Community leaders, students, families and supporters gathered in downtown Riverside on May 6, 2023 for the 10th Anniversary of the Society of Extraordinary Women (SOEW) and Ignite Leadership & STEM Academy, a program created for young girls by Shirley Coates, founder of SOEW.
Hosted at the Civil Rights Institute Inland Southern California, the celebration honored Ignite students, present and past, as well as instructors who volunteered their time to the program throughout the last decade. Coates honored special guests Katie Stephens and Joseph Marsh who were some of the first instructors back when the program started in 2013.
This year, 14 students participated in the five-week accelerated program which focused on Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Journalism. Led by GIS instructor Kennedy Schneider, journalism instructor Breanna Reeves and student instructor Isabella Cuesta, students learned how to craft stories, how to develop StoryMaps using ESRI software and conduct science experiments.
The Ignite Leadership & STEM Academy traditionally only welcomed middle school-aged girls, but for the first time in the Spring session, boys were invited to join the program. During the ceremony, students were given certificates and sashes to commemorate their completion of the program.
The celebration kicked off with a welcome from the Master of Ceremonies Stan Morrison, retired basketball coach and former director of intercollegiate athletics at the University of California, Riverside. Morrison shared stories of triumph and perseverance as he recalled memories of leading basketball teams to victory, including UCR Highlanders from National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) Division II to Division I.
Throughout the celebration, featured speakers addressed Ignite students and told encouraging stories of extraordinary women and shared words of wisdom. Dr. Paulette Brown-Hinds, founder of Voice Media Ventures and publisher of Black Voice News and IE Voice, was the keynote speaker at the celebration where she spoke about extraordinary women like her grandmother who took in people who had nowhere else to go. She pointed out all the extraordinary women in the room, including Fair Housing Council of Riverside County Executive Director Rose Mayes, Co-founder of Blumenthal & Moore and criminal defense attorney Virginia Blumenthal and Coates.
Another inspiring featured speaker, Kimberly Anthony-Morrow, founder and lead facilitator of the Urban Excellence Coaching Academy, recited a few lines from “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” written by Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss.
“Congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places. You’re off and away. You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know,” Anthony-Morrow quoted.