City, State: Los Angeles, CA
Occupation: Nehita Jewelry Designer
Monalisa Okojie is the mother of 3, a businesswoman and designer of Nehita fine jewelry. About five years ago, she brought together a group of professionals in the fields of Medicine, Law, Education, Entertainment and Technology to create a Board of Directors who would commit to helping women and girls in Africa lead sustainable lives. The organization she founded, Upward African Women (UAW) participates in the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Healthcare Program. Their agenda is to educate youth about Africa, explore its history and culture plus initiate a dialogue about women becoming more independent. To date, the organization supports two schools directly benefiting women and children in Nigeria and Ghana. She provides other services to feed and clothes the students in the school she’s owns since 2008 in a remote village of Mombasa, Kenya.
Although she has worked very hard to expand her jewelry design business, Monalisa remains quite passionate about educating our youth. Her group continues to speak to our youth about bullying, our teens about maintaining good study habits and our community about the detrimental effects of substance abuse. She makes it clear that any one of these issues can contribute to delinquency thereby having a negative impact on a student’s development. The UAW provides counselors to mentor college bound teens and these efforts have proven a successful way to foster higher education.
City, State: Long Beach, CA
Occupation: President, Speak Up Empowerment Foundation
Ms. Butler is continuously involved in community, civic and corporate organizations whose purpose is to uplift others. She created the annual “Ms. Single Mom Empowerment Forum.” This free event is a collaborative celebration tailored for the single mom community to provide current information, educational updates and strategies that inspire success. Topic expand the gamete from financial assistance and business to how to go from homeless to homeowner. In conjunction with Sullivan International, Inc., they provide mentor matching opportunities for attendees. For her efforts she garnered recognition and support from the Long Beach Mayor and City Council members and an Award letter from the City of Long Beach.
She has served on the LA Urban League Board of Directors, UC San Diego Black Alumnae Scholarship Committee and the Healing Our Village/Total Lifestyle Change Advisory Board. Robbie is a single mom, grandmother, educator, executive and published author. Her book, Ms. Single Mom- Yes You Can! is a self-help reference guide book for young single mothers. It contains essays offering parenting strategies and is used as a guide in several high schools.
Rev Eziokwu Washington
City, State: Los Angeles. CA
Occupation: Co-Owner/ VP WE CAN Foundation
Rev. Washington founded the WE CAN Foundation in 1995 for the sole purpose of educating Minorities in the inner-city about computer technology and the internet. Today the foundation is engaged in the effort to increase the academic performance of the students in various school districts. The organization sponsors multiple programs to engage and encourage children in the community to participate in critical thinking. The WE CAN Foundation is hosting the first Blues Festival in the historical Black Town of Allensworth to raise Scholarship funds for High School students. The Foundation promotes compassion and leadership in our youth and seniors.
Rev. Washington is considered a Akhan Priest (High Priest) currently exploring Urban Farming for the group. He tutors inner-city children of Los Angeles at his Leimert Park office and is spear heading a movement to help Disabled African American Viet Nam Veterans Stripped of Health Care. His other training is in Telecommunication and Information Technology. He retired from Pacific Bell as a Network Engineer Manager after 27 years.
Internationally, he worked as the West Coast Senior Engineer for Tele Media International headquarter in Rome, Italy, and shifted to be a Business Solution Engineer for the Society of International telecommunications and Aeronautics in Geneva.
City, State: Carson, CA
Occupation: Vice President and President, Veterans Advocacy Group of America (VAGA)
The VAGA is a 501 (c) 3 non- profit organization based in Southern California. Their mission is to provide information and resources that assist returning veterans and military service members. Stirling, is an Honorably discharged Viet Nam Vet who is keenly aware that Vets needs’ can easily fall through the cracks and stringent efforts must be made to ensure that they have excellent health benefits, job opportunities, career training, continued educational opportunities, and multi-level family assistance.
Sterling, along with his wife Tova view outreach as a primary component of their organization. As the Chief Operations Officer of Revolution Pest Solutions, he oversees the day to day functions of the company including preparation of short and long-term goals, sales, marketing, and quality control. Revolution Pest Solutions is a military-friendly employer and provides a training academy in the Pest Control industry. Forty percent of their employees are Vets. They both work diligently to also provide school supplies the children of Vets.
City, State: Fontana, CA
Occupation: Founder and CEO Woman Veterans Unity Group
Ann is an Honorably discharged U.S. Army Veteran and founder/CEO of the Women Veterans Unity Group (WVUG) a 501c3 organization. Her mission is to close gaps, form linkages, bring educational awareness/ positive change and solutions to all military veterans, families and their communities. Through Ann’s multi-level involvement, the veteran community is improving in its delivery and connection to services that help insure no vet gets left behind in receiving benefits due. In March of last year, the Group dedicated 25 Living Trees- “Military Women Unity Memorial” to honor all era’s past, present, and future to women of the Armed Forces.
Ann has overcome multiple barriers while serving in the Army including sexual assaulted and discrimination. She experiences PTSD but still managed to conquer her homelessness, alcoholism and drug addiction to receive a degree in Mental Health, an AA in Women Studies and a B.S. in Human Studies. She is Certified Addiction Treatment Counselor. Her journey has led her to creating an environment where female veterans are able to unify, connect and feel safe. Ann is also currently Chair of the Inland Empire Women Veterans Collaborative and Treasurer of the Inland Empire Veterans Employment Committee. She is a life member of AMVETS Post 77.
Dr. Marcia Coppertino
City, State: Los Angeles, CA
Occupation: President, Coppertino & Associates Consulting Co.
Marcia has been a consummate leader in local, national and international business affairs for over three decades. She acted as West Coast General Manager of Jackson Hewitt financial Services (JH). Local communities benefited greatly when she opened over 40 tax and financial management offices and then trained 300 employees to become tax agents. Dr. Coppertino was the first to put tax preparation service booths in major check cashing establishments thereby providing opportunities for new employees to work in facilities throughout Los Angeles County. She was also the coordinator for Western Regional Women for Obama and counseled 1,000 Women in White. Her activism for individual peace and safety has no bounds
Her firm is a full service financial and business management consulting group consisting of 4 professional management associates with over 20 outside contractors, offering premier business development going from concept to market. Marcia, in her creative leadership capacity advises major companies in business acquisitions, capital campaign fundraising, business turn around counseling/restructuring, and corporate branding. Civic, Social, Political, Healthcare and Faith based counseling programs have also been set in place. She is also an accomplished Soprano who speaks 8 languages and plays the piano for fun. In addition, she is a team member who directs Operation Doctors for Afghanistan.
City, State: Los Angeles, CA
Occupation: Skid Row Counselor
Wendell Blassingame has been a stabile fixture in San Julian Park amid the homeless Skid Row population for the past 14 yrs. He sits outside at a small table under an umbrella, when he has one, to address the continuous social service needs of the surrounding citizens. As a former homeless person dealing with alcoholism, he is keenly aware of the struggles and frustrations this population experiences daily. Armed with his lap top and dedication, Wendell helps the homeless (and anyone else) find services like medical and free legal assistance, dental treatments, food and housing. He even offers resume preparation for job seekers. He lives on a fixed income, but generous local businesses extend him discounts for certain goods.
This is his 10th year as an elected board member of the Downtown Neighborhood Council. They have monthly meetings with agenda items that include restructuring and re-zoning buildings to house those needing shelter, safety and stability. They also have efforts to provide basic items like clean showers, bathrooms and even water. One of the other things he gets to do is run movie nights every weekend at the James Woods Community Ctr. Wendall’s skills before being homeless was working as an electrician. A lathe severed two fingers which then put him out of that work.
City, State: Inglewood, CA
Occupation: Founder & Director PASW
Performing Arts Studio West (PASW) is a program for adults with disabilities. For the past 19 years, John Paizis has provided career opportunities for the disabled population. He has developed a vocational type training curriculum in which his students engaged in Acting, Music, Dance, Singing and more. The schedule consists of three classes five days a week in several of these areas. The performance studio does more than what the title implies. It creates an environment for the students to expand their courage, strength, trust, clarity and communication that sometimes goes far beyond their comfort zone.
The empowerment some of these students’ garner have led to over 1,800 roles in film, TV, commercials, music videos and theater. Born This Way, a Reality film about Down Syndrome young adults received Emmy awards, for Cinematography and casting. Two of his students became the first individuals with Down Syndrome to present a major award at the 2017 Emmy’s. Students range in age from 18-65 and develop life-enhancing social skills. Because of this rich nurturing environment, attendees can draw out the best of themselves and life. Cutting edge performances and high-quality productions are inherent in the schools’ philosophy. There is no other school quite like PASW. It is currently funded by the State of California.
City, State: Hollywood, CA
Occupation: Algebra Teacher / Athletic Director
Mr. Owusu holds a Master’s degree in Petroleum Engineering from USC and is currently the Athletic Director and Algebra teacher extraordinaire at Bernstein High School in East Hollywood. He is singly focused on being the best for his students and extracting the best from them. During assemble or graduation ceremonies, he is one of the few teachers that gets standing ovations from students and parents alike. His unique teaching style evokes and eagerness to learn from the students as well as a thirst to continue to higher education. There have been many times that you can find him tutoring or coaching on a Saturday.
Mr. Owusu is originally from Ghana where he goes yearly to build a school, primarily with his own funds. While at USC he played soccer, and realizes athletics and education can go together. He is hoping that once the brick and mortar school is completed that it will symbolize a landmark for other such local schools. Raymond appreciates and recognizes that teaching is his true calling and giving back to the community is part of that calling.
City, State: Los Angeles, CA
Occupation: President & Founder
California Safe Schools
After her young child ingested a deadly, toxic liquid being used to spray school lawns, Robina has been on a quest to stop this practice. She founded California Safe Schools more than eighteen years ago and has led ground-breaking efforts to ensure that school children and the public learn, work and live in a healthy environment. California Safe Schools is committed to ensuring that all students, teachers, staff, and community members who attend, work or live near school sites are in a safe toxic-free zone. Robina spearheaded California legislation, AB405 (Montanez) signed by Governor Schwarzenegger which prevents phased out, experimental and conditional use products, whose health effects are unknown, from being used in California k-12 public schools. This legislation protected more than 800,000 students at Los Angeles Unified School District from toxic pesticides. It was one of the most stringent pesticide policies in the nation for schools.
She created and distributed five thousand educational posters which promoted clean air and environments. In addition, she organized innovative health events that uniquely fostered their agenda. Robina consistently works to protect all Southern Californians, with a special emphasis on the most vulnerable-our children. In her words, “Our Children have no vote, no lobbyists and no war chests. They depend on adults to protect them. California Safe Schools is committed to doing just that, and we will continue to spearhead ground-breaking programs and policies that protect all!”
City, State: Los Angeles, CA
Occupation: Community Member
Tung is an activist and a change maker.
Tung taught himself English, obtained a GED and earned an Associate Degree while in prison. Tung’s advocacy journey begins around 2002, with managing the Catholic church in San Quentin State Prison. He pioneered a pilot reentry program targeting parole violators at San Quentin to reduce recidivism and learned skills that shaped his hopelessness into productivity. Tung was imprisoned in 1993 aiding and abetting a robbery which subsequently lead to the victim’s death. Through his activism, heroism, and positive demeanor, Gov. Jerry Brown gave him an immediate pardon in 2011 after he and others selfishly protected prison visitors from a riot.
Tung pioneered a juvenile lifers group, called Kid Raising Awareness Together (KIDCAT). Today, the group is nationally recognized and has been a strong influence in the recently passed California laws benefiting juveniles, such as SB 260, SB 261, and Proposition 57. At the same time, he recruited Asian and Pacific Islander inmates to form a support group known as Restoring Our Original True Selves (ROOTS) to work towards rehabilitation. He spent his personal time coaching and helping life-termed inmates towards effective preparations for parole hearings and earn freedom.
Tung’s community contributions resulted in awards such as being the “2013 Most Inspiration Community Member”, to being awarded as the “2013 Lauren Warboy’s Unsung Hero”. Currently, Tung is a finalist for the Open Justice Society – Soros Advocacy Fellowship. If selected, Tung will be advocating for a re-entry agency for the formerly incarcerated Asian and Pacific Islander in Orange County where there’s little resources servicing this particular population. Despite living in CA without any legal status or benefits and uncertain if he will be taken away from his family, he continues to do speaking engagements and advocate for social justice reforms.