YWCA surprised five women with awards

Posted at 6:19 PM, Apr 11, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-11 20:19:04-04

HELENA — Ahead of their Empowering awards event, YWCA surprised five women with awards.

For over three decades the Salute to Women event, newly renamed Empowered, has aimed to recognize the outstanding achievements of women in the greater Helena area.

“I think it’s really important to identify and then recognize women’s efforts because the barriers still exist. It’s really important we identify and recognize women who have overcome those barriers because then it gets to be an example,” said Jenifer Gursky, YWCA Helena Executive Director.

This week five women were surprised with the honor.

On Tuesday, April 9, Kelly Cresswell, the Executive Director of Reach Higher Montana, was surprised with the Maria Dean Woman of the Year Award.

This awards a woman who exemplifies a commitment to the Helena community, provides leadership and mentorship to help advance the welfare of women and children, and lifts the voices of others in her efforts to eliminate racism and empower women.

On Wednesday, April 10, Callie Aschim, was surprised with the Innovator award.

This award is given to women who are utilizing their sector and profession to innovate and create change.

Aschim is the Chief Executive Officer of the Helena Area Chamber of Commerce.

Also on April 10, Laura Clark, the President of Opportunity Bank, was surprised with the Pathmaker Award.

This award pays tribute to a woman who has broken boundaries, shattered glass ceilings, and made paths for other women.

MTN was there on Thursday, April 11, at St. Peter’s Health, when Kayla Morris was surprised with the Woman of the Future award.


An award recognizing a woman under 30 dedicated to addressing community needs.

“I was speechless and stunned. That’s not what I was expecting. I thought I was heading into a meeting about some donors and wasn’t quite sure why the room seemed to be a little bit awkward and then when Jen walked in with the award, I realized what was happening and it was a really wonderful moment,” said Morris, the Supervisor of Community-based Services at St. Peter’s Health.

MTN also saw Akilah Deernose, on April 11, at Sidecar, surprised with the She Speaks Power award.

An award highlighting a woman amplifying the voices of the marginalized and advocating for social and racial justice.

“I was just surprised with the great honor of let me know that I have been nominated and awarded the She Speaks award. Super humble and honored,” said Deernose, the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberty Union of Montana.

All five woman with officially receive their awards on Tuesday, April 16, at 12:00 pm at a luncheon in the Helena Civic Center.

Tickets for the event are available until Monday, April 15.