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​Women Helping Women Lead by Example

Building a Better Community for Women

In recent years, women empowerment has advanced by leaps and bounds. However, the work does not end until women of all colors and backgrounds receive equal opportunities in education and career advancement and get recognized for their efforts as well as their success.

Autumn Rise Foundation works toward this goal. Through our programs and initiatives, we seek to promote education, spread awareness, and change the world that women move in. Browse our site to learn more about who we are, what we do, and how you

can help.

How We Started

Our founder Anqesha Murray grew up in the inner areas of Rochester, New York. Despite being born into poverty, she completed her higher education at the University of Rochester, studied abroad in France, and worked in Canada. Recognizing all that she had accomplished, she felt the responsibility to give back to her community.

Growing up, Anqesha felt that there were very few women in the community who accomplished what she sought to accomplish and could provide guidance for her. The lack of mentors, combined with a financially disadvantaged background, left her struggling to find proper support.

Years later, during her later years as an undergraduate at the University of Rochester, she thought about starting the Autumn Rise Foundation. Through networking events, research, and proper documentation, Anqesha found amazing women from the community who could serve on the board and contribute their knowledge and experience to the foundation.

Thus, the Autumn Rise Foundation was established in May 2018.

Mission Statement

The Autumn Rise Foundation, Inc is a 501(c)(3) women-centered, educational, and charitable non-profit organization created to spread awareness about the daily challenges women face with an emphasis on women from the greater Rochester community. Our purpose is to instill the importance of knowledge and perseverance in women through educational meetings, scholarships, and open discussions on issues that affect women.

We strive to help women RISE above adversity and encourage them to seek opportunities that will improve their socioeconomic status. What does it mean to RISE?

  • R – Recognize and Reward

  • I – Investigate and Inform

  • S – Service and Strengthen

• E – Enlighten and Engage

Our Board Members

Anqesha L. Murray, Founder/Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

Anqesha received her associate’s degree in Liberal Arts and Biology from Monroe Community College in 2014. She then graduated from the University of Rochester with a bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences with a concentration in Microbiology and Immunology and a minor in American Sign Language and Dance. She then attended Brown University as an NIH Post-Baccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) Scholar in the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology.

Anqesha is currently a graduate student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) pursuing her Doctorate of Philosophy in Biology. Her research includes studying Microbiology, Synthetic Biology, and Chemical Engineering. 

Oushawndra Chavers, Chief Operating Officer (COO) 

Oushawndra “Apple” is a full-time student at The University of Phoenix pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial-Organizational Psychology and set to graduate in 2021. She is also a cosmetologist and received her license from the Rochester Educational Opportunity Center in 2009. Oushawndra is also the CEO of The Black PineApple Hair Company, which serves other Licensed Cosmetologist, Barbers, and vocational students with professional quality hair care products. She is also the Program Chair for the Greater Rochester Black Business Alliance (GRBBA). Oushawndra’s soul purpose is to stimulate economic growth within her community all while educating small business owners and entrepreneurs on the psychology of running a business.

Aside from managing her business, she manages group homes and provides educational assistance for individuals with developmental disabilities.

Michelle Koduah, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) 

Michelle holds a Bachelor’s degree in Brain and Cognitive Science with a concentration in Neurobiology and Neuropsychology. She currently works in operations for the Success Academy Charter Schools in New York City. Her professional interests include improving access to higher education and increasing inclusivity in challenging fields of study to boost the success of women of color. 

She volunteers at Fiver Children’s Foundation as well as the Future Professionals Inc. in New York City. Michelle plans to pursue a master’s degree in Higher Education Administration with a focus on Student Affairs.

Alexandrea Gonzalez, Executive Director

Alexandrea Gonzalez was born and raised in Providence, Rhode Island. Learning

through life experience and circumstances; she grew up in a dysfunctional family where she was subjected to drug abuse, mental illness, and homelessness at the ripe age of 12. Since then, she has been able to use her life experiences to persevere and become a catalyst for change in her community. From 2018 to 2020 she worked with the Rhode Island Coalition for the homeless as a leader of their Speakers' Bureau and was also featured on a TV show called Reflections. She participated in community projects with Brown University and the Department of Health.

At this present time, she is the founder and CEO of a non-profit called Gather Together United As 1 (GTUA1). Her organization is geared towards unsheltered and at-risk individuals, and her mission is to decrease human suffering and increase human potential. She also serves on Mayor Elorza of Providence Rhode Island’s African American Ambassadors Committee. She is an avid outreach worker and advocates for her local community and the state of Rhode Island.

Jayla Roulhac, Secretary/Sergeant-at-arms

Jayla is a first-generation college graduate and has a Bachelor’s degree in

Anthropology and Public Health: Epidemiology from the University of Rochester. She currently works to aide students with behavioral disabilities with the Stanley G. Falk School. She also assists with her church’s Youth Choir and is a member of the Youth Leadership Board. 

Jayla recently moved back to the WNY area after spending the last two years as a Teach For America corps member, teaching middle school Special Education in Western Massachusetts. She plans to pursue a Master’s degree in School Counseling with a mission to be the support system that she did not have when she ventured off to college and to ensure that the students she interacts with feel prepared if they choose to pursue higher education.

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