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Junior League of Dallas (JLD) awarded $40,000 in collegiate scholarships to 10 college-bound women from Dallas ISD during its 11th annual Women LEAD Speech Competition and Awards Ceremony held Saturday, March 23 at JLD Headquarters. The top 10 ranked finalists were selected from a highly competitive set of 26 applicants from Emmett J. Conrad High School, Thomas Jefferson High School, and South Oak Cliff High School. Founded in 2013 by JLD, the Women LEAD (Learn. Excel. Achieve. Dream.) scholarship program was created to assist female high school students in pursuing their dreams of higher education and to create opportunities for future women leaders. Since the program began, the League has awarded 72 scholarships totaling $345,000 to female seniors from these three area high schools.

“The dedication, passion, and resilience demonstrated by these young women throughout the Women LEAD program have been inspiring,” said JLD President Christina Eubanks. “As they prepare to embark on their next chapter in higher education, we are filled with immense pride and optimism for what the future holds. These young women not only embody the values of leadership and excellence that we cherish but also remind us of the power of education and mentorship. The Junior League of Dallas is honored to have played a role in their journey and looks forward to witnessing their continued success and contributions to the community.” 

In October, Women LEAD Chair Cathryn McClellan and Signature Projects Vice President Emily Ronck and their committee held workshops at the three high schools to review the application and scholarship program. After the finalists were selected in early February, JLD members re-visited the schools to hold public speaking workshops. The committee scored applications based on the criteria of academic performance, resume, letters of recommendation, transcript, and an essay. 

The top 10 ranked applicants were invited to present their speeches on March 23 in front of this year's judges including: JLD President Christina Eubanks; Nordstrom Stylist Program Manager Jessica Tennison; and Senior Philanthropy Officer of Communities Foundation of Texas Ashley McIver. Former TV reporter and JLD Sustainer Calvert Collins-Bratton emceed the event. 

In the oratory competition, the students were given this prompt: In 2020, Team USA gymnast Simone Biles made the difficult decision to step away from gymnastics right before the women's all-around final in the Tokyo Olympics. She faced criticism for this decision but remained confident that she needed to step away to focus on her mental health. We've all had to make difficult decisions that others don't agree with. Tell us about a time when you made an unpopular choice that was in your best interest. 

In response, the audience and judges heard inspirational speeches from each of the top 10 finalists, including: Liliana Aguirre, Miranda Castillo, Genesis Stephanie Contreras, Anatupenda Daphrose, Lidiya Gebrehiwot, Amy Jeanette Lopez, Jazmin Martinez, Prava Pokhrel, Naimat Rabiu, and Tosminara Shamsuddin. Additionally, the students spoke about their passions and how receiving a Women LEAD scholarship will help them achieve their goals. Individual passions motivate these students to chase their dreams and turn them into a reality, and each of these young women hope to fulfill those dreams in a way that will make a positive impact on the world and inspire the people around them. 

Following the oratory competition, the judging panel tallied the votes and determined the winners based on the merits of their scholarship application and speech presentation. The winner of the $15,000 Women LEAD Scholarship Program was Naimat Rabiu. Second place winner Amy Lopez received a $10,000 scholarship; third place winner Anatupenda Daphrose received a $5,000 scholarship; fourth place winner Lidiya Gebrehiwot received a $3,000 scholarship; and fifth place winner Miranda Castillo received a $2,000 scholarship.  Honorable mention winners Liliana Aguirre, Genesis Stephanie Contreras, Jazmin Martinez, Prava Pokhrel, and Tosminara Shamsuddin each received a $1,000 scholarship. 

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