"POWher: Hope/Elevate/Restore" sponsored by Florida Power and Light
(Black PR Wire) Plantation, FL -- As the nation celebrates Women’s History Month, the Jamaican Women of Florida (JWOF) are continuing their work to ensure current and future female leaders have the support they need to build their own legacies.
Recently, JWOF hosted its annual Women’s Empowerment Conference and Scholarship Fundraiser entitled “POWher: Hope, Elevate, Restore.” The weekend was sponsored by Florida Power & Light (FPL), whose Director of Corporate External Affairs, Juliet Roulhac, served as a keynote speaker.
“FPL is in the power business and a big part of that is empowering people in our community. By participating in this, we feel that we are empowering young girls who have bright futures ahead of them to reach their goals,” Roulhac said.
Born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica before coming to Florida when she was 15, Roulhac is a self-described “relationship executive.” She said she was both “personally honored” and “personally pleased” when JWOF President Dr. Keisha Grey invited her to participate.
“When she described what their mission is and what they do, I was completely taken away by that and wanted to invest FPL’s dollars to support this,” Roulhac said, noting she really “loved” that the organization provides scholarships to college-bound young women.
Those scholarships are awarded to first and second-generation Jamaican-American women graduating from a Florida high school. This year’s three recipients – Jahzmin White, Carole Saint-Hilaire and Allison Brown – will each receive $5,000 in four $1,250 installments over a four-year period.
When I received the news of the scholarship in my email … my family and I were overjoyed,” Brown said. “I am so honored to be welcomed into the JWOF sisterhood and … thank you for seeing my tenacity, potential and scholarly character.”
Grey, who has been a member of JWOF since it launched in 2012, said despite the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic, many people still rose to the occasion to support their work. She understands firsthand the challenges families face in paying for college.
“As a daughter of a single mother, a teacher from Jamaica who had the opportunity to come here and study, I know what it’s like to want more for your child. It’s what my mother wanted for me,” Grey said. “I didn’t have the opportunity as an international student to get access to scholarships so I know there’s so many young girls who have a vision like I did to go to college. To be able to give them the financial support to make that dream a reality resonated with me and that’s why I became a member.”
Grey isn’t the only one who is passionate about JWOF’s mission. In addition to her board, several dignitaries attended the scholarship reception on Friday, March 6, at Island SPACE Museum. They included: Jamaica’s Consul General to Miami Hon. Oliver Mair; Broward County District 9 Commissioner and former Mayor Dale V.C. Holness; and City of Lauderhill Commissioner Melissa P. Dunn, among others.
“I think it’s important to support the Jamaican Women of Florida because of the amazing work that they do and I’m a Jamaican woman,” Dunn said. “I think it’s important for us to create spaces where we can not only connect with each other, but also serve this community that we live in.”
Dunn added if JWOF had been around when she graduated high school it “would have meant the difference between me going to the college of my dreams and the college that I went to.” Her sentiment was echoed by Mair and Holness.
“We work very closely with JWOF and all the projects they do, we’re involved at some level. We believe in the empowerment of women and that women also have a role now in encouraging our men, who I believe are lagging behind,” said Mair, who also serves as JWOF’s honorary chairman. “I want to salute the leadership and we’re happy to be a part of anything that’s uplifting,”
“Since I’m a Jamaican man, I figured on behalf of Jamaican men, I ought to come out and support Jamaican Women of Florida,” Holness said with a laugh before seriously noting organizations like JWOF “are the fabric of holding communities together and building certain communities.”
“The Jamaican Women of Florida have demonstrated that over a good period of time now. To continue their efforts, they need support so I’m here to lend my support in whatever way possible to ensure the good things they have started will continue,” Holness said.
The weekend continued with a virtual conference on Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. In addition to Roulhac, former Miss World and current Jamaica Member of Parliament Lisa Hanna served as a keynote speaker.
“Women are the best assets of any country. We are courageous and we know how to get in-between the margins and make something out of nothing,” Hanna said.
There was an assortment of programming which included sessions covering topics ranging from mental health and entrepreneurship to health, wellness and the stock market. Virtual shopping, networking and music from a gifted female DJ were also interspersed throughout the day.
In tandem with Jamaica’s motto, “Out of Many One People,” JWOF’s website states it believes “together we have the power to do anything.” The non-profit’s mission is to “inspire personal development of women and mentor the next generation of powerful women in Jamaica and in Florida.” Though its name denotes one state, the organization has 115 members and affiliates across the U.S. and internationally.
In addition to the scholarship program, JWOF has adopted Melody House – a home for at-risk and disenfranchised girls in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Thus far, they have provided laptops and other means of support to the home.
In the future, Grey said she’d like to introduce a funding program that supports up-and-coming women entrepreneurs and those who take different paths to success.
“I recognize that everybody isn’t going to college these days,” Grey said. “That’s not the only path after high school so I’m looking forward to making that change or making an additional scholarship to support that group of young women.”
Grey said the organization will also participate in a six-month strategic planning period and possibly begin the process of heeding members’ requests to start official chapters in other states. She thanked Broward Meets for being an “awesome, silent contributor” to their work over the years.
Roulhac is impressed that JWOF symbolizes what many already believe about the small island nation and its people: They are small but mighty.
“It’s just a small group of them who decided they wanted to do this and they just leveraged their skills and their talents and made this happen,” Roulhac said. “I just think that the idea of wanting to make an impact and deciding to do it is probably the best example they could give in creating a sense of community.”
To learn more, get involved or become a member of JWOF, visit jamaicanwomenofflorida.com.