Step Up’s 11th Annual Inspiration Awards

It’s not easy to step away from the office for a few hours, so when I get the opportunity to attend an event during the weekday I do a little dance in my head debating whether to go. But when my colleague said that Step Up Women’s Network 11th Annual Inspiration Awards was worth attending, I took it as an opportunity to learn more about the non-profit organization. Then headed to the Beverly Hilton where the awards ceremony was being held.

Step Up connects teens with a variety of professional women mentors for role modeling. I was surprised to learn that 100% of Step Up seniors have graduated high school and been accepted to college 4 straight years. I don’t think I’ve heard of a 100% graduation rate touted in LA– maybe ever.

It was truly an inspiring setting. There were of hundreds of women (peppered with a few men) in the lobby of the Beverly Hilton. The event welcomed 850 guests. Many attendees were from the entertainment industry (the founder of Step Up is a former UTA agent), but people were there from all different industries.

While walking through a sea of people in the lobby of the Beverly Hilton, I met Tamia Walker. She is one of four Inspiration Award honorees and one of those fortunate teens taken under the wings of women mentors. She will be attending Cal State University Chico (CSU) in the fall. She was sweet, affable and excited to accept her award. She later got on stage and explained her riveting story about growing up in LA in poverty. I wondered how someone manages to hold onto that kind of spirit after a series of misfortunes. After Tamia’s speech, Julie Bowen from Modern Family swept onto stage as her usual vibrant self and showered Tamia with jewelry from Dogeared and a $500 gift certificate donated by the Container Store to help Tamia start college on the right foot.

Claudia Eller, editor-in-chief of Variety, was also an Inspiration Award honoree and Stacey Snider, CEO of Dreamworks, presented her award. Eller exudes this natural cool factor that is not intrinsic in us mere humans. Maybe it comes from those years in her early 20’s when she was trying to figure things out. In her speech, she mentioned dropping in and out of college only to become Variety’s first female editor-and-chief in its 108 year history. Her words of wisdom to the new Step Up graduates and the audience were be honest and true to yourself, pursue your endeavors, and make everything in life count. Roger that.

Zoe Saldana, actress on Guardians of the Galaxy, radiated onstage as she accepted her Inspiration Award presented by her good friend and director of Guardians of the Galaxy, James Gunn. KPMG was named corporate honoree presented by the principal of Gertz-Ressler High School, James Waller.

All the honorees on stage possessed several commonalities despite their many differences. First, none of them accomplished their achievements alone. Saldana referenced in her speech that “it takes a village” to raise young leaders and each of the honorees recognized the “village” that helped get them where they are today. They have mentors, family, bosses and others who helped. Also none of them got to where they are without overcoming some type of hardship. I guess it’s true that there’s no easy way to the top. They all stumbled into some type of roadblock along the way. They put their thinking caps on, got back on track, and persevered.

I’m glad I found the will power to step away from the office for a few hours to attend the 11th Annual Inspiration Awards. I have enough inspiration to keep me going for a little while, at least until the next event.

  • Walker and Bowen

    Tamia Walker (2014 honoree) and Julie Bowen (actress, Modern Family) photo credit: Alison Buck Photography

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    Kaye Popofsky Kramer (founder, Step Up) photo credit: Alison Buck Photography

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    Stacey Snider (ceo, Dreamworks) and Claudia Eller (2014 honoree and editor-and-cheif, Variety) photo credit: Alison Buck Photography

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    Zoe Saldana (2014 honoree and actress, Guardians of the Galaxy) photo credit: Alison Buck Photography

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    Desiree Hall and Helen Huang

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    Stephanie Greitzer, Melanie Barr-Levey (board director, Step Up), and Alison Prakin Shiry

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    Thien Ho (Panda Express), Aja Brown (mayor, Compton), Gail Herring (Toyota)


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