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YWI Alumnae Ready to Lead

Our Young Women’s Initiative (YWI) alumnae are taking on new leadership positions or seeking to create positive social change in their lives and their peers’ lives today. Thanks to a grant award from Health New England, the Women’s Fund introduced the two alumnae who joined us for a four-month-long position working at the Fund to hone their leadership, philanthropic, and advocacy skills.

Machaela and Audrey have shared their experience as they depart from the Fund and move on to their next adventures. It is bittersweet to say goodbye, but we feel both gratitude for spending time with us and enriching our work and delighted to share what these young women have in store for their future.

What have you learned while working with the Women’s Fund this year?

Machaela Cruz, YWI ’19

It has been a privilege to work with the Women’s Fund, and not only witness but play an active part in such a tight-knit organization of women, with a mission to change our communities for the better.

I’ve learned so much about the inner workings of a non-profit, the discussions behind the scenes on how to best serve and support, as well as working as a team with individuals just as motivated and thoughtful in making a difference as I aspire to be.

Audrey Straw, YWI ’18

I got a deep understanding of the amount of research that goes into so much of the work that the Women’s Fund does. Before working with the Women’s Fund, I did not understand how much time must be put into researching issues pertaining to the community that a non-profit is serving.

Along with this, I learned a lot about how a 501(c)3 organization can use advocacy to advance the goals and mission set out. I got to gain practical experience developing an advocacy tool kit, thus learning how to use social media to advance the advocacy goals of an organization.

In your role as the programming or advocacy assistant, what did you find the most rewarding? What did you find the most challenging?

Machaela Cruz, YWI ’19

The most rewarding part of working as the programming assistant has been watching projects come together and knowing that the work I’m assisting in matters. I felt I was really helping educate others through completing tasks like putting together a resource list on allyship or creating educational social media posts. And one of the biggest challenges, actually, was moving on to the next project.

As exciting as it was to start something new when dealing with issues like these, there’s always more you can do, more educational resources you can find, more websites and articles you can research, but you have to find a balance of giving these issues the time and effort they deserve without running out of hours in the day.

Audrey Straw, YWI ’18

I feel like in my role as advocacy assistant, I got to learn about so many different organizations within Western Massachusetts that I would have otherwise been unaware of. There are so many amazing resources within this region that many people are not aware of, and I hope I can spread my awareness to my family and peers.

In my role, I had to sift through a lot of information, so understanding what is important information and what is not important information proved to be a challenge during many of my research-heavy projects.

March is Women’s History Month! Are there any women in history or who are making history that inspire you?

Machaela Cruz, YWI ’19

There are many women, both living and throughout history that I find myself admiring, appreciating, and thanking each day, but one woman who truly inspires me is Toni Morrison. She writes about the black female experience in its whole, painful and beautiful, fearful and loving, and altogether extremely human.

Within her literature, she finds no reason to isolate the two experiences, of being a woman and being black, appreciating and highlighting the intersectionality of the two, and what it means to be a black woman.

Audrey Straw, YWI ’18

This list could go on forever and ever, but I will limit it to two! I find Michelle Wu, the new Mayor of Boston really inspirational. Her drive to help improve the lives of each resident of Boston and I admire her willingness to make the hard decisions for the greater good of the city. My more permanent answer is Taylor Swift. I really admire her willingness to stand up for herself in the face of adversity.

Now that you are finished in this role, what is next for you?

Machaela Cruz, YWI ’19

Now that the internship has come to an end, I will be focusing on appreciating the remainder of my high school career whilst preparing for the transition into college, while also working to continue making lasting impacts on my school and communities before I leave.

Audrey Straw, YWI ’18

I have so many exciting things happening right now! I am currently an intern for the Office of Senator Elizabeth Warren. Along with this, I was accepted into the Public Policy and International Affairs Junior Summer Institute’s Princeton Program where I will be learning about how to write public policy!

This fall, I will be entering the senior year of my undergraduate degree, so I am also getting ready to apply to grad school for a degree in Conflict Resolution.