Virginia M. Akar, President

Virginia M. Akar is an attorney and human rights advocate who is dedicated to bringing about positive social change in her community, with particular focus on disrupting the cycle of poverty.  Her vision of eliminating poverty through education led to the co-founding of Strong Girls, Inc., an anti-poverty initiative whose mission is to embolden all girls to succeed in school.  In 2017, City of Miami Commissioner Ken Russell appointed her to the Community Relations Board where she served as chair of the Budget and Finance Committee. Ms. Akar has had a career in the public interest sector since her early days of practicing law as an Assistant State Attorney for Miami-Dade County in 1994.  From there, she took a few years off to raise her family, and gradually returned to a service-oriented career.  In 2013, she co-founded her first non-profit organization Young Musicians Unite, which currently provides free in-school and after-school music programs to disadvantaged youth throughout Miami-Dade County.  She maintains an active role in that organization as the Executive Director. In 2016 she earned her Master of Laws in Intercultural Human Rights, which was in large part the catalyst for the founding of Strong Girls, Inc.

 

Doris Maya, Vice President

Doris Maya has been a professional social worker for 27 years with a few digressions into teaching and librarianship.  She worked with Dade County Public Schools in alternative education for several years- in a one-room schoolhouse at a Miami bridge, a shelter for abused, neglected, homeless and delinquent youth ages 10-17.  As a dedicated social worker and Vice President of The Thurston Group for 13 years, Ms. Maya evaluated hundreds of programs for youth and families in schools and throughout our community.  In trying to understand barriers and supports to what works and what does not, she had the opportunity to present findings to funders and implementers, research evidence-based practices, observe programs, and interview and conduct focus groups with youth, parents, teachers, administrators, program implementers, volunteers, funders, and stakeholders. She is currently the grant writer for Caridad Center, Florida’s largest free and charitable clinic serving over 20,000 a year and is the co-founder of Strong Girls, Inc.

Kaili Akar, Board Member

Kaili Akar is currently a Teach for America Corp member and educator working in Miami-Dade County Public Schools.  She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Industrial and Labor Relations as well as minors in Inequality Studies and Law & Society from Cornell University. With experience in non-profit consulting through Cornell’s Social Business Consulting Group and leadership in various organizations including Women Empowered, Student Government, and College Mentors for Kids, her work shares an underlying passion for social impact and equity work. She was awarded a Teach for America fellowship in 2017 where she worked as an education consultant in Los Angeles, New Orleans and San Antonio.

 

Dr. Roza Pati, Board Member

Dr. Pati is a tenured Professor of Law at St. Thomas University School of Law where she teaches International Law, Human Rights Law and Human Trafficking Law. Formerly a Member of Parliament and a Cabinet Member serving as the Secretary of State for Youth and Women of Albania, Dr. Pati has a rich experience in public service and academia. In August 2012, the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Professor Pati to be a Member of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, at the Vatican. She is the only Council member representing the United States.

 

Dr. Tina Carroll-Scott, Board Member

Dr. Tina Carroll-Scott is a board-certified pediatrician in practice for the last twenty-three years. She is a graduate of Princeton University, Boston University School of Medicine, the University of Chicago Hospitals and Miami Children’s Hospital for internship/residency. Dr. Scott has built her career as a pediatrician focused on populations in-need. First caring for an immigrant farm worker population in Fort Pierce, Florida, and now with the uninsured/underinsured children in South Miami. The goal was to provide high quality healthcare, dispelling the perception that “free care” meant substandard care. Her belief was that improved access to healthcare and health education would give these children the foundation to build healthier minds and bodies. She also believed that a real difference could be made in the lives of these children by providing a true medical home. Since opening the clinic ten years ago, she has been able to achieve many of these goals. Poverty, fatherlessness, teenage pregnancies, substance abuse and illiteracy are just a few of the problems plaguing this community. The clinic has become an avenue to address the medical, psychosocial and economic problems facing these families and is instrumental in providing resources. She has recently implemented the use of telemedicine into her practice to improve access to care and reduce after hours urgent care and emergency room visits for non-emergencies. Dr. Scott’s life has come full circle in becoming a part of the South Miami Children’s Clinic. “I’ve come back to working with the underserved and I have discovered it is my passion…using my training to make the greatest difference in the lives of people most in need.”

 

Laura Ganoza, Board Member

Laura Ganoza is a partner and litigation lawyer with Foley & Lardner LLP. Ms. Ganoza is the author of “Fashion Branding: What’s in a Name,” published on Apparel (August 30, 2016). Ms. Ganoza spoke on a panel addressing the professional and legal ramifications to consider regarding e-commerce and social media at SwimShow 2015, an essential show for the swimwear industry.

Gianni LaCapra, Board Member

Gianni LaCapra, a Miami native with a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing from Florida International University is the Director of Sales & Marketing at Decorative Sales Associates. She has dedicated much time and effort to the Dolphins Cancer Challenge that raises funds and awareness for cancer research for the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. As an alumnus of Our Lady of Lourdes Academy, an all girls Catholic school in Miami, she has a true passion for helping empower women. She hopes to educate others in understanding that it all begins with helping young girls break the cycle of poverty. Every woman is capable of great things when she is given an opportunity to succeed.

Stephanie Rimes, Board Member

Stephanie Rimes is a holistic health and nutrition coach and a member of the American Association of Drugless Practitioners.  She is a certified Pilates and Yoga instructor and former Pilates studio owner.  She brings her extensive knowledge to programming, creating a fun and engaging nutrition curriculum that girls in our program enjoy.