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YWCA Addresses Target Audience With New Generation Y Director

Just as the YMCA pop culture song provides instant name recognition for this community icon, YWCA officials hope a new campaign will sing out their goals. That's why the community institution recently launched Own It, a national, grassroots campaign designed to activate women ages 18 to 30, also known as Generation Y.

The Kansas City Kansas YWCA is joining the effort by adopting the campaign. Officials therecombined the kickoff September 10 with the introduction of their new executive director, Lisa Rockley, who, appropriately, is a member of Generation Y.

Rockley has experience in economic development, non-profit management and leadership. Her latest position was as executive director of the Historic Kansas City Foundation and she also has served as executive director for Downtown Manhattan (KS), Inc. She received the 2006 Executive Director of the Year Kansas Main Street Governor's Award. Officials said Rockley's new position as director of the YWCA coincides with the organization's recent growth, which includes the recent construction of a new facility in downtown Kansas City, Kansas.

The campaign began with a national survey last year questioning the needs and wants of young women throughout their communities. The survey uncovered a push among young women to be more demanding of the new Obama administration, especially when it concerns key domestic issues. The survey identified issues ranging from racism to HIV/AIDS and the importance of education to the economy. "What Women Want: A National Survey of Priorities and Concerns" revealed that, for the next ten years, women anticipate the greatest barriers to success as economic.

The local organization will create more opportunities for women, especially in economic growth, by joining with The Women's Bureau of U.S. Department of Labor and SkillBuilders Fund. The fund is aimed at helping women become more economically empowered. The plan calls for reaching women on college campuses, trade schools, faith communities and employers' offices to put them in touch with volunteer opportunities. The program also looks to expand student mentoring programs and services that boost youth self-esteem. More information can be obtained at www.ywca.org/kansas city.

At the kick-off celebration and welcome ceremony, Rockley identified herself as a member of the very group being targeted. "I fit right into this model," the 29-year-old told about 20 people, mostly young women, who had gathered at the YWCA's facility. "I am a Gen Yer."

Rockley explained that Michelle Obama is joining in the effort to get younger women involved in community efforts. She also explained that the national campaign coincides with the Y's 150th year of service.

"I think everyone here knows the great work we do here at the Y," she told the audience. "Now we're asking for some help."

KomalHatti, a Kansas City area architect who lives in Shawnee, said her native country of India is a good example of a country in which women lack opportunities. That's why she sought a fresh start in the United States, where opportunities for women are more abundant.

Mary Heinrich, of Kansas City, Kansas, a YWCA board of directors member, said this program might be the key to involving younger women throughout the community.

"We have a gap of that younger generation--to be fully engaged and spreading the message to their peers."

Heinrich said much of the focus the last three years had been on building and establishing the facility as a vital part of the Kansas City, Kansas community. Now it's time to switch the focus to gaining the involvement of young women. Newly activated programs include an after-school lunch program and summer camps.

Amy Smith, 27, saidyoung women just need to be shown the way.

"I think a lot of young women really want to get involved," she said of her peers. "I'm a perfect example..."

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