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Please vote for your 2020 #SHEINSPIRESME winners

Cast your vote for the nominee you believe should win the #SHEINSPIRESME award in the Adult Category.
Sterling Haukom Anderson

Sterling Haukom Anderson

Hometown: Chicago, IL
Instagram: @thisissterling

Sterling is an original co-founder of Women Unite! – a 100% women-operated nonprofit in Chicago that strives to uplift the voices of all who have been silenced or marginalized, including queer, trans, and gender nonconforming folx. Outside of being a founder, she also serves on the Board of Directors and as the Director of Training & Development, leading trainings on topics like implicit bias, diversity & inclusion, and how to be an ally.

Outside of Women Unite!, Sterling provides direct support to individuals experiencing serious mental illness at Thresholds, a Chicago-based mental health organization. In her current role as a Senior Training Specialist for Thresholds, Sterling facilitates and develops trainings for the organization’s more than 1,500 staff as well as external audiences. She has more than four years of experience developing and providing customized trainings and curricula with expertise in Diversity and Inclusion and Professional Development, specifically for women and people of color.

When asked what’s an issue she cares deeply about, Sterling responded: “I am very passionate about mental health care, especially for people with severe mental illness, which is why I went to school for counseling and continue to work at Thresholds. I am also very passionate about LGBTQIAP issues. Being an ally, using my privilege to help boost their cause, listening to their stories, stepping back when I need to listen and learn, stepping up when they need me or ask me to, and educating others as much as I can. Also, walking into spaces where they might not feel safe and fighting for them, in whatever way that means.”

Sarah Lauch

Sarah Lauch

Hometown: Chicago, IL
Instagram: @instasarah @livelikeroofoundation
Twitter: @sarahlauch @livelikeroo

Sarah Lauch is an incredible inspiration to all who meet her. She founded the Live Like Roo Foundation. As a long-time animal rescue advocate and volunteer, and was inspired to start Live Like Roo after meeting a dog named Roosevelt, or Roo, at Chicago Animal Care and Control. Shortly after he was rescued and placed in a foster home, Roo was diagnosed with bone cancer. So together with Roo’s foster mom, Sarah created a bucket list of adventures and ensured Roo lived life to the fullest.

Sarah founded the Live Like Roo Foundation to help other families facing a cancer diagnosis in their pets. It can be a difficult and overwhelming time as families worry for their beloved furry friends, and Sarah wanted to provide hope and support. Since it’s inception, the Live Like Roo Foundation has assisted more than 10,000 families nationwide. They send 40+ care packages per week, and have provided nearly $1 million in medical grants. Sarah and her organization have touched so many lives – not just through those medical grants and care packages provided, but by being a support system and a resource through a sad and scary time.

Sarah has a full-time job, but never fails to find time to help others, whether it be through her organization, volunteering, or simply being there to talk during sad and uncertain times.

Dinai Yelverton

Dinai Yelverton

Hometown: Chicago, IL
Instagram: @i_am_dinai

Dinai Yelverton deserves to win the 2020 #SheInspiresMe award because she is a true inspiration. Watching her juggle being an exceptional wife and mother to two kids while running a business is no easy feat.

This year alone has presented some challenges for her event planning business, yet she didn’t let the obstacles and the constant “no’s” she received to deter her from launching the biggest project of her career, the 2020 Perfect Vision Campaign, a mobile tour brining free vision screenings to African American and Hispanic youth in Chicago aboard a 35ft blue bus/RV. In addition, she chose to journal the process of “dreaming big” to authentically show people her journey to follow her dreams.

Watching her service our community despite the challenges it possessed, is inspiring. Despite COVID, she found a way to bring health care services to families that otherwise would not have access to them – and she did it with grace and poise.

Cast your vote for the nominee you believe should win the #SHEINSPIRESME award in the Young Adult Category.

Alexis Hunter

Hometown: Flossmoor, IL
Instagram: @alexishunter
Twitter: @_alexishunter_

Lex is a senior from Flossmoor, IL majoring in Secondary Language Arts and minoring in English at the University of Missouri-Columbia. She has committed herself to advocating for the marginalized and uplifting communities in a multitude of different ways that have set a standard for her peers and is transforming spaces in positive ways. Lex truly lives by the motto “Justice is love out loud.”

Lex is a part of a service organization known as Mizzou Alternative Breaks. Lex went on an education focused trip to the Dominican Republic and taught English to students for a week her freshman year, led a week long women’s advocacy focused trip to Dallas during her sophomore year, and led a weekend education focused trip to Saint Louis her Junior year.

Lex is also a part of the Joy & Justice Research team. Last fall, Lex presented research on why teaching memes can help disrupt the literary canon in K-12 settings at Harvard’s Practicing Hope Summit Conference in October of 2019 where she became the first undergraduate to ever present at the conference. She also presented at the Big XII Conference on Black Student Government at the University of Oklahoma last winter. In the spring Lex was chosen for TEDxMU and will be giving a TED Talk on how/why being anti-racist educators is the only way to teach going forward.

She also served as the President of National Alliance of Black School Educators for the past two years. In this role Lex facilitated bi-weekly meeting for her peers and worked to advocated for Black students. This sort of community fellowship has helped so many understand their purpose as Black educators and find support in a field where they’re highly underrepresented.

She is currently in the process of applying to grad school with the hopes of starting a PhD program in Justice and Equity in education in the Fall 2021. Her focus on creating real long-lasting systemic changes keeps so many of us uplifted and committed to the work that must be done.

Damayanti Wallace

Hometown: Chicago, IL
Instagram: @ladieversatile and @gkmc18
Twitter: @ladieversatile and @GKMC18 

Damayanti Wallace co-founded GoodKids MadCity (GKMC) in March 2018 as a way to organize Chicago teenagers in the fight against gun violence. Now a student at New York University, the young activist has moved to the administrative side of the organization.

The group has focused on their long-standing demand that police no longer be stationed in Chicago public schools. Wallace said students have long felt that police make them less safe. “Seeing a gun in your school every day as you walk down a hallway, that doesn’t do anything for your mental health,” she said. “They don’t have social workers. They don’t have all these things necessary for a successful education.”

The GKMC mission is to develop young leaders to advocate for resources that will allow them to create sustainable, livable community conditions as well as provide tools to address both mental and physical trauma. Their vision is to create a thriving, sustainable, and livable community that is fully resourced to address the needs of the community and is driven by the work, vision, voice, and experiences of the young people.

When she was just 17 years old, Damayanti organized a walkout for gun reform at the Chicago High School for the Arts as part of a national effort to mark the one-month anniversary of the fatal shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fl.

More recently, Damayanti has been influential in organizing, leading, and participating in Chicago-based protests. She has worked as part of GKMC in tandem with organizations such as Black Lives Matter Chicago and the Let Us Breathe Collective to demand accountability for police brutality, to fight for a focus on people not property, and to advocate for TIF funds being reinvested into the appropriate communities.

Cast your vote for the nominee you believe should win the #SHEINSPIRESME award in the Youth Category.
Ava Penn

Ava Penn

Hometown: Chicago, IL
Instagram: @chicagoteenmentors
Facebook: chicagoteenmentors

Ava is the president of Chicago Teen Mentors where she has engaged CPS students in 3-9th grade in partnerships with Chicago High School students during quarantine. Chicago Teen Mentors’ goal is to help CPS students in need, including those who struggle with remote learning.

The program was started as a club at Whitney Young High School where a common need for educational programs at elementary schools in our communities was identified. Chicago Teen Mentors set out to meet this need by offering after-school tutoring services. Prior to schools closing, they had over 20 members, working closely with three CPS elementary schools. Volunteers tutor 1-on-1 via Zoom, Monday to Saturday. 

The program has expanded exponentially in popularity and number of participants due to the challenges COVID presents. Ava has helped to ensure successful expansion so that free math and reading tutors/mentors are available to students throughout the city to make remote learning more bearable.

Chyna Cannon

Chyna Cannon

Hometown: Chicago, IL
Instagram: @Chynavashay
Twitter: @CVashay

Chyna is an incredible human being. Having lost her father to gun violence at the age of three, Chyna and her mother teamed together to pull themselves out of a desperate situation. Chyna has contended with learning disabilities, poverty, gun violence and bullying all before the age of 12. When she was able to advocate for herself, she found a scholarship that would enable her to seek out the individualized attention she needed in a smaller school setting.

At Roycemore, an independent school in Evanston, she discovered that she could truly make a difference. Chyna started the Diversity Club and inspired a sea of change. She lead students and faculty members at meetings and was an instrumental force in securing Roycemore’s commitment to anti-racism – all while applying for college and working part-time.

Chyna spent her summer organizing the library and has shown great effort and care in shepherding new students as they become part of the Roycemore Family. She inspired donors with her story at the school’s annual event, helping to secure $100,000 for scholarships to help students like her. Chyna Cannon is an inspirational force who will see your heart and make it sing.

Makanaka Chikowero

Makanaka Chikowero

Hometown: Madison, WI
Instagram: @makachiko_
Twitter: @MtcGirl
YouTube: Video

Makanaka moved from Zimbabwe to Wisconsin with her family when she was 2. She is a competitive swimmer, soccer player, and social entrepreneur. Makanaka founded a non-profit called MTC Educate A Girl Inc., which provides mostly orphaned girls in rural Zimbabwe with the opportunity to continue their education. They are presented with tuition, uniforms, supplies, sanitary products, and more. To raise money for the scholarship program, Maka’s non-profit organized a community soccer fundraiser featuring girls and co-ed teams. MTC Educate A Girl expanded by initiating a community-based girls and women soccer club (MTC Sirens FC).

Maka is also the founding member of Rozaria Girls Club USA – a club which fosters the spirit of volunteerism and feminism with young adolescents living in Madison. Maka and Rozaria Girls Club USA have also been routinely fundraising and donating stationary and sports kits to their sister clubs in Murewa Zimbabwe. The trust holds a bi-annual soccer tournament which brings together over 400 young women and girls.

In the future, Maka wants to expand the reach and impact of MTC’s scholarship and girls soccer programs. She has managed to revive hope after hurricane Idai by making this community a family for these orphans. Maka has instilled the idea of no child marriages in this community and has given the MTC girls permission to dream bigger than ever before.