The Executive Director of the Bethel Community Services Foundation received a Woman of Achievement distinction at the Alaska YWCA annual awards ceremony last week. Nine other women also received awards. Each was honored for furthering YWCA’s mission to eliminate racism and empower women.
Alaska YWCA CEO Hilary Morgan was there when Michelle DeWitt took the stage at Wednesday’s ceremony at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts.
“There was a loud, uproarious, 'Michelle!' and it looked like there were three to four rows of people standing up, applauding Michelle, which is great because she definitely deserves it,” Morgan said.
DeWitt came to Bethel in 1997 as a Jesuit Volunteer for the Tundra Women’s Coalition, a women’s shelter and advocacy center. She then served as its Executive Director for 13 years. In her current job leading the Bethel Community Services Foundation she works to help organizations in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta move toward the goals of dismantling institutional racism and building gender equality.
“The best work that I can do," DeWitt said, "is to try to use the learning that I’ve had over the last many years and the privilege that I have as a white woman to extend power and privilege to other people and to hold individuals and systems accountable when they need to be held accountable.”
DeWitt talked with KYUK from San Diego, California. She flew there a few hours after receiving her award to attend a conference on nonprofit storytelling.
Many are familiar with the relentless quality of DeWitt’s drive to improve life in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. YWCA CEO Hilary Morgan says that the Women of Achievement award ceremonies are designed to throw the spotlight on important work and the women doing it.
“Michelle DeWitt is an extraordinary person and an extraordinary woman," Morgan said. "And it’s really critical that we continue to honor extraordinary women, because women are so often expected to do work like this without really any fanfare.”
With this honor, DeWitt joins a prestigious group of approximately 300 women recognized for making Alaska a more equitable place to live.