Our 10th Anniversary Gala was a night to remember, full of celebration, inspiration, gratitude, and excitement for the future. On behalf of the girls we serve, we would like to thank our supporters, guests, donors, board members, gala committee, volunteers, and staff for contributing to a successful event! Check out some pictures of the event below!

Event Honorees

LADWP’s leadership and commitment to advancing women is an inspiration to the girls we serve, our team, and our community. We are honored to present LADWP with the Community Leader Award for setting the stage for women to demonstrate what they have to contribute to society.

LADWP’s commitment is seen through their remarkable initiatives such as the Women’s Council, equality-gap initiatives, and by making history with an all women-led Board of Commissioners, as well as their ongoing support of the LADWP Society of Women Engineers Chapter.

Their contributions have helped open doors for hundreds of remarkable women engineers, executives, and professionals, helping to bridge the gap for women in STEM fields.

LADWP Commitment to Fostering Gender Equity Honored by Society of Women Engineers


Yvette Merino

Producer of Disney’s Academy Award® Film “Encanto”

Recipient of the Inspirational Leader Award

Yvett is the Academy Award® winning producer of “Encanto,” and the first Latina to receive an Oscar® for Best Animated Feature Film.

Yvett first came to Walt Disney Animation Studios more than 25 years ago, and has worked in a variety of production capacities on some of the most popular animated features of all time. Among her most recent credits, she served as production manager on the Oscar® winning features “Big Hero 6” and “Moana.”

Yvett has also worked on teams for “Tangled,” “The Lion King 3D,” and “Wreck-It Ralph.” She was also a part of the team that started “Voces” at Disney, the studio’s first Latinx employee resource group, where she served as co-president for two years.

Charise Castro Smith

Co-Director & Co-Writer of Disney’s Academy AwardR Film “Encanto”

Recipient of the Inspirational Leader Award

Charise is a writer for film, television, and theater as well as an actress, producer, and co-director. She grew up in a Cuban-American family in Miami, Florida, and attended Brown University and the Yale School of Drama.

She was a recipient of the 2012-2013 Van Lier Fellowship at New Dramatists in New York, is an alumna of Ars Nova’s Play Group, and has had plays commissioned by various theaters – including Providence’s Trinity Repertory Company.

In addition to writing for and acting on the stage, Charise has written and produced television programs such as The Exorcist, The Haunting of Hill House, and Sweetbitter. Most recently, Charise was the co-director and screenwriter of Disney’s Academy Award® Winning Film “Encanto.”

With Special Guest Appearance From

Luz Rivas

DIY Girls Founder and Assemblywoman

Luz M. Rivas was born in Los Angeles to an immigrant family and grew up in the Northeast San Fernando Valley. She attended LA Unified schools before earning a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from MIT and a master’s of education from Harvard. Luz has built her career at the intersection of engineering and education before entering public service. She worked as an electrical design engineer at Motorola before founding DIY Girls, a nonprofit that provides enrichment programs focused on encouraging young girls to pursue careers in science, engineering, and technology. In 2016, she was appointed by Mayor Eric Garcetti to the Los Angeles Board of Public Works.

Luz was elected and sworn into the California State Assembly in June 2018. Since then, Luz has been appointed as the Chair of the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources and currently serves on the Assembly Committees on Budget; Budget Subcommittee No. 3 on Resources and Transportation; Communications and Conveyance; Revenue and Taxation; and the Joint Legislative Committee on Emergency Management. She is also the Chair of the Select Committee on the Non-Profit Sector and serves on the Select Committee on Latina Inequalities and Select Committee on Coastal Protection and Access to Natural Resources.

During Luz’s time in the Assembly, her priority has been to uplift and empower underrepresented communities. She has been extraordinarily successful as a leader in delivering substantive policy, such as reforming the state’s response to homelessness, providing universal school meals to all K-12 students, creating the California Youth Empowerment Commission to increase youth civic engagement, and advocating for environmental justice through her role as the Chair of the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources. Luz believes it is her highest honor to represent the community she grew up in.

Student Speaker

Daniela Orozco-Jimenez

B.S. Mechanical Engineering, Stanford University

DIY Girls Alumnus

Daniela is a San Fernando Valley native with Mexican-Honduran roots.

Daniela attended San Fernando High School through which she was able to participate in the DIY Girls Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam, and was exposed to engineering for the first time. She then attended Stanford University obtaining her B.S in Mechanical Engineering, and is now a Mechanical Engineer at Raytheon.

Daniela’s interests in engineering are rooted in the ability to improve the lives of others and hopes to pursue this in her career.

Mistress of Ceremonies

Sandra O’Neill

News Anchor for Telemundo 52

Sandra O’Neill is the News Anchor for Telemundo 52’s award-winning weekday morning newscasts, Noticiero Telemundo 52 a las 5 a.m. y 6 a.m.

O’Neill is a seasoned journalist with nearly two decades of storytelling experience covering issues and significant events impacting the community.

Her storytelling has earned her notable recognitions from the Associated Press Television and Radio Association, an Edward R. Morrow award for production, and three Emmy awards for her coverage of the 10th Anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the 2015 San Bernardino massacre.

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