More than 100 guests attended the Women of Achievement celebration and donor appreciation event at YWCA Central Carolinas Oct. 22.
“It was a meaningful way to bring our supporters together for a fun, friends-and-family evening that also honored three women who exemplified our mission of eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all,” said YWCA CEO Kirsten Sikkelee.
Nominations from donors, volunteers, fitness members and community partners are reviewed by YWCA staff and board members who then select three women as recipients of the pioneer award: a mature woman who has made a lifetime commitment to social justice; community champion, an established female working on the frontier of social change; and an emerging leader, a woman under 35 years old who is becoming well-known for her dedication to service.
It’s important for young women and girls as well as young men and boys to see women held up as role models.
Kirsten Sikkelee, YWCA CEO
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This year’s pioneer recipient, Jane McIntyre, said she has loved helping people since fifth grade.
As the former YWCA CEO and newly retired executive director of United Way of Central Carolinas, McIntyre is known for her ability to create strength and stability from within an organization. McIntyre said she credited her family, faith, values and introspective decisiveness as well as her passion for service and a positive perspective for her success.
After surviving cancer in her 20s, she said having a positive outlook mattered. “That allows for chances every day to show kindness and gratitude to family, friends,” she said. “It costs nothing to be interested in others and to show that interest.”
Renee Jarrett was honored as the community champion for her work within the justice system. Jarrett advocates for social mobility for youth in foster homes and those facing juvenile delinquency. She is an assistant clerk and legal hearing officer for the Mecklenburg County Clerk of Court as well as a part of the leadership team for Race Matters for Juvenile Justice – a judicial advocacy organization that works to reduce legal disparities for people of color.
She is also a board member for Hope Haven, Smile Liberia and Mecklenburg Bar Foundation and is the resource team leader for Juvenile Court Arts and Science Collaborative.
Jarrett said her commitment to equality and compassion for the most vulnerable people in society drives her passion for public service. She has learned to break through barriers by holding on to this motto: “I truly believe that people don’t care what we know until they know we care.”
Nakisha Hall was named the emerging leader because of her grassroots effort to improve economic development for people living in poverty. Her desire to help underserved communities thrive came from her personal experiences as a single parent working in a low-wage job and having a hard time making ends meet.
“For us to live in one of the most wealthy and educated nations in the world, it is a shame for us to have so much poverty in our communities,” she said.
She works in executive and leadership roles with Urban League of the Central Carolinas Young Professionals Auxiliary, The Possibility Project, United Way Community Investment Council and Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont. She teaches and promotes job readiness, life skills and financial literacy.
“Gaining these skills allowed me the opportunity to put my family in a better situation,” said Hall, which is why she wants to give others that same opportunity for growth.
Sikkelee said YWCA Central Carolinas has recognized Women of Achievement since 1999 and she values this recognition as a way to empower women as role models to inspire change in young people.
“Throughout our history, the YWCA has been in the forefront of most major movements in the United States as a pioneer in race relations and the empowerment of women,” she said. “It’s important for young women and girls as well as young men and boys to see women held up as role models, inspiring others with their life-changing work.”
Crystal O’Gorman is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.