Nominations open for YWCA Women of Achievement Award


Photo: Kelby Wingert/Iowa State Daily

A table displays those recognized at 2013 YWCA Ames-ISU Women of Achievement at the Octagon Center for the Arts on March 28, 2013.

Nominations for the YWCA of Ames’ annual Women of Achievement Awards are open and due November 30.

The award is given to women across Story County and Iowa State University who live out the organization’s values, which are eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all, according to their website.

Angela Merrick, the executive director of the YWCA of Ames, said the award was revamped a couple of years ago; instead of being awarded to three women, 10-12 women can now be nominated across a range of categories, ranging from entrepreneurship, education, community activism and more (the full list can be found on their website).

Merrick said past recipients have ranged anywhere from high school girls to women in their 70s, with there being a separate nomination for women in high school and Iowa State students. The program also offers a scholarship to an Iowa State woman.

Stephanie Shares, a teacher at Ames Middle School who received the award in 2020 for education, said she encourages everyone to go to the event and listen to the women’s stories.

“When I got it…the speakers were amazing, and all their speeches were personal and empowering,” Shares said.

Shares said she was amazed by the diversity of women and their wealth of experiences, as well as how they were working to fight racism and sexism. She said if other people heard what they were involved in, they might want to get involved with those organizations too.

“A lot of people might find something they want to contribute to locally,” Shares said.

As far as Shares’ work, she has sponsored numerous clubs at her school that works with social justice issues. She supports National History Day through her teaching and is part of the Ames Youth and Schools Action Team, which helps improve educational outcomes for students of color in the Ames school district.

Receiving the award was validating for Shares, she said.

“Sometimes the work is really hard, and you don’t feel like you’re being seen,” Shares said.

Alissa Stoehr, an associate teaching professor of women’s and gender studies at Iowa State, was also a recipient of the award for education in 2019.

“I’m very humbled and honored to have received this award,” Stoehr said.

Stoehr said her mother and two other friends were able to come to the ceremony with her and that it was great being in a space full of other people who are trying to make the world a better place.

However, Stoehr said awardees can’t compare themselves to other awardees because people are at different levels. Instead, she tries to do the best she can in her space.

Through her position at Iowa State, Stoehr has done work on human trafficking by teaching an honor’s seminar and developing her own upper-level course on the topic. Stoehr said she engages in public speaking events on campus, throughout the community and sometimes even at the national level. She also said she makes a point to talk to students about issues pertaining to race, gender and social justice.

Stoehr said the award recognizes women in the trenches of society.

“[The award is] giving recognition to people who aren’t seeking it out, [to] women who are doing the right thing because it’s the right thing,” Stoehr said.

All the award details, including a list of past recipients and links to nominate a woman in the Story County or Iowa State community, can be found at the YWCA of Ames Women of Achievement website.