Bold Mission, Bright Future: Reflecting on the 2017 YWCA USA National Conference

YWCA USA’s recent 2017 National Conference was a busy, inspiring few days filled with advocacy, discussion, and inspiration. From pre-conference sessions and deep-dive workshops, to Capitol Hill Day and the Women of Distinction gala, this year’s conference was a way for YWCA leaders across the country to gather, inspire each other, learn and strategize, and nurture the “Bold Mission, Bright Future” of the YWCA movement. During the conference, we were excited to utilize the fantastic skills of two social media ambassadors, Molly Toth from YWCA Warren and Lauren Weldishofer from YWCA of Asheville. Their work was invaluable to YWCA USA’s social media presence during the conference, and to engaging our audience with interesting quotes, valuable insight, and more! Here, Molly and Lauren share some thoughts about their experience at this year’s conference:

Molly Toth, YWCA Warren

The last several months have been a slog. News moves too fast for us to keep pace with it, and it seems like it’s mostly bad. But after our conference, I am more confident than ever of two facts: women—women of color in particular—are going to change the world, and YWCA has the right approach to creating real change.

Real change looks like over 250 people in persimmon holding more than 200 legislative meetings to advocate for federal funding for the programs that help us do amazing work in our communities, and to protect health care programs that those we serve rely on. Real change looks like our keynote speaker, Symone Sanders, the national press secretary for the Bernie Sanders campaign, starting off her address by telling us, “It might get uncomfortable in here, but that’s good. It means we’re growing.” Real change looks like an award honoree—Black Youth Project 100’s Charlene Carruthers—calling on our movement to be explicitly anti-racist, anti-heternormative, abolitionist, trans-inclusive, and bold.

The challenges of the day are much different than they were at our last national conference in 2015, but I am convinced that the folks who make up our movement are more than capable to meet them head-on. As our own Donte Hilliard noted, “We’ve been here. Our first advocacy platform was in 1911. We’re not trying to be sexy. It’s who we are.” We have the institutional know-how, the connections, and most importantly the people power to be the change.

What I saw at our national conference was an organization putting the world on notice: we’re going places. We’re going together. And women of color are leading way. You can get on board—we’d love to have you—but we’re going, regardless.

Lauren Weldishofer, YWCA of Asheville

As I reflect on my experience during the YWCA National Conference I am filled with pride and a reignited sense of purpose around our mission. It was empowering to be part of our Capitol Hill Day crusade by participating in direct and intentional advocacy meetings with our elected officials in Washington. Networking with many YWCA staff members, executive leaders and board members reaffirmed my admiration for the work we all do in pursuit of eliminating racism and empowering women.

Serving as a social media ambassador was such a fun way to engage with those present at the conference and those holding down the fort at associations across the country. I was inspired over and over again by great quotes from presenters, speakers, and YWCA USA staff. It was an honor to share these sound bites with our network, along with the dynamic topics and themes that resonated throughout the conference.

Time and again throughout workshops, plenaries, and keynote speeches, the YWCA held up the significance of embracing the intersectionality of our work throughout social justice movements and the imperative to uplift the leadership of our diverse young women. We indeed have a bold mission. And, after gathering alongside those who are so dedicated to furthering the work we do, I feel that the YWCA absolutely has a bright future.