2017 Unbought and Unbossed honorees and mentees
› Mentee Yarelis Forte — Mentor Sheila Albriton
› Mentee Terra Wright — Mentor Tenesha Irvin
› Mentee Jessica Labon — Mentor Janice Neal
› Mentee MaNiyah Chatman — Mentor Ronelle Sellers
› Mentee Jahlah Johnson — Mentor Rafielle Freeman
› Mentee Komal Patri — Mentor Nicole Osborne
› Mentee Aareon Reed — Mentor Paige Evatt
› Mentee Frida Uwimana— Mentor Christy Rasheed
› Mentee KeyAnna Westfield — Mentor Dr. Marcia Noe
Diamond Jones said she could have died, but a local nonprofit surrounded her with mentors who pushed her to thrive.
"If you look at my life and the odds, I shouldn't be standing with you today, but thanks to Girls Inc., I am," said Jones.
Her father was in and out of jail and couldn't help her. Her mother died at age 49 in Febuary 2016 after having a stroke.
The death of her mother eventually left Jones homeless, sleeping in her car and parking in hospital garages for safety. Girls Inc. encouraged her to get help through foster care. Mentors from the organization advised her that she could still be successful.
The Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy senior landed a $20,000 Girls Inc. college scholarship, gained the opportunity to introduce former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the Girls Inc. annual luncheon in New York this year and she is set to graduate this spring as the salutatorian of her class.
Jones was one of several students exemplifying the impact of Girls Inc. Wednesday at its 13th Annual Unbought and Unbossed luncheon.
"Girls Inc. is a boots-on-the-ground organization that continues to provide intentional and impactful programing in a safe environment for girls [ages] 6-18," said Girls Inc. CEO Melissa Blevins.
Local author and television host Alison Lebovitz emceed the event.
"Girls Inc. is not about proving our need. It's about showing our worth," she said.
"This is not about highlighting a desperate community in Chattanooga that needs your help. It's about highlighting a dynamic community that deserves your support."
The event, the biggest fundraiser of the year for Girls Inc., honored nine women from the community who depict being "Unbought and Unbossed."
Girls Inc. high school students selected the honorees by reading their profiles. No student knew the names of their honoree before their selection. The honorees now take on the role of mentors to the students.
Chattanooga High School Center for Creative Arts sophomore MaNiyah Chatman chose Ronelle Sellers, director of marketing for Henderson Hutcherson & McCullough, as her mentor.
"This is just a great opportunity for some of what's been poured into me to pour into MaNiyah," said Sellers.
Jessica Labon chose Janice Neal, a youth services manager at the Public Education Foundation.
"Empowering my soul and breaking me out of my shell. Building my confidence. Not only are you fantastic at your job, but you have also proven yourself to be loving and caring," Labon read from a poem she wrote for Neal.
Neal and Sellers stand among 140 local women honored since the Unbought and Unbossed luncheon started in Chattanooga in 2005.
The event recognizes Hamilton County women who, through their career achievements or leadership, have had a significant impact in improving the lives of girls and women, according to the Girls Inc. of Chattanooga website.
Jones said she's thankful to Girls Inc. and the mentors from the organization who have assisted her.
She plans to attend college and become a social worker to help young people.
"Girls Inc. has continued to be that safety net pushing me forward when I felt like giving up," said Jones.
Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman@times freepress.com or 423-757-6431.