoming event The Rising Stars Awards, honoring professional millennial women. Through our ongoing work with girls, we recognize the importance of encouraging and empowering women at every season
in their lives. As such, we’ve developed a unique evening that will inspire, entertain, and enrich the lives of the savvy, upwardly mobile millennial women in Los Angeles.

Corporate Citizen Award

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Brittney Castro

Brittney Castro

Business Honoree

Click to Read Bio

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Dr. Dijanna Figueroa

Dr. Dijanna Figueroa

STEM Honoree

Click to Read Bio


Estelle Reyes

Estelle Reyes

Public Service Honoree

Click to Read Bio


Rachele Brooke Smith

Rachele Brooke Smith

Arts Honoree

Click to Read Bio


We’re proud to present our 2015 fundraiser, The Rising Stars Awards, to recognize bright and accomplished Millennial women who are making a positive difference. Our red-carpet event will offer a unique opportunity for networking, celebration, and empowerment.

EmpowHer Institute serves more than 200 teen girls annually with its enrichment programs. This fundraiser will generate much-needed funds for us to continue empowering girls in middle schools in Los Angeles, Inglewood and Gardena. Read more about our programs here.


Join us on Thursday, April 23, 2015, 6PM to 9PM at the beautiful Taglyan Complex in Hollywood for this special event.

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Come Celebrate Our 2015 Rising Stars


The Rising Stars Awards and fundraiser will be an evening filled with connection, laughter, and inspiration. We are bringing together some of the city’s most dynamic and accomplished professionals to celebrate the advancement of women in the Arts, Business, Public Service, and STEM.

Guests will enter on our red carpet and then enjoy cocktail hour where they will mix and mingle with other movers and shakers while enjoying live entertainment. The evening will continue with a delicious gourmet dinner while enjoying the awards show and entertainment. Our honorees will share their stories during a live panel. We’ll share inspiring stories about EmpowHer and invite guests to get involved and contribute. We’ll close with a delectable desert and more time for connecting.

The evening promises to be fun and inspiring.

The emcees for the evening are Dawnn Lewis and Meagan Good.

Dawnn Lewis



Visit Dawnn’s website

Meagan Good



Visit Meagan’s website

We salute and thank our proud sponsors.

Title Sponsor

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Emerald Sponsor


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Emerald Sponsor


Honorary Host Committee

We extend special thanks to the dynamic professionals on our Honorary Host Committee who helped make this event possible.




Alison Dean – Member, Los Angeles Giving Circle

D’Ann Morris - Deputy Neighborhood Officer, Los Angeles Urban League

Denise Clements – CEO, Community Recruiting

Karla Gordy Bristol – CEO, Gordy Bristol Entertainment

Kimi Verma – CEO, Shalik-US

Krista Phipps – Public Affairs Manager, Southern California Gas Company

LaTunda Powell – Trademark Administrator, The Roll Company

Marilyn Priestley – HR Executive, (Ret.) Novartis Pharma

Maronya Scharf – Chief Counsel, Information Management Resources, Inc.

Nichol Whiteman – Executive Director, The Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation

Sylvia Garcia – Vice President, City National Bank

Tiana Sanchez – Corporate Trainer

Velonne Atkins – News Business Manager, KCBS


Our Pathmaker Awards recognized women who have blazed paths for others. Our selected honorees served as striking examples of leaders who have gone ahead to overcome obstacles and create opportunities for themselves and others. 



What happens when at-risk girls and women are offered even modest opportunities for self-driven success?


Girls seek education. Women discover independence. Entire families and communities are changed for the better as the cycle of poverty and dependency is broken.

Picture a teenage girl, Ashley, who has no idea why she should finish high school. She doesn’t know her mother, who has either been on drugs or in prison most of Ashley’s life.
Ashley lives in foster care—six different homes in eight years. She feels that nobody really cares whether she succeeds or fails, and she sees school as a path less traveled. She thinks her best chance for happiness in life is to get a boyfriend, which she does. Predictably, he ends up mistreating her. She also believes her best chance for survival is to get pregnant and move out on her own, living on Public Assistance.



Why Inner City Girls Need EMPOWHER


Statistics clearly demonstrate that programs such as ours are sorely needed. According to a State of California report from July 2009, more than 40% of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s black students and 35% of Latino students will not complete high school. Those numbers are much higher in the low-income communities served by EmpowHer.

Pregnancy is the number one reason girls drop out of school, and one in two female high school dropouts aged 25–64 is unemployed. That’s why EmpowHer Institute focuses on the estimated 4 in 10 minority female students who will not graduate with a regular high school diploma in the standard, four-year time period.

For young women who drop out of school, “The economic costs are particularly steep,” because they will “face especially poor employment prospects, low earnings potential, poor health status, and the need to rely on public support programs” (National Women’s Law Center, 2007).

We have only to look at the bulging welfare rolls to see that it is not just the girls or their families who suffer the consequences of dropping out of school: A lack of education is not only costly to the individual, it is also costly to the community, and ultimately to the nation.

Our programs are designed to help students overcome many of the negative challenges that contribute to these statistics.

EmpowHer sees girls like Ashley as a community responsibility—our responsibility—they are our daughters, our nieces, our cousins, our sisters—our girls.


EmpowHer believes it’s our business to connect with girls like Ashley and introduce them to their own talents and capabilities so they will be less likely to drop out of school and more likely to earn a better future for themselves and for their families. We believe it’s not just their future at stake—the future for these girls is our future as well.








What EMPOWHER Does to Point Girls toward a Brighter Future


EmpowHer programs provide training tools and early intervention and prevention that give girls the knowledge and leadership skills that will allow them to achieve financial independence. We do that by exposing at-risk girls to educational opportunities and through mentoring relationships. EmpowHer is dedicated to using education and the idea of future business ownership as empowerment tools for girls.

We make sure girls know their self-worth, know that they can go to college, and help girls use both natural and learned skills to make responsible decisions. Our programs teach self-reliance, self-confidence, personal responsibility, and financial literacy as well as the responsibility for giving to others.

EMPOWHER’s Strategic Goal


EmpowHer’s goal is to reduce the high school dropout rate for low-income middle and high school girls who are at risk of educational failure due to teen pregnancy, truancy, and juvenile delinquency. Our strategy is to provide sisterhood, relevant training, choice in decision-making, and to demonstrate resiliency as a means to overcome poverty and to help young women meaningfully serve their communities.








How You Can Help EMPOWHER Girls


EmpowHer Institute is a 501 C(3) nonprofit fueled by grants, donations, and volunteers. We need your help to keep these programs growing so that we can serve more girls and young women. To help EmpowHer by becoming a volunteer or making a donation, please visit our Get Involved page.

EmpowHer Institute Board of Directors

Betty LaMarr, Founder & Executive Director

Ruth Simeon, Board Chair–Principal Consultant for Improvement Technologies

Jennifer Klem, JD, Vice President–Privacy Specialist-University of Southern California

Dr. Claudia Alleyne, Treasurer—Medical Director Kaiser Permanente

Bethany Ware Purkett, Secretary—Senior Corporate Paralegal for Sklar Kirsh

Elizabeth Koshy, Director-Digital Marketing and Fundraising Consultant

EmpowHer Institute Advisory Board Council

Tony Baylis – Director, Lawrence Livermore National Labs

D’Ann Morris – Director, Los Angeles Urban League

Marlene Murphy – EVP-Wells Fargo Bank

Julia Cooksey – Director, Verizon Communications

Rene’ Nourse – Principal, Urban Wealth Management

Denise Clements – CEO-Community Recruiting

Georgette Huckaby – Director of Finance

Martha Daniel – CEO-IMRI

Marilyn Priestley – Human Resources

Patty DeDominic – CEO-DeDominic Associates

1055 Wilshire Blvd.
Suite 1660

Los Angeles, CA 90017

Phone: (310) 574-9181 Fax: (310) 496-1488 E-mail: info@empowher.org