LEAD Program

Our girls leadership program is a structured, multi-session series for middle school girls ages 11 to 15.

Summer Fashion Camp

Girls learn to craft their designs, launch a fashion business, and rip the runway at Winston-Salem Fashion Week!

Girls Rising Expo

Girls and their parents/guardians gather for a fun-filled day of learning, sharing and future planning.

Sponsor LEAD

Your opportunity to help middle school girls build brighter futures.


Join Us for the 2022 Girls Rising Expo hosted in person Oct. 28-29

Salem College – Elberson Fine Arts Center
500 East Salem Ave., Winston-Salem, NC

Friday, October 28, 2022 from 5:30PM-8:00PM
Saturday, October 29, 2022 from 9:00AM-2:30PM

COST: This is a free event!

Registration Ends October 14, 2022

Get ready for the 4th annual LEAD Girls Rising Expo!

We’re excited to be back in person, and we have added a movie night!

The theme for this year’s expo is Girls Rising Together. The conference will host 6th – 10th grade girls for a one-of-a-kind experience designed to inspire, motivate, and empower girls to LEAD at school, at home, and with their peers.

Interested in sponsoring the Expo?

Email joy@leadgirls.org to learn more about available Expo sponsorships. 

2021 Expo keynote speaker, Lyn Sisson-Talbert, signing a copy of her book The Perfect Gift: A Jingle Jangle Story for one of our participants.

Girls Rising Together

Together we rise higher. The 2022 Girls Rising Expo will showcase the power of unity and the impact of collective work. We’ll engage participants in high-energy workshops, along with inspiring presentations led by influential leaders from our community. Parents/Guardians of participants will have the opportunity to be a part of an exciting Parent Conversation Panel and explore a Resource Fair featuring community-based programs and services.

The highlights of the day’s workshops and presentations activities include:


Confidence from the Inside Out

& Rising

Special Visit with Author Chrystal Giles

Space is Limited! Register Now!!

There are only 100 spots for participants. Register for your spot TODAY!


Our Speakers

This year’s Expo features girls’ discussion panelists, workshop session leaders, parent session speakers, and a special guest author speaker. We’ll also be joined by very special guests Mayor Allen Joines and Mayor Pro Tempore Denise D. Adams.

Friday Movie Panel

Keisha Horton
Jen Brown
Kim O’neill

Parents Panel

Karen Harris
Danielle Harper
Toya Bailey

Girls Session Leaders

Jordan Gomez
Erika Taylor
Candice Cunningham
Alexia Mitchell

Special Guests

Mayor Allen Joines

Mayor Pro Tempore
Denise D. Adams

Alexia Mitchell

View Bio →

Candice K. Cunningham

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Jen Brown

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Keisha Horton

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Kim O’neill

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Toya Bailey

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Our Featured Author: Chrystal D. Giles

Chrystal D. Giles is a champion for diversity and representation in children’s literature. Chrystal often says she’s a lover of both words and numbers. She spent fifteen years as an accountant before transitioning to writing full-time. Chrystal made her debut with Take Back the Block, which received multiple starred reviews, was a Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, and an NPR Best Book. Her next middle-grade novel, Not An Easy Win, will be published in February 2023. Chrystal lives outside Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband and son.

Girls Rising Expo attendees will receive a copy of Take Back the Block by award-winning author and Expo speaker, Chrystal D. Giles.

Thank You!

We are grateful for the generous support of our Expo sponsors.


Change the World Sponsors

Change the Community Sponsors

Change a Girl Sponsors

Media Sponsors

You don’t want to miss this year’s Expo! Register Now!!

Space is limited to 100 girls, so don’t miss out. Register TODAY!

Our Speakers’ Bios

Click the [+] sign to open the full bio.

Toya Bailey

Toya Bailey is the Community Engagement Coordinator and Certified Credit Union Financial Counselor for Truliant Federal Credit Union. She worked in the financial services industry for over twenty years, almost seven years at Truliant FCU. Toya holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Integrated Strategic Communications from the University of Kentucky. Toya has received many accolades from past employers including: Fifth Third Bank (Gold Performance Award), SunTrust Bank, now Truist (Gold Award), US Bank (Banker of the Year), Truliant FCU (TruRookie Award), and Charlotte Regional Business Alliance Emerging Business Leaders, Class 10 Valedictorian. Toya demonstrates her dedication to the community through mentoring college students in the Ruth G. Shaw Women Leadership Program at Central Piedmont Community College, appointed by Charlotte City Council to serve on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations Committee (CRC), facilitating financial education workshops all over the community and various volunteering opportunities. Additionally, She enjoys shopping, singing karaoke, and supporting various church ministries and community organizations.

Jen Brown

Jen Brown (she/her) works with Renew US, a nationwide organization focusing on building grassroots progressive political power. Previously, she ran The Engaging Educator for a decade, serving over 75,000 individuals in finding their unapologetic, authentic, and best voice, communication style, and self through improv-based education. Jen’s book, Think on Your Feet: Tips and Tricks to Improve Your Impromptu Communication Skills on the Job (McGraw Hill Education, November 2019), has made several “best of” lists over the past few years in places like Inc Magazine, Book Authority, and Amazon. In May of 2018, Jen started Fearless Winston Salem, a collaborative collective and social space for and by women and non-binary folks. The co-op has grown to almost 6000 members in four years, is self-sustainable, and debuted a citywide mutual aid fund in March of 2021. Aside from her entrepreneurial endeavors, Jen has done three TEDx talks on the power of improv, including one TEDxWomen on uplifting and elevating women. She has also spoken at SXSWedu multiple times on engagement, audience, and improv. Currently, Jen is living in Winston Salem, NC with her husband Alex, dogs Drumstick and Pickle, and over 100 houseplants.

Candice K. Cunningham, PhD

Candice K. Cunningham is a Director in Regulatory Science for a Winston Salem based corporation. She is from a VERY small town in West Virginia (< 375 people!) She attended college in her home state, receiving Bachelor of Science degrees in Chemistry, and Applied Mathematics from Fairmont State. She moved to North Carolina to attend graduate school at UNC-Chapel Hill where she received her PhD in Chemistry, working specifically in understanding the mechanisms of mRNA transcription. After graduate school, Candi expanded her knowledge by participating in a post-doctoral research project at the US Environmental Protection Agency. From there, she moved to Arkansas where she was the lead chemist in a nanotechnology and toxicology laboratory for the US Food and Drug Administration. She returned to North Carolina and has been a Winston Salem resident for the past 9 years.

Karen Harris, LCMHCS, LCAS-A

Karen is the LEAD Facilitator & Family Liaison at LEAD Girls of NC. She has more than thirty years of experience working with teens and families. She is passionate about helping others overcome their challenges and realize their full potential. Karen holds a master of arts degree in public affairs, a master of science in counseling and a bachelor’s degree in sociology. She is a licensed clinical mental health counselor supervisor, a licensed clinical addiction specialist and she holds a National Boards certification in school counseling.


Keisha S. Horton, MS, LCMHC, LCASA

Keisha is a Licensed Professional School Counselor, Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC) and a Licensed Clinical Addiction Specialist Associate (LCASA) with more than 15 years of experience working with adolescents and adults. As a School Counselor, she has gained extensive experience working with school-aged children and families dealing with life transitions, trauma, depression, anxiety and family conflicts. She has a passion for helping adolescents and families overcome challenges to reach their full potential. In her private practice, Samara Cares Counseling & Consulting, PLLC, she guides clients to pull from their own strengths and experiences using reality therapy, solution focused therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy. As a North Carolina native, she received her Bachelors of Science Degree in Management from High Point University before earning her Masters of Science Degree in School Counseling from North Carolina A&T State University. She began her career as a Professional School Counselor in a local high school, before pursuing her certifications in mental health and addictions. She is also a National Certified Counselor (NCC) and a Youth Mental Health First Aid Provider with training in suicide intervention, career development and childhood trauma. She has provided her service to several youth organizations and non-profit agencies in the community, including Crosby Scholars & YMCA Achievers. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her three children, as well as vacationing, volunteering, scrapbooking, and attending cultural events.

Kim O’neill

I specialize in the treatment of anxiety, depression, emotional/ behavioral issues, grief/loss, mood disorders, relational issues, substance abuse and trauma. I’m trained in EMDR and also, utilize cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness to support my clients in healing, developing more self-awareness and acceptance so they can live a good life. I have 15 years of licensed clinical experience in working with children, adolescents, adults, couples and families. I received my Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology from Boston College and completed my Post-Master’s Certificate Program in Couples and Family Therapy at University of North Carolina Greensboro.

I am committed to providing you with honest feedback, a safe and non-judgmental environment and supporting you unconditionally on your journey of self-discovery, personal growth and healing. I’m currently seeing adults, ages 18+, at my private practice, O’Neill Counseling Services, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. I also provide counseling services to the children, adolescents and families established with Robinhood Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. I believe it is important for you to feel comfortable with the counselor you choose so you can be honest during treatment and feel comfortable engaging in the process. To learn more, please reach out to me at 336-701-1200 or at oneillcounselingservices@hushmail.com


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