The White House Honors Young Women Empowering Their Communities

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The White House Honors Young Women Empowering Their Communities

StaceyMeadowsBy Stacey Meadows

Development Associate, YWCA USA

Last week, the White House Champions of Change – Young Women Empowering Their Communities. The program honored 11 young women who are empowering their communities every day through leadership, advocacy, and just all out #girlpower! It was such an honor to hear the amazing stories of strength and perseverance that these young women have.

The YWCA’s mission of eliminating racism and empowering women seemed to echo throughout the event. Each honoree had passion, a strong voice, and resilience to withstand adversity in order to step forth and be a leader in their community.

Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama, Valerie Jarrett, opened the event with acknowledging each women and her contribution to creating change in her community.

The list of extraordinary honorees included:

Marissa Jennings, CEO of SOCIALgrlz LLC

Asha Abdi, Director of Communications and Partnerships for Agoon Foundation

Yesenia Ayala, Sophmore student at Grinnell College

Diali Avila, Bachelors of Science graduate of Arizona State University

Meredith Boyce, computer science major at Converse College

Rita Herford, fifth generation farmer from Huron County, Michigan

Faatimah Knight, Masters student at Chicago Theological Seminary

Ashley McCray, Ph.D. student at University of Oklahoma

Swetha Prabakaran, high school student and CEO of Everybody Code Now!

Katie Prior, Founder of Youth Trumpet & Taps Corps

Amanda Tachine, leader of Native SOAR (Student Outreach, Access, and Resiliency)


As panel discussions began, the young women spoke about how they used their leadership skills to create a lasting impact through bridging communities. Each woman had varying backgrounds and stories of triumph, but what they all had in common was perseverance that brought people in their communities together to initiate change.

Just in her early twenties, Faatimah Knight united individuals of Muslim and Christian faith to raise $100,000 for churches damaged by arson in southern United States–a great testament to a heartfelt mission and resilient leadership. In order for Asha Abdi to raise funds for natural disaster relief in her home country of Somalia she had to tap into the open hearts of others men and women to rally momentum behind her cause.

Meredith Boyce, a vibrant, witty, and visually impaired computer science major gave her input on what prompted her to advocate for disabled individuals in the field of technology. Her advice:  “Find what makes you angry, and then find a way to make it personable […] and make it funny.”

Fifteen-year-old home-schooled student and business owner, Katie Prior, encouraged all the young women in the room and who watched the event through live stream, to know that they each have the power to lead and bring great change to their community.

These young women are not much different from YWCA champions. Our mission to promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all is no easy task – but we do it! We encourage women to seek their individual voice and use their story to empower others around them. Through the direct services our local associations provide, and the legislative advocacy that our national office manages – the YWCA is constantly developing solutions to improve the lives of women, girls, and people of color in the United States.

There are daily messages to young women to fit society’s ideals, and an event such as this one is a reminder that all women have the power to be impactful in their communities. The YWCA is committed to ensuring that every woman has the opportunity to be a leading change maker in their everyday lives.

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