On Tuesday, June 14, the White House will convene the first-ever United State of Women Summit to mark the progress made by and for women and girls domestically and internationally over the course of this Administration and to discuss solutions to the challenges they still face. The event will feature remarks by the President and Vice President, a conversation with the First Lady, and much more.
On the day of the Summit, the room will be filled with the thought leaders, activists, community leaders, and citizens who are committed to bringing about gender equality. We reached out to our communities across America to have you help us find the real-life heroes who are showing their commitment to gender equity through action.
Below, read the inspiring stories of some of the individuals selected from thousands of submissions to attend and participate in the Summit.
And in case you missed it, the White House launched a video from women across the world striving to level the global playing field. For more information on the summit, visit http://www.theunitedstateofwomen.org and join the conversation using #StateOfWomen.
Cierra has witnessed firsthand the power of overcoming struggle to bring about change and help others in her community, especially in the Cherokee Nation. A 17-year-old advocate, Cierra has traveled across Indian Country to educate youth, especially other Native American young women, about sexual assault and to highlight solutions that will empower youth and improve enforcement, transparency, and accountability. As a melanoma cancer survivor, Cierra has also dedicated her time to helping tribal health facilities, and in 2013, was honored as a White House “Champion of Change” for her extraordinary work to promote healthy lifestyles to reduce the risk of cancer in native communities. This year, Cierra will host the Charles Head Memorial Native Youth Summit on efforts to put an end to sexual assault, a conversation she will also bring to the table in her participation at the United State of Women Summit.
As a public services librarian, one of Samantha Helmick's passions is to help women in her community get ahead. Samantha supports women in the workforce by providing one-on-one assistance to small business women and entrepreneurs for free at the library. As the Job Center coordinator for her library in Burlington, Iowa, Sam develops tech assistance opportunities, resume classes, as well as materials and resources for job seekers. She has also collaborated with the local community college and Iowa WorkForce Center to supplement business and tech classes with free, introductory level sessions and to support parents, single caregivers and displaced women in the community. As an advocate for LGBT women, Sam’s also hopes to spread awareness and inclusiveness about gender equality in her local and national library work. Through the United State of Women Summit, Sam hopes to elevate the work she has accomplished on a local level to a national conversation on women empowerment.
Crystal Franklin has dedicated her life’s work to advocating on behalf of people in her community and across the globe living with HIV/AIDS. As a young African-American woman growing up in inner-city Cleveland, Crystal overcame obstacles to access opportunity and dedicate her talents to helping others. Through her work abroad in Guyana and commitment to the Peace Corps, Crystal has focused on educating young women in her community and across the globe on women’s health and services for those struggling with HIV/AIDS and will continue that work in the months and years to come.
Judy has been a long-time advocate for equality for citizens with disabilities. Thirteen years ago, Judy founded a music therapy summer camp at Michigan State University in honor and memory of her son, who passed away at the age of 12 from complications with cerebral palsy. RicStar's Camp welcomes individuals of all ages and disabilities and focuses on celebrating and nurturing individual abilities. A published author, her work has reached young people from a variety of backgrounds, especially young girls, and she hopes to continue empowering role models inside and outside of schools to promote equality for all, including women and individuals with disabilities.
For 30 years, Denese Lombardi has served as an advocate and activist for youth justice, and for women and girls. Denese is a founding member of Girls Incorporated of the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area and has served as their Executive Director for the past ten years. Girls Inc. has served close to 2,000 D.C.-area girls to date, by providing out of school time programs in STEM, economic literacy, health and wellness, college preparedness, career exposure, and leadership development. Denese has worked to build partnerships with successful, high-level women, corporations, and organizations in Washington, D.C. to open doors for the young women she serves daily. Her passion and authenticity truly align with the Girls Inc. mission to inspire all girls—to be strong, smart, and bold.
Jenn has faced 20-foot waves, seasickness and nearly two months of life at sea in her pursuit to help survivors of breast cancer recover and improve their quality of life. As the founder and Executive Director of Recovery on Water, a rowing team for patients and survivors of breast cancer, Jenn rowed the 1,500 mile perimeter of Lake Michigan to raise awareness and funds for the breast cancer recovery group. A collegiate rower herself, Jenn’s belief in the power of sport, teamwork, and diversity has helped build opportunities for women of all backgrounds and all neighborhoods throughout Chicago. Though her work on the Advisory Board for Girls in the Game, Jenn has provided girls with the tools to learn about leadership, health, sport and life. Under her leadership, many girls have also had the opportunity to learn about self-defense, nutrition for growing athletes, yoga and more. Jenn hopes to bring these unique experiences to the United State of Women Summit.
Sheyla has made it a priority to increase access for young Hispanic women like herself in active, rigorous STEM-learning experiences. Traveling all around the world with challenging engineering job experiences, she inspires young, lower-income women with her vision of a highly diverse, creative, and strong STEM workforce and a STEM-literate citizenry. Breaking many barriers herself, Sheyla has helped reduce unnecessary obstacles and stigmas that too often limit those who pursue, persist, and succeed in STEM. She volunteers many hours teaching soft skill workshops and short STEM activities, has raised funds for scholarships for students in her community, and has led industry-recognized STEM competitions across the Nation. A rising star in the engineering field, Sheyla is currently in the process of starting her own scholarship foundation to help motivated Latinas achieve their dreams in a STEM field, and hopes to inspire many more Hispanic women entering STEM fields while at the United State of Women Summit.
Yasmin Rafiq has worked tirelessly to create opportunities to educate young women in the United States and across the globe on issues ranging from health, access to opportunity, and community service. As a Pakistani woman, she feels blessed to be in America and feels it’s her duty to help women and girls who face early on barriers to success when it comes to education, economic opportunity and health. In November 2015, Yasmin travelled to Pakistan to raise awareness after the launch of “Let Girls Learn,” an Obama Administration initiative that expands efforts to help adolescent girls worldwide attend and complete school. She currently volunteers and teaches English as a Second Language courses for women who recently immigrated to the United States and continues her advocacy for women on issues such as paid leave.
The United State of Women: Everything You Need to Know