WOMEN OF INFLUENCE
Teams in the Queens of the Court's T-Shirt League are named after women who are doing important work in the City of Indianapolis. These women are affectionately known at The City League as Women of Influence. Here are their stories:
Fall Women '21
Lauren Wilson, NBA Social Content Team (new position)
Lauren Wilson is a product of Indianapolis’ Southside. The 2014 graduate of Beech Grove High School was a middle school student during the era John Hart was doing big things on the basketball court for the Hornets’ varsity basketball team. Lauren played basketball at Beech Grove, but her aptitude wasn’t found in between the lines. She was a creative who enjoyed art – spending significant time as a teacher’s assistant in 3D art at BGHS. Wilson would move on to IUPUI obtaining a degree in 2018 in Marketing and a Minor in advertising. Her first foray into the business of sport was a post grad internship she took with Indianapolis Motor Speedway. She worked in digital marketing for IMS eventually running all the organizations social media.
Around the same time Lauren was also doing social media for the Indiana Pacers. One of her serval jobs during game nights was cutting film from the broadcast. In December 2018, she stumbled upon a unique fan contest during a timeout. The two contestants were playing Tic Tac Toe and obviously didn’t know how to play the game. The uproar in the fieldhouse was felt while both contestants couldn’t end the game. After posting, the video went viral and was featured on Bleacher Report, Deadspin, SportsCenter and more. Lauren was a finalist for a digital marketing position in March of 2020… then COVID shutdown the NBA.
Wilson now works as the Community Engagement Project Coordinator for the 2022 College Football Playoff – Indianapolis Host Committee. She is responsible for digital marketing strategy related to the College Football National Championship that will be played in Indianapolis in January as well as content collection / creation, paid advertising, and promotions. Lauren also manages several committees’ groups, interns, contractors, and groups of college students all in effort to host college football’s biggest game. One of the college groups that she manages sets up an experience with games, gear, and information about the coming National Championship at different evets around the state. They set up at The City League’s 9/11 at Tark Park event back in September. One of the coolest things that Lauren has done was put together a commercial advertising the 2022 College Football Playoff that aired on Monday Night Football back on October 11th.
When asked why she agreed to participate as a Woman of Influence in the T-Shirt League Lauren said that she was drawn to the goal of empowering woman that the Queens of the Court has made part of its purpose. It can be difficult for young women to step into the sports industry so being a part of something that is encouraging women in sport was something Lauren connected with. Getting to know other woman of influence in the city and connecting with a group of females that she wouldn’t otherwise know was attractive to her.
Chef Oya Woodruff, Owner at Chef Oya's The Trap
“Fo Deuce”, one of Indianapolis’ most fiercely rep’d neighborhoods produced one of Indianapolis’ biggest up & coming entrepreneurs - Natoya Woodruff. Natoya, affectionately known as Chef Oya grew up with her parents at 42nd and Post Road before moving to the west side. Woodruff attended Shortridge Middle School then Broad Ripple High School roaming the halls of the now closed institution at the same time as a Milwaukee Bucks guard George Hill. While a Rocket Oya was drawn to theatre and the arts, a foreshadowing of the creativity that would one day serve her well..
After graduating high school in ’02, Woodruff went to Indiana State University where she studied Radio, TV, and Film. She quickly became interested in sports broadcasting and got off to a great start. Her first semester 4.0 GPA quickly dropped as she struggled with mental health issues the second half of her freshman year. Oya came back to Indianapolis where she would begin to find her way..
One day Oya made a pasta dish – including the noodles – from scratch. She took it next door to her godmother who after being impressed told her to go to Ivy Tech’s culinary school where Woodruff graduated in ’06. After working for a time as a lunch lady at a black owned catering business a birthday cake she built, from scratch, for her best friend would lead her into creating a popular home bakery! In the spring of 2016 she partnered with Candace Boyd-Simmons who has her own line of spices to create Seafood Sundays. The demand for Chef Oya’s cooking was beginning to grow. She started a lunch delivery service. She was now cooking full time out of her home kitchen. Eventually Woodruff’s father told her that her enterprise had outgrown her kitchen and that she needed to get her own building. Shortly after this discussion her father passed. She received the keys to her first building at 34th and Keystone (The TRAP) the same week she buried her father. Oya birthed The Trap with $11.42 in her bank account.
The Grand Opening for Chef Oya’s The Trap was February 16th, 2016. As with any business Woodruff aims to generate income to support her family but her business also strives to give access to good food to those in her community who struggle to find healthy options. Located in one of the country’s largest food deserts the “TRAP” stands for Towards Restoring Food Access to The People. The TRAP serves a specific tray available at no cost to anyone in the community who is hungry. Chef Oya's The TRAP is now a destination seafood spot in Indianapolis. Aside from serving food Woodruff also has a popular line of Trap Buttah sauces that are sold through her website and are on the shelves of a handful of local stores around the city. She has also done collaborations with a couple of other local black owned businesses. You can find The Trap Pizza at The Missing Brick, Trap and Cheese Sandwiches at Cleo’s Bodega and new this month Oya has a featured shake at Gordon’s Milkshake Bar on Mass Ave called Lemon Velvet!
Chef Oya Woodruff's quick rise to the top of the Indianapolis food scene has received both local and national attention. In addition to being featured in Indianapolis Monthly, Pattern Magazine, the Indy Star, and on WISH TV Chef Oya has also been featured on Good Morning America and The Food Network show “The Bite Club”.
Oya was excited to be a part of The Queens of the Court because QOC’s mission lined up with her personal values – equity is essential for her and she likes to see women be given the opportunity to enjoy basketball !
Visit her website: https://www.chefoya.com
* Editor's Note: I, Austin Taylor, met Oya who I knew as Toya back in the spring in 2013. I had just moved into the Crosstown Neighborhood at 32nd & Guilford - the same neighborhood that birthed The City League. Crosstown is comprised of more than 100 houses. At the time I moved in I believe there was one other white couple in the neigbhorhood... A day or two after moving in Oya walked down to my house with her daughter to welcome me to the neighborhood. The next day she brought a card to my house with a formal welcome message. Toya moved out of the neighborhood fairly soon after that but I never forgot her reaching out to welcome me to the community..
Ashley Gurvitz, Executive Director at United Northeast CDC
July 13, 2013, George Zimmerman was acquitted of the murder of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. This date also marks a pivotal moment in the life of one of Indianapolis’ brightest young leaders, Ashley Gurvitz. The Trayvon Martin decision lit a fire under Gurvitz propelling her into public service. After the decision she immediately called the office of Andre Carson to ask him what his office was doing to bring justice for Trayvon.
Gurvitz spent much of her formative years in Noblesville, Indiana. As an adopted, bi-racial child in a predominantly white northern suburb of Indianapolis Ashley began developing her now well- known muscle for standing up for the underdog. As a kid she was interested in a little bit of everything, but one of her favorite activities in school was student government.
After being voted “Most Opinionated” as a senior at Noblesville High School in ’05 she would move on to Ball State University. Ashley was at BSU while Arlington graduate, and good friend, Porchia Green was starring for the Lady Cardinals on the basketball court. Gurvitz entered college believing that her desire to serve others would manifest itself in a medical setting. She began her time in Muncie studying nursing but eventually realized it wasn’t for her. Ashley moved back to Noblesville without a degree. She worked a series of jobs in Noblesville and Indianapolis - including a stint as a bar tender – before deciding to continue her education at Ivy Tech then eventually at IUPUI in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs. It was during her time at Ivy Tech that Trayvon Martin’s death led Ashley to communicate with Congressman Carson’s Office. It was also during this season of life that Ashley’s birth mother found her, inspiring her to embrace risk and really live her life! Gurvitz would accept an internship at The State House and would be named 2015 Indiana House Democratic Caucus Intern of the Year. While finishing up her degree in Public Administration at IUPUI she was employed for two years at the State House as the Senior Legislative Assistant and Internship Director.
In 2017, after wrapping up two and a half years at the State House, Gurvitz was involved in starting Eastern Star Church’s Community Development arm, the R.O.C.K Initiative (Renewing Our Community for the Kingdom). It was July of that year she was hired as it’s first Community Development Manager operating in the neighborhood around Eastern Star’s East Side Campus. In it’s first two years the R.O.C.K invested approximately $5 Million into the local community. Her work with the R.O.C.K led to an opportunity for her to work under the leadership of Rodric Reid at United Northeast Community Development Corporation. In June of 2019 Ashley was hired as the Community Partnership Manager for the Non-Profit that serves the community surrounding the Meadows on the East Side. After Mr. Reid left to Pastor a church in Columbus, OH Gurvitz was promoted to CEO of UNEC in January of 2020 – the post that she currently holds. Over the past couple of years Ms. Gurvitz has spent an unusual amount of time in the news as her leadership has born fruit in the form of Cook Medical bringing a manufacturing facility into a neighborhood in UNEC’s service area. The project will employ 100 people paying an average wage of $16/hour. It will also include a new, full service, grocery store, Indy Fresh Market, run by two residents of the community.
When asked why she said yes to participating in The City League Queens of the Court T-Shirt League Gurvitz replied that when she sees people trying to do good she will always do what she can to support!
Favorite Ashley Gurvitz quote: “Progress moves at the speed of trust”.