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Women’s History Month Speaker Series Inspires CPS Students

Influential women from across the community are inspiring Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) students through their stories as part of the district’s second annual Women’s History Month Speaker Series. 

Throughout March, more than a dozen events are taking place at schools that offer Girls to Women, a program which encourages girls to become strong, respected and compassionate leaders. 

“It’s important to teach our girls what leadership is about,” said Shelly Conrad, Student Engagement Specialist and Girls to Women District Coordinator. “Women have made prestigious marks in history including activism, with the civil rights movement throughout history, like activism, civil rights and inventions. Women have fought to have seats at the table, even through today.”

Attorney Donyetta Bailey, J.D., an Aiken High School graduate and owner of Bailey Law Office LLC, spoke at her alma mater and at Cheviot School. She said it’s her job to encourage young women in the areas of entrepreneurship. She shared how one particular Black businesswoman became her mentor while she was in high school and provided support along the way.

“I’m hoping to do the same thing for these girls,” said Bailey. “I hope that they see me as a resource. I hope they see themselves in people like me and that they know their dreams, whatever they are, are possible. I hope that I help boost their self-esteem and encourage them to be the best version of themselves that they can be. So, that’s why I am here – because someone did it for me. I just really believe in giving back.”

Aiken sophomore Ketura Hawkins, who attended Bailey’s event, says she was interested in learning how to better herself as a woman. 

“It showed me that just because I’m a woman, it does not mean I can’t do things that men do,” said Hawkins. “It made me feel like I can do more with my life.”

“I am hoping that one day I can say, “I knew them back when” and it’s my goal to inspire them to get there,” said Bailey. 

Conrad helped to coordinate speakers for the series from her own professional network and based on interest and recommendations from Girls to Women advisors. Many of the events are open to all female students and not just Girls to Women participants. An estimated 400 students districtwide are expected to attend. 

“I’m hoping that these young ladies get to see that these women had the odds against them, but were able to persevere through their struggles,” said Conrad. 

Upcoming speakers include: 

  • Desiraé Conrad, entrepreneur/hairstylist/makeup artist: Winton Hills Academy, 2:30 p.m. on March 20 

  • Chelsea Benton, consultant: Kilgour School, 3 p.m. on March 20 

  • Mary Wineberg, Olympic athlete/CPS Board of Education member: Walnut Hills High School, 3:30 p.m. on March 20 

  • Robin Carpenter, consultant/School for the Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) graduate: SCPA, 3:45 p.m. on March 21

  • Namaria Evans, Army veteran/nursing student/Woodward graduate: Midway School, 2:30 p.m. on March 23 and Woodward Career Technical High School, date and time TBD 

  • Kimberly Nicole Johnson, author/speaker/entrepreneur: Shroder High School, date and time TBD

  • Mikalyla Chess, 2023 Miss Black Ohio USA/business owner, virtual video message 

  • Jade King, café owner: William H. Taft Elementary School, Thursday, March 23rd at 11 am. 

Earlier this month, other speakers included: 

  • Donyetta Bailey, attorney: Aiken High School and Cheviot School 

  • Meredith Shockley-Smith, educator/former professor: Withrow University High School 

  • Dr. Sarah Belew Cox, clinical psychologist: Spencer Center for Gifted and Exceptional Students 

  • Mary Wineberg, Olympic athlete/CPS Board of Education member: Fairview-Clifton German Language School 

  • Jonelle Zachary, motivational speaker/master trainer/youth advocate/nonprofit employee: Pleasant Ridge Montessori School 

  • Charlie Shearer, entrepreneur: Carson School 

  • Shelly Conrad, CPS student engagement specialist/Girls to Women district coordinator: Midway School

  • Dr. Carolyn Brown, dentist: SCPA

A special thanks to these inspiring women who helped make Women’s History Month a success!