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2023 YWomen Leadership Celebration

YWomen logo

A woman alone has power, women together have impact. That’s what YWomen is all about.

Each year at our YWomen Leadership Celebration, YWCA Evanston/North Shore recognizes and celebrates women leaders in our community for their commitment to women’s advancement and racial justice. The films about their lives lift us up and inspire us to do just a little bit more in our own lives.

Saturday, November 4, 2023 | 6:30 PM

DoubleTree by Hilton Chicago – North Shore
9599 Skokie Blvd, Skokie, IL


2023 YWomen Honorees

Robin Rue Simmons

Founder and Executive Director of FirstRepair, a not-for-profit organization that informs local reparations, nationally 

Robin Rue Simmons is an American former politician and a dedicated national leader for local reparations for African Americans. Born and raised in the predominantly segregated 5th Ward of Evanston, Illinois, she has been unwavering in her commitment to fighting for racial justice. From 2017 to 2021, Rue Simmons served as the alderman of the 5th Ward, during which she achieved a significant milestone by spearheading the passage of the United States’ first government-funded reparations legislation. Read more


Tosha Wilson

Founder of Boosting Black Business, Co-owner of The Laundry Cafe, and Co-Developer of The Aux

Tosha Wilson is a dedicated community member and a shining example of someone who passionately advocates for equity, equality, and investment in her hometown of Evanston, Illinois. As an Evanston police officer and a lifelong resident of the city, she has been at the forefront of driving positive change and creating impactful solutions to address the needs of her community. One of Tosha’s notable initiatives is the Boosting Black Businesses campaign, which she launched in 2020. Read more


YWCA Evanston/North Shore Program Highlight:

YW Tech Lab

YW Tech Lab is our free 4-month online web development program which provides education in digital skills to traditionally underrepresented or vulnerable populations. Through our program, we aim to challenge and transform the narrative surrounding underrepresented individuals in the tech industry. By equipping them with essential digital skills, we are opening doors to new possibilities and enabling them to excel in the rapidly evolving tech landscape. YWCA couples this programming with financial coaching, access to affordable childcare, and job coaching and placement to ensure each participant’s success. YW Tech Lab is part of a national partnership with Google.org, YWCA USA and YWCA Madison. YWCA Evanston/North Shore partners locally with Oakton Community College. Learn more about YW Tech Lab


YWomen proceeds help support YWCA Evanston/North Shore Domestic Violence, Economic Advancement, and Racial Justice programs.

Interested in YWomen sponsorship or silent auction donation opportunities?

Download our 2023 sponsorship kit to learn more about opportunities still available and sponsor benefits. Questions? Contact Jemeela Colston-Pettigrew at jcolston@ywca-ens.org.

2023 YWomen Committee

Lisa Altenbernd  •  Kate Collinson  •  Victoria Dinges  •  Susan Hope Engel  •  Janeen Jackson  •  Denise Martin  •  Nikilyn Moe  •  Suzanne Shumaker  •  Elizabeth Stanton  •  Laura Tucker  •  Blair Wellensiek

Thank to our 2023 YWomen Sponsors!


Presenting Sponsor


Diamond Sponsors

Platinum Sponsors

Gold Sponsors

About YWomen

YWCA premiered its first YWomen Leadership Awards Celebration in 2008. The event was created to recognize, support, and honor women from Evanston and neighboring North Shore communities for their commitment to women’s empowerment, racial justice and social activism.

Over the years, we have celebrated 34 remarkable women and seven powerful organizations for their work in the areas of women’s empowerment, racial justice and social change. And each year, we have been moved by the spirit of activism that is embodied in the women we have honored.

The YWomen Leadership Awards Celebration has grown to be a highly anticipated event, drawing a diverse audience from all parts of the North Shore and Chicagoland area.? Awards are presented each year to women who through research, activism, education or creative expression have improved the lives of women and/or addressed the impact of racial inequities.

Human needs are universal. We all want to be treated fairly, to have opportunities to advance, to feel safe in our home and our communities, to build secure and productive lives for our families. It’s what guides us every day in our work at YWCA.

Past YWomen Leadership Awards Honorees

October 2022

Thank you to everyone who joined us on Saturday, October 15th at Palmhouse Evanston as we honored 18 years of YWCA’s deepened impact under the leadership of CEO Karen Singer, who retired from her role in early 2023 after nearly two decades of steering the mission-driven work of YWCA to eliminate racism and empower women. Together, we celebrated YWCA’s growth and ushered in the future as a stronger, more resilient organization poised to take the next step in driving systemic change. We are extremely grateful to everyone that gave before, during, and after the event to support the work of YWCA E/NS. Our community donated over $140,000, which was generously matched by one of our board members.

Watch the inspiring YWomen film by Susan Hope Engel below, honoring CEO Karen Singer and her legacy of leadership…


Spring 2022 Honorees
Marjorie Craig Benton | Nadine Naber

2019 Honorees
Sekile Nzinga-Johnson | Alpana Singh | Cynthia Hartwig

2018 Honorees
Vicky Dinges | Gloria Bond Clunie | Kelley Cambry

2017 – YWomen 10th Anniversary Celebration
At the tenth anniversary of YWomen in 2017, we premiered a beautiful film by filmmaker Susan Hope Engel to recognize the 70th anniversary of the founding of YWCA Evanston/North Shore. Watch the film below and learn more about our work.

2016 Honorees
Julie Smolyansky | Evonda Thomas-Smith | Amita Lonial

2015 Honorees
Sunny Fischer | Delores Holmes | Blair Brettschneider

2014 Honorees
Gail M. Vierneisel | Mary Morten | Kourtney Cockrell | Organization: Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center

2013 Honorees
Mercedes Fernandez | Alaka Wali | Organization: Delta Sigma Theta Sorority

2012 Honorees
Alice Tregay | Kaethe Morris Hoffer | Elizabeth Stanton | Organization: Links- North Shore Youth Health Service

2011 Honorees
Ahlam Ahmed Mahmoud | Ann Feldman, PhD | Precious Wright | Organization: Project Kesher

2010 Honorees
Bernice Weissbourd | Celeste Watkins, PhD | Courtney Wright | Organization: Evanston Women’s History Project

2009 Honorees
Dorothy Roberts | Pushpika Freitas | Ebony Joy | Organization: Junior League of Evanston-North Shore

2008 Honorees
Fay Clayton | Cheryl-Johnson Odim, Ph.D. | Aracely Canchola | Organization: Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority