Anya B. Covington is a servant-leader coach/consultant with thirty years of lived-experience of inclusivity of diversity and equity, twelve years of coaching experience , seven years of collegiate coaching and recruiting high caliber young women, dedicated to mentorship, physical and mental training, program development, innovation, academic prominence, vision casting and execution. As a trusted leader among leaders Anya is a high achiever, excellent motivator and pivotal program enhancer that empowers all humans to be more effective contributing citizens and champions in their life first to impact the greater. Heal the soul to heal the whole.
Laryssa Leone was born in Colombia and emigrated to America with her four sisters.
She was adopted into a small town Iowa family where she was raised.
After high school Laryssa went to study at Iowa Western Community College, where she received an Associates Degree in Media Studies. She then went on to University of Nebraska Omaha where she received her Bachelor’s degree in Journalism.
Laryssa is a reporter for Local 5 News and has been in the news business since she was 19 years old. She started as a camera operator and worked her way up to a reporter.
Laryssa believes she couldn’t be where she is today without the strength of her sisters and the resilience she developed at a young age.
Paula Bell is the CEO of Paula A Bell Consulting, LLC. She is a Business Analyst, Leadership and Career Development coach, consultant, speaker and author with 21+ years of experience in corporate America in project roles to include business analyst, requirements manager, business initiatives manager, business process quality manager, technical writer, project manager, developer, test lead and implementation lead. Paula has experience in a variety of industries to include media, courts, manufacturing and finance. Paula has led multiple highly-visible multi-million-dollar technology and business projects to create solutions to transform businesses as either a consultant, senior business analyst or manager. Currently she is Director of Operations for Bridging the Gap where she oversees their entire operations and their main flagship certification program.
Through her mind, body and soul consulting business model, Paula helps individuals find their passion, build their brand, and enhance their skill sets through consultations, coaching and customizable documentation, in hopes to empower and motivate others and themselves, through a structured journey of self-reflection and awareness as a catalyst for unlimited success.
Paula is originally from Brooklyn, NY. She graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Management Information Systems from Oral Roberts University located in Tulsa, OK. Paula is currently married and resides in Iowa with her husband and twins (boy/girl). Paula is extremely active in her community as she is the Past President of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Fund which provides scholarships to minorities attending Iowa institutions as well as volunteers for many different community events. Paula also studies and trains martial arts and achieved her 3rd degree black belt designation in June of 2022.
Paula also holds the following designations:
Mind – Master Life Coach, Certified Life Purpose Coach, Certified Professional Life Coach, Certified Goal Success Coach, Certified Happiness Coach, Certified Career Coach, Certified Diversity & Inclusion Manager coach
Body – Group fitness instructor for high impact cardio programs and Martial Arts Instructor
Soul – Motivational Speaker, Professional Speaker, Coach and Consultant specializing in: Business Analysis, Project Management, Leadership Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Career Development and Self Improvement
My name is TeAsia. I am 15 and I’m in the 10th grade. I like to paint. I'm into beauty (make up, nails, and hair). I am also starting my own cosmetic business and hope to soon open my own salon.
Lynette Jordan is a small business owner of three businesses (Pamper Me Crazy, LLC; PMC Home Design, Inc, and Cornerstone Talent Consulting, Inc.). In her Pamper Me Crazy and PMC Home Design businesses, Lynette utilizes her creative talents by developing and manufacturing natural bath and body products, para-soy wax candles, unique and customized gel candle creations and natural and organic skincare. Cornerstone Talent Consulting allows Lynette to utilize her over 25 years of experience working in academia, the public and private sector to develop and facilitate virtual and classroom courses/curricula for leadership development, diversity and inclusion, performance improvement, change management, career development, instructional design, and professional development initiatives.
Lynette enjoys people development and works with clients to identify and implement strategies and initiatives to improve organizational, employee and student experiences. Lynette holds a B.S. in Electronic Engineering from East-West University, an M.S. in Education from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, and an M.A. in Organizational Leadership from Lewis University.
Aria Burnside is a 16-year-old entrepreneur currently living in Edwardsville, IL. She is a member of Anchored in Truth Ministries where she sings on the teen/young adult praise and worship team, Called to Greatness (CTG). After years of struggling in school with peer pressure and reckless behavior, her mother made the decision to homeschool her. During that time, she discovered her God-given gift of baking. She started baking cupcakes and cookies for members of her church, now she is now the Owner and Chief Operating Officer of Aria’s Cookies & Confections, LLC! Serving the St. Louis Metropolitan area with delicious gourmet baked goods.
Weslyn Caldwell is a transplant from St. Louis. She currently serves as a Loan Navigator for One Economy Financial Development Corporation, assisting businesses in obtaining funds to grow their business. Weslyn is passionate about assisting minority owned businesses in being successful within the entrepreneurial ecosystem and offers many services through her own consulting company called Logistically Yours.
Whether it's giving back, paying it forward, connecting people to resources or vice versa, Weslyn finds great joy in being a valuable resource to those in her community
Woman on the Rise. Inclusive and Innovative Leader. Community Change Agent. Specializing in the Wholly Impossible.
New Mexico Native, Lindsey J. White moved to Des Moines, Iowa in June 2008. In July 2008 she began, what later became, her career with Wells Fargo. As a Control Management Senior Manager, she is responsible for the execution of risk mitigation, identification, and assessment programs across Wells Fargo Home Lending. In addition, she serves as President for the Central Region of Black & African American Connection Employee Resource Network and serves on the committee for the Iowa Public Affairs Council.
Outside of Wells Fargo, Lindsey is a community activist through her involvement with Back 2 School Iowa, African American Leadership Academy, LadyLike, Black Urban Professionals [BUP/DSM], and regularly volunteering with various community organizations.
In her 8 years of serving on the Back 2 School Iowa executive board, Lindsey has committed to helping break down economic barriers of success to Des Moines’ most underrepresented neighborhoods. Back 2 School Iowa hosts an annual Back 2 School Bash distributing over 15,000 free backpacks with school supplies to children and various community resources to families since its inception. In addition, Back 2 School Iowa serves as a scholarship clearinghouse to aid in making the community aware of various scholarship opportunities for secondary education.
As Program Lead of the LadyLike initiative, Lindsey envisions to see African American women in the Greater Des Moines Community not only connect with one another but build a collective commitment to serve the community. LadyLike’s annual event serves as a vendor fair for Black women owned businesses in the area as well as an opportunity for women to find mentors and expand their network and expanded in 2022 to include additional services and programming for Black women entrepreneurs.
Lindsey graduated from William Penn University with her Bachelor’s in Business Administration in 2016. Lindsey also has a 15 year old son, JaiShon.
Memberships & Affiliations
LadyLike DSM – Founder
Back 2 School Iowa – Board Chair
African American Leadership Academy – Advisory Board
One Economy Leadership Strategic Implementation Team
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, Iota Zeta Omega Chapter
Jack & Jill of America, Incorporated, Des Moines Chapter
Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute Community Leadership Program Graduate 2021
Waukee Community School District Building Inclusive Community Committee Member
Waukee Community School District School Improvement Advisory Council Member
City of Waukee Board of Appeals
Business Record Forty Under 40 Class of 2022
Alicia Hilligas is Assistant Director of Admission and Diversity Initiatives at Drake University Law School. Originally from El Salvador, Mrs. Hilligas grew up in Miami, Fl.
Mrs. Hilligas has worked for over a decade in higher education as an admission professional. Her work in higher education has given her the opportunity to provide students and parents college readiness information and guidance navigating the college application and financial aid process. In her current role at Drake Law School, she works to recruit a diverse student body to the legal profession.
Mrs. Hilligas attended Wellesley College and received a B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Economics. Before joining Drake Law, she worked at American University and the University of Central Florida. She is married and is the proud mother of two boys and two Chihuahuas.
Leslie Lee is fourteen years old. She is from Edwardsville, IL where she is currently a freshman at Edwardsville High School.
In August Leslie attended Hip-Hope Inc. Many Shades of Colour Lead-Her-Ship retreat where she explored leadership skills, developed facilitation skills, and applied leadership skills through non-traditional activities. She is involved in “Youth Overcomers” and ”The Called to Greatness” praise team at Anchored in Truth Ministries. Her passion is working with children. Leslie runs track and loves to hang out with friends and family.
Elizabeth Buchholtz is an educator and community volunteer. Elizabeth grew up in Des Moines, Iowa and continues to give back to her community. She has been teaching for Des Moines Public Schools for over 21 years. She teaches students with special needs and finds innovative ways to keep them engaged and learning. She is on the leadership committee at her school and also tutors some of her students after school.
Elizabeth earned her bachelor’s degree from Upper Iowa University. She earned a master’s degree from Morningside College in English as a Second Language and Elementary Education. She continues to keep learning and educating herself. She is a lifelong learner.
She is a proud mother of two sons. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling, and volunteering. She enjoys volunteering with Hip Hope and being inspired by the amazing young ladies that attend the conference.
Zakariyah Hill is a 25 year oldDes Moines native. She’s a change-maker in central Iowa who has been recognized as someone to watch by the Des Moines Register. She graduated in 2021 from Iowa State University with a degree in Management Information Systems. Her current position is the Director of Finance and IT at the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
She enjoys being of service to people by using any of her many talents and skills. On the side she founded and runs a nonprofit called The Supply Hive, whose objective is to connect community members with the essential supplies they need and spreading the habit of mutual aid. Another title she holds is entrepreneur, as she manages a creative side business, Call Me Fuzzee, where she hand makes and sells rugs.
When she is not overseeing one of her many endeavors she enjoys traveling around the world and exploring different cultures.
Sariah Thames is an ambitious 6th grader who enjoys singing. She is a member of her church’s praise team and participates in choir at school. In her free time she watches movies, does homework, practice taekwondo, and plays the trombone.
In August, Sariah attended Hip-Hope Inc. Many Shades of Colour Lead-Her-Ship retreat where she gained facilitation skills
Victoria Knight has been involved with numerous non-profit youth organizations for the past 10 years including, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Hope in Christ Back-to-School Celebration, Kids Across America, Boys and Girls Club of Story County and many youth ministry groups in Ames and Des Moines. As a graduate of Iowa State University and lifetime resident of Iowa, she has faced many challenges growing up as a woman of color in a predominantly white community. She offers a unique perspective in learning what it means to be confident in who she is and understanding that her worth is not determined by others.
Naomi is a freshman at Liberty High School in Iowa City. She loves to read, write, draw, and anything to do with art. She spends a lot of her days focusing on her academics playing sports like soccer, figure skating and spending time with my family and friends. In August she attended Hip-Hope Inc. Many Shades of Colour Lead-Her-Ship retreat where she gained facilitation and expounded on leadership skills where she is now able to pass on to others as she helps facilitate at the 2023 Many Shades of Colour Young Women’s Conference.
Dr. Annissa Roland is an educator, community leader, and entrepreneur. Annissa was born in Des Moines and began her service there as well as a director of educational programs at the Willkie House, teacher in Des Moines Public Schools, director of the then Tiny Tots Learning Center, and member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. before marrying and moving to Georgia. There she continued her work as an educator in Savannah Chatham County Public Schools. Currently she is a national education consultant with the nonprofit organization, the Schlechty Center. For the last 17 years she has been consulting and partnering with public school systems across the nation to focus on designing quality, challenging, interesting, and satisfying work for students. She is the owner and designer of AJ Stone Jewelry hand-making one of a kind semi precious stone jewelry for men and women. Dr. Roland holds leadership roles in her church and the Greater Savannah Black Chamber of Commerce. And she still maintains her Iowa roots as the chief operating officer of Taste of the Junction Inc. in West Des Moines.
An alumnus of Iowa State University Annissa earned two bachelors of science degrees in elementary education and early childhood education. Her masters degree in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in integrating the arts is from Lesley University in Massachusetts. Dr. Roland studied organizational leadership at Nova Southeastern University in Florida.
This proud mother of three, nana of five and wife to a veteran loves to learn and lives to teach.
Victoria Williams in eighth grade and attends Ames Middle School. She has been attending HIP-HOPE’s-Helping Ignite People’s Hope Over Problems Everyday- programs since the third grade. Over the past few years she’s been a part of various programs and conferences in her community. Victoria is fortunate enough to be a part of the King leaders program run by Dr. Bernice A. King. She’s also a mental health advocate as well as an advocate for young women of color. This is Victoria’s third year presenting at this conference, and very excited to help empower young women who look like her.
Emani DuBoise-Neely (she/her/hers) is a native of Los Angeles, California. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Grand Canyon University in 2018 and a Master of Education degree in Educational Leadership from Iowa State University in 2022. Having taught abroad in Indonesia, as well as Texas and Iowa public schools, DuBoise-Neely believes that she is truly walking in her calling as a leader and educator of students.
DuBoise-Neely was a classroom teacher for 4 years, then transitioned to behavior specialist roles in the Ames Community School District. She also serves the Des Moines community as a director and organizer for a community non-profit called The Supply Hive. DuBoise-Neely has had the opportunity to learn and meet the needs of her new community, while also advocating for those who are marginalized and facing hardship. DuBoise-Neely’s passion for education, youth mentorship, and community service is what continues to drive her each day.
Keziah Long is a 17-year-old senior at East High School. After high school she plans on going to college to study psychology. She likes to connect with the youth. Keziah has always had a love for dancing. She’s been involved in praise dancing with her church and danced with Isiserettes. Currently, she is the captain and choreographer for the unity dance squad at her school. This will be her second time facilitating at Many Shades of Colour Conference session and very excited to run it back and connect with new people.
Dr. Kimberly Wayne is the founder and executive director of Jewels Academy. She has a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from Purdue University and a Master’s of Business Administration from Iowa State University. She completed her doctoral studies at Drake through the Educational Leadership Program. Her research: Keeping Them in the STEM Pipeline: A Phenomenology Exploring the Experiences of Young Women and Underrepresented Minorities in a Long-Term STEM Enrichment Program, serves as the origin of Jewels Academy. She served on the Iowa State Board of Education for three years appointed by the Governor of Iowa. She has an extensive background in manufacturing engineering, technology, and supply chain management. Currently, she is a consultant in technology for a fortune top 50 company. Kimberly started serving in her community at an early age with the notable chair of the Youth Advisory Council in Gary, Indiana. She has a personal mission to empower youth through education and self-development.
LeVaigh Wilborn is an outgoing 13 years old. She attends Southeast Polk Junior High and is currently in the 8th grade. This summer she had the opportunity to attend Hip-Hope Inc. Many Shades of Colour Lead-Her- Ship retreat where she gained leadership and facilitation skills. This opened the opportunity to become a facilitator at this year MSOC YWC and work with Jewels Academy as we explore STEM. LeVaigh has always prioritized education, family, and friends. She likes building, science, and technology and often does mini lessons with computer science, coding, and many other things in school.
Carissa Dannen is the Project Coordinator for Jewels Academy. She is a graduate of Drake University with a degree in both Studio Art Painting and Environmental Science Sustainability and Resilience. Carissa also teaches children's art classes at the Des Moines Art Center and is a tutor. She has a passion for education and believe in Jewels mission to provide young women in STEM with unique and challenging learning experiences while welcoming students of all faiths and socio-economic backgrounds.
Lauren Dragon is a Freshman at Drake University and is serving as the Iowa Afterschool STEM Americorps Member for Jewels Academy. For her job, she develops, implements, and promotes STEM curriculums and learning for afterschool programs. Outside of working with Jewels Academy, Lauren is majoring in Secondary Mathematics Education with an endorsement in Teaching English as a Second Language. She is hoping to help students learn math no matter the level they have started at. For extracurriculars, she was a part of a Math Research Group at Drake where she studied the statistics of what affected
Dawn Martinez Oropeza received her Bachelors of Fine Arts Degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1992 and Masters of Fine Arts Degree from the University of California, San Diego in 2000. As the Executive Director of Al Éxito she was honored as Business Records 2016 Women of Influence and awarded as a Mid-Iowa Health’s Fellowship Program 2017 to focus on mental illness issues for the Latino community. She has worked as an administrator for the Mexican Heritage Plaza in San Jose California, Los Angeles Children’s Museum, and Gallery 37 in Chicago. Her greatest honor was being selected by the Chavez Family to preserve and conserve the private office of United Farm Workers Leader, Cesar E. Chavez, in affiliation with the Smithsonian.
Al Éxito is the only statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the educational achievement and transformative leadership capacity of Latinx youth and their families, to succeed in life and participate fully in Iowa. Al Éxito inspires, prepares, supports, and positions Latinx leaders, middle school through college, for postsecondary attainment, career readiness, and civic engagement. Al Éxito integrates culturally specific strategies to ensure Latinx youth have access to resources and opportunities. Al Éxito fosters Latinos’ collective influence to build a better future for our communities and state. Students’ stories can be heard on NPR Story Core and Ames Public Radio or read on Drake University's first community publication The Ones I Bring With Me. Ms. Oropeza’s artwork is featured in the book.
Ms. Oropeza participates in Aztec dance and traditions with her family under Omeyocan Dance led by Roberto Franco. She also studies and performs traditional Hawaiian Hula dance with Aloha Wind. Her artwork can be seen in the Iowa Public Radio coloring book and on the town square of Red Oak, Iowa, where she led a community mural. Ms. Oropeza continues to teach art, Latino cultural arts, history, and traditions for learners of all ages.
Jennifer Cardenas-Hernandez is the CEO of Al Éxito’s youth-led business |drēm|sēd| and youth leader for Movimiento DSM. |drēm|sēd| is a youth led business that partners with Latino owned companies to build customer base, demonstrate a culture of giving, and to provide essential skills and opportunities for a greater more inclusive future for Iowa.
Ms. Cardenas-Hernandez is a junior at Lincoln High School with plans to study medicine in college. She is active in Upward Bound, art making, and school. With her family, she has traveled extensively and especially enjoys trips to Mexico.
Heather M. Jones-Brown (she/her/hers) is a Des Moines, Iowa, USA native and proud graduate of Des Moines’ East High School (‘02). Jones-Brown holds a BA in International Relations and Political Science from William Jewell College (‘06) and a Masters in Business Leadership from William Penn University (‘11) along with a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Workplace Certificate from the University of South Florida MUMA College of Business (‘21) and is a Certified Nonprofit Professional by the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance (‘16).
As a student and young professional, Jones-Brown was active in organizations that laid the foundation for her life-long interests. The three most influential organizations were Sister Cities International, Unity Association at William Jewell College, and the Greater Des Moines YMCA. At the age of 11 she was introduced to citizen diplomacy through an exchange with Des Moines’ Sister City in Kofu, Japan, she was a camp counselor at the Des Moines YMCA Camp and learned about structural racism and Black History through Unity Association.
Jones-Brown aided a South Korean company in starting their US branch in Kansas City, MO, helped video store owners across the United States enhance their stores through independent film, and spent four years in Tokyo, Japan teaching English along with various roles in the indie film industry. She spent most of 2016 assisting Betty Andrews, with work for the NAACP on state and local levels, planning both the Iowa Summit on Justice and Disparities and the 19th Annual I’ll Make Me A World In Iowa. Jones-Brown was the Deputy Campaign Manager for Deidre DeJear’s historic run for Iowa Secretary of State in 2018, and the Financial Education Coordinator at the Financial Empowerment Center at the Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families.
Currently, Jones-Brown is the Diversity and Inclusion Specialist for Staff Equity at Grinnell College and with the 20/20 Vision Project to create stronger civic and community leaders. Her community work includes the Urban Dreams Board (former), Executive Board of Des Moines Branch of the NAACP, the Epsilon Theta Sigma Chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc, Advisory Board of Languages at Grand View University, New Leaders Council Des Moines Alumni, and the Advisory Board of Greater Des Moines Y-Camp. She is also a 2020 graduate of the Community Leadership Program for the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute and a 2020 Des Moines Business Record 40 Under 40 Honoree.
Baranca Pankey (she/her/hers) is currently a 7th Grader at Ames Middle School. She’s also a member of her middle school concert band and jazz band. I enjoy helping others and learning new things.
Jessica Robinson-Rabon was born in Bartow, Florida. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from the University of South Florida, a Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership from Columbia Southern University, and a Certificate of Graduate Studies in Composition Studies from Indiana University.
She has worked in education for over 15 years, and currently works as a full-time faculty member for DMACC as a Professor of English since 2016. Jessica joined the Army in 1999. She has served as a supply professional, Color Guard and Honor Guard member, and instructor over her 20 plus years of service, where she has achieved the rank of Master Sergeant (MSG). Master Sergeant Robinson-Rabon has completed two stateside deployments and two combat tours (Kuwait/Iraq and Syria) where she logistically supported transportation units and Special Operations Joint Task Force members.
Jessica is married to Jordan P. Rabon, together they have 3 daughters. Jessica is a proud member of Sigma Gamma Rho Inc., and believes in serving her community and educating women and children for the progress of us all. In her free time, she loves to travel to both domestic and international locations and spending time with her family.
Descriptors: Woman of God, Wife, Mother, Business Professional, Entrepreneur, Community Leader/Advocate, Mentor, Friend
Bridget Cravens-Neely is a native of Illinois, but has lived in Iowa for 25 years. She currently works for Nationwide as a Business Consultant in their Agribusiness unit. Bridget is also co-owner of Bottle & Bottega Des Moines, a wine and art party business located in Downtown Des Moines. Her educational background includes a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from Illinois State University and a Masters of Business Administration with an Entrepreneurship focus from Keller Graduate School of Management. Having worked in the insurance industry for over 25 years, Bridget has had many opportunities to grow and excel in various business capacities. She has held various roles throughout her career from formal people leadership to individual contributor. She has been afforded the chance to develop a very versatile skill set as result. Her experience includes positions in administration, operations, sales, service, project management, and organizational leadership. These roles have helped establish her brand as a thought leader who is collaborative, entrepreneurial, and innovative.
Bridget and her husband, James, have learned several important lessons about the successes and trials of entrepreneurship since becoming small business owners. One important lesson is the essentials of resilience, determination, and self-motivation. Another is to become relevant and stake their position in the competitive market of social experiences. A strong social media presence and community-based connections has been key to growing their clientele. Introducing a new brand to the Des Moines community is humbling and has required strong leadership, drive, patience, and time management. At a very young age, Bridget was taught the value of possessing a strong character - particularly one that emulates a “paying it forward” attitude. In addition to her career, she has raised three sons and is very active in the greater Des Moines community. Her passion to serve others comes from family influences. She credits the people who opened doors for her and invested in her as the reason she has achieved success in her life. It is also because of these influencers that Bridget’s passion is mentoring young people and sharing her life lessons with them. “Perception is the opportunity to learn the truth” is Bridget’s personal mantra that keeps her grounded. It helps her stay focused on always looking beyond the surface to understand the depth and breadth of a person, situation, or environment to avoid passing judgement but rather learn how to engage. As a result, Bridget has been fortunate to identify opportunities and make an impact through her professional and civic work in organizations like Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., the Des Moines Chapter of The Links, Incorporated, the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute, Women Lead Change (Central Iowa Conference), Many Shades of Colour Conference, the Willkie House, and the YMCA MLK Prayer Breakfast Steering Committee.