Girls Inc. of Carpinteria’s Women of Inspiration Luncheon

Erica Ford, photo by Donna Alberico.

Erica Ford, photo by Donna Alberico.

Erica Ford, CEO and founder of LIFE Camp (Love Ignites Freedom through Education) and Peace is a Lifestyle, is the keynote speaker for Girls Inc. of Carpinteria’s Women of Inspiration luncheon on Monday, April 3 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Girls Inc. campus, 5315 Foothill Rd. in Carpinteria.

Ford grew up in the high-crime neighborhood of Jamaica, Queens in the 1980s, where she attended countless funerals for friends. Tragic violence in her community inspired her to create LIFE Camp, which provides at-risk inner-city youth (ages 13-24) the valuable tools they need to stay in school and out of the criminal justice system.

The foundation also spawned Ford’s Peace is a Lifestyle program, featuring holistic guru and acclaimed author Deepak Chopra, who makes monthly visits to LIFE Camp to talk to and meditate with the group participants. In partnership with Chopra and yoga teacher Eddie Stern, Ford created the Urban Yogis program, inspiring at-risk youth to choose alternative pathways toward positivity and peace. Ford and the Urban Yogis lead yoga in the New York City Public School system, in detention centers, and at the Baisley Park housing project in Queens.

“Each year our luncheon celebrates the achievements of women who are inspiring the next generation of girls to have a voice and to dream big,” says Victoria Juarez, Executive Director of Girls Inc. of Carpinteria. “Erica Ford, our honorees, and Girls Inc. member Andrea Saldana (a 17-year-old student at Carpinteria High School), who will share her story at the luncheon, are each role models in their own right for all girls. We’re proud to recognize these courageous women who embody our mission to teach girls they are valuable, powerful and deserving of every opportunity.”

“I admire organizations likes Girls Inc. that nurture the greatness in young women and girls,” says Ford. “I am honored to play a part in helping garnish support for Girls Inc.’s mission and sharing the vision at the annual Women of Inspiration luncheon. Together we can all make Peace a Lifestyle.”

The Women of Inspiration luncheon also recognizes three honorees with deep roots in community involvement and service, who have proven to be outstanding role models for young women: Nini Seaman, a parent volunteer, local artist, and dedicated Girls Inc. supporter and former board member; Asa Olsson, a local actress who spent 17 years building a unique drama program and performance center at Girls Inc. of Carpinteria; and Mericos Foundation, a supporter of Girls Inc.’s Eureka Program.

The fundraiser luncheon is co-chaired by Nancy Koppelman and Amanda Kastelic. All proceeds will support Girls Inc. of Carpinteria’s mission to inspire girls to be strong, smart, and bold.

Ford will also lead a free-to-the-community/all-ages yoga session with her Urban Yogis Juquille Johnston and Raheem Lewis on Tuesday, April 4 at 4:15 p.m. at the Santa Barbara Courthouse, Sunken Gardens Lawn, 1100 Anacapa St. It features Robbie Nova and DJ Magneto and is open to all ages.

For more information about Women of Inspiration or Yoga on the Lawn, or to purchase tickets to the luncheon, please call 805/684-6364, email or visit

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on March 30, 2017.