IHADLA Junior Board Hosts Diversity in the Workplace Event for College Dreamer Scholars 


The “I Have a Dream” Foundation—Los Angeles (IHADLA), in partnership with our Junior Board, recently hosted a Diversity in the Workplace event for our College level Dreamer Scholars. This was an hour-long virtual event that featured a panel of five professionals in a variety of industries who participated in an open discussion about how being a person of color impacted their education, personal, and professional experiences in life. “Our organization serves students of color and understands how vital mentorship and critical conversations around life trajectory and workplace diversity are for people of color,” said Janell Lewis, IHADLA’s Senior Director of Programming who co-organized the event with our Junior Board. Our panelists included:

  • Joanne HansonBonney, Principal, Accounting and Operations Department, Ares Management
  • Kobby Adu-Diawumo, Associate, Private Equity Group, Ares Management
  • Kenny Gardner, Chief People Officer (CPO), DaVita
  • Freya Zhou, Marketing professional in the food industry, MBA student
  • Carla Sparks, retired sales and marketing professional at companies such as ABC Disney and Nordstrom, IHADLA Mentor



Our College Dreamer Scholars along with our program team submitted questions to the panelists in advance, including questions about the meaning of diversity and inclusion, and discrimination and microaggression in the workplace and in college. Panelists openly shared their experience with our Dreamer Scholars, and some of their comments that stood out are as follows:

“I’ve had a decade’s worth of experience of being one of, if not the only one (black man), in the room. In my younger years, I felt the need to be apologetic for and assimilate. I’ve learned to appreciate that if that’s the case… I have ideas and just because I don’t look like everyone in the room, it doesn’t mean they are any less valuable.” 

“In my upbringing, my parents told me to expect that I may be seen lesser or challenged because of my Blackness. My family prepared me to be excellent. Excellent cannot be disputed.” 

“Diversity and inclusion to me is a place where everyone is afforded the opportunity to move up and everyone can be themselves. A diverse place truly understands all the people who work there and actually make an effort to bring in people who are different AND retain people who are different.” 

“My definition of diversity and inclusion is that no matter your age, race, gender… there has to be a combination. The best decisions are made when everybody with different opinions contributes thoughtful responses. It has been proven scientifically that is how we make the best decisions.” 

There were approximately twenty college-level Dreamer Scholars who attended the event and absorbed the words being shared so candidly by our panelists. Many expressed great interest in more similar future events. Some of the comments from our Dreamer Scholars after the event included:

“It was refreshing to see people of color in the higher positions talk about navigating the workplace.”   

“The conversation was very informative. Being African American and never being in a workplace, I got to experience first-hand what it can be like, and I am hopeful. ”  

“The conversation reminded me to be myself no matter what setting I’m in.” 

We are extremely grateful to our panelists who were so open and vulnerable in sharing their experiences with our Dreamer Scholars, and with IHADLA’s Junior Board members for organizing this event.