Three Broncos honored by YWCA as Young Women of Achievement

Contact: Erin Flynn

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—YWCA Kalamazoo is recognizing the leadership and impact of outstanding female leaders in the community, and three Western Michigan University students are among the exemplars. Morgan Jones, Whitney Lewis and Sierra Ward were all recognized as 2023 Young Women of Achievement.

"Each year we honor young women who demonstrate dedication and commitment to making our community a better and stronger place. This year's Young Women of Achievement are no exception," says Emily Deering-Caruso, interim director of development at the YWCA. "We are grateful, honored and humbled to be in the presence of such outstanding women and their supporters."

The honorees were lauded during the YWCA Women of Achievement Awards Celebration on May 18, which highlighted inspirational women who have devoted themselves to systemic change and acted as positive forces within their communities.

"On an evening filled with incredible women leaders, we're extremely proud of our three Broncos receiving the Young Women of Achievement award," says WMU President Edward Montgomery. "We are all fortunate to have them leading the way for the next generation through advocacy and social justice. It is a pleasure to know that while they are pursuing their purpose on campus, they are also impacting the greater Kalamazoo community."

Morgan Jones

The award is given annually to young women who have shown personal leadership while overcoming obstacles or barriers, made contributions to their school and community, and demonstrated qualities of character and thought consistent with YWCA's mission and vision. Honorees are selected from nominations sent in by Kalamazoo-area high school, college and University employees.


Morgan Jones, a Kalamazoo Promise Scholar, graduated from Western in April with a bachelor's degree in strategic communication. She also holds an associate's degree from Kalamazoo Valley Community College. At Western, Jones was a Gilman Scholar as well as a recipient of the Haenicke Institute for Global Education Study Abroad Office Scholarship. Outside of class, she works in the community as a volunteer at the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission and coaches youth basketball. Her nominator lauded her strengths in empathy and perspective, noting she "works quietly yet diligently and with love." Jones aspires to start or lead a nonprofit focused on helping youth.

Whitney Lewis

Whitney Lewis, an elementary education student at Western, is also a graduate of Kalamazoo Valley. She recently received the College of Education and Human Development's undergraduate Rising Star Award. Lewis is an executive board member of the Future Teachers of Color registered student organization and a member of Aspiring Educators of Michigan. She is active in the community, volunteering as a restorative justice practitioner at Gryphon Place and working as a teacher leader at Woods Lake Elementary for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Her nominator says she "has a hard work ethic and is dedicated to restorative justice in schools while promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in education." Lewis hopes to become a middle school math teacher in Kalamazoo Public Schools and also aspires to pursue a master's degree at Western once she finishes her bachelor's degree.

Sierra Ward

Sierra Ward, a Kalamazoo Promise Scholar, is pursuing a bachelor's degree in sales and business marketing from Western. She is president of You Beautiful Black Woman, a registered student organization she restarted on campus that focuses on building healthy lifestyles and creating educational, mental, physical and social opportunities for women of color. She is a resident assistant on campus and volunteers with Girls on the Run as well as Girl Scouts, where she is a troop leader. Ward was in the inaugural class of the Kalamazoo Promise Leadership Academy and also participated in the Higher Promise Internship Program, spending last summer as a corporate development intern at Stryker. Her nominator says she "has made it her mission to … provide a safe space on campus for Black women to build a sisterhood and establish an empowerment network." After graduation, Ward aspires to start a business centered on uplifting Black women while also participating in mission trips.

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