The WNBA’s Inspiring Women platform celebrates leaders who help ignite the dreams and aspirations of women in all endeavors and honors women who embody the same qualities as our players. Throughout the 2011 season, the Atlanta Dream recognized an individual at each home game who inspired others through her commitment and dedication to work, family and community. The recipients included women of all backgrounds who are united in their ability to impact the community around them and inspire our leaders of tomorrow.

Leona Barr-Davenport is President and CEO of the Atlanta Business League (ABL), Atlanta's oldest minority business development and advocacy organization. As President, she works with the board of directors to provide increased access to business opportunities for minorities with specific emphasis on the development of businesses owned or operated by African-Americans. Her background combines more than twenty-three (23) years experience in the areas of customer service, program development, organizational management & fundraising for associations and youth oriented programs.
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Charly McCracken is an author, speaker, trainer and personal development coach who attended The Atlanta Bible College as well as the International Institute of Learning where she received her Certification in Project Management. Charly graduated from the Clayton County Grassroots Leadership Institute in December 2009. She is the founder and Executive Director of The Decorum Group, Inc., a youth development organization in Clayton County that focuses on etiquette, social skills and life skills for children ages 6-19. Charly’s entrepreneurship began in 2000 when she created Motivational Pearls Enterprises, LLC, a personal and business development consulting organization designed to help women reach their full potential personally, professionally and through business ventures. Motivational Pearls hosted monthly networking forums during 2007 – 2009 which were known as Atlanta Women Connect, a strategic alliance membership organization that practiced the principle of co-operative economics.
Read more: The Decorum Group

Kristen Robinson is a senior at DeKalb School of the Arts High School in Avondale Estates, Georgia. In school she studies Broadcast Video Production and Dramatic Arts to prepare for her future career aspirations of becoming a Broadcast Journalist or News Anchor. And on November 20,2010 Kristen was crowned Miss Georgia Teen USA 2011 making her the first African American contestant to ever win the title. Kristen has worked diligently to stay competitive academically, as she currently obtains a cumulative grade point average of a 3.9. She also manages to counterbalance her academics with an extensive involvement in many extracurricular activities that include community service organizations such as the DeKalb County Youth Commission and so many others, broadcast production groups, internships, religious leadership groups, as well as a part time job. She has set goals to make an impact in her community and state during her reign by working with various DeKalb County organizations and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta just to name a few. Kristen understands what it means to be a well rounded individual and enjoys being involved. Her most noted accomplishment includes the founding of her own community service club and leadership club at school, Club Impact. The club serves as an outlet for all students to give back to their community, as they coin the phrase “We will use our intelligence and social influence to impact the world.” Apart from her civic involvement Kristen also is extremely passionate about her career in journalism and has been granted so many opportunities to gain on camera as well as behind the scenes experience interviewing and shooting documentaries for community leaders as well as celebrities. To add to her accolades Kristen was also awarded the honor of Best Beauty Queen for the Black Entertainment Film and Fashion Board and the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners deemed December 7, 2010 Kristen Robinson in DeKalb County. Many will attest to Kristen’s passion for service and love of the communicative arts, she is an ambitious young woman who is determined and destined for success. During her reign Kristen is dedicated to serving her community and state to the best of her ability because is so grateful for all the opportunities she has been granted.
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Angie Hembree, Coach of the Norcross Lady Blue Devil’s, led her team to three state champion titles and received honors of being named the Coach of the Year in 2010 by the Southeast District. Leading her 2011 Team to back to back state titles for Georgia Class 5AAAAA and Gwinnett County. Prior to her tenure at Norcross Hembree coached the Collins Hill Lady Eagles and led her team to the State AAAAA Championship and the 8 AAAAA Region Championship. The Lady Eagles recorded an over-all record of 181-33 where she coached WNBA 2011 first round draft pick, Maya Moore. Selected the Atlanta Tip-off Club/Atlanta Journal & Constitution North Georgia Girls’ Prep Coach of the Year and the Class AAAAA Coach of the Year, Hembree received honors from The Gwinnett County Tip-off Club as she was selected the Co-Coach of the Year. Coach Hembree attended Mercer University in Macon and Georgia State University where she lettered in both basketball and softball. She received her Masters’ Degree from North Georgia College & State University and is currently in her 4th season at Norcross High School as she enters her 27th year in coaching and education.
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Laurel J. Richie has more than three decades of experience in consumer marketing, corporate branding, public relations, and corporate management, with a long track record of developing award-winning campaigns that transform brands and drive business results. As President of the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA), she oversees all of the league’s day-to-day business and league operations. Prior to joining the WNBA in 2011, Richie was Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Girl Scouts of the USA, where she was responsible for Girl Scouts of the USA's brand, communications, publishing, marketing, and Web-based initiatives. She also spent time at the advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather, where she worked on a series of campaigns for prominent clients, including American Express, Pepperidge Farm, Pond’s, Huggies, and Kotex. She sat on Ogilvy New York's Operating Board and was a founding member of the agency's Employee Advisory Council on Diversity and Inclusion. Richie's pro-bono clients have included the Museum for African Art, the Hospital for Special Surgery, and the New York City Commission on Human Rights. In addition, she has mentored young women and girls as part of Big Brothers Big Sisters, the 4A's Multicultural Advertising Intern Program, Xavier University's Youth Motivation Task Force, and the Advertising Educational Foundation. A recipient of the YMCA's Black Achiever's Award and Ebony magazine's Outstanding Women in Marketing and Communications, Richie was named one of the 25 Influential Black Women in Business In 2011 by The Network Journal. A graduate of Dartmouth College with a bachelor’s degree in policy studies, Richie lives in New York City.
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Elizabeth Kelly has extensive experience in the not-for-profit sector where she has spent the last 30 years in CEO and senior positions with large established organizations and entrepreneurial start-ups and as a consultant to nonprofits. Elizabeth’s areas of expertise are organizational assessment, planning and managing for excellence, program design and development, and governance. Prior to starting her consulting business in 2000, Elizabeth served as Executive Vice President of the United Way of Metro Atlanta (four years) and as a senior vice president at United Way of America (15 years). In her United Way career, she was instrumental in establishing the Women’s Legacy in Atlanta and conceived and led United Way’s research work on women and giving. Nationally, she served on the board of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute and consulted with local United Ways on strategies to increase the number of women in leadership positions and as major donors. Before joining the United Way system, she was CEO of Girls, Inc. of Syracuse and interim CEO of the YWCA (Syracuse). As a consultant, she has worked with the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, AGL Resources, the Casey Foundation, United Way of America and three start-up organizations - “kids on ice-Atlanta,” Voices for Georgia’s Children and the Atlanta Police Foundation. Since 2004, she has served as the executive director of Dress for Success Atlanta and she is consulting with the YMCA of Metro Atlanta in resource development. Elizabeth holds a master’s degree in public administration from Syracuse University’s Maxwell School and a bachelor’s degree from Penn State. She is a graduate of Leadership Atlanta, Leadership Sandy Springs, the Regional Leadership Institute and the Executive Marketing Institute at Northwestern University. She is a member of the Junior League of Atlanta, Sandy Springs Society and Leadership Sandy Springs Alumni Board and an active volunteer in many diverse community activities.
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For the past six years, Justine Boyd has served as the Chief Executive Officer of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) of Greater Atlanta. In this role she has successfully created and implemented programs that empower women and girls. Founded in 1902 on the campus of Spelman College, the YWCA renders service to the community via various programs: Women in Transition (WIT) housing for homeless women and their children; early childhood education; after school care; EncorePlus (breast/cervical cancer awareness); Teen Girls In Technology (TGI Tech), and Empowered Youth Entertainment (EYE) diversity education.

Justine currently serves on the board of the Atlanta Housing Authority. She chaired the Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections. She is a former board member of the UGA College of Agriculture & Environmental Sciences Advisory Board (Chair); the Georgia 4-H Foundation, Women Looking Ahead Magazine; Atlanta Women’s Network; the Coalition of 100 Black Women Advisory Board (Chair); Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau; the Dekalb Convention and Visitors Bureau; Boy Scouts of America Atlanta Area Council and was appointed by Secretary of State Cathy Cox to the Georgia Voting Commission in 2002. She is a lifetime member of the NAACP, the APEX Museum, the Atlanta Business League, a Junior League sustainer and a member of Kiwanis.

Justine has received numerous leadership accolades: 2010 High Heels in High Places from The Trumpet Awards Foundation, 2009 Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys (GABWA) Foundation Zenith Award for Distinction in the Profession (Individual), and 2008 Chayil, Inc. Butterflies and Allies honoree. In 2007, Atlanta Woman Magazine named her Woman of the Year applauding her commitment to the empowerment of women and girls. Who’s Who In Black Atlanta identified Justine as one of the Female Atlanta Powerhouses. Described by the Atlanta Tribune Magazine as a “bold, dynamic, and powerful woman in corporate America” Justine has been named as one of the 10 Most Outstanding Young People in Atlanta (1999) and one of Georgia Trend Magazine’s Top 40 Under 40 (2001). The Atlanta Business League has recognized her as a tenured member of 100 Most Influential African American Women. Women Looking Ahead Magazine named her one of Georgia’s Most Powerful Women and Rolling Out Magazine’s 25 Most Influential Women.

Justine is past president of the Atlanta Fulton County League of Women’s Voters. Among her achievements as president, she created and co-sponsored the renowned Fireside Chats with WSB-TV and in 2002 formatted one of her innovations: Atlanta Women Speaks, an exciting book that encompasses a collection of speeches by some of Atlanta’s most prominent women.

In 2003, Justine was selected in a nationwide search to be one of the 63 emerging U.S. Leaders to participate in the German Marshall Memorial Fellowship in Europe, studying transatlantic economic, political, and social issues. Justine is a graduate of Leadership Georgia, Leadership Atlanta, and the Regional Leadership Institute.

Justine formerly served as Assistant General Manager for External Affairs for the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) and County Clerk for the Fulton County Board of Commissioners. She received a bachelor degree in English from Georgia State University, and is a member of Zion Hill Baptist Church in Atlanta.

In 2011, Mariela Romero received 2 Southeast Regional Emmy Awards one of them for Outstanding Achievement Television Programming Excellence for Special Event Coverage – for "Celebrando Nuestra Música" which was the pre-show to the 2010 Latin-Grammy Show, program she produced and hosted as well, the second one award was for Outstanding Achievement Television Spot Announcements Excellence for Community/Public Service (PSA) Single Spot ¡Ya es Hora Campaign!, which is civic engagement campaign for Latinos. Mariela is the host of the community affairs show “Nuestra Georgia” which airs Saturday’s at 6pm on Univision Atlanta and Sunday’s at 7am on Telefutura Atlanta. She also has a weekly segment called “Enfoque Comunitario” on Noticias 34 Atlanta, every Thursday at 6pm and 11pm where she present the audience the community initiatives that bring support and help to those in need.

Mariela Romero was born in Caracas, Venezuela but grew up in different countries, like France, Mexico. She graduated in communications and journalism from Argentinean Universities “Católica Santa María de los Buenos Aires and Universidad de Belgrano”. Mariela has a television career spanning more than a decade and several countries. In Argentina, she received an Honorable Mention from the Conference of Independent Film and Video Makers UNCIPAR for the editing of the documentary La Quinta del Ñato. In Venezuela, she produced the talk show Tú y Yo Con… for network station Televen. During 1997-98 Mariela served as Language Specialist for Georgia Public Broadcasting’s multi-award winning Spanish language educational series Salsa, then moved on to produce, coordinate, and anchor for CNN en Español Radio. She started working as a Spanish language narrator of documentaries and news feeds for Connect with Kids network, as well as a voice over talent for clients such as PBS “Great Museums”, Amtrak, The Georgia Lottery, Teach for America, Chick-Fil-A, Terex, CitiFinancial and many others. For two years she was involved in the Public Relations field working with the American Diabetes Association, Microsoft, Discovery Channel and Walmart among others, for the PR Company News Generation. Mariela enjoys writing lyrics and some of her songs have been featured in independent films and television shows. She was invited by record company Cacao Música to attend the 2009 Latin Grammys in Las Vegas because her song “Margarita” was recorded by the nominated artist Claudio Corsi. She has also worked with American composers Eddie Horst and legendary jazz musician Johnny Knapp.

Kimberly Bearden is the cofounder, executive director, and language arts teacher at the Ron Clark Academy, a highly acclaimed, nonprofit middle school in Atlanta that promotes innovation and engages its students through energetic teaching balanced by a strict code of discipline. Each year, thousands of educators from around the world participate RCA Educator Training Programs to learn how to replicate the school's style, philosophy and success in their own schools. The Academy currently relies on outside funding for its academic and educator training programs.

Ms. Bearden was selected from over 70,000 nominations to be honored as the Disney American Teacher Awards Outstanding Middle School Humanities Teacher. The Milken Family Foundation selected her as one of 155 teachers from across the nation to receive the Award for Excellence in Education, and she was the chosen from among 7000 teachers as Teacher of the Year in Cobb County, Georgia. Ms. Bearden is a member of the Leadership Atlanta Class of 2008, and she received the Phoenix Award from Mayor Shirley Franklin for her dedication to the education. Over the past twenty-four years, she has been a teacher, instructional lead teacher, curriculum director, school board member, staff development trainer, and middle school principal.

A typical “day at the office” begins well before the sun rises for Jenny Levison, the popular soup diva who founded Souper Jenny more than 12 years ago in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood. For Levison, an energetic actor with unmistakable talent in the kitchen, it’s a labor of love. The concept of Souper Jenny remains true to her original vision: an unassuming, friendly café where people can unwind, escape the hustle and bustle, enjoy fresh, flavorful food and most importantly, feel at home.

Born in Atlanta, Levison moved to Los Angeles at age eight. A natural performer who always had a love of food and cooking, she studied acting at Carnegie Mellon University and worked in New York and L.A. before returning to Atlanta. Levison ran a catering company, Jenny & The Frenchman, before deciding to open an eatery to fill the void Atlanta’s dining scene had for good soup. Souper Jenny was born. The walls are decorated with photos of Levison’s friends and family, including a wall devoted to her son, Jonah. She recently opened a second café called Café Jonah after her son.

Jenny, and her employees launched a 29 Days of Giving challenge on April 1. Inspired by Cami Walker’s book and global movement, 29 Gifts, Levison and her team of employees at Souper Jenny and Cafe Jonah and the Magical Attic, committed individually to giving a small gift to someone each day for 29 days. It’s an effort designed to focus positive energy outside of yourself: giving to improve your own life while improving the lives of others.

A gift can be many things. “Your 29 Gifts can be anything given to anyone... money, food, old sweaters, smiles, your time, kind words or thoughts,” she says. After completing 29 Days of Giving as a group, the Souper Jenny team invited their customers, friends, family and anyone else in Atlanta to join for a second challenge.

Carli Lloyd and Heather Mitts helped the United States women’s soccer team to the World Cup Finals earlier this month and star locally for the Atlanta Beat. Lloyd, a 5-8 midfielder, scored for the United States in a 3-0 victory over Colombia and finished one of the team’s penalty kicks to lead the US to victory over Brazil in the 2011 World Cup. In the 2008 Olympics, Lloyd scored the game winner in extra time against Brazil to win the gold medal for the US. Mitts, a 5-5 defender, is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, competing at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Mitts started every game of the Beijing Olympics and helped shut out Brazil in the finals to earn her second gold medal. She has also worked as an analyst and sideline reporter for ESPN, ABC, Fox Sports South and more.

Catch Carli and Heather this Saturday as the Atlanta Beat take on the Western New York Flash for their Project Pink Night. Kick-off is 7 pm at KSU Soccer Stadium.
Read more: Atlanta Beat

Sahirah began working for the American Cancer Society as a cancer information specialist after graduating from Georgia State University where she earned her degree in urban policy studies with a concentration in human resources management. Within the ten years she has been employed by the American Cancer Society, she has held a position as a transportation manager and presently as a patient resource navigator. This year alone, Sahirah has assisted over 1200 patients with locating needed resources, such as transportation, payment of rent and utilities, payment for needed drugs and so much more. Sahirah is known as the resource finder. If she can’t find it, it does not exist! The American Cancer Society and the Georgia Cancer Center for Excellence both count on Sahirah as do countless patients.

Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice is the Dean and Executive Vice President for Morehouse School of Medicine where she oversees continued advancement of MSM’s patient care, research, community health, and education and training programs. Prior to joining MSM, Dr. Montgomery Rice served as the Dean of the School of Medicine and Senior Vice President of Health Affairs at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, TN. She founded the Center for Women’s Health Research, one of the nation’s first research centers devoted to studying diseases that disproportionately impact women of color. Her numerous accolades include the 2011 American Medical Women’s Association Elizabeth Blackwell Award, one of the highest honors for contributions to women’s health. Dr. Montgomery Rice earned a degree in chemistry from Georgia Institute of Technology and her medical degree from Harvard University Medical School, then completed her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Emory University School of Medicine.

Officer Andi Cameron began her career with the Atlanta Police Department in 2004 as a member of the Zone 5 Field Investigative Team and is now assigned to the newly formed Community Liaison Unit. On December 28, 2010, a Georgia State Patrol Officer and father of two, Chadwick LeCroy, was shot and killed during a routine traffic stop. Officer Cameron and a fellow officer, responded to the help call. Despite being in plain clothes and without personal regard for their own safety, Office Cameron pursued the suspect on foot and after a struggle, was able to arrest the killer. The suspect had a lengthy criminal record, and if it were not for Officer Cameron, likely would have escaped capture or encountered violent confrontation. Officer Cameron has received 10 letters of commendation and the Medal of Honor award. She also serves as a G.R.E.A.T. (Gang Resistance Education and Training) instructor in Atlanta Public Schools, teaching life skills to students to help prevent delinquency, youth violence and gang membership.

Born and raised in Atlanta, Elle Duncan is a 28 year old radio personality and co-host of The Ryan Cameron Show on The People's Station, V-103. Elle has been sideline reporter for the Atlanta Hawk for the last five seasons and became the first female to co-anchor for the Atlanta Falcons radio network. Outside of her professional accolades, Elle has been recognized for her community outreach, including her work with Habitat For Humanity, Hands On Atlanta and Sisters Of Today and Tomorrow. For the last four years, Elle has been the official spokesperson for Enchanted Closet, an organization that donates prom dresses to underprivileged girls in the greater Atlanta area. Elle credits her incredible parents and sister for molding her into the woman she's still becoming.

For a decade, Melissa Carter co-hosted “The Bert Show” on Q100 in Atlanta, winning numerous awards including “Best Radio DJ” and “Best Female Hero” by local papers. The first openly gay on-air personality in Atlanta, Melissa has been a powerful voice for the LGBT community. As a consultant, Melissa trains employees to be more open and accepting to other employees, regardless of their race, age, religion, gender, health background or sexual orientation. In 2002, Melissa received a life-saving kidney transplant. In celebration of the fifth anniversary of her transplant, she founded the Melissa Carter Transplant Fund at Piedmont Hospital. The fund supports Piedmont’s Transplant Services in the education and training and provides support for patients who need financial assistance. Melissa also works with nonprofits, including ChrisKids, in a fundraising capacity.

Sandy D. Welfare is the Executive Director of Cool Girls, an award winning early intervention afterschool program dedicated to the empowerment of low-income girls. Cool Girls inspires girls to change their world through education and exposure to a broader world of opportunity. Sandy has served Cool Girls since 1995, in roles ranging from volunteer to chair of the Board of Directors before accepting her current position as Executive Director. Under Sandy’s leadership, Cool Girls has entered a new era of financial stability and programmatic success. The organization now serves over 500 girls in grades 2-8 with year-round free-of-charge programming, including afterschool programs and one-on-one mentoring. Expanded programs address a range of issues—from childhood obesity to the lack of access to technology education for low-income girls. Prior to joining Cool Girls, Sandy was highly successful in the global corporate world, serving as Managing Director of Xchanging Global Production and Director of US Operations and Global Account Manager for Global Insurance Services. Sandy graduated from St. John’s University and holds her MBA from Sacred Heart University. She continues to serve as a Cool Sister mentor to Cool Girl LaToria.

In 2003, Paula Moreland began experiencing uncontrollable seizures and doctors struggled to diagnose the source. After two brain surgeries, Paula found herself placed on permanent disability and unable to re-enter the corporate world. Instead of letting that hold her back, she began dedicating her time to helping others, founding the non-profit Just1 Gospel Entertainment. The Eatonton, GA native shares her love of the arts by writing, producing and directing plays that are fundraisers for local non-profits, including her hometown Mothers Against Crime. Paula donates 100 percent of the proceeds from her productions back to community organizations. City leaders were so impressed with Paula’s dedication that they proclaimed a “Paula Morealnd Day” each February in Eatonton. Paula also volunteers with seniors at the Bruce Street Senior Center in Lithonia and youth in Rockdale and the surrounding areas. She attributes her drive to helping others to the life altering surgeries that transofmred her own life.

After a successful career as a stockbroker at a large Chicago firm, Liz McLaughlin returned to her native Edinburgh, Scotland where her family worked for generations in the area coal mines. Liz’s life changed forever when she saw an advertisement in the local paper calling for volunteers to drive convoys of food and medical aid during the Balkan Wars. She felt compelled to act, and it was this experience that launched her career in international humanitarian aid, which has now spanned 19 years. Liz became involved with CARE through her work on economic development and peace-building initiatives in the Balkans. Soon after, she was appointed Assistant Country Director and then Interim Country Director for CARE in Sudan, then one of CARE’s largest and most complex offices. In 2009, Liz came to CARE headquarters in Atlanta to lead the Foundations Unit, where she directed strategy for partnerships with large professional foundations such as Gates, Buffett, and Ford. This summer, Liz was promoted to serve as interim head of CARE’s Institutional Fundraising and Partnerships Team, which includes oversight for CARE’s work with corporations, professional foundations, the U.S. government, and social enterprise. Liz traveled to the Horn of Africa in August 2011 and since her return has been featured in a wide variety of media outlets, including CNN, where she has urged a strong public response to the escalating humanitarian crisis. Liz continues to inspire and serve as a mentor to countless colleagues across the world.