YWCA honors Ambassadors of Change at annual race

Anika Martin, left, and Yolanda Grandberry Pugh, accept their Ambassadors of Change awards during the YWCA’s Race Against Racism on Saturday, Oct. 21, in Davenport. The other winners were not present. CREDIT YWCA OF THE QUAD CITIES

The YWCA of the Quad Cities honored five individuals as Ambassadors of Change at its annual Race Against Racism last weekend. 

The event was held Saturday, Oct. 21, at the Lindsay Park Yacht Club, Davenport, before the kickoff to the Race Against Racism 5K. The race, presented by IHMVCU, included a 5K run/walk and a 1-Mile Fun Run.

The 2023 YWCA Ambassador of Change honorees are: 

  • Paul Forbes, bias awareness and equity consultant, Leading with Hearts and Minds, New York. Mr. Forbes is the founder of Leading with Hearts and Minds and serves as the chief of the Defining US Network, which recently released the documentary, “Defining Us: Children at the Crossroads of Change.”

    Mr. Forbes, who is from Brooklyn, has dedicated his professional life to working with students and families from historically underrepresented neighborhoods and communities. In the Quad Cities, he has helped develop a strategic vision to guide the implementation of professional development to the Rock Island – Milan School District on equity topics including implicit bias, culturally responsive education, and discussions around systemic and structural racism.

    He believes we need to examine and address the implicit biases that we bring to the table every day. This is what he calls “the work behind the work.”
  • Yolanda Grandberry Pugh, Rock Island High School teacher. An educator with 21 years of experience, her doctoral dissertation focused on: “Out of School Factors that Impact the Academic Performance of African American Students.”

    In 2022, Ms. Grandberry-Pugh was awarded the Excellence in Education Award, Rock Island County Regional Office of Education and Educator of the Year, Rock Island School District No. 41. She serves on the United Way African American Leadership Society whose focus is to close the expanding racial opportunity gap.

    As AALS’ second vice president and community coordination committee chair, she has been working to organize community organizations and churches to discuss ways to help disadvantaged young people thrive in school and life.
  • Marcus Herbert, Rock Island County deputy sheriff. Mr. Herbert, who had an unsuccessful bid for sheriff in 2022, was the only candidate who spoke out about reducing recidivism and ending racism, the YWCA said in its release.

    His platform and plan to reduce recidivism involved re-establishing the GED program and offering job assistance to those who were incarcerated. Mr. Herbert continually advocates for investment in neighborhood communities that are often systematically marginalized.  
  • Corynn Holmes, 2023 Moline High School graduate and college student. She served as president of the minority club at Moline High School where she was an advocate for creating a safe space for black and brown students to express themselves, to share their struggles and to support one another as students work through dealing with the undertones of racism in the school setting.

    In addition, Ms. Holmes was the liaison between students, staff and administration on race and racism issues. She also served as the student school board member, was an honor student, and competed in basketball and track. She still found time to volunteer in many different capacities. 
  • Anika Martin, community relations director, Two Rivers YMCA. A lifelong volunteer, she has given back to her community beginning at a young age, volunteering at the John Deere Classic. As vice president of Lead(h)er, a local nonprofit that provides women’s mentorship programs, she used her skills to bolster connections to donors, overseeing all of our processes and procedures.

    Her impact has allowed the organization to make more intentional choices in service delivery, ensuring all women’s experiences are inclusive. In her professional role at Two Rivers YMCA, Ms. Martin helped raise several million dollars for the Rock Island YMCA/Watts-Midtown Rock Island Library capital campaign. 

Event organizers said this marked the fifth year of Race Against Racism, which was rescheduled to October due to the Mississippi River flooding in May. The new race date also coincided with the national YWCA’s Week Without Violence, held each year during the third week of October. 

“Our staff at the YWCA QC work every day to curb the effects of violence at our Empowerment Center with support services, at our Child Care to support families, at ThePlace2B to work with youth,” Deanna Woodall, the YWCA’s vice president of development, growth and empowerment services, said in the release. 

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