Ignite Leadership Academy Graduates Future Leaders

Ignite Leadership Academy Graduates Future Leaders

S. E. Williams

Students, family members, Society of Extraordinary Women Board Members, Esri advisors, Ignite Leadership Academy (Academy) volunteers and others gathered at the Esri campus in Redlands on Saturday to celebrate the successes and witness the graduation of this year’s group of Academy participants.  

Thirteen students completed this year’s comprehensive ten-week program designed for girls in grades six through nine. During the program, girls attend classes on a series of topics designed to prepare them for success. The topics covered include coding, GIS Mapping, STEM related academics, leadership development, team building, social media etiquette, financial literacy and community involvement. The special leadership workshops were led by Shugella Weaver, Thomas Coates, Caitlyn Keeve and Tonya Moore.

The Academy also provides opportunities for students to participate in a range of additional programs that include art and film, aviation, exploration field trips and experiential learning trips to Washington, D.C. The program is designed to both encourage students and ignite a passion for learning, personal achievement and leadership. 

One parent, Leslie Williams, whose daughter Ivy, started the Ignite program just as she was entering middle school, was asked whether she had seen any changes in her daughter since she joined the program. “I would say it has really helped her with her shyness,” Williams responded and continued. “It has made her more confident.” 

Later, when Ivy Williams made her presentation and, in the process,, shared a little about herself, there was not even a hint of the shy young lady described by her mother. Ivy’s voice was strong, she navigated her map successfully and told her story with confidence. 

In addition to Ivy Williams, included among this year’s graduates were, Andrea Barrera, Kaeli Beschorner, Cierra Gildersleeve, Jayah Hicks, Taylor Hogan, Kyla Johnson, Asia Martin, Rachel McDonough, Alicia McDonough, Jasmine Shields, Jaylah Williams and Taylor Wilson. 

The Ignite Leadership Academy operates in partnership with Mapping Black California, a collaborative effort between the world’s leading global mapping innovators, Esri and Black Voice News, a publication that has served the inland area’s Black community for more than 45 years. 

Mapping Black California is a community mapping project that is bringing together technology, data, geography and place-based study to better understand the African-American community while also introducing minority students to the power of geospatial technology. 

During Saturday’s program each student presented a short story of her life using Esri mapping technology to bring their stories to life. The students were trained in the use of mapping by Esri team members Katherine Stephens and Joseph Marsh. The presentations provided opportunities for the girls to show friends and families what they learned about Esri mapping and how they used the software technology  o help tell the stories of their lives. The students, who range in age from 11 to 14 years, included in their presentations information regarding where they want to attend college and their career goals.   

Included among this year’s graduates were, Andrea Barrera, Kaeli Beschorner, Cierra Gildersleeve, Jayah Hicks, Taylor Hogan, Kyla Johnson, Asia Martin, Rachel McDonough, Alicia McDonough, Jasmine Shields, Ivy Williams, Jaylah Williams and Taylor Wilson. 

Before the student presentations and graduation ceremony began, the Ignite students and their families enjoyed a tour of the Esri campus.  

The Ignite Leadership Academy is a leading-edged program sponsored by the Society of Extraordinary Women (SOEW) under the stewardship of the organization’s founder, President and CEO, who is also a successful business woman and entrepreneur, Shirley Coates. This was the program’s fifth successful year and Coates is looking forward to beginning a sixth session in October. 

Saturday’s event was supported by members of SOEW’s Board of Directors and other members of the community who are as committed to the program’s success. Board members include Alan Cummings, PhD., Thomas Coates Jr. MBA, Kimberly Bradshaw, CPA, Jody DeLeone, RoseMarie Hickman, PhD., Nancy Melendez, LaWanda Roy and Trina Schneider. Also, during the event, Coates acknowledged the strong support she received during the program from her Executive Assistant, Carrington Schneider and from program volunteer, Cheryl Franklin and presented special certificates to teachers Joseph Marsh, Katherine Stephens, Dr. Alan E. Cummings and Dr. Cherina Betters.

The Ignite Academy participants recite an affirmation that seems to sum up the goal of this program, “We are the young ladies of the Ignite Leadership Academy and we are the future leaders of the world.”

To learn more about the Ignite Leadership Academy and the Society of Extraordinary Women visit www.californiasocietyofextraordinarywomen.org.


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