CHERRY VALLEY — The YWCA Northwestern Illinois on Monday honored seven women for their outstanding leadership and work to exemplify the nonprofit’s mission of eliminating racism and empowering women.
The Women of Achievement awards were bestowed during the annual Leader Luncheon, which was attended by about 500 people at the Tebala Event Center. The event, now in its 43rd year, is a yearly kickoff to Women’s History Month.
“The women nominated today in every category are just incredible, and to be counted among them is truly an honor,” said Courtney Geiger, director of mission services for Goodwill Industries of Northern Illinois, who won an award in the business category.
There were also five scholarships awarded to high school seniors who demonstrate leadership and the potential to affect positive change in their school and community.
Recipients of the Bright Future scholarships were Brooklyn DeWall of Belvidere North High School, Sophia Leese of Belvidere High School and Sonia McClain of Belvidere North High School.
Recipients of the La Voz Latina scholarships are Abigail Martinez of Belvidere North High School and Katia Rodriguez-Torres of Auburn High School.
“The scholarship applications, and what some of these kids go through in their daily lives, and then they still are giving back,” Machajewski said. “They’re still volunteering, they might be working a job or two to help support their family. They’re still playing sports. … Reading their career aspirations, it’s just so inspiring and so hopeful to see these women coming up.”
This was the first time the ceremony was held in person since Elizabeth Smart, a kidnapping survivor and activist, delivered the keynote address just weeks before the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in Winnebago County in 2020.
This year, award-winning journalist Juju Chang, an anchor for ABC’s Nightline, delivered the keynote speech.
The luncheon is YWCA Northwestern Illinois’ largest annual fundraiser. Proceeds enable the YWCA to develop and expand programming and advocate for women and families.
“Hundreds of deserving women have been nominated for Women of Achievement Awards over the years, and it gives us a great sense of pride to know that these women are right here among us, lifting up other women, and working to support and improve our community,” Machajewski said. “The legacy of each award recipient is carried on each year through the tenacity and dedication of the subsequent recipients.”