Aurora Womens Empowerment Foundation Makes Scholarships Possible

AURORA, IL, USA, August 18, 2023. The Aurora Women’s Empowerment Foundation—an organization which seeks to reimagine female empowerment through funding grants benefitting Aurora women and girls—announced it has awarded seven full scholarships to women in leadership roles at Aurora-area nonprofits. The scholarships are earmarked specifically for the recipients to attend the 2023 Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce’s esteemed Leadership Academy.

“After hearing such positive feedback from the five women we provided Leadership Academy scholarships to last year, it was an easy decision to award seven this year,” said Amy Baudouin, Board Chair, Aurora Women’s Empowerment Foundation (AWEF). “The Leadership Academy is a unique leadership program, specific to Aurora, with impressive content that enriches and elevates students to step into their power as leaders and be the best version of themselves while they serve our wonderful community.”

The seven scholarship recipients are (in alphabetical order):

Erika Castillo, Founder, Executive Director at DVSA Communities

Minerva Calatayud, Director at Women’s Business Development Center

Yoselin Escalona, Bilingual Community Outreach and Education Coordinator at the Farmworker and Landscaper Advocacy Project

Bridget LeMaire, Senior Graduate Admission Counselor at Aurora University-Scott Center for Online & Graduate Studies

Jen Mendoza, Leadership Director at Women Entrepreneurs Secrets of Success

Rosaisela Sida, Director of Early Childhood Initiatives at Fox Valley United Way

Molly Smith, Museum Assistant at Aurora Regional Fire Museum

Since the Pandemic, the Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce's Leadership Academy program has been revised and improved. It still offers the opportunity to learn about major organizations in the Aurora region through a field-trip-based model. “The past two years, more emphasis has been given to leadership philosophy and practices,” said Dr. William “Bill” Marzano, retired higher education administrator and professor with Waubonsee Community College, who facilitates the program. “Participants study the most mature and demanding model of leadership commonly known as ‘Servant Leadership.’"

The structure of the organizations visited by Leadership Academy students share and exemplify the Servant Leadership philosophy and practices in action. Adds Dr. Marzano, “Participants’ personal and professional networks take a gigantic leap forward due to this experience.”

This year's program will focus on the unique strengths of the Aurora community, including the unique positioning and potential of the Aurora region, and will highlight discussions on community and economic development, local government and cultural diversity, as well as civil and social services.

Additionally, Leadership Academy participants are challenged to evaluate and elevate their leadership as they learn about servant leadership from top leaders and officials in the region. One of those leaders is Linda Pilmer, Managing Broker and Owner of Pilmer Real Estate, Inc., who for many years has been sharing her deep knowledge of Aurora’s history with Leadership Academy students. Linda has over 38 years’ experience in real estate sales and management. She also serves as Board Secretary for the Aurora Women’s Empowerment Foundation.

The Aurora Chamber's Leadership Academy has a rich history of providing confidence, knowledge, professionalism, and strong leadership skills that not only benefit the attendee, but also their employers. Many have gone on to lead local businesses and organizations. Some have gone on to public office. All have left their mark on the community.

Linda Pilmer

To learn more about the Leadership Academy and other Aurora Chamber programs contact (630) 256-3180 or visit the company website at


The Aurora Women’s Empowerment Foundation mission is to elevate and empower Aurora-area women and future women by making grants to tax-exempt nonprofits engaged in meaningful, measurable work that helps women over the hurdles of inequity and exclusion, propelling them forward with life-changing programs and services.  For more information about grants made by AWEF, including our grant guidelines and online application, visit

The Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce is the voice of and the catalyst for business success. We unite businesses with the community to create economic prosperity while facilitating connections with community leaders. For more than 100 years, we have served the greater Aurora region across four counties (DuPage, Kane, Kendall and Will), and currently represent nearly 600 businesses. We have earned the 5-star accreditation from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, an honor bestowed on only 1% of Chambers nationwide. Learn more at