Announcing WILMA’s first Future Leaders class

Meet the 2022-2023 Future Leaders class

Future Leaders Class Logo

As part of WILMA’s new Future Leaders initiative, which focuses on high school and middle school teens, we recently selected our 2022-23 Future Leaders class. The group of sixteen 11th graders from schools throughout the region will work with their mentors throughout the year, participate in the upcoming Future Leaders Fest on December 3 at the Wilmington Convention Center, and be invited to our Women to Watch Leadership Initiative events. Meet the inaugural class below, and read what leadership looks like and means to them in their own words.

Jada BallJada Ball
New Hanover High School

“A leader I look up to is my aunt Amber Watts. I look up to her because she’s the Alpha female of the family – being sweet and firm at the same time – and keeps all her pups together while pursuing her own dreams. She is the definition of a leader.”


Lillian BlankenshipLillian Blankenship
Ashley High School

“My mom, Holly Blankenship, is a leader I look up to. She is constantly working to improve as a leader in her work field and has shown me that with hard work you can accomplish anything. Since I was little, she has always empowered me to do anything I wanted and made sure I knew there are no limits just because I’m a girl. She continually works hard in leading women’s support groups at her job and being a strong leader. She handles every challenge with grace and approaches it with a positive mindset. She is my best friend, my mother, and who I want to be when I grow up.”

Aryana BrownAryana Brown
Girls Leadership Academy of Wilmington

“I look up to two of my teachers, Mrs. Adams and Ms. Moore … Mrs. Adams is one my biggest cheerleaders. One thing she does is always tell me how proud she is of me and how I’m a big role model and a leader in my school. … Ms. Moore always prepares us for the future. Every day in AVID she has inspirational quotes to help us throughout the days!

“Leadership to me is allowing others to look upon you! … Leadership comes with building an emotional connection to your peers, participation, purpose, motivation, coaching, and more.”

Blair FlethcherBlair Fletcher
Pender Early College High School

“Leadership to me means that you have the ability to influence, inspire, and guide a wide variety of your peers. Being a leader means you understand how to direct and motivate groups toward a common goal while discovering how to play to each of your team members’ strengths for the best possible outcome.”

Kae IsenhartKae Isenhart
Southeast Area Technical High School/SEA-Tech

“A leader in my life who I admire is Julie Ayala. In 2015, Ms. Julie founded her own Montessori school, Topsail Montessori. She built it from the ground up, transforming the small house where I used to attend classes into the incredible campus that now houses a wonderful community. While I went to school there, I was one of the only girls in my class, which allowed Ms. Julie to act as a mentor to me, helping me to ultimately lay the foundation for who I am as a leader today. Ms. Julie has forever changed the lives of me and many other kids.”

Lolly MaginnesLolly Maginnes
Laney High School

“Being a leader, you are presented with two options: leading for better or worse. Who you surround yourself with, how high your standards are, and how accountable you’re willing to be will all play a factor in your decision to lead for better or worse.”


Caroline MetcalfCaroline Metcalf
Trask High School

“Leadership means that people regard you with respect and want to have meaningful relationships with you.”



Nyiesha MillerNy’iesha Miller
Girls Leadership Academy of Wilmington

“Leadership to me is taking an issue that is affecting the world and figuring out what you can do to teach others how to make it better – leaving everlasting effects on the world and all its people.”


Caroline MorrisonCaroline Morrison
New Hanover High School

“Leadership is the ability to motivate and influence people. Great leaders instill trust, lead by example, and inspire others to become the best versions of themselves.”


Divya NaikDivya Naik
Laney High School

“Leadership to me is being involved in your community and working actively with its members to create a better place. Through leadership, goals can be achieved, and we can make a positive impact on many people.”


Rahi PatelRahi Patel
Hoggard High School

“A leader that I look up to is my sister, Priya. She has always been a hard worker and has taught me many lessons about advocating for myself that have made me into the leader I am today.”


Sophia RouseSophia Rouse
Ashley High School

“A goal of mine is always to help others in need. My dream is to become a psychologist. One goal I have would be to deepen my understanding and explore my options on how I can help others through different types of therapy.”


Dylan SchmidtDylan Schmidt
Hoggard High School

“I have looked up to my mom, Jena Schmidt, as a leader, person, and friend for my entire life. She inspires me, and I continue to learn from her every day.”


Cassidy ThompsonCassidy Thompson
Hoggard High School

“Most people think leadership is just about being a good public speaker and organizer. But to me, it’s so much more. Leadership is about bringing people together, collaborating and compromising, and most importantly being a servant.”


Colby WestbrookColby Westbrook
Hoggard High School

“For me, leadership means being able to step up and be someone that people know they can rely on. I also believe it’s important for a leader to be able to get people to interact well so everything goes smoothly for them.”


Bentley WinslettBentley Winslett
Cape Fear Academy

“One goal I hope to work on this year throughout the program is getting more confident with making my own path and leading others down that as well. I want to become less of a follower this year and learn to feel secure with my own decisions and how I want to lead others!”

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Categories: Women to Watch