"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take," Lillian Langeveld said as she described her approach to pursuing her dreams of being a singer, despite the competitive industry. Lillian is one of 6 national Girls Inc. scholars who presented an award to honorees at the Girls Inc. celebration luncheon on Thursday, March 25 at the NY Hilton. This 1300+ attended event attracted sponsors of Avon, Mattel, American Express, Coca-Cola and Gevalia. Co-chairs from each of these companies spoke on their motives behind helping this organization, which focuses on inspiring all girls to be strong, smart and bold. Star Jones of ABC's The View introduced the bright and ambitious scholarship winners and told of her personal story of struggling with dealing with her finances. Tables around the room were filled with representatives of iVillage, Lifetime TV and Merrill Lynch. Tery Spataro, COO of Blue Dingo generously offered me her ticket, and I sat with Kathleen Boyle, senior VP and investment officer at Wheat First Union and Cherie Alcoff and Annie Pankoski of Goldman Sachs. Kathleen is a popular speaker and guest of cable shows for investment matters and offered her critique of whether the honorees had used speech coaches. I was marveling at the fact Ingrid Saunders Jones, VP, the Coca-Cola company told us how girls in the SMART program with Girls Inc. showed a 35% increase in math skills.
Truc Lai was the next of the scholarship winners, who each received $10,000 towards their higher education. She spoke on racism and growing up in a Vietnamese family that moved here when she was an infant. She introduced Abby Joseph Cohen, managing director of Goldman Sachs, who also spoke on how we must change the accessiblity of technology for girls to advance. Virnetta Greene, the next scholar from Alabama, charmed us with her drawl and 4.0 GPA. She introduced Bridgette Heller, who couldn't accept her award in person as she was in Texas getting her new (adopted) daughter this day! Michelle Taveras, from the Girls Inc. chapter in NYC introduced Andrea Jung of Avon Corp, who told us how this 113 year old company has been helping women make money before they could vote. Kyla Ketchum, a senior from Alabama introduced Suze Orman who inspired us with calls to believe that we can do anything. And Kimberly Birkmayer, a woodworking afficionado and artist from upstate NY introduced Veronica Pollard, who's had a unique career path from 1st grade teacher in the Bronx to manager at Newsweek to reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle to a PR exec. in Tokyo to her role as VP at Toyota. Lunch was fine but the energy and inspiration in this room was the real treat. The calls to be strong, smart and bold go along way, but now we must also do our part of making technology and business opportunities available to young girls everywhere.