Young Women’s Initiative Alumnae Spotlight

The Young Women’s Initiative will be underway starting on Tuesday, November 17th with 18 Degrees back at the helm. In anticipation of the new program year, we wanted to give an opportunity for young women to use their voices.

Our Community Investments Manager, Nicole M. Young, connected with a couple of Young Women’s Initiative (YWI) alumnae to share how YWI has impacted their lives and share what they are doing now.

What have you been up to since graduating from the YWI program?

Audrey Straw, YWI ’18

Since graduating from the YWI program, I’ve gone to college!

I am currently attending UMass Boston in my sophomore year and I am an international relations major with a minor in theater and public policy.

Ebony Steed, YWI ’20

Since graduating from the YWI program, I have been mostly working; I am a full-time banker and student as well. In addition to that, I have also applied for enrollment in the National YWAC program as well as exploring other ways to express involvement in my community.

How has YWI influenced and informed your personal growth? What do you think about your leadership capabilities now?

Audrey Straw, YWI ’18

I use what I learned in the YWI program almost every day, and I try to share what I’ve learned with everyone I meet.

I would say I am a stable leader now. I learned how to work with people who were just as qualified as me, and to sit back and listen to their ideas, without being overpowering with my own. YWI is actually part of the reason I chose international relations as a major. I think that programs like this are incredibly important and are necessary across the globe!

Ebony Steed, YWI ’20

YWAC has certainly influenced me in the sense that I am more interested in being involved with my community and community service. In addition to my interest in my YWAC task force’s topic of sexual violence, I’ve also been researching a range of other topics that may relate; such as women’s health.

As far as my leadership capabilities go, I definitely gained more skills and experience with my participation here. While working with a predominantly young group of women, I’ve learned that you can’t expect others to follow your initiative or ideas simply because you’re older than them. It’s only when you reciprocate the respect, show confidence in yourself and them, and show them that you’re there to listen to their opinions and ideas and incorporate them into the overall plan.

How are you involved in your community? How have you become more engaged at school or work since graduating from the program?

Audrey Straw, YWI ’18

I am currently the president of UMass Boston’s Model United Nations team. Along with this, I am a senior intern at Tedra Cobb’s campaign. I also help facilitate workshops on campus.

After YWAC, I looked for more community engagement programs. The year following my graduation, I created a Women’s Empowerment Group in the middle school of the school I attended to try to create an empowered community at my school.

Ebony Steed, YWI ’20

My involvement in my community has been limited due to COVID-19 and all of its effects on the world. As of now, my involvement is based on mostly emails, zoom conferences, listening to other women speak on varying topics, and just making sure that throughout a pandemic the community isn’t neglected.

When involved with YWAC, which task force were you involved with?  Have you done any work related to these issues since finishing the program?

Audrey Straw, YWI ’18

I was in the Women in Leadership task force in the first cohort. I aim to do more work in this respect in the future. I am currently a member of Ignite, which aims to get more women into elected office.

Ebony Steed, YWI ’20

Since finishing YWAC, I’ve continued doing research on sexual violence and other topics as well, by following current events, media portrayal, the changing and passing of new laws and legislations, and even speaking with my peers to discuss the importance of how better to bring awareness to the youth of our communities.

A Special Note from Ebony Steed, YWI ’20

Ebony will be speaking on behalf of YWI’s feminine health task force for the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts’ release of the report, Sexual Violence Against Girls and Young Women in Hampden County, during a webinar tentatively scheduled on Friday, November 13 at noon. The Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts is a grant recipient of the Young Women’s Initiative Class of 2020.

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