We Asked, You Responded: Here Are The Local Women That Inspire You

Mar 28, 2019

Teachers, daughters, activists, restaurant owners — these are just some of the women who inspire South Floridians. 

For the past three weeks we’ve been asking you to nominate remarkable women in honor of Women’s History Month.

Here are some of the women who were nominated and why:

Soley Gonzalez was nominated by Ana Medina. Gonzalez leads the internship and student engagement efforts at the South Florida Educational Federal Credit Union and has for a number of years. "During her time there she got internships for many students of all sorts," Medina wrote, adding that she was one of them. "I got my first paid programming internship going into my junior year of high school. She has mentored me since then, I've gone to work at companies with prestigious names such as Google, and Uber.” 

Florence Morgenstern created a local concert series for southern Palm Beach County and northern Broward County residents. "All her life she has been a self made woman from starting her own businesses to contributing to the community," Rachel Beltran told WLRN in her nomination. "Her nonstop enthusiasm and personal caring about everyone around her is so heart warming."

Nicole Smith is a Miami resident, single mother, dancer, and recently published author of the book "Game On! Relentlessly Pursue Your Dreams." She was nominated by Audri Amoro who explained why Smith is remarkable: "She wrote the book in order to guide and motivate others to never give up on their dreams even when the odds are against them."

Christine Sylvain founded Path to College for low-income students and provides SAT practice, for free. She was nominated by seven different people including former students and mentees. "Ms. Christine ’s passion to encourage students like me and strong motivation to pursue our dreams is unimaginably helpful and beneficial to us," wrote student Zarifa Kabir. "Her words of advice and wisdom often resonate me and help me reflect when taking difficult decisions."

Read more: Christine Sylvain Helps Lake Worth Students Get Ready For College

Neyda Borges is the language arts department head at Miami Lakes Educational Center. She was nominated for being an inspiring teacher who believed, challenged and supported her students. "She never doubted in me, no matter how much I doubted in myself," wrote Alejandra Mendoza, one of her former students. (Ms. Borges is no stranger to WLRN. She tookover our Instagram account on August 22,2016 to show us the first day of school through the eyes of a teacher. You can see her postings here). 

Alina Grandal was formerly a college counselor at Hialeah Senior High and called "one of the reasons hundreds of students have graduated ... and gone to prestigious universities in the past 15 years." According to one of her former students, Sabrina Rodriguez, "her impact on the community has had a far reach because she’s created a culture where going to college was expected for many of us."

Read more: Alina Grandal Was Instrumental To Hialeah Senior High Student's Education

Carole Ann Taylor "has been one of the leading voices behind the building of brand Miami as a hospitality destination," wrote nominator Marlon Hill. "Most importantly, she has been a staunch advocate for the development of heritage neighborhoods in celebrating our multicultural family histories." She owns an online retail store called Miami To Go, Inc., which was named a top 50 women-led for-profit business in Florida by the Commonwealth Institute

Lorraine Herdeen is the executive director of the St. Laurence Chapel homeless shelter in Fort Lauderdale. She was nominated for the series by Michaela Kocoglu, who called her a "valiant rock for young and old homeless clients of all genders in Broward."

Ms. Shirly works the Urban Oasis Project tent at the Legion Park Farmers Market in Miami's Upper East Side. She hands samples of starfruit and dragonfruit and lychee to everyone who passes through. According to Chantelle Sookram, who nominated her, she creates a "sense of community" in the neighborhood and makes you feel like "you a part of something bigger than yourself." 

Mina Hosseini is a grassroots community leader, and one of the few women of Middle Eastern origin making systems change in Miami-Dade County,  wrote Yannell Selman. "Mina is a warrior for low-income families in our community, and fights everyday to ensure that the families she works with have a seat at the table in Miami's education policies."

Luisa Santos, the founder of Lulu's Nitrogen Ice Cream, employs high school students and supports them by providing educational support and financial literacy training. She's also a Miami Fellow. Yannell Selman nominated her, calling Luisa "one of Miami's most inspiring stories. Luisa immigrated to Miami as a young girl and dealt with the challenges of being an undocumented youth."

Leyla Bravo Wiley is the founding principal of KIPP: Sunrise Academy in Liberty City who "is working to ensure that Liberty City is home to Miami's highest performing school," wrote Yannell Selman.

Lorena Diez was nominated by Maureen O'Brien for bringing tango to the Miami community and inspiring new audiences to learn and appreciate the art form.

Sue Sullivan was nominated by Angela Adams because she's a woman of "great character" and "strength" on many volunteer boards in Key West, and is "an amazing friend to all."

Nance Frank has worked to bring Cuban artists and their work to the U.S. and she's showcased local artists in her gallery, Gallery on Greene, in Key West. And she worked to get the first Key West artist into the Smithsonian, according to Ralph Segar Jr. "She compels others to get involved however they can, whenever they can, any way they can!"

Other nominees include Lindsay Autry, Ms. Shirly, Diliana Alexander, Barbara Markley, Jessica Spitalnic, Olivia Collins, Michelle Bernstein, Uyen Dang, Robin Bartleman, Nora Rupert and Lori Alhadeff.  

This story was updated on April 1, 2019.