Thursday, June 27, 2013

Bridging Generations

By Emily Ostrowski

 YWCA’s annual Community Celebration was held on June, 18th – a celebration of diversity, racial justice, and social change; three ideals at the core of YWCA’s values and mission. This year’s theme was “Bridging Generations.” City of Vancouver Councilman Jack Burkman lead off with the opening remarks including, “Social change is simply about creating a better place for all of us to live. Our YWCA has been a leader in this work for decades and I was honored to help celebrate and acknowledge some of our powerful young leaders.”

 One highlight of the evening was the presentation of the Val Joshua Awards, which are presented to those who demonstrate leadership in eliminating racism and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all people. Val Joshua was a tireless advocate for education, racial justice, and equality, and her spirit and activism left an indelible mark on YWCA Clark County and our community. 
Amanda and Michelle celebrating.

Amanda Marchak is the recipient of the Val Joshua Racial Justice Award. Amanda is the Associated Student Body (ASB) Vice President at Columbia River High School. She planned “Love Month” at her school, an event that encourages students to treat each other with respect, compassion, and kindness. The event was capped off with an anti-bullying rally. Bullying is an incredibly important cause to Amanda, who attended a cyber bullying conference earlier in the year. She also led another school campaign called “Spread the Word to End the Word” which fought against use of the word “retarded.” Amanda participated in Mr. and Miss Columbia River, an event that raised $105,000 for Dorenbecher Children’s Hospital. Amanda’s commitment to giving back is not limited to large scale events, as she makes a point to contribute to her community in smaller ways as well. She volunteers regularly at a food bank and homeless shelter, and every day makes sure to greet all the students she can at the entrance of the school.

Estefania with her award.

Estefania Medina recieved the Val Joshua Youth Social Justice Award. Estefania is heading into her last year at Mountain View High School, and her accomplishments thus far are nothing short of outstanding. Estefania founded and served as the president of the Latino Club at her school. She organized a fundraiser to send 15 students to the Caesar Chavez Leadership Conference. She also created and taught an English class for Spanish speaking adults. Estefania is incredibly passionate about social issues that affect the Latino community, and speaks about them frequently. She held a meeting with legal experts to discuss the implications of Deferred Action, which calls for prosecutorial discretion when dealing with people who were brought to the United States undocumented as children, and talked with other students about how it impacted them.

 Michelle Hurdle-Bradford, Social Change Program Manager, believes the celebration is an inspiration for all. “Every year I am amazed by the attendees and their willingness to meet new people, learn about a new culture and recognize our recipients. I love helping people to relax, laugh and enjoy themselves. This makes a stronger community.”

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