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League of Courageous Women holds first leadership conference

Posted: 9:18 AM, Sep 30, 2018
Updated: 2018-10-01 10:39:22Z

NAPLES, Fla -- This weekend the League of Courageous Women honored 17-year-old Ayanna Sheard for her outstanding community service. 

She gives free makeovers to students with special needs. An act of kindness inspired by someone close to her.

"I have a cousin with autism. They don't have the same thought process as us," Sheard said. "So, I get to learn a different way of doing things and interact with new people." 

Earlier today she went to the league's conference at Hodges University in Naples to learn about lifelong choices. She talked to Fox 4 about the choices she's made that landed her at Florida Southwestern State College when she was only 16 years old. 

"I decided to get my GED because I knew you could get that at 16. Soon after I did that, I had friends calling, saying how did you do that? How did you graduate [early]? I want to do it. I'm ready for college too!" Sheard said.

Women at today's conference painted a mural of what leadership means to them. The League of Courageous Women plans to use it to inspire future leaders. 

"Leadership isn't just about creating managers. Leadership is about empowering them to explore and make choices that are right for them," said Cyndee Woolley.

Woolley created the organization this year to mentor young women at a critical age. She says the urge to lead tends to decline for girls once they enter fifth or sixth grade. 

"So, we wanted to create a community where these young women can be brought into that conversation and continue in a pipeline of leadership in building a stronger community," said Woolley.

Two more women received awards at last night's ceremony. 

Isabel Chernysh, 14 was honored for heroism after she saved her younger sister from a trapped car that fell into a canal. The league recognized middle school student Jay'Aina Patton for her innovative achievement. She created a phone app called Photo Patch which allows children to send photos to their incarcerated parents.

Woolley is hoping to make the conference an annual event.

Sheard also has a message for young women aspiring to be leaders.

"Don't find the mold. Make the mold," Sheard said.