The YWCA of the Quad Cities honored five people as Ambassadors of Change at the annual YWCA Race Against Racism on Saturday, Oct. 21.

The event was held at the Lindsay Park Yacht Club in Davenport before the kickoff to the Race Against Racism 5K. The race, presented by IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union, included a 5K run/walk and a 1 Mile Fun Run. 

This is the 5th year for the event, which was rescheduled to October due to the flood last May, according to a YWCA release Tuesday. The event was also the highlight of 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,” said Deanna Woodall, Vice President of Development, Growth and Empowerment Services. 

Anika Martin, left, and Yolanda Grandberry-Pugh are two of this year’s Ambassadors of Change winners.

The 2023 YWCA Ambassador of Change honorees (just two were able to make the event in person) are:

  • Paul Forbes, Bias Awareness & Equity Consultant, Leading with Hearts & Minds, New York 

Forbes is an anti-bias and educational equity consultant. He is the founder of Leading with Hearts and Minds and serves as the chief of the Defining US Network, which recently released the documentary film “Defining Us: Children at the Crossroads of Change.”

He has dedicated his professional life to working with students and families from historically underrepresented neighborhoods and communities and hails from Brooklyn. Locally in the QC, Forbes helped develop a strategic vision to guide the implementation of professional development to the Rock Island-Milan School District on equity topics that include implicit bias, culturally responsive education, and discussions around systemic and structural racism.

He believes that in order to embark on an equity journey, it’s critical that we do reflective and introspective work. He believes we need to examine and address the implicit biases that we bring to the table every single day.

  • Dr. Yolanda Grandberry Pugh, Teacher, Rock Island High School

Dr. Grandberry-Pugh is 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, 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 #41.

She also serves on the United Way African American Leadership Society (AALS),  whose focus is to close the expanding racial opportunity gap. As the 2nd Vice President & Community Coordination Committee Chair, Yolanda has been diligently working to organize community organizations and churches to discuss ways to help disadvantaged young people thrive in school and life.

Grandberry-Pugh is committed to using her voice and actions to make a significant impact against racial barriers.

  • Marcus Herbert, Deputy Sheriff, Rock Island County

Herbert ran for Sheriff in Rock Island County in 2022 and was the only candidate who spoke out about reducing recidivism and ending racism. His platform and plan to reduce recidivism involved re-establishing the GED program and offering job assistance to those who were incarcerated.

Deputy Herbert continually advocates for investment in neighborhood communities that are often systematically marginalized.

“We have a County Jail full of people who just want a second chance with a good paying job and a place to call their own,” Herbert said.

  • Corynn Holmes, 2023 Moline High School graduate and college student

Holmes, a 2023 Moline High School graduate, served as the 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 that students of color experience in the school setting.

In addition, Corynn was the liaison between students, staff, and the administration at Moline High for race and racism issues. She also served as a student school board member, an honor student and played on the basketball team and ran track.

In addition, she still found time to volunteer in many different capacities. “Corynn has a genuine desire to make the world a better place, especially for those that are historically underrepresented,” the YWCA release said.

The new $19-million, 48,900-square-foot YWCA is under construction at 17th Street and 5th Avenue, Rock Island.
  • Anika Martin, Community Relations Director, Two Rivers YMCA

Martin is a lifelong volunteer who has given back to her community for her entire life, starting at a young age volunteering at the John Deere Classic. As Vice President of Lead(h)er, a local nonprofit that provides mentorship programs, she used her leadership skills to bolster connections to donors, overseeing all processes and procedures.

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

Her dedication and work ethic were invaluable to the campaign and the overall success of the project, the YWCA said. For more about YWCA services, click HERE.