White House Recognizes BlazeSports America Executive Director as Champion of Change

***Watch the full “Champions of Change” for Extracurricular Enrichment for Marginalized Girls event live from The White House on Sept 30, 2016. Click HERE to watch video.***

September 27, 2016 

White House to recognize “Champions of Change” for Extracurricular Enrichment for Marginalized Girls and Girls of Color

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Friday September 30, the White House will recognize ten individuals from across the country as White House “Champions of Change” for extracurricular enrichment, afterschool, and summer programming for marginalized girls, including girls of color.

These individuals were selected by the White House for their leadership in developing and supporting high-quality afterschool and extracurricular programs that create opportunities for girls from marginalized communities so that all young people can reach their full potential.

Through the initiative on “Advancing Equity for Women and Girls of Color,” The White House Council on Women and Girls has worked across the federal government to identify key obstacles facing marginalized girls, including girls of color, and highlight innovative solutions to those obstacles. One key issue that girls from marginalized communities often face is access to extracurricular programs and summer enrichment activities that allow them to become stronger students, leaders, and citizens.  For girls to reach their full potential, they need safe and nurturing community and school environments where they can learn, grow and thrive within the school day hours and beyond.  Extracurricular programs enrich their understanding of the arts and the sciences, reinforce the skills learned in school, promote health and wellness, and foster their confidence and leadership.

The event will feature remarks by White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett and CEO and Founder of Black Girls Rock! Beverly Bond.

White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett said, “Learning shouldn’t end when the school bell rings, so neither should our work to ensure every child has the opportunity to thrive. That’s why all young people, including marginalized girls and girls of color, deserve to have access to great after-school and summer experiences that engage their curiosity and help them grow. Our Champions of Change are doing just that in their communities, and they’re creating a brighter future for the next generation in the process. We’re proud to lift their work at the White House, and hope other local leaders emulate the extraordinary examples they’ve set.”

The Champions of Change program was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature individuals doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities. The event will be live streamed on the White House website at www.whitehouse.gov/live on Friday, September 30, at 11:30 AM ET. Follow the conversation at #WHChamps.



Shari Benites – Arlington, Virginia

Shari Benites, M.Ed., has been an educator for 24 years and is currently the Minority Achievement Coordinator and the Director of the Center for Leadership and Public Service at Yorktown High School in Arlington.  In these roles, she has helped develop and implement many programs for students, including the SOAR Cohort, Minority Student Achievement Network, Latinas Leading Tomorrow, Sister Circle, and College Bound.  She is also the advisor for National Honor Society and Model General Assembly. As a trained Results Based Facilitator, Shari has worked with staff, students, and parents across the county to engage in conversations about race and equity. Shari has served on the Board of Directors for the Dream Project for the past four years, whose mission is to empower students whose immigration status creates barriers to education by working with them to access and succeed in college through scholarships, mentoring, family engagement, and advocacy. Shari has also served on the Board of Directors for Volunteer Emergency Families for Children in Alexandria, Virginia.

Annie Delgado – Merced, California

Annie Delgado, M. Ed., JD, serves as an educator for the Merced Union High School District and heads the Lift While You Lead Empowerment Project. Annie has taught high school women’s studies to more than 700 students over the past eight years and was inspired by her pupils’ desire to defy expectations based on gender, ethnicity, and economic status. She also recognized the importance of reaching out to students before they enter high school, so she developed the Empowerment Project to target previously marginalized middle school girls. Participants receive ongoing support from Annie and other mentors over the course of five years to improve academics, attendance, and discipline while engaging in at least one extracurricular activity each year and completing 250 hours of community service during their high school years. Through collaboration with stakeholders at the Merced City School District, UC Merced, and the Educational Employees Credit Union, the program has proven successful for the inaugural group of young women who saw a significant rise in grade point averages, improvement in attendance, a remarkable decline in discipline related issues, and an immeasurable boost in self-esteem.


Cynthia Frisina – Norcross, Georgia

Cynthia Frisina serves as Executive Director for BlazeSports America, headquartered in Norcross, and is the mother of two teenage daughters. BlazeSports America is the legacy organization of the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games and a member of the United States Olympic Committee Multi-Sport Council with the mission of changing the lives of people with physical disabilities through the transformative power of adaptive sports and recreation. Under Cynthia’s direction, BlazeSports has tripled the number of girls with disabilities participating in sports from the recreational to the elite Paralympic level through innovative, afterschool, community-based adaptive sports programs like their “Girls with Bows” archery program, swimming, track and field, rock climbing, summer camp and community collaborations designed to raise self-esteem, improve academic performance and leadership skills, facilitate inclusion and reduce stigmas for girls with disabilities. Previously, Cynthia Frisina founded and served as Executive Director of Reaching for the Stars, the largest parent-led pediatric cerebral palsy education and advocacy foundation in the world and was CEO of her own marketing consulting company.


Lynn Gilkey – Wichita, Kansas

Lynn Gilkey, born and raised in Wichita, Kansas, knows well the pain and isolation many young girls face in her community. She founded CLASS – Caring Ladies Assisting Students to Succeed – to mentor and inspire teen girls.  Her Motto is “It is better to build strong girls than to restore broken women.” With the support of generous sponsors and dedicated volunteers, Lynn and her husband David Gilkey created Rise Up For Youth, Inc., in 2014. The mission is: To inspire and motivate future generations to unlock their full potential through education, mentoring and empowerment. Lynn currently serves as Program Director for CLASS and Executive Director for Rise Up For Youth.


Bridgette M. King – Duncanville, Texas

Bridgette King is a Doctoral of Sports Management student at Northcentral University and serves as Executive Director and Head Coach of the Lady Panthers Girls Basketball Association (LPGBA) in Duncanville. She is a 2016 recipient of the President’s Council Community Leadership Award. LPGBA is a USA Basketball Official Youth Development organization whose players have earned certificates and medals under the Presidential Fitness Challenge for the past six years. Bridgette helped to create a fitness and nutrition program for LPGBA athletes to teach lifelong proper nutritional habits, as well as, how to stay physically fit and healthy as lifelong goals. Bridgette’s coaching has helped her girls, especially those of color, to see their potential and understand how basketball can teach them important life skills.


Sharon Lin – Corona, New York

Sharon Lin is a senior at Stuyvesant High School in New York, NY. She is the Founder and Executive Director of StuyHacks and BitxBit Camp. StuyHacks is a high school hackathon founded in 2015, which currently serves students in the greater NYC area, offering computer science opportunities to middle school students through college-age students. BitxBit Camp is a nonprofit organization that aims to provide opportunities for middle school students in computer science, partnering with companies such as Intel, Sphero, and Microsoft in order to provide in-person training and online mentorship. Sharon is passionate about expanding extracurricular offerings to all girls, especially those from marginalized and underprivileged backgrounds.


Clemmie C. Perry – Tampa, Florida

Clemmie C. Perry serves as the Executive Director and Founder for the not-for-profit organization Women of Color Golf (WOCG) and Girls on the Green Tee (GOTGT) programs in Tampa, Florida. The mission of WOCG and GOTGT are to promote and facilitate the inclusion of minorities, girls and women of color into the game of golf.  These programs were founded in 2014 and have already trained over 280 women and girls in the Tampa Bay & St. Petersburg Florida communities on the basic fundamentals of golf. Through gold, girls learn many basic life skills, including respect, teamwork, courtesy, patience and responsibility. WOCG and GOTGT programs provide a pathway for minority girls and women to learn the game of golf and provides girls with greater access to a broader range of personal, professional and business opportunities to expand their life experiences. Clemmie has a Master’s Degree in Instructional Technology & E-Learning. She has previously worked for two Fortune 500 Companies in Aerospace & Defense Technology and Electrical Utility Smart Grid Technology.


Maya Nussbaum – New York, New York

Maya Nussbaum is the Founder and Executive Director of Girls Write Now, a writing and mentoring organization for girls in New York. Over the last 19 years, she has grown the organization from a loose association of women writers into a dynamic, volunteer-powered community that serves teens who are 90% high need and over 95% girls of color. Girls Write Now has received awards and honors from the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, the Nonprofit Excellence Awards, Time Out New York, and Youth INC. Maya was named one of the Top 40 Feminists under 40 by The Feminist Press, one of the Top 20 Philanthropists under 40 by The Observer, a Diane von Furstenberg (DVF) People’s Voice Nominee, a Local Hero by Metro New York, and an Education Hero by The New York Times. She continues to look for ways to expand Girls Write Now in order to reach more women and help them succeed.


Angela Patton – Richmond, Virginia

Angela Patton is the Chief Executive Officer of Girls For A Change (GFAC) and the Founder of CAMP DIVA, one of GFAC’s flagship programs. A native of Richmond, Angela has been a strong advocate and champion of Black girls for 13 years in the non-profit sector. Girls For A Change seeks to address the unique challenges faced by Black girls and to support and inspire them through after school and summer enrichment and leadership programs focused on creating social change. Patton has established partnerships with five universities, expanded GFAC programs to underserved communities across the country, and overseen the creation of over 200 social change projects conceptualized by girls. One of those projects was the subject of her 2012 TED Women talk. Angela is working to expand GFAC programs to create more spaces where girls can be seen, heard, and celebrated.


Cheryl Ann Wadlington – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Cheryl Ann Wadlington is the Founder and Executive Director of The Evoluer House in Philadelphia. Under Wadlington’s leadership, The Evoluer House has delivered award-winning empowerment programs over the past 12 years to more than 1,200 teen girls of color experiencing unique social and emotional challenges and barriers to success. The Evoluer House works to equip the most underserved and hard-to-reach girls in Philadelphia with essential tools to become college-bound and career-ready and break the cycle of intergenerational poverty. As a testament to its success, 100% of Evoluer House graduates finish high school on time and 90% go on to attend a four-year college. Cheryl is also a fashion and beauty journalist, personal growth consultant, author, and motivational speaker.




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