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.


Meet Our Team

Joy Nelson Thomas

Founder & Executive Director

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Joy holds a B.A. from Salem College and is a certified Life Coach through an ICF (International Coach Federation) recognized institution. She also is certified in safe-talk and suicide prevention. Joy’s ‘why’ in life is: “impact every girl that comes in her life in some way.” Joy feels it’s our responsibility to be the change we want to see in our community, not just talk about it.

Joy has been selected as a 2021 Triad Business Journal C-Suite winner, 2018 Women of the Year through ABWA (American Business Women’s Assoc.), a 2019 Wonder Woman of the Year through Yes! Weekly, given “Hidden Figure Recognition” by The Acey Group and featured in many publications. She serves on boards/committees of the African American Leadership Society; the Clinical Translational Science Institution at WFU School of Medicine; Neighbors for Better Neighborhoods; Association of Fundraising Professionals; and Winston-Salem Fashion week.

When Joy is not working to change a girl, a community and the world, she’s spending time with he husband Jasper and her son JT.

Britney Dent

Director of Programs

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Britney holds a B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and is a Life Coach for parents and teenagers. She also is Hands On North West & Wake Forest University Women’s Emerging Leaders Graduate and City of Winston Salem University 2022 graduate. Britney also has several certifications from her 10-year tenure as a public school teacher and her role in the non-profit sector. Britney believes in “working hard and being nice.”

Britney is a 2022 United Way Women United Transformational Leader and she has been featured in several media publications. She serves on the board for Triad Restorative Justice and volunteers with many local organizations. In her spare time, Britney enjoys reading, watching Jeopardy and playing board games with family and friends.

Karen Harris, LCMHCS, LCAS-A

LEAD Facilitator & Family Liaison

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Karen 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.

Shonette Lewis, Ed.S.

LEAD Facilitator

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Shonette is an educator, literacy facilitator, and mother from Winston Salem, North Carolina. She began her career as a teacher in 2005 and has worked in a variety of roles including Parent Educator, Training Specialist, Mentor Teacher, and Program Coordinator. Her educational background includes a master’s degree in Family Life and Youth Development, and an education specialist degree in Early Childhood Education. Shonette takes pride in making genuine, lifelong connections with the children and families she serves. She also enjoys spending time with friends and family, walking nature trails, and dancing.

Denise W. McCoy

LEAD Facilitator

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Denise has called Winston-Salem home since relocating from Iredell County in 1997. She has a passion for advocating and empowering others. After working in law enforcement, Denise made a career change to education. She now has more than 36 years of experience as a facilitator, trainer, parent educator, mentor and program coordinator. Denise is committed to working with families, children, and communities to achieve a goal of moving “Forward together, not one step backwards.”

Jasmynn Blackshear

LEAD Facilitator

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Jasmynn, a graduate of Winston-Salem State University, holds a bachelor’s degree in Social Work and is pursuing a master’s degree in Public Affairs with a concentration in Nonprofit Management. She is courageous in fulfilling her passion to impact and change the lives of the youth. Jasmynn believes, “You have the voice to change the nation- never bite your tongue. You possess the power to make a difference- never sit back in fear. You have youth full of dreams- fight so their dreams can be their reality!” She is thrilled to be a part of the LEAD Girl’s team in support of their mission. Jasmynn loves to bowl, explore nature, and do arts and crafts.

Caroline Hightower

LEAD Intern

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Caroline is a Winston-Salem State University student from Lenoir, NC. She is earning her undergraduate degree in Healthcare Management, with a minor in Mass Communication. In addition to school, Caroline enjoys helping others. She also enjoys hanging out with friends and family.

Lakhya Marrow

LEAD Intern

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Lakhya is a Winston- Salem State University Student from Kittrell, NC. She is earning her bachelor’s degree in Social Work, with a minor in Psychology. During her time at Winston- Salem State University, she has been very involved in many clubs and organizations, including the WSSU Social Work Club, Simon Green Atkins Scholar Society, Professional Dress Committee, and a several honor societies.

Lakhya has been on the Dean’s list at WSSU since she arrived and is expected to graduate in December of 2023. After Graduation, Lakhya has plans to attend a Social Work Masters Program.

The thing that drives Lakhya is knowing that at the end of the day, her hard work will pay off and soon change the lives of others. A quote that Lakhya lives by is: “You didn’t come this far to only come this far.“

Ariyanna’ Burton

LEAD Ambassador

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Ariyanna’ is a Junior at North Forsyth High School. She has been with LEAD since 6th grade. Ariyanna’ enjoys listening to music and spending time with friends. In the future, Ariyanna’ would like to pursue a career as a flight nurse or a travel nurse. Her favorite quote is: “Today is today and tomorrow is the future.”

Jada Senn

LEAD Ambassador

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Jada Senn is a Freshman at Glenn High School. Her hobbies are reading, cheer and dance, online shopping and hanging out with her family. Jada has been in the LEAD Girls organization for 4 years. She wants to be a criminal defense lawyer when she graduates and goes off to college. Jada’s favorite quote is: “ Be yourself, everyone else is already taken” by Oscar Wilde.