Empowerment Summit celebrates remarkable women

On March 15, the women of the Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley joined their for-profit and nonprofit peers at the fifth annual Women's Empowerment Summit, hosted by Quad County Urban League.

The summit gathers women from a variety of industries and backgrounds to learn, network, and experience a fresh dose of motivation.

Inside the Chicago Marriott Southwest at Burr Ridge, booths showcasing businesses and nonprofit organizations lined the hallway.

Guests enjoyed a continental breakfast before attending a variety of sessions on topics ranging from economic and social change to women's empowerment in entertainment.

The summit's keynote presentation featured Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx, who spoke about the importance of courage and power as a woman in the workplace.

Foxx acknowledged her upbringing in Cabrini-Green, one of Chicago's most well-known housing projects, and how her family's past has informed the success of her present. As a mother of four teenage girls, she made note of the influence her own work ethic has on her children.

"There's an air of humility that I must always carry," Foxx said.

The summit's main event, the Women of Power Awards Luncheon, honored women who have exemplified and championed diversity within Quad County Urban League's service area.

This year's honorees included the following women:

• Kayla Austin, founder/inventor, student;

• Dr. Lourdes "Lulu" Blacksmith, former dean of Student Engagement, Waubonsee Community College and Community Foundation board member;

• Julie Christman, vice president of Community Involvement & Partnerships, Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley;

• Sharnell Curtis-Martin, community development relationship manager, CIBC;

• Jacqueline Enty, founder, Splat! Creative Services;

• LaTonya Fourte-Lyles, Senior Supplier Diversity Manager, HealthCare Services Corporation;

• Kimberly M. Foxx, Cook County State's Attorney;

• Stefanie Garcia, executive vice president, Water Integrated Treatment Systems LLC;

• Raquel Graham, founder and CEO, ROQ INNOVATION/NEKZ;

• Rita Haake, center manager, College of DuPage Center for Entrepreneurship;

• Sheila Hill-Morgan, president, Chicago Minority Development Council and St. Louis Minority Business Development Center;

• Linda Holmes, state Senator - 42nd District;

• Nikki Jennings, Jennings Global Media Group LLC;

• Annette Johnson, owner of Converted Images;

• Sylvie Légère Ricketts, co-founder, The Policy Circle;

• Izzy McFadden, founder of HumanaTeen and Community Foundation Fund Advisor;

• Dr. Jennifer Norrell, superintendent of East Aurora Unit District 131;

• Jamie Rhee, commissioner, City of Chicago Department of Aviation;

• Charlene Thomas, president, UPS West Region;

• Karen Wells, founder and CEO, The AIW Group.

The Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley is proud to support Quad County Urban League and is already looking forward to next year's summit.

The foundation serves the greater Aurora area, the TriCities and Kendall County. It is a collection of individual funds and resources given by local citizens to enhance and support the quality of life in the Fox River Valley. It is a tax-exempt public charity that allows individuals, businesses, and other nonprofit organizations to establish permanent endowment and temporary funds within the confines of one large foundation. Foundation funds are used to provide grants to nonprofit organizations and scholarships to area students.

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Women from for-profit and nonprofit organizations are honored at the fifth annual Women's Empowerment Summit, hosted by Quad County Urban League, on March 15. Courtesy of Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley
Rita Haake, College of DuPage Center for Entrepreneurship
State Sen. Linda Holmes, 42nd District
East Aurora District 131 Superintendent Jennifer Norrell
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