Last spring, more than 3,000 women with great ideas applied for the first-ever O-White House Leadership Project contest. The winners got to attend an inspiration-packed three-day program, with coaching by some of the top women trailblazers in the country. Here, the projects that are making a difference:
Name: Raolat Abdulai
Hometown: Clarksville, Maryland
Project Idea: A multi-institution, student-run free clinic that serves underserved Washington, D.C., communities
Sound bite: "I have always been passionate about issues in health disparities. When I came to America in 1987 from Nigeria, my father was a taxicab driver and my mother a babysitter, and we had no health insurance. ... I'm on my way to becoming the first physician in our family and want most of all to help people who have nowhere to turn."
Name: Nadine Bean
Hometown: West Chester, Pennsylvania
Project Idea: A plan for social work students to help rebuild the spirit of New Orleans' beleaguered Lower 9th Ward
Sound bite: "People understand donating to reconstruct houses. It's tangible: If they give this much money, we can rewire a home or put drywall up. What isn’t tangible, and what I have been having challenges with, are the emotional and social support services, which are every bit as vital to rebuilding the community."
Name: Déborah Berebichez
Hometown: New York City
Project Idea: The Science of Everyday Life, a video series encouraging young women to learn more about science and technology in a fun and engaging manner
Sound bite: "I grew up in a conservative community in Mexico where women were not encouraged to study science or math. I was told, 'You’ll never get married. No man wants a wife who’s smarter than her.' I fought to pursue my dreams and got my PhD in physics at Stanford. ... I want to ignite a passion for learning in women across the world."
Name: Dawn Billings
Hometown: Mableton, Georgia
Project Idea: The CAPABLE Learning System™, a toy/educational tool that aids parents in teaching their children social and emotional skills
Sound bite: "I was born to complete poverty, and graduating from high school was a really big deal in my family. ... My grandmother came to see me and said, 'Dawn, you’ve been in school longer than anyone I ever knew. You have a learning disability or something?' And I said, 'No Grandma, I have a 4.0.' And she said, 'Honey, in this family 4 out of 10 ain’t bad.'"
Name: Roslind Blasingame-Buford
Project Idea: BUILDing Futures, a Chicago-based college prep and career readiness program for high-risk inner city youth
Sound bite: "I should be a statistic. I grew up in a single-parent household in an underprivileged community and got into trouble with gangs and drugs. But thanks to family and influential mentors at community-based programs, I beat the odds. I believe—no, I know—that if provided the proper tools, support, and encouragement, at-risk youth can succeed."
Name: Christine Breck
Project Idea: Texas Wall Street Women, a peer network of women in finance committed to developing professionally and to volunteering in the community
Sound bite: "In almost any other area, women help each other. But we get into the finance industry, and that part of our brain falls out. Tom Meredith, former CFO at Dell, calls it the 'mean girl syndrome.' If we want to do well in this business, we have to get over that and lift each other up."
Name: Amy Callis
Hometown: Oakland, California
Project Idea: The Darfur Stoves Project, producing efficient portable cookers for refugee women so they don't have to leave their camps in search of wood, risking rape
Sound bite: "Through projects like this, Darfur refugees know that the world has not forgotten them. It's an important message of hope for a people so demoralized by the crisis they have had to endure. And donating toward a stove is a very tangible way for the everyday person to take a stand and be a global citizen. ... The stove is a good intervention right now, until the best one: peace in Darfur."
Name: Autumn Caviness
Hometown: Grand Prairie, Texas
Project Idea: A radio show titled Young America to inspire youth in urban communities
Sound bite: "In the urban community we aren't exposed to many examples of success. I want to share stories of individuals with amazing occupations, to show that success comes in many forms—not just on the basketball court or in the hood as a 'street pharmacist.'"
Name: Janeen Comenote
Project Idea: The National Urban Indian Family Coalition, a national network of organizations that gives city-dwelling Native Americans a voice
Sound bite: "Native American culture is matriarchal—women are so powerful and respected. It's not a secret that behind every great male Indian leader is a woman advising him. Looking at Women Rule! through the lens of my core cultural values, I had an aha! moment: I realized that what I take absolutely for granted in my community—the role of women—doesn't necessarily translate into the larger world."
Name: Michelle Cote
Hometown: West Hartford, Connecticut
Project Idea: The Purpose Project, a book-based tool to help inspire and equip a new generation of social leaders
Sound bite: "Taking the time out to focus on my individual professional growth through Women Rule! was a huge luxury for me. When you're caught up in everyday life, it's hard to find time to reflect on what you do well and what you need to improve upon. I found the information presented so helpful that after the conference I typed up my notes and shared them with all of the ambitious, professional women I know."
Name: Erica Courtney
Hometown: Dania Beach, Florida
Project Idea: Biodiversity and Company, a nature-based business focused on protecting the Chocó rainforest in Ecuador through the sale of carbon credits
Sound bite: "I tend not to look at things as hurdles, but as challenges. I went through flight training in the U.S. Cavalry in 1997, just when it had opened its doors to women. I learned that if people were ignorant, fine, let them be ignorant. My job in life is not to change their opinion— it's just to do the best work I can, and eventually they'll come around."
Name: Christina Melton Crain
Project Idea: Amachi Texas, a mentoring program for children of incarcerated offenders
Sound bite: "In my seven years serving as the first female Chairman of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice, I've been able implement a number of programs, like Amachi Texas, that service offenders and their children. I feel these initiatives have truly changed lives. And to me there is no greater cause."
Name: Mildred C. Crump
Hometown: Newark, New Jersey
Project Idea: A program to empower high school girls living in housing projects to make good decisions in their lives
Sound bite: "Many young women in public housing are remarkably talented and want to lead productive lives; they just don't know how to make it happen. Hopefully the time spent with us will restore their faith in themselves. If we can accomplish our goals of empowerment, they will become change agents in public housing and in the city of Newark."
Name: Camille Cyprian
Hometown: Saint Paul, Minnesota
Project Idea: The Creative Arts Policy Institute, which engages urban young people in public policy through creative arts and media
Sound bite: "I hope to influence inner city youth policy in a positive way. It seems to me that this is a piece of the policy realm that is often overlooked or used to criminalize young people instead of investing in and developing them."
Name: Rebecca Dallet
Hometown: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Project Idea: To advocate for change in her community while serving as judge elect in the Milwaukee County Circuit Court
Sound bite: "Women Rule! helped me make the connection between my new job as a judge and my desire to help my community rid itself of the problems brought on by poverty and violence. I realized this is not something that needs to happen outside of work hours but is intimately connected to my work: The programs I can help foster will help the people I see in court each day."
Name: Jeanne Dasaro
Hometown: Dorchester, Massachusetts
Project Idea: The New Prosperity Initiative, a network providing comprehensive support services to people struggling with poverty
Sound bite: "It was refreshing to spend a weekend with the highly dedicated and motivated women of Women Rule!, who have turned out to be wonderful resources, personally and professionally. They're now members of my newly formed 'kitchen cabinet': With these women I can talk about my real hopes and goals and about the issues keeping me from getting more impact from my actions."
Name: Cerelyn Davis
Hometown: Douglasville, GA
Project Idea: Sisters-In-Law, a support network for women in law enforcement that also encourages girls to consider the profession by offering real-life role models
Sound bite: "I've had to work above and beyond to deal with men not accepting me as a credible leader. A policewoman doesn't get respect until she runs a robber down. But women in these roles contribute so much. I've had experiences where my presence prevented the situation from turning into a shoot-out. And there are some things I can tell a battered woman, things that aren't so protocol."
Name: Andrea Dean
Hometown: Kapaau, Hawaii
Project Idea: A consulting business that works with businesses and government to enhance environmental sustainability in Hawaii
Sound bite: "At Women Rule! Cheryl Dorsey said, 'Own your issue fully and drive to the solution. It's all about the results.' I think until I heard that, I was more self-centered. It was all about my business and my success. I suddenly saw my green coaching and consulting business as the vehicle, not the destination. What really matters are the results."
Name: Tammy Dobrez
Hometown: Brooklyn, New York
Project Idea: A social venture bringing together artisans, community residents, and businesses to address homelessness in New York City
Sound bite: "My trajectory changed when I read about the founder of Common Ground Community in New York City. Her work astonished me. I moved from Chicago to work for the organization because the notion of challenging the traditional views of housing the homeless and also creating well designed, beautiful buildings was so appealing. I still have the article to this day as a reminder to continue to believe that anything is possible."
Name: Anne Dodge
Hometown: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Project Idea: A program encouraging historic preservation and economic development along Route 66 by connecting motel owners—of which half are East Indian—with preservation-related grants, resources, and information
Sound bite: "I wrote my master's thesis at MIT about Route 66, and I was shy about it: It seemed lightweight compared to serious issues my peers were taking on. But as I got into it I realized this is not at all frivolous: A particular population of Americans is physically present on the road but not present in conversations about its identity and historic preservation. I want to change the narrative of Route 66, making it more honest and inclusive."
Name: Sarah Dougher
Hometown: Portland, Oregon
Project Idea: The Girls Rock Camp Alliance, an international coalition of camps dedicated to girls' empowerment through music
Sound bite: "We have a code of values to ensure the feminist spirit of our camps. We're about using the tool of rock 'n' roll to foster girls' confidence, cooperation, and self-esteem. We're giving them an opportunity to really kick ass. We want to differentiate ourselves from 'rock camps' where girls learn how to pluck their eyebrows or try to be the next Mouseketeer."
Name: Lisa Dunster
Hometown: Loveland, Ohio
Project Idea: Operation Reconnect, a nonprofit organization assisting military personnel in reconnecting with their communities, employers, families, and other veterans in their area
Sound bite: "We haven't realized our civic responsibility to assist our service men and women in adapting to society when they come home. We expect them to jump back into civilian life as if nothing happened. To allow another generation to maneuver their way back into their lives alone or without greater support is unconscionable to me."
Name: Jennie Durant
Project Idea: The HoneyMoon Project, a program to teach business development skills to women in Africa through beekeeping
Sound bite: "One of the coolest things for me at Women Rule! was the communications boot camp. Lisa Witter imparted to us that men tend to be comfortable plugging themselves as experts—even if they don't know what they're talking about—but women think there must be someone else more knowledgeable. It's key for women to change the way we perceive ourselves and speak with confidence."
Name: Evelyn Fernandez-Ketcham
Hometown: Bronx, New York
Project Idea: The New Heights Neighborhood Center, an organization engaging disconnected young adults from the Washington Heights community and transitioning them to sustainable employment and education
Sound bite: "At Women Rule! Senator Mee Moua inspired me when she asked us, 'Are you willing to sacrifice for your cause?' My answer was definitely. I'm ready to go the extra mile and take the risk to do things differently in order to make our society a better place. I'd been considering running for political office, and after this I thought, 'Wow, this is really possible.'"
Name: Stephanie Fiallo
Hometown: Forest Hills, New York
Project Idea: Tierra Sana, a community-based, healthy fast food restaurant
Sound bite: "I hadn't participated in policy-making or politics before attending Women Rule!; it was not my priority. But I left realizing I must be involved. I used to think as long as I do my thing, other people can handle the country. But I'm part of this country. It was a big shift in my thinking."
Name: Catherine Hedgeman
Hometown: Albany, New York
Project Idea: Stakeholders, a sustainable communities initiative to cultivate civic engagement in the New York Capital Region
Sound bite: "I'm a third-generation Albany resident. It's always been a place I loved, and I noticed a lot of young people leaving after they graduated from college. Albany's a great place to live and work—my goal is to get that across."
Name: Sonya Henderson
Hometown: Fayetteville, Georgia
Project Idea: GirlBiz, a program in which teen girl entrepreneurs create, develop, and run their own businesses
Sound bite: "My mother died when I was 5, and I was taken in by my grandmother, who had 16 children of her own. She worked as a maid, then came home and looked after us. I rarely saw her sleeping and I remember asking her how she did it all. She said, 'Honey, a woman can make a way out of no way.' That's never left me."
Name: Sue Hildick
Hometown: Portland, Oregon
Project Idea: The Chalkboard Project, a nonprofit working to improve K-12 student achievement in Oregon
Sound bite: "At Women Rule! we were asked to stand if we're passionate about children's issues; to stay standing if we're passionate about women's issues; and finally, to stay standing if we're passionate enough to run for office to impact them. I stayed standing. Running for office was an early career goal of mine, but I haven't thought much about it lately. I realized that vision is still a part of me."
Name: Sheila Hodgkin
Hometown: Redlands, California
Project Idea: XRtainment Zone, a family wellness facility that makes exercise fun through physically interactive video and computer games
Sound bite: "Women Rule! was like drinking pure, clean water after biking to the peak of a mountain. I feel validated, having taken in knowledge, wisdom, and inspiration to quench my thirst for success and leadership. It was an adrenaline-high experience that has propelled me to the next level of my business."
Name: Tori Hogan
Hometown: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Project Idea: Beyond Good Intentions, a social enterprise using film and education to catalyze a dialogue about what kinds of international aid programs really work
Sound bite: "This idea emerged out of six years of frustrating experiences with international aid in Africa. Every visit left me grappling with the question 'had I really helped?' My breaking point came on the Somali border when a 16-year-old refugee told me aid workers kept coming in and asking the same questions, but nothing had changed in over a decade. I decided to dedicate my life to finding out what works."
Name: Penny Brown Huber
Hometown: Ames, Iowa
Project Idea: Grow Your Small Market Farm, a business planning program for farmers
Sound bite: "Many of the farmers I work with have received little or no support from any government entity. It seems to me nothing is more important than to encourage and help develop fiscally sound local food farm businesses, so we can ensure a safe and healthy food system for the future."
Name: Jenny Hwa
Hometown: New York City
Project Idea: loyale, an organic clothing company featuring sustainable, eco-chic apparel
Sound bite: "The intention of loyale is to create fashion-forward, accessible clothing that is made locally with sustainable fabrics. I want to amend the current business philosophy that says the environment has to be compromised in order to make a profit."
Name: Nancy Roldán Johnson
Hometown: Milford, Connecticut
Project Idea: The Latina ARMY, Inc. (Accomplished Role models Motivating Young Latinas), a volunteer-based nonprofit organization with a goal to empower one million young Latinas
Sound bite: "The graduation ceremony at Women Rule! was overwhelming for me. I've never been witness to a room full of such amazing women, linking arms. As the chain lengthened and strengthened, I thought to myself: If the power in this room could change the world—and it could—then the soldiers in the Latina ARMY will succeed in helping our young girls. There is such power in numbers."
Name: Julia Keffer
Hometown: Oyster Bay, New York
Project Idea: Peer Pals, an organization pairing preschool age children with disabilities with non-disabled peers to build relationships prior to kindergarten
Sound bite: "At Women Rule!, I was with a group of really smart, successful, powerful women who were just there to encourage the rest of us to be smart, more powerful, and more successful in our own realm. There was no agenda to it other than that."
Name: Micki Krimmel
Hometown: Glendale, California
Project Idea: An online community for sharing goods, modeled after the idea of neighborly borrowing
Sound bite: "A practical takeaway from Women Rule! was to focus on your strengths and let other people do what they're best at. Some of my business plan is about vision and purpose—that I can do. Other parts require skills I don't have. It seems so obvious, but when you're trying to create something new, the tendency is to think you need to learn how to do it all yourself! I learned that this tendency runs especially deep for women."
Name: Elizabeth Lindsey
Hometown: Trenton, New Jersey
Project Idea: The Pink Collar Project, a professional mentoring program for women in jobs traditionally considered female, such as a receptionist or nurse, to help them move ahead in their careers
Sound bite: "My inspiration is my mom. She's currently working as a legal secretary. She's an extremely intelligent and dedicated worker— if she had had more lucky breaks and access to training and support, I think she could have done anything she wanted. So this project is very personal to me."
Name: Yara Lorenzo
Hometown: Miami, Florida
Project Idea: To run for office in the Florida House of Representatives in 2010
Sound bite: "When one looks around at elected officials, they do not look like me, nor do they have Spanish sounding last names. This is true even in South Florida where the Hispanic community is predominant. Time after time at political events, I am still the only young woman in the room. I plan on changing that."
Name: Shannon Lynberg
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
Project Idea: The Younger Women's Task Force, a nationwide grassroots movement that organizes younger women to take action on issues that matter to them
Sound bite: "At work my fear of failure was holding me back from reaching my full potential. I realized at Women Rule! that my feelings were actually normal; I was shocked to hear just how many other women felt the same way. I learned to recognize the successes I've already had and to have a little more faith in accomplishing what I set out to do."
Name: Nancy Mansfield
Hometown: Los Angeles
Project Idea: The Institute for Families, a nonprofit providing support, counseling, advocacy, and education to families facing a serious medical diagnosis in a child
Sound bite: "Watching families disintegrate due to illness has been life-altering for me. The divorce or separation rate for couples with a sick family member is approximately 82 percent, according to the latest literature. I believe that it is our responsibility as a society to help people build bridges rather than erect walls."
Name: Cheryl Mathieu
Hometown: Long Beach, California
Project Idea: AgingPro.com, a one-stop online resource for elder care
Sound bite: "At the end of my grandmother's life, I realized how much we as a society don't know about aging and the dying process. There's a maze of senior services that's so difficult to navigate. I'm committed to making information and support accessible to caregivers, professionals in aging, and people planning for their future; I want to be the Google of elder care."
Name: Bindu Mayi
Hometown: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Project Idea: To implement infection control policies in hospitals and clinics across the nation to prevent MRSA infections
Sound bite: "My twin sister passed away right before our 16th birthday in a fire. She was so much better than me at everything, and I felt guilty that I had survived and not her. I realized I had to do something with my life. I was very dependent on my parents, but left India for the U.S. to get my PhD, going on to do medical research and teaching. It was clear that this is what I had to do."
Name: Jameelah Medina
Hometown: Rialto, California
Project Idea: A program for at-risk African American and Latino youth who have been involved in race-related violence at their high schools
Sound bite: "In my high school we had race riots between blacks and Latinos. That's when I started learning Spanish, and I thought, Wow, if we all knew what we had in common, we wouldn't be fighting. It's important to me to give these kids the knowledge about their commonalities, because they don't learn that in history class."
Name: Tanya Moore
Hometown: San Francisco
Project Idea: The Infinite Possibilities Conference, a national conference to support and encourage minority women and girls in mathematics
Sound bite: "I want to deconstruct the myth that 'math won't help me in the real world.' Math provides a framework to organize information and interpret data. Even if you're not going to use geometry in your life's work, it gives you tools that are good for decision-making and critical thinking."
Name: Annette Morales
Hometown: Las Cruces, New Mexico
Project Idea: To replace existing traditional kilns with brick kilns that emit 95 percent less dangerous fumes during a burn
Sound bite: "When I worked for corporate America, I was involved in the closing of manufacturing facilities. Attempting to assess the damage and transition the employees out was a feat. I decided I did not want to tear down communities anymore; I wanted to build them up. It is much easier to do."
Name: Irma R. Muñoz
Hometown: Venice, California
Project Idea: Mujeres de la Tierra, a nonprofit supporting women to become active participants in environmental issues impacting their families and neighborhoods
Sound bite: "Two of my neighbors died of cancer before they turned 60, months apart from each other. Both women believed that toxins from the nearby oil wells might have caused the cancer. I promised to do something about it to prevent others from getting ill. ... It's time for women from local neighborhoods to act and lead on this critical issue."
Name: Nneka Norville
Hometown: Brooklyn, New York
Project Idea: Intern Etiquette, business etiquette training for prospective interns to bridge the gap between academia and the working world
Sound bite: "When my mother came to the U.S. from Guyana, she worked in a morgue. She always told us, 'I came here and worked with dead bodies for years—so you have no room to complain.' Then she got her degree and her master's and is now a principal. She instilled in me, 'Do what you want to do.'"
Name: Ebele Okobi-Harris
Hometown: New York City
Project Idea: An organization that identifies, equips, and prepares high-potential African women for business, civic, and entrepreneurial leadership
Sound bite: "I've worked with companies in Africa that bring ex-pats in to do senior jobs, and only hire Africans for the menial jobs. When pressed, they would say they couldn't find locals who were sufficiently qualified. Given that in countries like Senegal and Nigeria there are not enough jobs for college graduates, I was inspired to create opportunities for them to forge their own economic destiny."
Name: Morgan Owen-Cruise
Hometown: Ypsilanti, Michigan
Project Idea: To organize a group bringing weekly art and music activity to kids in local homeless shelters and public housing community centers
Sound bite: "I became aware of how privileged I am—living in a happy home with two parents and a steady income—when I heard my supervisor on the phone desperately trying to find a place to sleep for a runaway teen who was being abused by her mother but too young to enter a shelter. I thought, How would it even be possible to survive in that position?"
Name: Tamara Oyola-Santiago
Hometown: Bronx, New York
Project Idea: A nonprofit, community-based entity dedicated to eradicating poverty in Puerto Rico
Sound bite: "The members of my breakout group at Women Rule! were very different—in both the public and private sectors, working with startups and already-established programs. The richness of experiences was great! We all shared our deficits and our strengths of knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs). There was very little fear in terms of saying, 'This is what I am good at and this is what I am bad at, or ignorant of, or need help with.'"
Name: Reshma Pattni
Hometown: Brooklyn, New York
Project Idea: Girls International Forum, an organization working to inspire and empower girls around the world to be active agents of change in their communities
Sound bite: "I have many strong, inspiring, socially active women in my family who encouraged me to dream big. They enabled me to be involved with projects that extended beyond the reach of my small Minnesota town—and ultimately they made it possible for me to join a group of girls and women attending the UN's 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing. Our group became the founders of Girls International Forum."
Name: Bobbi Piasecki
Hometown: Aberdeen, South Dakota
Project Idea: A reading program for Native American children in the community to increase cultural awareness, self-esteem, and reading skills
Sound bite: "I hope to provide an environment where children can identify positively with their Lakota culture and learn traditions that are being lost through the generations. The program will educate not only students, but also parents and the community. It is a bridge that connects the community with the surrounding culture of the region."
Name: Michaelle Pope
Hometown: Lauderhill, Florida
Project Idea: To coordinate community resources in the Fort Lauderdale area to address issues that bar low-income and minority youth in the Dillard High School Zone from succeeding
Sound bite: "I'm one of six children who migrated to the U.S. with my parents from Haiti. They literally gave up everything they had to bring us here. Each worked multiple jobs, struggling to clothe and feed us, and always with one goal in mind: that we be educated. We were keenly aware of what they gave up for that purpose. So succeeding wasn't an option; it had to happen."
Name: Rhonda Priest
Hometown: Cheyenne, Wyoming
Project Idea: To expand the services and efficiency of the Cheyenne Community Clinic and other agencies through the development of a multitenant nonprofit center
Sound bite: "Six years ago I moved to Wyoming for my husband's work. I'm a Georgia girl, so it was completely foreign to me. ... He was unfaithful, and I think he assumed I would just go running back home (he'd moved out of state). I didn't, because I had committed myself to the clinic and to helping people who were underserved. I felt embraced by this community. What began as my wilderness has become my sanctuary."
Name: Lori-Anne Ramsay
Hometown: Dorchester, Massachusetts
Project Idea: Business Advancement & Social Entrepreneurship Inc., helping at-risk, inner city Boston youth overcome barriers to graduating from high school, going to college, and becoming community leaders
Sound bite: "In our organization, mentors are required to have long-term, stable relationships with the kids, committing to at least a year. I have a father who walks in and out of my life, so I know what it's like for someone to pop in, make promises, and not be there when you need them. It was very important to me to create a model around these kids' needs.
Name: Bethany Robertson
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
Project Idea: American Parents Association, a national membership organization that supports, connects, and activates American parents and caregivers
Sound bite: "This past year has been the most challenging of my life, as I was diagnosed with colon cancer. As someone who has been pretty independent and self-reliant in the past, I had a lot to learn about letting people take care of me. But when I invited them in, I was overwhelmed with positive support. I've been going through a tough healing process, but I'm excited to be diving back into my passions."
Name: Thena Robinson
Hometown: New Orleans
Project Idea: A New Orleans–based, nonprofit advocacy organization using video as a change-oriented tool to promote social justice
Sound bite: "I will never forget when Joan Hochman, COO of the White House Project, asked me at Women Rule! about my project and how things were going. I began expressing doubt in myself and she immediately interrupted me. 'Why are you here?' she asked. 'You need to believe in yourself in all that you do.' In that moment, I realized the power of self-doubt and how it inhibits all we do."
Name: Lindsay Ross
Hometown: Vienna, Virginia
Project Idea: The Reconnecting Youth to Prevent Homelessness Act, legislation that provides a support network and income security for at-risk youth, specifically foster children
Sound bite: "In college I studied the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and was awed by how these laws crippled the institution of Jim Crow. The power of legislation to provide civil rights and liberties inspired me to propose legislation where I could make a similar impact for another vulnerable segment of our society—children."
Name: Evan Ryan
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
Project Idea: Home of the Brave, a conference to troubleshoot why so many veterans are unable to find post-service employment
Sound bite: "There seems to be little gratitude extended to veterans on their return. Men and women who have gone through such hardship come home to face difficulty finding work and supporting their families. The war in Iraq may be controversial, but our veterans shouldn't be. ... I want to play a part in welcoming vets home, but I want to do it in a way that gives them a hand up, not a handout."
Name: Christina Saint Laurent
Hometown: San Francisco
Project Idea: Shapeshifters, a line of dolls for girls based on global indigenous shamanism
Sound bite: "I was recently at a toy fair, where I talked to an intellectual property rights lawyer who works in boys' action figures. I shared my concept, and he said it would never work—that girls only want to be one of two things: models or mothers. This is not the '50s! ... Toys help create what kids envision for themselves, and right now it's very, very limited for girls. I want to change that."
Name: Elizabeth Asahi Sato
Hometown: Camas, Washington
Project Idea: Rise to Excellence, a nonprofit helping single mothers reach their highest potential
Sound bite: "The minute I stepped into the ballroom at Women Rule! I felt I had come home. The spiritual energy was incredible. I did not realize until that moment that there was something missing in my life. I am a single parent, entrepreneur, business owner, and volunteer...but raising three boys on my own and working night and day has kept me isolated from a viable support structure—and for any woman leader, that is a no-no."
Name: Anjuli Sherin
Hometown: Berkeley, California
Project Idea: Leap of Love, an organization providing mental health training in developing countries, and specifically to populations affected by disaster
Sound bite: "In the U.S., there's still resistance to talking about emotions and mental health. In Pakistan, where I'm from, it's simply not believed in; therapy is completely taboo. When I visited home and said, 'Guess what, I've been working on myself from within,' my family surprised me by actually showing interest. It was a big transformative step."
Name: Jordan Silver
Hometown: Lanoka Harbor, New Jersey
Project Idea: Ag Apparel, clothes uniquely designed for disabled women
Sound bite: "A lot of handicapped women don't feel quite adequate in their wardrobes among their peers. Already, being in a wheelchair, people are looking down at you. When I started researching designs, the women were saying, 'Please, don't use Velcro!' My pieces look really cute, and have dual zippers for easy removal."
Name: Freya Spielberg
Hometown: Novato, California
Project Idea: Essential Global Health, a patient-centered, technology-assisted home healthcare system operating in developing countries
Sound bite: "A lot of the efforts of barefoot doctors and community health workers fall short because it's so difficult to keep them trained, to help them follow the appropriate treatment, and to maintain accountability. My program can very easily provide them with automated information as to what kind of care is required. ... We're at the point now where we have the technology to have a huge impact on global health."
Name: Archana Sridhar
Hometown: Bloomington, Indiana
Project Idea: An initiative to create a community of giving among South Asian Americans in the United States
Sound bite: "My idea is a natural extension of my dedication to philanthropy and my South Asian identity. I think by volunteering, donating, and becoming more engaged citizens, South Asian Americans would become more a part of the fabric of this country, and would be that much stronger and influential a community for it."
Name: Jennifer Stimpson
Project Idea: Get a KIC Out of Science (KIC stands for Knowledge in Chemistry), a K-12 program encouraging students to explore science and its applicability
Sound bite: "This program shows that everyday people use chemistry. Your pharmacist is a chemist, your neighborhood baker is a chemist, and your air conditioner guy has to have some knowledge of chemistry. ... Kids see me—a minority female without that 'geeky' look—and realize you can be fly, hip, and dynamic and still be a scientist. KIC makes science relatable and tangible."
Name: Joanne Tawfilis
Hometown: Oceanside, California
Project Idea: The Art Miles Mural Project, creating a pyramid in Egypt from 12 miles of murals by worldwide artists to celebrate International Day of Peace 2010
Sound bite: "This idea started when I was working with orphans in post-conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina. They created a mural on a bullet-riddled sheet. It was there that I decided to initiate, facilitate, and create a 'mural movement.'... The project so far has visually documented the voices of hundreds of thousands of participants from over 125 countries. Because it has no language, religion, or political barriers, it is a real tool for peace building."
Name: Judi Townsend
Hometown: Oakland, California
Project Idea: Mannequin Madness, a company that rents and sells recycled mannequins
Sound bite: "Not only do we divert mannequins from the landfill, we also rent them out to nonprofits to use for auction fundraisers. Artists buy our parts to make projects, and lawyers buy them in order to demonstrate in court where someone was shot. Our business inspires people to use their creativity and imagination and demonstrates that there are all kinds of ways we can be environmentally conscious."
Name: Yesica Trujillo
Hometown: Puyallup, Washington
Project Idea: The Washington State Hispanic/Latino Legislative Organization, a committee to set the legislative priorities and agenda for Latinos and Hispanics in the state of Washington
Sound bite: "My mother was an immigrant and a single parent. She always stressed education in our household. And she said that with that education comes a responsibility to give back to people who have had fewer opportunities; being a good person means helping out anybody in need."
Name: Carol Wagner
Hometown: Northbrook, Illinois
Project Idea: To equip students, parents, and teachers (grades K-8) with the knowledge and motivation to make healthy eating choices
Sound bite: "I came away from Women Rule! with the clarity that my vision is too big—for now. It's my 'north star' that will continue to guide me, yet in order to have a more immediate impact I need to revise my plan. Whatever direction I decide to go, I already have 79 women across 27 states who are willing to do whatever it takes to help me reach my goal—from refining my idea to making introductions."
Name: Carol Watson
Hometown: Ft. Washington, Maryland
Project Idea: TheBankOutlet.com, an online tool to help unbanked and underbanked populations make informed financial decisions and facilitate their access to needed financial services
Sound bite: "Americans spend about $13 billion per year on alternative financial transactions. Instead of using traditional financial service institutions, significant numbers of people with low- to-moderate incomes are relying on places like check cashing stores. My intention is to implement strategies that will help these individuals access traditional financial services that are responsive to their needs."
Name: Cary Weatherby
Hometown: Bloomington, Minnesota
Project Idea: Companies to Classrooms, a nonprofit that acquires surplus supplies from businesses and offers them free of charge to teachers and students in need
Sound bite: "This idea came about when I salvaged a huge box of alphabet stickers that was headed to the dumpster, castoffs from a local business that had changed filing systems. I delivered them to a grateful kindergarten teacher who had exhausted her small budget for supplies. I got to thinking, 'There's probably more of this stuff out there.'"
Name: Lea Webb
Hometown: Binghamton, New York
Project Idea: To establish a grocery store in her underserved neighborhood
Sound bite: "Residents in my neighborhood have to take a cab or bus to get to a grocery store. Many are elderly or disabled, have large families, or are on a limited income. What happens quite frankly is they end up going to the drug store to buy food. This is happening not just here, but across the board in low-to-moderate income communities."
Name: Molly Wickwire-Sante
Hometown: Telluride, Colorado
Project Idea: Mother-to-Mother, a program that pairs mothers in Telluride, Colorado, with mothers in need around the world, providing them with basic healthcare tools, information, and support
Sound bite: "I really gained new perspective at Women Rule! I have always been afraid of failure, seeing it as an embarrassment. I am so grateful for all the speakers at the event who described their 'failures' and showed how they were really just events that propelled them in a new direction toward ultimate success. I can truly say I am not afraid to fail anymore."
Name: Diane Williams
Hometown: Marietta, Georgia
Project Idea: FunGineering, a nonprofit providing engineering programs to minority and low-income kids in grades K-8
Sound bite: "As a child my vision was very poor, and I hid it for a long time. When I finally put on my first pair of eyeglasses, I remember the 'wow' of looking at things in fine detail; it changed my perception of the world around me. I want to provide the same type of 'wow' to as many children as possible when they learn something new about engineering."
Name: Erica Williams
Hometown: Upper Marlboro, Maryland
Project Idea: The Opinion Development Project, an online media space for a new generation of diverse opinion leaders in the Washington, D.C., metro area
Sound bite: "My inspiration for this project continues to be Bill O'Reilly! My venom for his views is paired with an admiration for his confidence and the sense that America would be such a better place if I and the marginalized people of my community were empowered to share our opinions with the same amount of space, power, and influence."
Name: Rahama Wright
Hometown: Silver Spring, Maryland
Project Idea: Shea Yeleen International, Inc., a nonprofit organization working to develop and support women shea butter producers in rural West Africa
Sound bite: "I came to America from Africa as a child because my mother was too poor to care for me and had to give me up for adoption. I've always thought about how I could have very easily been in these women's shoes, facing the same struggles. I feel like I'm between two worlds and have a responsibility to make a contribution to a life that could have been my own."
Name: Chue Yang
Hometown: Silver Spring, Maryland
Project Idea: The Young Global Citizens Project, an exchange program between U.S.-based low-income and/or ethnic minority students and the Hmong/indigenous communities of Thailand
Sound bite: "It's hard to achieve the American dream if you don't really know of opportunities outside your community. I want to bridge education to other experiences, like travel and volunteering, so minority and low-income students realize there is a whole other world out there. You don't have to be limited to living in inner city Milwaukee."
Name: Elizabeth Zapien-Plata
Hometown: Modesto, California
Project Idea: A support group for gay, lesbian, bi, transgender, and questioning teens and their parents
Sound bite: "I've always known my son was gay, but the mistake I made was not engaging in enough dialogue with him. I thought that love and a nurturing home would be enough, but he wasn't equipped to face the world. When he turned to drugs and alcohol, I knew we needed help, not just for him but also for me, my husband, and our family."
*Two winners, Regenia Bailey and Meredith Momoda, were unable to attend the event.