Ordinary Women Doing Extraordinary Things

Ordinary Women Doing Extraordinary Things

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Bella, Aleeya, Shirley, Sophia, Caroline

Four young ladies were honored recently in a private ceremony at the home of Riverside’s Shirley Coates. The girls, participants in the Ignite Leadership Academy, were celebrating their promotion as mentors as well as the expansion of the program to include aviation and the arts. Coates founded the organization as a program of her non-profit organization “Society of Extraordinary Women.” Its mission is to enlighten and empower women to become leaders in business, and in their communities. She founded the leadership academy after reading an article about the large percentage of African-American students who are not graduating from high school. 

“I knew that we needed to grow a society of young ladies,” she said. “We designed a curriculum focused on three key factors: self-esteem, peer pressure, and parental support.” 

The Ignite Leadership Academy is a volunteer operation for African-American middle school students taught by master teachers in ten modules: leadership building, esteem building, team building, social etiquette, social media etiquette, presentation skills, financial literacy, preparation for college, arts, and aviation. As part of the 10-week program held in collaboration with the STEM Saturday Academy at UC Riverside, the girls can also earn their pilot’s license at Flabob Airport.

Family, friends, and Society of Extraordinary Women supporters and donors honored the four young ladies –Aleeya Staton, sisters Bella and Sophia Nowlin, and Caroline Thomas. It was also announced that this year the organization has partnered with Close-up to sponsor a trip for the students to travel to Washington DC to learn civic leadership and the importance of being involved in local politics and government. Twenty-five extraordinary young ladies and young men plan to make the trip in June. 

The leadership program has also given the girls global exposure. Caroline Thomas, one of those honored that evening, traveled to Dubai last year and said she enjoyed tours of the historic architecture as well as the “good fellowship” with the other students she met during the trip. “This year I’m excited to become a mentor for the next class and watch them grow and develop their leadership skills,” she said. 

Ms. Coates believes in the “growth mindset.” “We all have the capacity to do anything we are committed to learning,” she said. And she teaches that same philosophy to all the young ladies who participate in the Ignite Leadership Academy.

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