Photo collage Ignite Leadership Academy (source: Society of Extraordinary Women)

Last Updated on March 22, 2021 by Arjuna Soriano

S.E. Williams | Executive Editor

The Society of Extraordinary Women (SOEW), an organization committed to empowering women and girls to discover their extraordinary selves through education and mentoring in leadership development and technology was named as one of two nonprofits selected by the Southern California Gas Company (SoCal Gas) to receive $25,000 each in grants to support female minority STEM students in the Inland Empire. 

“We are proud to support strong, young women through their education and help provide services and materials that they didn’t have access to before,” stated Southern California Gas Company spokesperson Candice Lee.

SOEW was founded by community leader, corporate executive, and business consultant, Shirley Coates, who is committed to empowering women and girls as she continues to make a significant impact for change.

One of the ways she is making her vision a reality is through SOEW’s Ignite Leadership Academy Program which prepares girls both academically and professionally.

The program focuses on enhancing self-esteem, team building, presentation skills, social and cyber etiquette, financial literacy, and college preparation. In addition, students have opportunities to participate in aviation classes, art, and experiential learning trips.

The Ignite Program continues to be a forerunner in introducing program participants to the power of GIS technology by showing how they can utilize the power of story maps to create positive change in their communities.  

“Our exceptional programs at SOEW provide exposure to great opportunities that they would otherwise not have. We’re extremely grateful and proud to partner with SoCal Gas to assist our students in need with necessary funding and help make their aspirations a reality,” said Coates.

During the program students receive hands-on training to enhance their understanding of the technology as they learn the fundamentals of GIS including the mapping of data points, building maps, identifying trends, and forecasting future outcomes including demographic and environmental changes.

Part of the learning experience includes students developing a project focused on improving the environment in their home community.

“Through our programs, students are exposed to technology, for now and for the future. They’re able to study subjects such as GIS, mapping, robotics, coding and more, which allows them to discover new opportunities in traditionally male-dominated career paths in STEM and various trades.”

Ignite program graduate and Spellman College Freshman Aleeyah shared, “The Ignite Leadership and STEM Academy has changed my life significantly and I’ve been a proud participant since the seventh grade.”

She continued, “Being a part of this program has opened many doors that I didn’t even know could be open for me, such as attending flight school to learn how to be a pilot. I just want to thank Mrs. Coates in pushing us to be the best that we can be and helping us grow our confidence. Together, we can achieve more.”

The $25,000 grant provided to SOEW will help expand its Ignite Leadership and STEM Academy program, which encourages middle through high school female students to pursue careers in STEM and GIS, within the Inland Empire.

Through this grant, students without internet services will be provided access to Spectrum internet and those without access to a computer will receive notebooks and writing supplies.  Additionally, the funds will also be used to provide stipends for participating teachers and for the hiring of program coordinators.

Acknowledging the success of Coates , SOEW and fellow grant recipient The Pasadena Delta Foundation of San Gabriel Valley, Lee concluded,  “In honor of Women’s History month, SoCal Gas is proud to show their support towards organizations who nurture and mentor young women through their educational and professional career.”

To learn more about SOE and the Ignite Program and/or to support this important work please visit

S.E. Williams is executive editor of the IE Voice and Black Voice News.

S.E. Williams

Stephanie Williams is executive editor of the IE Voice and Black Voice News. A longtime champion for civil rights and social justice in all its forms, she is also an advocate for government transparency and committed to ferreting out and exposing government corruption. Over the years Stephanie has reported for other publications in the inland region and Los Angeles and received awards from the California News Publishers Association for her investigative reporting and Ethnic Media Services for her weekly column, Keeping it Real. She also served as a Health Journalism Fellow with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism. Contact Stephanie with tips, comments. or concerns at