Our team members are trainers and coaches who love empowering women to succeed. Each of these extraordinary women has a wealth of experience from diverse backgrounds and industries, and bring their skills and passion to bring out the best in the women we serve.

Dana Bristol-Smith, Executive Director

In January 2008 Dana started the Leap to Success’ Women’s Leadership program as a volunteer project to test an innovative professional development program she designed with domestic violence survivors. Because of the success of the program and the thrill of seeing women transform themselves and their lives, Dana has made it her mission to be able to expand Leap to Success to provide transformational programs to women who have overcome adversity across the country.

Dana is the recipient of the Woman of Dedication award from the Soroptimist International Oceanside Carlsbad Club, Women in Leadership Award from the East County Chamber of Commerce and the 1st prize $25,000 winner of the Advance San Diego Quick Pitch Competition out of 85 non-profit organizations. She hasn’t yet met Oprah, however, her 15 minutes of fame came when she was interviewed and quoted in O the Oprah Magazine.

Dana founded Speak for Success in 2001 and has worked with some of Southern California’s top companies. It was from her work with women executives that she saw how important public speaking skills were to women who had risen to leadership positions. Her clients included Allianz Global Investors, County of San Diego, Gen-Probe, Mission Federal Credit Union and Qualcomm.

Dana is the author of Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking, a powerful guide to successfully speaking to groups. She got her public speaking start in 1992 and has delivered presentations and training to more than 100,000 people. She has been on the faculties of UCSD Extension, Cal State San Marcos, and San Diego State University. She is a former board member of the American Society for Training and Development.

Michele Cooney, Program Director

Michelle CooneyMichele Cooney oversees programs and also teaches in our classrooms. She brings a wealth of experience and formerly was the Executive Director of the San Diego Regional Training Center, a local government agency that provides training to Federal, State, and local government employees. In that role, she has overseen development and presentation of domestic violence courses for law enforcement officers throughout California. Through her work on these courses, she has developed a passion for helping victims of domestic violence move beyond their experiences to create new lives.

Over the past 30 years, Michele has held management and training positions in local and Federal Government, and in the private sector. Michele specializes in developing and delivering training sessions in communication skills, instructor training, leadership, and time management. She believes training should be fun as well as relevant to the real-world experiences people have each day. Michele is proud to be on the Leap to Success faculty and advisory council. She knows that these programs impact women’s lives and she is excited to be part of a team that is helping women reach their potential.

Kelley Grimes, M.S.W., Outreach Coordinator

Picture of Kelley GrimesKelley Grimes M.S.W. helps build relationships with community partner agencies, teaches and coaches in our programs, and is the Field Instructor for our M.S.W. interns. Kelley  received her Masters degree in Social Work from the University of Denver in 1995 and has worked as a counselor in the domestic violence, substance abuse, and mental health fields, as well as with families impacted by chronic health challenges.

Kelley is a counselor, artist and self-nurturing expert, founder of In Truth & Beauty – Art and Tools for Self-Nurturing and creator of the Self-Nurturing Practice System™ a proven step-by-step process that guides you through exactly how to cultivate a self-nurturing practice in order to achieve a more joyful, energized and authentic life filled with truth and beauty!

Helice “Sparky” Bridges, Faculty

Helice Bridges is the creator of the world famous Who I Am Makes A Difference® Blue Ribbon Acknowledgement System. She is the founder and CEO of Difference Makers International, a nonprofit educational organization impacting the lives of over 30 million people worldwide. Helice is also the president of Helice Bridges Communications, Inc., helping leaders of leaders in their personal, professional, and spiritual lives.

Her work has been featured in Women’s World Magazine, ABC’s 20/20, The Los Angeles Times and has been heard on 1100 radio stations. Her Who I Am Makes A Difference® signature story was made into a television movie that aired nation-wide on PAX TV. In 2007, her Standing Strong Together leadership training program was approved by the Secretary of Education for Mexico and is slated to impact children and educators throughout the country.

Helice is the winner of the 2005 Gandhi Non Violence Award and the 2009 Speak for Success Women Changing the World Award. She is a globally recognized author, trainer, consultant and dynamic keynote speaker. Helice has been recognized along with First Lady Barbara Bush, Kareem Abdul Jabaar and the late Norman Cousins for her work in raising the self-esteem of children of all ages. She has spoken along with Vice President Al Gore, the Dalai Lama and other global leaders. Her stories appear in Chicken Soup for the Soul, Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work, Heart at Work and The Aladdin Factor.

Edie E. Willey, M.S., Faculty

Edie WilleyEdie has extensive experience in organizational development, leadership development and talent management which has enabled her to wear multiple hats as a coach and consultant in many fields. She currently works at Qualcomm in their Learning Center.

Edie holds masters in Spiritual Psychology from the University of Santa Monica; Consulting Psychology and Organizational Development & Behavior from the California School of Professional Psychology; she is all but dissertation with a Ph.D. in Consulting Psychology from the Alliant International University and a B.A. in Psychology, from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Edie teaches and coaches in our Transformation Leadership program and helped develop Leap to Confidence. She is on the design and implementation team for a community initiative to bring leaders from non-profit, for-profit, and philanthropic groups together to innovatively work on local community issues. She frequently works with women who are incarcerated through a non-profit that desires to bring peace. She hosts development and self-esteem workshops for women; facilitates bi-monthly A Course in Miracles discussion groups and is working on becoming a Science of Mind Practitioner.

topBeth Thorp, Faculty

beth thorpe pictureBeth Thorp is a certified Image Consultant, sought-after speaker, and trainer who has worked with thousands of men, women, and teens through her Powerful Impression seminars and private coaching sessions. She helps people achieve their fullest potential and personal style.

Beth has been recognized for her outstanding work and achievements through the Association of Image Consultants International and is currently their Western Regional Advisor. Beth is an active member of American Society for Training and Development and FGI Fashion Group International.

Beth’s work has been featured on The Learning Channel, Oxygen TV, KUSI Channel 9 San Diego, KDCI Headline News, The San Diego Union Tribune, The San Diego Business Journal, National Magazine for Parents, on No Bodies Perfect, FM 90.9 talk radio on The Power of Color and the North County Times for her self development and etiquette program for corporations and young children.

Newest Instructors – Program Graduates

We are thrilled to welcome these incredible women as instructors for our Leap to Confidence program.

Mariel Cota, 2013
LaKesha Sexton, 2008
Ruth Batton-Ransom, 2009

Mariel Cota


Ruth Batton-Ransom & LaKesha Sexton with Dana