Every day our world becomes more tightly interconnected. And it’s true that what you put out, you get back. These inspiring women prove it is possible to connect with others and make a positive difference in their lives.
Emma Watson | Actress, UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador
On the heels of a stellar performance in Disney’s remake of the epic story “Beauty and The Beast,” is the illustrious actress Emma Watson, who we love for her iconic character as Hermione Granger in the globally successful “Harry Potter” films. In 2014, Watson was appointed UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, where she has dedicated her efforts toward the empowerment of young women. Watson also serves as an advocate for UN Women’s HeForShe campaign, which focuses on promoting gender equality.
At just 26 years of age, Watson has been involved in the promotion of girls’ education for several years and has visited Bangladesh and Zambia as part of her humanitarian efforts. She has also worked to promote fair trade and organic clothing, and served as an ambassador for Camfed International, a movement to educate girls in rural Africa.
Serving as UN Women’s Goodwill Ambassador has been truly humbling for Watson. She’s said that the chance to make a real difference is not an opportunity everyone is given and is one she has no intention of taking lightly. Women’s rights are something so inextricably linked with who she is, and so deeply personal and rooted in her life that she can’t imagine an endeavor more exciting. She recognizes she still has much to learn, but as she progresses, she hopes to bring more of her individual knowledge, experience, and awareness to this role. UNWomen.org
Lady Gaga | Singer, Born This Way Foundation
Born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, Lady Gaga is an American songwriter, singer, actress, dancer, and fashion designer who is also quite the infamous philanthropist. Gaga throws the weight of her popularity behind all her charity projects. In 2012, she co-founded the Born This Way Foundation (BTWF), which supports the wellness of young people and empowers them to create a kinder and braver world. BTWF leverages rigorous academic research and authentic partnerships in order to provide young people with kinder communities, improved mental health resources, and more positive environments–online and offline.
Led by Lady Gaga and her mother Cynthia Germanotta, BTWF works diligently to provide youth with genuine opportunities, quality resources, and platforms to make their voices heard. Their goal is to launch programs tailored to and powered by young people, putting their ideas, voices, and needs first. They engage young people online and in their communities, working with a diverse group of partners to connect youth with the services they need to thrive and drive change. BornThisWay.Foundation
Michelle Longo | Autism Advocate
Ever since Michelle Longo was 18 years old, her dream was to open a salon. But Longo had to leave the workforce when her son was diagnosed with Autism, and immediately became his advocate and the advocate for other families because she didn’t want them to feel lost as she once had. Through the years, Longo continued to speak at schools and City Hall steps; she’s even been to Albany to change laws affecting families like hers.
“I was voted to be on the school board and have won awards for helping others,” she recalls, but through it all, Longo kept her cosmetology license up to date and used whatever “extra” money she could to make her son happy.
Today, her son Frankie is 21 years old, attends college, drives, and can also balance his own checkbook. Once everyone in her family was set, Longo jumped on the opportunity to open her dream salon. She continues to advocate for autism through local fundraising events for this cause. SwankSalonNJ.com
Theodora Sergiou | Saint Barbara Greek Orthodox Church
Nicholas Pools is a second generation family-owned and operated company with more than 40 years of experience providing custom in-ground pools and spas. Founder Nicholas Christofi has been building pools since 1969, and transferred that knowledge to his daughter and son-in-law, Theodora and Sotiris Sergiou, who run the family business today.
Fully committed to her community, faith, and church, Theodora was recognized by His Eminence Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey for her volunteer work and dedication to Saint Barbara Greek Orthodox Church (SBGOC) in 2013. The SBGOC’s vision is to inspire in all persons a love of Christ, a passion for righteousness, and a consciousness of their duties to God and their fellow man. This recognition prompted Theodora to launch the Sergiou Foundation where she organizes events to raise funds for various NJ non-profits. STBarbaraNJ.org
By Vanessa Coppes