Toiya Sosa, Mistress of Ceremonies
Toiya Sosa has over 25 years of experience in media and public affairs. Sosa currently oversees Regional Public Affairs and Community Relations at GEICO, spanning the states of VA, NC, and TN. For the last 13 years, Sosa has been the company’s regional corporate social responsibility professional overseeing the region’s philanthropic and community outreach programs, interfacing with local government officials and the media, and managing the company’s employee volunteer program to engage over 3,000 employees in community service in the region. In addition to previous experience in print and television at The New Journal and Guide and WAVY News 10, Sosa has also produced and hosted her own radio show entitled “Church and State” on WTJZ 104.9. Sosa has been honored by the EnVest Foundation as a national Top 40 Under 40, Marriott International as a Distinguished Young Professional, National Urban League as an Emerging Leader and Eastern Region Volunteer of the Year, and Inside Business Magazine as a Hampton Roads Top 40 Under 40. Sosa serves on the Board of Directors for the Urban League of Hampton Roads, the United Way Women United Membership Council, is Co-Chair for the UNCF Hampton Roads Mayors’ Masked Ball, and also serves on the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia Advocacy Taskforce. Sosa earned a Bachelor’s degree in mass communications and journalism from Norfolk State University, a Master’s in business administration from Strayer University, and a Master’s in Law from Regent University.

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Melinda J. Boone, Ed.D., Superintendent, Norfolk Public Schools Melinda Boone was appointed Norfolk’s first permanent female superintendent, bringing her back to the district where she formerly served as Chief of Academics Officer and Executive Director of Elementary Schools. Prior to this appointment, Dr. Boone was superintendent of Worcester Public Schools in Worcester, MA – the state’s third largest school district, from 2009 –2015. She held the distinction of being the first female superintendent in that district as well. Dr. Boone has served as a speech and language pathologist for Suffolk Public Schools in Suffolk, Virginia; Director of Special Education/Pupil Services for Franklin City Public Schools in Franklin, Virginia; Coordinator of Pupil Personnel and Testing for Suffolk Public Schools; and Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services with the Isle of Wight County Public Schools in Virginia. Dr. Boone holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Disorders with a pre-med emphasis from Hampton Institute (now University), a Master of Arts in Audiology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a Certificate of Advanced Studies from Old Dominion University, and a Doctor of Education from the College of William and Mary. Dr. Boone is a 2004 fellow of The Broad Urban Superintendents Academy. Dr. Boone built upon Worcester’s history of success in a way that was transforming Worcester Public Schools into the preferred educational choice for families. Dr. Boone recognizes that accelerating student achievement and closing the achievement gap for students requires the capacity and commitment of the district, schools, and community. Dr. Boone redesigned the organizational structure of the school district to align district departments and systems with school improvement. Four key divisions supported this work: Finance & Operations; Teaching, Learning & Student Supports; Research and Accountability; & Human Resources. The function of each division provides leadership across the system to generate improved student results. Development of a strong portfolio of school options for parents and to advance student achievement led Dr. Boone to embrace Innovation Schools through the Act Relative to the Achievement Gap. In Massachusetts, Worcester led the Commonwealth with the establishment of six Innovation Schools and two Innovation Academies. Additionally, she restructured a school in danger of becoming chronically underperforming, outside of any State requirement to do so. That school just recently received one of the State’s first Innovation Planning Grants. Under Dr. Boone’s leadership, a strong set of fiscal practices occurred, resulting in the School Committee adopting a “Seven Point Financial Plan for Advancing Student Achievement and Program Sustainability.” The District’s FY14 Budget received the prestigious “Meritorious Budget Award” from the Association of School Business Officials International. Dr. Boone was very active in the Worcester Community. She was a Board Member of United Way of Central Massachusetts, Board Member of the Worcester Public Library Foundation, and a Leadership Team Member of Pioneering Healthier Communities. She was co-chair of the Urban Superintendents’ Network and a former member of the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council. Dr. Boone has just been appointed to the Board of Directors of the United Way of South Hampton Roads, building her community connections here in Norfolk. Dr. Boone has received many awards – a 2012 Erskine Award Recipient sponsored by the YWCA, 2014 Recipient of the Order of Odd Fellows and the Rebekah Assembly of Massachusetts “Community Leadership Award”, and the Greater Worcester Chapter Hadassah “Woman of Distinction” Award. Dr. Boone received the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents (MASS) President’s Award in May 2014 and the Life Leadership Service Award by the Institute for Global Leadership. She is also a life member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Mekbib Gemeda, VP of Diversity and Inclusion at EVMS Mekbib Gemeda serves as the Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion at Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) responsible for leading efforts to build the institutional capacity and human capital to enhance diversity and inclusion in the health workforce, and advance health equity. Mekbib serves on a number of national and regional professional organizations dedicated to advancing inclusive excellence and equity including the Group on Diversity and Inclusion of the Association of American Medical Colleges, the Virginia Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education and the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities. He has written about and given numerous presentations on cultural awareness, diversity and inclusion and implicit bias. Prior to joining EVMS, Mekbib served for eight years as the Assistant Dean for Diversity Affairs and Community Health and founding Director of the Center for the Health of the African Diaspora at New York University School of Medicine. Mekbib Gemeda has over a decade of experience in national and local efforts to reduce health disparities and increase diversity in the biomedical workforce. He was involved in developing a robust NIH supported biomedical research center and a nationally recognized faculty and graduate student recruitment and retention program at Hunter College of the City University of New York. He was also involved in developing the largest national online network of minorities in science, Jerrauld “Jay” Jones, Virginia House of Delegates On January 10, 2018, Jerrauld “Jay” Jones was sworn in to represent the 89 th District in the Virginia House of Delegates. Upon assuming this role, he became the youngest current member of the General Assembly. During the General Assembly session, the Speaker of the House appointed Jay to serve on the General Laws, Transportation, and Finance committees. Jay is also a member of the Commission on Youth, which provides a forum for complex issues related to youth and their families in Virginia. He has significant experience with the Virginia legislature, having served as a page in the Virginia House of Delegates in 2003 and as a legislative intern to former Delegates Paula Miller and Algie Howell. Currently, Jay serves as a member of the board of the Boys and Girls Club of Southeastern Virginia. He is also a board member of Festevents, Ltd., the Elizabeth River Trail Foundation, and the Old Dominion University Athletic Foundation’s Next Generation Board.  Jay is a lifelong member of the Basilica of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception. Jay completed his undergraduate studies at the College of William and Mary, where he was a double major in Government and History, and obtained his law degree from the University of Virginia. Upon graduation from law school, Jay began practicing law in Norfolk, where he is currently a partner with Bischoff Martingayle P.C. Prior to attending law school, Jay was an associate with Goldman Sachs where he focused on risk management and rating advisory. Courtney Doyle Councilwoman, City of Norfolk Ms. Doyle moved to Norfolk, Virginia from Maryland in 1994 and currently serves as the Director of Customer Development and Marketing for Sentara Healthcare where she has worked for over 20years. Ms. Doyle is a dedicated civic volunteer.  She served on the Norfolk School Board from 2013-2018.  She also has served as a Commissioner on the Norfolk Recreation Parks and Open Space Commission (2009-2013); President/Vice President/Past President, West Ghent Civic League (2001-2007); Board Member, American Heart Association (2000-2004); Member, Young Leadership Society, United Way of South Hampton Roads (2003-2005); and a volunteer at the Chrysler Museum of Art (2002-2005) Ms. Doyle received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland in Government and Politics and holds a Master of Business Administration from Old Dominion University. Ms. Doyle lives in West Ghent with her husband, Jack, and their dog, Grady. She is the proud stepmother of Patrick (Anna) and Brendan Doyle who both graduated from Norfolk Public Schools.  She is a member of Sacred Heart Church.  Ms. Doyle loves to run, bike, horseback ride and spend time with friends and family.  She is a proud resident of this great city of Norfolk and thankful for the opportunity to serve the residents and businesses of Ward 2 and all throughout Norfolk. Aaron Rouse, Former NFL Player & Virginia Beach Community Leader Aaron was raised in Friendship Village within the historic Seatack community. He graduated from First Colonial High School and went on to attend Virginia Tech, playing football on a scholarship for the Hokies. After college, Aaron was drafted in the NFL to play for the Green Bay Packers. After a successful career in the NFL, Aaron decided to return home to serve his community. He coached boys football at Virginia Beach Middle School, started a local non-profit to serve young students in need, and today serves as a mentor to many student-athletes.  Aaron’s grandfather served in the Army and taught him the principle of leadership by example – not to talk about change but to be the change. Aaron plans to bring a new generation of leadership to City Council and provide a fresh voice to local government – one that lauds service & leadership and appreciates the full fabric of Virginia Beach. He wants to see his hometown become a model coastal city for all who live here and those that visit. Joe Lindsey, Virginia House of Delegates The Honorable Joseph C. Lindsey has been serving the legal needs of Hampton Roads since 1984. He has extensive litigation experience in the federal and state courts and has served the courts of Norfolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach, Hampton, Newport News, Suffolk, Southampton County, as well as the Eastern Shore for more than 30 years. He’s been a proficient personal injury, family law, criminal defense, and business attorney. Delegate Lindsey was born in Norfolk, Virginia. He attended Booker T. Washington High School in Norfolk and graduated with honors from Hampton Institute obtaining a B.A. degree in Political Science. He earned his law degree from Washington College of Law, American University, in Washington, DC, and has formerly served as prosecutor in the Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, where he was promoted to Chief Deputy of the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney. Delegate Lindsey was elected to serve in the Virginia House of Delegates in August 2014 during a special election to succeed retiring 90th district incumbent Delegate Algie Howel l, and began serving the cities of Norfolk and Virginia Beach on September 6, 2014. He is married to Rhoda Venetia Lindsey and they have two children and 2 grandchildren. Larry D. Boone, Chief of Norfolk Police Chief Larry D. Boone is a native of inner-city New Brunswick, New Jersey born in a non-traditional family including four siblings. Chief Boone lived in a bleak and chaotic environment until his adolescent years where his experiences subsequently lead to unfavorable encounters with law enforcement. As a result of these incidents, a decision was made that Chief Boone would move to Northampton County to live with his grandparents where he began a positive shift toward changing the trajectory of his future. Chief Larry Boone began his successful law enforcement career with the Norfolk Police Department in 1989. He was appointed Chief of Police December 1, 2016. During his career, he has served in the Patrol Division, Metro-Tactical Unit, Canine Unit, the Office of Professional Standards, and the Gang Suppression Unit. After 26 years of service, he was appointed Deputy Chief of Police on September 22, 2015. Throughout his career, Chief Boone committed his efforts to forging relationships with Norfolk’s diverse community members. Prior to the national discourse that unraveled through communities across this country regarding law enforcement, he undertook the significant responsibility of improving the department’s community outreach efforts and building trust between citizens and law enforcement. Under his leadership, the Office of Community Relations was created and enhancements to available programs and local partnerships have seen a direct impact on Norfolk’s community engagements. More than 20 community outreach initiatives and the department’s signature programs (Cops and Curls, Cops and Kids Eating (CAKE), Police Leadership Unveils Success (PLUS), and Clergy Patrol) have been nationally recognized by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, and the Christian Broadcasting Network. Chief Boone holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Georgia Southern University. In addition to his undergraduate studies, he played football for Georgia Southern University (Division I-AA), winning two national titles (1985, 1986). He also earned a Masters of Public Administration from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. Furthermore, he is the recipient of the 2018 NOBLE Attorney General Eric Holder Leadership Award, the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police 2018 President’s Award, a 2018 graduate of the 41st Session of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Executive Institute, a 2010 graduate of the 241st Session of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Academy in Quantico, Virginia, a 2009 graduate of the Professional Executive Leadership School (PELS) – University of Richmond, Virginia, and an active member of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Academy Associates and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE). In addition to his active memberships in prestigious associations, Chief Boone regularly volunteers in the community and participates in mentorship programs for Norfolk’s youth. The citizens of Norfolk refer to Chief Boone as a “Different Kind of Chief”. Unlike his peers, Chief Boone’s inner city youth experiences shaped his mental marathon of endurance to withstand difficult challenges in the pursuit of a better life that served others. Chief Boone strives to improve and build long-lasting relationships with the community through authentic engagement. Chief Boone says, “If you’re not authentic, people know it before you say anything. Crime suppression is necessary but it’s not everything. A genuine interest in the lives you protect is where we begin.” Richard Love, Teaching Artist & Artivist Richard Love’s, the activist known as Testimony, art heals.  This poet, musician ​and teaching artist focuses on creating dynamic, music that exudes love and challenges complacency.  At 12, Richard started writing and performing as a peer leader addressing ​​​social justice issues including HIV/STI, poverty, racism and diversity.  Richard has spent half his life ensuring marginalized people are heard. Now, 25, he is Creative Program Manager of ​ internationally recognized, Teens With a Purpose. Testimony helps young people define and transform their lives and communities.  Richard Love, a 2016 Global Music Award Winner, is a living Testimony! The Work Testimony’s Art Gives Life! He is a poet, song writer, musician, performer and teaching artist. He combines spoken word poetry, vocals and eclectic guitar styles in his original brand of music. Testimony is the Creative Program Manager for TWP (Teens With a Purpose) – The Youth Movement, a non-profit organization that uses Art for Change. Testimony mentors and develops young people into leaders, recruits teens and engages his community by conducting transformative, educational and motivational workshops and community events. Testimony cultivates teen’s passion for life, knowledge and purpose, helping them value the power of giving back as he helps shape young leaders who mentor one another. Testimony formed the Just AART (Artists.Activists.Relying. on Technology) Project at TWP that focuses on the use of music engineering and production, with youth’s life stories are the primary text for the positive messaging, combining spoken word, hip hop and various other musical genres. The Music Testimony is a 25 year old Norfolk Virginia native. Music has always played a role in his life, from being in the youth choir at church to playing percussion in marching band. Testimony started recording in his small home studio at 16. There, he started making his own beats, recording original songs, many of which were used in an AIDS role model story program for teens. He worked with friends, family and Teen with a Purpose members. It was a collective. To this day, Testimony continues to support other artists as a feature on their projects and onstage. Testimony’s goal is to show the world his soul through his undefined brand of art. There are breathtaking moments created when his piercing spoken word lyrics interrupts, illustrates the passion behind each chord and rhythm, teaching listeners to hear with their hearts. His music cannot fit into any box nor does it feed just one crowd. The goal is Universal. Music can be that common ground for the human race to convene and “I want my music to be THAT place, that sound where the human group comes together.” Testimony’s career highlight was opening for Anderson .Paak in 2016, a music inspiration for him. John Pham, Vice President of Geico Mr. John Pham has been Vice President of Regional Operations – Virginia Beach of Government Employees Insurance Company, Inc. since June 2016 and served as its Regional Vice President since April 2012. Mr. Pham joined GEICO in 1990 as a management intern, and advanced through several claims leadership roles. He was later named a sales director, and then took over responsibility for directing GEICO’s motorcycle division. In 2005, he was elected an Assistant Vice President of claims for GEICO’s Fredericksburg, Va., office, and assumed the same role for GEICO’s office on Long Island prior to becoming Regional Vice President of GEICO’s New York operations. Mr. Pham graduated with honors from George Washington University with a degree in international affairs. He also holds the Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU) and GEICO Certified Underwriter designations.