Four impressive Southland women were recognized for their outstanding civic, community and professional achievements at the 10thannual GirlPower luncheon sponsored by A Place Called Home (APCH), which provides a safe haven of opportunity for underserved youth in South Central Los Angeles. The event, which attracted several hundred attendees, was held yesterday in the International Ballroom of The Beverly Hilton.
“Inspiring young people to become the best they can be is one of our primary missions at APCH,” said Jonathan Zeichner, the organization’s executive director. “It’s therefore a privilege to be able to honor these four women whose personal lives and career paths provide inspiration to the young women and girls served by our programs, specifically those enrolled in GirlPower.” Honored at the luncheon, which was preceded by a reception and exclusive boutique, were April Freitag, Jackie Lacey, Marisela Nuño and Amber Riley.
April Freitag, who received the GirlPower Humanitarian Award, is a passionate global humanitarian and founder of Community Connect Effect, an organization that connects teenagers with local and world-wide service organizations. She also serves on the board of Learning Through Reading, an organization that seeks to combat illiteracy in developing countries, as well as actively participates with the Aegis Trust focusing on global genocide education programs. As part of her commitment to world peace and justice, Freitag and her two teenage daughters, Siena and Sloan, travel annually to volunteer in orphanages and schools around the globe. Freitag has enjoyed a highly successful career in advertising and publishing, including serving as West Coast Advertising Director for Seventeen and Teen magazines. “We’re delighted to be able to honor April for her work both internationally and with our young people at APCH,” Zeichner said.
The GirlPower Community Impact Award went to career prosecutor Jackie Lacey, who became the first woman and African American to be elected District Attorney of Los Angeles County when she was sworn into office in December 2012. Lacey now supervises approximately 1,000 lawyers, 300 investigators and 800 support staff in the nation’s largest prosecutorial office. A Los Angeles native, Lacey attended Dorsey High School, the University of California, Irvine and received her law degree from USC. She has spent her entire professional career in the L.A. County D.A.’s office, rising through the ranks as a frontline prosecutor handling hundreds of serious criminal cases. In 2011, Lacey was named chief deputy district attorney responsible for the oversight of all day-to-day operations of the agency. In this role, she was responsible for the initiation of several groundbreaking programs within the D.A.’s office, including the nation’s first Animal Cruelty Protection Program and the Project Safe Neighborhoods Gun Prosecution Program. She was chosen as one of the Top Women Litigators of 2009 by the Los Angeles and San Francisco Daily Journal.
Marisela Nuño is indeed a child of South Central Los Angeles. A first generation U.S. citizen born of immigrant parents, she learned early from her landscaper father and seamstress mother the value of hard work and entrepreneurship, but most of all the importance of compassion and the value of helping others. Growing up in an area plagued by gang violence, drug dealing and racial tension, Marisela gained the skills that have enabled her to survive and to bring positive change to her community. The lack of resources and the 1992 Los Angeles Riots inspired her at the age of 23 to open her first childcare business serving teen and single mothers. She also became the first in her family to attend college, paying her own tuition at UCLA and studying in Europe, Australia and South America. Today, Marisela is an accomplished entrepreneur who not only operates childcare centers, but boasts a proven record of successful commercial and residential real estate construction and management. She continues to live very near the area in which she grew up, supporting many local non-profit organizations including Nuevo South, Root Down and APCH, where she’s already inspiring the GirlPower girls. Marisela Nuño received the GirlPower Social Entrepreneur Award.
Receiving the GirlPower Children’s Inspiration Award was Amber Riley. Best known for her role as “Mercedes Jones” on FOX TV’s Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild award winning musical comedy “Glee”, Riley’s career was further enhanced when she recently won the coveted Mirror Ball trophy alongside her partner Derek Hough on ABC TV’s highly rated “Dancing with The Stars”. Riley has performed in numerous theater productions, including “Alice in Wonderland”, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, “Into the Woods” and “Mystery on the Docks” with the Los Angeles Opera. In November 2012, she made her New York stage debut in New York City Center’s Duke Ellington’s Cotton Club Parade. Riley has received two individual NAACP Award nominations, and has served as an Ambassador for VH-1’s Save the Music Foundation and as a member of Seventeen magazine’s Body Peace Council.
Proceeds from both the luncheon and boutique go towards
supporting a wide range of APCH programs, including its GirlPower Project. Sixteen
young women from the Project participated in the luncheon program, some sharing
a snapshot of how their lives have been changed by their involvement with APCH.
“In addition to allowing us to recognize our outstanding honorees, the luncheon
provides us with an opportunity to celebrate a special group of inner-city
teens who are learning and growing into strong young women leading the way for
others,” Zeichner concluded.