A Day of Education, Inspiration and Motivation
On October 12, the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association (LAAPOA), a PORAC member association, held its third annual Women’s Leadership and Empowerment Conference, bringing together public safety professionals from around the state to network and hear from accomplished female leaders in the fields of law enforcement, finance, and mental health and wellness at The Proud Bird in Los Angeles. The daylong event revolved around the theme “Lift As We Climb Up,” which was all about motivating, inspiring and training attendees to confidently advocate for themselves and others in their careers, particularly as they progress into leadership roles.
“Our theme was chosen by our committee this year because we wanted to introduce a mentorship program,” LAAPOA board member Ruth Delgado explains. “No one succeeds alone, and it is so important to have a mentor and be a mentor in order to continue climbing up.”
At the event, the Women’s Conference Planning Team had everyone fill out an index card with their contact information, how long they’ve been in law enforcement and their general interests in order to pair up people with similar interests and varying levels of experience “in the hopes that they will form a new professional relationship and encourage growth in each other both professionally and personally,” Delgado says.
Along with the new mentorship component, the event featured a lineup of inspiring speakers. “With the exception of one of our financial speakers (Natalie Spiwak), all of our speakers were new this year,” Delgado says. “Every year we work really hard to have motivational speakers who will bring something new to the conference, especially since we have a lot of returning attendees.” The speakers covered an array of topics, including retirement, living wills and trusts; the different ways mental health issues can manifest and affect individuals in their everyday lives; and what it takes for women in law enforcement to promote and succeed in a male-dominated environment.
News anchor/reporter Viviana Sarrade returned as master of ceremonies for this year’s event and kept everything flowing smoothly with her energetic, bubbly and hilarious personality while she introduced the speakers, who included:
- Undersheriff April L. Tardy, a 29-year veteran with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department who rose through the ranks to become the first female undersheriff in the agency’s 173-year history. She is also the chief of Central Patrol Division, serving communities in East Los Angeles, Compton, Century, South Los Angeles, Marina del Rey and Avalon/Catalina Island.
- Captain Karla Rodriguez, a 19-year veteran with the L.A. Airport Police Department who served as a field training officer, sergeant, internal affairs investigator, adjutant to the chief of police, public information officer and lieutenant before ultimately becoming a captain.
- Megan McCarthy, a retired deputy with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department who was involved in an on-duty shooting and attempted execution in September 2019 that was captured on video and highly publicized. Following the shooting, she became medically retired for PTSD and now advocates for mental health for first responders.
- Dr. Ysmara Haydee Sainz, a first-generation bilingual unlicensed psychologist who is working toward becoming a board-certified clinical forensic neuropsychologist. She previously worked at LAC+USC Medical Center and Hoag Hospital in the neurology department.
- Megan Montes, a licensed clinical social worker who has been working with the L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services for the past nine years.
- Ashley N. Ethridge, a financial services professional who actively runs the Southern California division of Capital Edge Insurance and Financial Services Inc., where she takes pride in assisting and supporting first responders.
- Natalie Spiwak, the founder and president of Affinity Trusts, who has been educating the community about the importance of protecting and transferring their wealth quickly, privately and cost-effectively for nearly 20 years.
The event also featured a vendor marketplace that showcased unique merchandise from small businesses owned and operated by full-time law enforcement officers. In addition, sponsors provided information and resources on financial services, health and supplemental insurance, healthy lifestyle programs and higher education opportunities to help with promotional goals.
“Many of our sponsors gave us feedback that many attendees had already contacted them and signed up for services,” Delgado shares. “I think many of the attendees really listened and followed through with improving some aspect of their life, making actual changes immediately. We hope all of the attendees will participate in the mentorship program, continue participating in self-improvement trainings and especially share the LAAPOA Women’s Conference with potential attendees for next year!”
The Women’s Leadership and Empowerment Conference is just one of the many ways that LAAPOA shows its continued commitment to improving and supporting its members in all aspects of their career development. “The overall goal of the conference is to have a day filled with education, inspiration, motivation and the tools to see those newly acquired action items become reality,” Delgado adds. “LAAPOA has made a point of supporting the law enforcement community with this event, because it provides a safe space where officers can listen and learn about different topics that are specifically chosen to make the stressful job of being a law enforcement officer more manageable.”