Jumpstart Celebrates International Women’s Day!

The Women That Inspire Our Incredible Leadership Team

International Women’s Day is an opportunity to honor and celebrate women who have paved the way for younger generations through their leadership, dedication, unwavering love, and power. We are so inspired by the women that make up our leadership team. Read below to learn more about the women that inspire our Leadership team.

“I have lately been thinking especially about my grandmothers, Julia and Almaide. They were both born around the turn of the century (one in 1898 and the other in 1900) and both immigrated to the United States as adults. They were incredibly strong, courageous, and resilient women – learning English, finding creative ways to apply their skills and knowledge to provide for their families, and more. They suffered many losses at young ages, including children and spouses, and yet modeled values of generosity and joy and compassion for their children and grandchildren. I have been nurtured and inspired by the stories of their lives and share these gifts with my three daughters.” – Naila Bolus, Chief Executive Officer

“I decided to highlight someone I’ve been reading about of late. Octavia Spencer. While Ms. Spencer’s Hollywood success speaks for itself, I am most inspired with the areas she chooses to invest in privately, particularly her work to uplift the importance of literacy and education. When she received her 2019 GLSEN Inspiration Award she said, “ I grew up in a really poor area in Montgomery, Alabama, but my mom believed in the transformative power of education and I was incredibly lucky to have teachers and mentors along the way who believe in me and gave me confidence. Who saw me. Who made me feel better both about myself and the world and my place in the world,” she said. “It’s one of the reasons why I’ve chosen to put my time and energy into both activism in my life and stories on screen that challenge us to envision a more even playing field for all of us. When we widen the lens of representation there is so much more beauty that we get to see.” Choosing to use her voice as an actress to lift up others and the importance of equity in education instead of just seeking more fame for her own glory is inspiring. And, if she weren’t busy enough already, she even found time to write two children’s books!” – Jennifer Templeman, President & COO

Dr. Joyce Hope Scott is the person who inspires me. She is a Clinical Professor of African American & Black Diaspora Studies at Boston University, and a national and international scholar & lecturer in African American and Diaspora studies. In 2004, I had the opportunity to travel with Dr. Scott to West Africa.  From Ghana to the Republic of Benin, she introduced me to my rich and complex African heritage.  That first trip was the beginning of my inward journey to better understand who I am and how I choose to use my power to occupy time and space.” – Sharon Reilly, Chief Development and Marketing Office

“A woman that continually inspires me is my mother, Michelle B. Khaldun, former Permanent Secretary of Bermuda’s Ministry of Education and Executive Director of the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation, she was also a youth activist and in the late 1960s led protests to advocate for Black History and Literature to be offered as a course at her High School on the island. She was also an intrepid traveler that left the island for NYC as a teenager and became a parent advocate for Headstart funding, lobbying legislators in Albany, NY when I was in preschool and while she was a mom of three attending college in New York. Her model of servant leadership, dedication, and belief in the seen, unseen, and transformative change remains a constant inspiration in my life.” – Zuhirah Khaldun-Diarra, VP of Marketing, Communications & Brand

“In addition to my Mom and grandmothers, I will have to note Marian Wright Edelman.  She spoke at my church when I was either 12 or 13 about service being a route to change and an extension of love. I can remember every moment of her talking with us, promptly began to volunteer and to take a stand against apartheid. She opened a new way of being to me.” – Denise Nelson, VP of Development

“A woman who inspires me is my sister. She is one of the smartest and most hardworking people that I’ve known. She is also an amazing parent. Though she is younger than me, she is someone that I not only admire, but that I am so grateful to have in my life as an inspiration.” –Karina Kidder, VP of Operations

“A woman that inspires and continues to inspire me is my grandma, Mrs. Ramona K. Cornish. A wife and mother of nine children, she worked her way through nursing school one class at a time.  She also went on to earn advanced degrees in her field, as well as explore a new field in Divinity.  She made sure the stories of my ancestors were shared with me and encouraged me to pursue greatness through our education and service to others.  She was and will always be my hero.” – Alex Mauristhene, VP of People & Culture

“Two women that inspire me are Dr. Lea J.E. Austin and Dr. Marcy Whitebook of the Center for the Study for Child Care Employment. Drs. Austin and Whitebook are thoughtful leaders, researchers, and activists that have made incredible contributions to uplift the early education workforce on both a national and international scale. Their work is grounded in actualizing a just ECE system by uplifting the power of early educators through their research and policy analysis. They are the possibility models that taught me the value of being ‘unapologetically principled about the workforce’ when it comes to ensuring the preparation, working conditions, and compensation educators need to thrive in this work. It is an honor to know and celebrate their heart and brilliance in this work.” –  Dr. Ashley C. Williams, VP of Programs

We hope that this inspires you to think about the women in your life!



For over 29 years, Jumpstart has been fueled by the core belief that providing high-quality educational opportunities to all young children prepares them for academic and economic success later in life. Jumpstart advances equitable learning outcomes for young children by recruiting and supporting caring adults to deliver high-quality programming and drive systems change through teaching, advocacy, and leadership. Jumpstart has trained more than 60,000 college students and community volunteers, preparing over 140,000 children for kindergarten success. Jumpstart’s program is replicated across the country in 14 states and the District of Columbia. Learn more at jstart.org 

Together, we can help all children build the key language and literacy skills they need to take on the world.

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