DANVERS – Nearly 600 guests including community leaders, elected officials and business leaders came together at the Hilton DoubleTree in Danvers for the 35th annual Girls Inc. Boston and Lynn luncheon.
Girls Inc. Lynn, which was founded in 1942, is a chapter of the national nonprofit organization, which has more than 1,500 sites in 350 cities across the United States and Canada. The program “delivers life-changing programs and experiences that equip girls to overcome serious barriers to grow up strong, smart, and bold, according to its website.
The event featured multiple speakers, including Girls Inc. alumna Athené Sirivallop, who currently works as the senior project manager for Harvard University’s first university-wide conference center.
In an interview before her speech, Sirivallop gave her thoughts on being the alumna speaker at the luncheon. She said that being at the event and seeing girls who are currently in the program made her reminisce about her time spent in the organization.
“This actually brings me back many, many years when I was first with Girls Inc. and asked to speak at the annual luncheon, so it brings back fond, fond memories,” said Sirivallop.
Sirivallop, who was the national scholarship recipient at the 2002 Girls Inc. Houston luncheon, was the first to speak. She mentioned that the program continues to play a huge role in her life, and helped her attend and graduate college. She said that the two women who presented her award in 2002 helped her get accepted into the Frederick Douglas Honors program at Texas Southern University.
At the end of her speech, she thanked those in attendance for making an impact, and asked that they continue to do so in order for future generations to have the same opportunities she did.
“How will you open this door of opportunity for the next generation of girls? So they can also one day do the same for others and stand behind this podium to talk about it too,” Sirivallop said.
Christania Adeoye was given national scholar recognition and was one of three Lynn girls presented with the Girl Hero Award, along with Grace Oladoja and Yocilin Solis. All three were given an opportunity to speak.
Oladoja, who attends Pioneer Charter School of Science and wants to become a cardiac surgeon, said that a friend had recommended signing up for a Girls Inc. program in the summer to help take her mind off of stress. She pushed off signing up and by the time she followed through, gardening was the only program available. Reluctant at first, Oladoja said by the time the program was over, it was the best summer experience she had ever had.
“At Girls Inc. Lynn, we all come from different backgrounds and identities, which is what I love the most about this program,” she said.
In her speech Solis, a senior at St. Mary’s who is set to become a first-generation college student, remembered driving past the yellow Girls Inc. building on her way to church, and dreamt about being involved in the organization. When she finally went inside, she quickly realized that it was everything she had hoped for.
“I was nervous about the prospect of the yellow house not living up to the expectations I created in my mind,” Solis said. “But the moment I walked through the doors, it was better than I had imagined.”
Solis became emotional when she thanked her parents for helping her get to where she is today.
“You are the most hardworking, kindest, and most supportive people I know,” she said, which was followed by a round of applause.
Solis will be attending Yale University in the fall.
Adeoye was also overwhelmed with emotion as she took the podium. A senior at Lynn English High School, she has been a member of Girls Inc. Lynn for six years and hopes to study environmental science at North Carolina Central University. She reflected on her time spent in the Big Sisters program.
“In ninth grade I applied to be a peer leader,” she said. “It was amazing and I loved teaching the younger girls. I became the girl who girls looked up to.”
Emceeing the event was NBC Telemundo Nueva Inglaterra Bilingual Reporter Carla Rojo. She stepped in for NBC10 Boston anchor and Emmy Award-winner Latoyia Edwards, who has been the emcee of the event for a decade and could not attend this year.
Comcast Northeast Division President Amy Lynch also spoke and accepted the 2023 Strong, Smart, and Bold Award on behalf of Comcast. Lynch announced that Comcast will be donating $25,000 to Girls Inc. Boston and Lynn.
A number of elected officials were also in attendance including Lynn Mayor Jared Nicholson, incoming Superintendent of Lynn Public Schools Dr. Evonne Alvarez, and State Reps. Dan Cahill and Jenny Armini.