Honoring the achievements of women is critical to the mission of the YWCA, which will host its Women of the Year awards on June 28 to celebrate the brilliant, passionate female citizens of Austin, in particular.
The ceremony goes hand in hand with the YWCA's charge to "eliminate racism, empower women and promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all."
"The YWCA Greater Austin is very proud of our over 100 years of service to the Austin community," says Diana Gorham, executive director. "We are equally proud of the fact that for almost 30 years, the YWCA has paid tribute to the very talented, generous and creative women that inspire the Austin community at our annual Women of the Year Awards Soiree."
This year's honorees include a founding member of the Raza Unida Party, a fearless advocate against domestic violence, an altruistic servant of the community, a Texas State Representative with a bright future, and a courageous and accomplished high school senior.
"What sets us apart from most other awards celebrations in Austin is that we 'reward conspicuous achievement, yes, but also promise, empowerment and justice, as well,' according to the Austin American Statesman’s Michael Barnes," Gorham says. "The distinctiveness of this awards ceremony is the uniqueness of the award categories. Few organizations in the Greater Austin area engage the community in nominating women for [the categories]."
"I'm very excited about this event because we are honoring some amazing women who have truly had an impact on our community," says Terri Givens, YWCA board member and soiree committee chair. "I think the YWCA is a fantastic organization for their commitment to empowering women, not only through their services, but also through advocacy and volunteer work. We want to do more to get the word out about the great work that women are doing, and our honorees really exemplify that."
Givens shares that the honoree story that touched her the most, was that of Kayla Marie Mitchell, winner of the Young Women of Achievement Award.
"I met her at a reception at my home for our award winners, and her story is inspiring but meeting her with her parents gave me a much better sense of how she became such a great leader at such a young age. She has a strong base of support that has allowed her to blossom, but it is her sense of community and determination that has led to her success."
This Awards Soiree is the YWCA's largest fund raising event and all funds raised support the organization's work to provide vital counseling services to Austin women and families in need.
"Honoring the achievements of women is critical to the mission of the YWCA," Gorham says. "With community support, the Women of the Year Awards Soiree will raise much needed funds needed to continue to provide affordable mental health counseling for women and families, and prevention services for at-risk girls and other youth."
This year's Women of the Year honorees are as follows, as outlined on YWCA Greater Austin's website:
Martha Cotera, Racial Justice Award
Cotera is regarded by many in the community as a tireless and fearless mentor to young Latinos & Latinas, working to get them to speak out on issues of racial equality. As an outspoken advocate working to affect change in our community and around the state, Cotera’s life’s work has been one of figuring out how to make our community and state more equitable.
Kathryn Krastin, Woman’s Economic Empowerment Award
Empowering women through economic freedom takes many forms. For some, it involves creating a path for women to feel safe enough to reach economic stability free of violence. One woman who exemplifies this idea is our 2013 Economic Empowerment award winner, Kathryn Krastin. She works exhaustedly to create peer-to-peer support networks for survivors of domestic violence in the Austin area.
Geraldine Tucker, JD, Lifetime Achievement Award
Tucker has spent her lifetime committed to empowering women through her service to the Austin community. Throughout her career she has served on numerous boards, committees, foundations, and most recently serves as President of the Town Lake Chapter of The Links Inc. Additionally, Tucker continues her mission to empower women through supporting and orchestrating a new scholarship program for students at Huston-Tillotson University.
Kayla Marie Mitchell, Young Women of Achievement Award
At 17, going undercover to find retailers’ willing to sell tobacco products to minors is not a common extracurricular. Bringing these establishments to justice is an even rarer accomplishment. As a senior at Manor High School Kayla is in the top 5 percent of her class and initiated a service project to collect coats and school supplies for disadvantaged students in her school district.
State Representative Mary Edna Gonzalez, Leader of Promise Award
Gonzalez’s passion is trying to interpret and challenge oppression for multiple groups including immigrants, Latinos, women and members of the LGBTQ community. At 29, she is the youngest elected official in the State of Texas and first woman to ever represent the 75th district. Representative Gonzalez works to create an awareness of the plights of individuals with underrepresented populations through mentorship.
The 2013 Soiree will feature a reception with one of Austin’s best silent auctions, a plated dinner and the presentation of the 2013 Women of the Year Awards by Dr. Dara Richardson-Heron, new CEO of YWCA USA. The event will be held on Friday, June 28, 2013 from 6:30 - 10 p.m. at the W Hotel Austin. Tickets can be purchased online. For more information about the YWCA Greater Austin, visit their website at www.ywca.org.