Women Crushing Wednesday

Next Event on Wednesday, 5/26

4PM to 5PM on Zoom

Sign Up Here

Join Isles Youth Institute for their latest Zoom series, Women Crushing Wednesday, in honor of Women’s History Month. 

Help us celebrate our local heroes from the Trenton community, as each featured guest will participate in a discussion about their inspirational success stories.  Plus, hear from current IYI students as they introduce the weekly hero!  Our WCW speakers include:

  • May 26: Taneshia Nash Laird, President & CEO of Newark Symphony Hall
  • March 10: Fareeda Stokes, CEO of Harkes Realty & Associates
  • March 17: Rukiya Blackwell, Esq., Attorney in the State of New Jersey
  • March 24: La’keisha Sutton, Owner of Fan Favorite, Former NCAA star, Harlem Globetrotter, Author of book Fan Favorite
  • March 31: Paula Bethea, Principal and Educator of Joyce Kilmer Middle School
  • April 14: Kimme Carlos, Speaker, Author, Advocate on Mental Health and Social Justice
  • May 12: Carrie Compere, Professional Film, TV and Broadway actress


Taneshia Nash Laird

Taneshia Nash Laird, is president & CEO of Newark Symphony Hall, the vintage 1925 performing arts center in Newark, NJ. As a social change agent, Taneshia centers cultural equity in her work. In her career in the public, nonprofit, and private sectors, she has been a city and state official for economic development, a regional director for the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, the executive director of the Arts Council of Princeton, and co-founder of the MIST Harlem venue in NYC.

An in-demand speaker about the intersection of arts, entertainment and economic development, Taneshia was named one of 25 Influential Black Women in Business in the U.S. by the Network Journal magazine in March 2020 and listed as one of 136 Black Innovators in STEM + Arts You Must Know by Wonder Women Tech.  She serves on the board of the National Independent Venue Foundation and is Implementation Committee Co-Chair of the National Independent Venues Association, the organization which successfully advocated for $15 billion in relief grants for live entertainment venues shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Taneshia is also president of the board of Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, the community arts nonprofit co-founded siblings Danny, Russell and Joey “Rev. Run” Simmons. Since 1995, Rush Arts has provided youth arts education and through Rush-owned art galleries, supported emerging artists and curators, many of whom have gone on to be household names.

Taneshia is an adjunct professor in the B.S. in Entertainment and Arts Management degree program at Drexel University and a visiting professor in the M.F.A. in Creative Arts & Technology at Bloomfield College.

Taneshia is the proud mother of two daughters: the aspiring ballerina and budding cellist elementary schooler she calls the Little One and a K-Pop obsessed high schooler and violinist known as the Big Girl.


Carrie Compere

Born in Southern California and raised in Trenton, New Jersey. She attended Trenton public schools and graduated from Trenton Central High School. She briefly attended Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton NJ.

She began acting professionally in 2010 and has both stage (Broadway, off Broadway, regional) and TV/Film experience. A few productions include:

Broadway: The Color Purple, Holler If Ya Hear Me. Off-Broadway: Daddy, Sistas the Musical.
1st National Tour: The Color Purple, Shrek the Musical. Film/TV: “Many Saints of Newark” (2020), “The Jury” (2020), “The Crew” (Netflix), “City On A Hill” (Showtime), “Manifest” (NBC), “New Amsterdam” (NBC), “Seven Seconds” (Netflix), “NYC 22” (CBS), “Show Boat: Live at Lincoln Center” (PBS).

Carrie is a wife of 22 years to her husband, Jerry, and a mother of two children, Isaiah and Pneuma. Carrie, still a resident of the Trenton/Ewing area, continues to work on stage and screen.

Social Media Platforms: @carriecompere

Fareeda Stokes

Fareeda Stokes was born and raised in the city of Trenton.  She attended Trenton public schools through junior high and graduated from The Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville, NJ.  Upon graduating from Lawrenceville, Fareeda matriculated at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Learning and Organizational Change (School of Education and Social Policy) and completed departmental requirements for a second major in African American Studies.

After spending a number of years working for American Express as a Corporate Trainer, Fareeda developed an interest in real estate.  She obtained her real estate license in 2002.   In 2013, she earned her Broker’s license.  Throughout her career, Fareeda has been a consistent top producer, receiving numerous Circle of Excellence Awards through the New Jersey Association of Realtors.

After many years of co-owning a real estate company, Fareeda decided to branch out and open Harkes Realty & Associates.  The pillars of Harkes Realty & Associates are Integrity, Quality Customer Service, and Education.  As Owner and Broker of Record of Harkes Realty & Associates, Fareeda stresses that associates of the company utilize their consulting, management, and teaching skills to help homebuyers realize their dream of being homeowners; sellers realize their maximum income potential; and investors increase their property portfolio (and income!)

In addition to managing a full service Real Estate brokerage, Fareeda serves as a Commissioner for the Mercer County Board of Taxation.  She is also a graduate of the Rutgers School of Business’ Entrepreneurship Pioneer Institute and a member of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program.  She currently resides in the area with her husband, Terrance, and their four (4) children.

Rukiya Ain Blackwell, Esquire

Rukiya Ain Blackwell, Esquire is an attorney in the State of New Jersey. She operates a law practice from Mount Holly, New Jersey with Attorney Mark Fury. She practices a variety of areas of law with a concentration in criminal defense.  She also serves as a part-time Public Defender.

Early on, Attorney Blackwell was taught the importance of service, volunteerism and utilizing her God given talents to support and uplift others. At the tender age of six she began volunteering at a daycare center, reading to the preschoolers and assisting the classroom teachers. Church involvement and service was the cornerstone of her spiritual growth and leadership development.  She was a recipient of the “Youth of The Year” award in 1990 by the Usher Council of Trenton and Vicinity for her extensive record of service.  Being taught that “a job worth doing is worth doing well” Attorney Blackwell, as a Girl Scout, based on her scouting record, was selected to represent the State of New Jersey as a member of the Promise Circle that celebrated the Girl Scouts 75th Anniversary in Washington D.C.

Attorney Blackwell is a graduate of the prestigious Hun School of Princeton New Jersey.   She earned a  Community Service Award for far surpassing the school’s requirement. She is a graduate of Clark Atlanta University, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business with a concentration in Finance. Attorney Blackwell earned her Juris Doctor Degree from the Cooley Law School (Western Michigan University). She was a member of the Black Law Student Association (BLSA) and she served as chairperson of their most successful annual black tie event. Attorney Blackwell was the recipient of a book award for earning the highest grade point average in her graduation class for the course “Family Law Litigation”.

Attorney Blackwell’s prior work experience includes Program Assistant at the ISLES Career Center.   She taught high school math at the Young Scholars Institute’s High School Enrichment Program. Attorney Blackwell held positions of Math teacher, Student Support and Associate Business Manager at Granville Charter School.  She was an intern under the governorship of Christine Todd Whitman.  She was a Fellow in the 2007 class of Leadership Trenton.  Attorney Blackwell was the recipient of the “Wisdom Award” presented by Bo-Rietta Incorporated in 2007 and she was proud to be a Debutante of the National Association of University Women.  She was most honored to be named “Miss Debutante” for 1994.

Attorney Blackwell attributes any success that she may have to an amazing network of church, civic, and  community mentors.  She states that she was blessed with two exceptional parents whose lives were dedicated to service and being role models and leaders in their professions.  She recently lost her father, the late Harry “Chubby” Blackwell, Jr.  who made a tremendous impact on the greater Trenton Community.  Of all his numerous awards and honors, she is most appreciative of the tribute of his many accomplishments being forever recorded in the annals of the United State Congress.  Attorney Blackwell’s mother also has numerous accomplishments, most notable being awarded the prestigious “Lifetime Achievement Award” by the Mercer County Professional Counselors Association in 2010.

La’Keisha Sutton

La’Keisha Sutton aka “Fan Favorite” was born and raised in Trenton, NJ and is a true example of a scholar-athlete. She is a Former member of the World Famous Harlem Globetrotters Basketball Team and Former Overseas professional basketball player. Before joining the Globetrotters in 2018, she played professionally in Taiwan, Finland, Ecuador, Germany, and Bulgaria. Sutton was also named a WNBA Prospect during her time at University of South Carolina, finishing as a top guard in the SEC in scoring and assists.

In addition to being a professional basketball player, La’Keisha added coaching to her resume this year by accepting a Head Coaching position for Girls Varsity basketball at the George School in Newtown, PA. La’Keisha will also be coaching the newly formed Girls AAU Program Philly Rise, 16U team which will compete on a National Nike EYBL circuit. When she’s not coaching La’Keisha is running operations and Skill Development at the Fan Favorite Club, the #1 Basketball Training Facility in Mercer County, NJ. 

While in high school, La’Keisha was recruited by several Ivy League Schools, and Division I Universities to continue her basketball career. She received a full athletic scholarship to play for Dawn Staley, a three-time Olympic gold medalist, at the University of South Carolina. This is where she earned the nickname “Fan Favorite”.

At USC, she helped lead the Dawn Staley and the Gamecocks to their first ever Sweet 16 appearance in 2012. She was a unanimous selection for the All SEC freshman team in 2008-2009, after leading the Gamecocks in scoring in conference play. She finished her career with 1,300 plus points and over 350 plus assists. She also earned a spot on the ALL SEC defensive team as well. She graduated USC with a bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Communications.

One of the most accomplished players in Trenton Catholic Academy’s school history, Sutton was a 2 Time State Champion and MVP, a McDonalds All American nominee, an All-County basketball player for four years in high school and finished top in her class with a 3.6 GPA. She became the first athlete in Trenton Catholic Academy’s school history male or female to win NJ Gatorade Player of The Year Award in 2008. La’Keisha was just 10 points shy of 2,000 points, and received several awards while attending TCA.

More than a basketball player, La’Keisha is committed to developing confidence and a health and wellness mentality in all the players she works with. This self proclaimed brand strategist, self-published her first book “From The Projects To Fan Favorite” and enjoys speaking at schools and corporations. She enjoys being an Entrepreneur, empowering youth, volunteering at community events, and reading.

Paula Bethea

Paula P. Bethea was born in Trenton, NJ. The daughter of Winston and Gloria McIntosh, her parents are Jamaican-born who instilled the importance of having pride in yourself and being good to others.

Paula attended Trenton Public Schools, Joyce Kilmer Elementary School of which she is now the Principal. Paula then attended Princeton Day School through high school, she then obtained her B.A. at Rutgers University-Douglass College where she majored in African American Studies with a minor in Sociology. Paula began her career as an educator working as a preschool teacher in Trenton, a first grade teacher at Granville Charter School, and ultimately Trenton Public Schools as a fourth grade teacher then a reading coach. After obtaining her Masters Degree in both Curriculum, Assessment and Supervision and Educational Administration, Paula became a Vice Principal in 2005 and in 2010 a Principal. Paula also supports rising administrators as a University of Pennsylvania Mentor in the Graduate Education Program and for the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association as a mentor for novice school administrators. She has received honors from the Trenton Branch of the NAACP, the Jamaican Association of NJ Trenton Branch, the MLK, Jr Drum Major Award, Capital City Caucus, and the Zeta Phi Beta Organization, Trenton Chapter.

Paula is the third of four siblings. She is married to Michael and together they have a beautiful daughter, Mikaela who is a senior in high school. Her family as well as her circle of friendships and connection-ships are what helps keep her grounded.

Paula Bethea believes and embodies the African Masai tribe’s greeting: And How Are The Children? Paula believes that conditions of our city, state, country and world have a direct impact on the lives of our children. It is our responsibility as a “village” to ensure: All of the children are well!

Kimme Carlos

Kimme is the Founder and Executive Director of the Urban Mental Health Alliance: Advocating for Healthy Minds in Urban Communities; CEO and Founder of Kimme Carlos Motivational Consulting and Co-Founder and Lead Facilitator of Sister Wellness Retreats: Healing Spaces for Black Women. Kimme is also a certified health and wellness coach with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition; a certified instructor for Mental Health First Aid and author of the published book The Window of Grace: Living in Recovery through Christian Faith.

Kimme has been a member of several nonprofit boards including Foundation Academies, Children’s Futures, and The Center for Family, Community, and Social Justice; and the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Mercer County, where she is also a certified facilitator for the nationally known program, Family to Family. Kimme is a member of the vestry and Chair of the Mental Harmony ministry at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral Trenton.  She is a graduate of Regent University with a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies and a minor in Psychology. As an advocate with lived experience, Kimme keynotes and facilitates on mental health, addiction & recovery and wellness & self-care. She has received numerous awards for her nonprofit and volunteer work.  Kimme has two children, six grandchildren and lives in Pennsylvania.