Annual Report

Dear Image Initiative Partners, Sponsors and Supporters,

2009 marked an incredible milestone for The Image Initiative, Inc. As our organization and the country grappled with the recession, we reached five wonderful years in the city of Syracuse. We did not know if we would reach that goal as many of our long time sponsors indicated that they just couldn’t support us from a fiscal perspective but supported us in spirit. How could our 5th year anniversary coincide with a recession? Should we not do certain programming? Should we scale back? Should we not move forward at all? This year has been our most challenging year to date but with all of the challenges we persevered, were faithful and reached the primary goal I set when founding this organization. To watch an organization who’s genesis started as a class project at Syracuse University blossom into a fully incorporated, 501 ( C ) 3 non- profit organization that has serviced over 500 young women; young women facing daily challenges is indeed humbling.

As I look back over the last five years several milestones come to mind:

  • The 1st Annual Sisters Empowering Sisters (SES) Conference which took place over one day in 2005 that serviced close to fifty young women from the Syracuse City School District and the local community centers.
  • Our very first partners, sponsors and supporters; The Office of Multicultural Affairs at Syracuse University, The Syracuse City School District, The Boys and Girls Clubs of Syracuse, Vera House (a domestic violence organization) and the Chancellor’s Office at Syracuse University and various University departments.
  • The 2nd Annual SES Conference when conference attendance reached close to one hundred young women and we moved to a two day format just one year later.
  • The launch of our C.H.O.I.C.E.S (Creating Heightened Opportunity in Community Environment and Self) Workshop Series composed of our initial cohort of twenty five young women.
  • The life altering excursion to New York City where our C.H.O.I.C.E.S young women were exposed to various educational, cultural and historic components.
  • The celebration and jubilation of the 5th Annual Sisters Empowering Sisters Conference with over one hundred and thirty young women registered and the C.H.O.I.C.E.S Workshop Series going into its’ third year.
  • The incredible cadre of local, regional and national women who have traveled from all over the country to Syracuse University in order to educate and inspire our young women.
  • One of our very first pregnant conference attendees who attended all subsequent conferences now pursuing a career in the nursing field.
  • The year we won the Partners for Business and Education Inc., 2008 Program of the Year Award.
  • Most notably, the transformation of one of our shining stars Ms. Saquota Reaves who arrived at our very first conference with the largest chip on her shoulder, who truly didn’t want to be there and currently serves on our Executive Board as our Youth Board member, participated in our 5th Annual SES

Conference as a panelist for our Higher Education panel, started her educational journey at University College at Syracuse University and was recently awarded a full time scholarship to attend Syracuse University and pursue her dreams of becoming a writer. The accomplishments of the organization over the last five years clearly raise the bar in terms of the focus and direction we need to move in over the next five years. With each year the needs of our young women continually evolve and the myriad of challenges they face continually increase. We never run out of topics to cover and ways in which to educate, enlighten, engage and empower them. Over the next five years, our focus will be both programmatic and financial.

2009 also marked the creation of our newest program; The B.U.I.L.D (Broaden, Uplift, Inspire, Lead and Develop) Mentoring Collective. We have always mentored our young women as a sheer by product of what we do, however, we launched a formal program in order to provide further consistency and broaden our offerings to more young women. Within the next year we will expand our programmatic element of the C.H.O.I.C.E.S Workshop Series by assessing and addressing more of an academic focus specifically tailored towards the needs of our young women and move in a direction of increasing our cohort size. We will also develop and implement a domestic/global service learning/community service module and further define and structure our entrepreneurship element. Within the next three years our goals include the following: implementing an internship/externship component, establishing a scholarship program, doubling the number of registrants that attend the Annual Sisters Empowering Sisters Conference and expanding our Advisory Board.

From a financial perspective, over the last couple of years we have moved towards solidifying our operational and programmatic funding. Our sponsor and partner relationships have continued to increase, however, we realize in order to be a sustainable and solvent organization we have to identify and secure various types of additional funding sources such as grants and social enterprise opportunities. I speak to the next ‘five’ years in this report but my vision as to what this organization can do and mean for not only the City of Syracuse but the nation as a whole is timeless. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my outstanding Executive Board, Advisory Board and volunteer staff with a special thank you to Dr. Katina Stapleton (recent Past President) who has shared in this experience with me from the infancy and conceptualization stages to assuming a leadership role. During her tenure, we have grown exponentially administratively, creatively and programmatically. Dr. Stapleton will remain on the Board as I will assume the role of President.

To thank you for your belief, encouragement and support of this organization would be an understatement so I will simply say that for everyone who has extended their time and financial backing over the last five years that we all collectively have prospered in transforming the lives of at risk young women positioning them to be the responsible, incredible, productive citizens that we know they can be.

Enlighten, Engage, Empower

Nicole Watkins
Founder/President
The Image Initiative, Inc.

View our annual reports:

  • 2009 Annual Report
  • 2008 Annual Report

Advisory Board Members

  • Natalie Byrdsong
  • Krystal Cooper
  • JaSheika James
  • Tasha Jones
  • Nodesia Hernandez
  • Katherine Hills
  • Chariesse Turner
  • Tania Williams

Emeritus Board Members

  • Cheryl Dixon-Hills
  • Eva Williams

Ambassador Board Members

  • Amber Green, Image Initiative Alum
  • SaQuota Reaves, Image Initiative Alum
  • Kenneisha Reaves, Image Initiative Alum
  • Chelsea Willis, Image Initiative Alum

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