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Women business leaders shoot hoops, inspire the next generation of leaders

Munira Ali never intended to watch some of Minnesota’s most influential women take turns shooting hoops at the Mall of America.


“I came out here to do some shopping, I’m not gonna lie,” said Munira, a 23-year-old nurse who was spending the evening with three younger siblings.  “I heard Michelle’s voice from a distance. I’m like, no, it can’t be.


The Michelle with that recognizable voice? Michelle Young, the Minnesota elementary teacher who was a runner-up on The Bachelor before becoming the star of The Bachelorette and the founder of the Michelle Young Foundation.


Young was taking part in National Girls and Women in Sports Day events at the Mall of America. A former Woodbury High basketball standout, Young won a scholarship to Bradley University, where she played on their Division 1 basketball team.


Young, who led the Sports and Somali Community Athlete Showcase earlier in the day, helped host FLOSS, a basketball competition based on the game HORSE and sponsored by Delta Dental of Minnesota.


“We are about teeth, but your oral health is so important to your overall health, and physical fitness is part of overall health,” explained Tamera Robinson, president of Delta Dental, “So we have been very encouraging in the sports scene.”


The theme of the night’s competition was, “If you can see her, you can be her.” Robinson explained it’s all about helping girls and young women see successful adult female role models. “They will look at this event and say, ‘I could be a doctor, I could be a dentist, I could be an executive.’”


Robinson played on the Blue Team Wednesday night. It was coached by Minnesota Lynx Assistant Coach Rebekkah Brunson. Other players on the Blue team included leaders from Health Partners, Visit St. Paul and Minnesota Sports and Events.


Robinson’s colleague, Kathie Eiland-Madison, Delta Dental’s Chief Engagement and Inclusion Officer, was her competitor, playing for the Red Team. Eiland-Madison played in Minnesota’s first-ever Girls Basketball Tournament back in 1976.


Eiland-Madison remembers the severe shortage of female role models when she was growing up, “There were no women in the boardrooms, there were no women at the executive tables, so we want them (girls) to see that there are women in these spaces, and they can aspire to do that.”


In FLOSS, as in HORSE, players who miss a shot made by their competitors gain a letter. The last team to spell HORSE--or FLOSS--win.


The last team standing in this year’s competition was the Green Team, on which Lisa Lissimore played. “When my friends at Delta Dental called and asked if I’d be a part of this, absolutely, said Lissimore, who worked 34 years for the Minnesota State High School League. She admires Delta’s work aimed at girls and women, “This is our opportunity to share with them that women can lead--and lead in many, many professions.”


In addition to sponsoring FLOSS, Delta Dental also presented $5,000 donations to the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota and Women’s Basketball Enhancement Fund, part of Golden Gopher Women’s Sports.


One of the girls in the crowd was Miski Ali, Munira’s nine-year-old sister. The night’s message wasn’t lost on her. “I was listening to what they were saying,” said Miski, who plans to be a doctor someday. “You can be whatever you want to be.”
















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