About the YWLA


Launched in January 2015, the Young Women’s Leadership Alliance (YWLA) is the YWCA Richmond’s young women’s professional board, with members between the ages of 25 to 35 who are dedicated to advancing YWCA Richmond’s vision. YWLA connects, equips, and inspires the next generation of leaders in RVA.

YWLA’s 2021 Application Period is open.

Applications for YWLA will be accepted from December 15, 2020 – March 15, 2021. A Membership Committee member will contact you in Spring 2021 with additional information or to schedule an interview.  If invited to join YWLA, your term will start in July. A Recruitment Meet & Greet for interested individuals to meet with members of the YWLA Membership Committee will be held in September of each year.


Current Members

  • Rachel Johnson, YWLA President, Capital One
  • Lindsey Dombert, YWLA Vice-President, Community Volunteer
  • Carleigh Walters, YWLA Secretary, Rolls-Royce
  • Hadeel Abouhasira, Williams Mullen
  • Ashley Balamuta, VCU – Oncology Nurse
  • Megan Claar, Truist
  • Elizabeth Creasman, Sheltering Arms
  • Kelsey Croston, Richmond Association of Realtors
  • Raina FieldsVCU
  • Belen Ishizaki, Let’s Clean, LLC
  • Shannon Kapadia, Eckert Seamans
  • Katie Moody, Plan RVA
  • Micah Morris, EveryAction
  • Amy O’Callaghan, CarMax
  • Elizabeth Papile, MAXX Potential
  • Emily Sanfrantella, Waukeshaw Development
  • Lauren Sawyer, Virginia Health Catalyst
  • Shannon Smith, Richmond Ambulance Authority
  • Hannah Updike, Virginia League for Planned Parenthood
  • Sara Lee White, Dominion Energy
  • Whitney Wilson, Richmond Public Schools
  • Alle Witt, Virginia Health Catalyst



The Young Women’s Leadership Alliance’s signature event, Conversation Piece provides an opportunity for community members to attend a unique, live art event and get a glimpse into the creative process of each participating artist while supporting the work of YWCA’s early childhood education program. This event will allow guests the opportunity to explore the evening’s theme of empower RVA through live art creation, dynamic conversations, and interactive exhibits highlighting the organization’s work to empower children. Artists will create pieces live throughout the event around the Empower RVA theme, which will be available at the end of the event through a silent auction.

All proceeds from this event benefit YWCA Richmond’s early childhood education program, The Sprout School, and emphasize the importance preschool and early education can have on a child. Join us for a night filled with food, drink, and live entertainment as we celebrate YWCA Richmond and focus on the art of empowerment to impact our youngest community members. More details about this year’s Conversation Piece event to come!



The Young Women’s Leadership Alliance (YWLA), YWCA Richmond’s young professionals’ board, is excited to announce an opportunity for a rising woman leader to be recognized for their impact in our community and enhance their future leadership opportunities with an investment in leadership development.

The Rising Outstanding Woman Award (ROWA) is an annual award recognizing an emerging leader who embodies YWCA Richmond’s values of commitment, respect, integrity and collaboration and who, through their own influence, passion and action(s) empower RVA.

Rising Outstanding Woman Award will be awarded to a woman who:

  • Has made and/or will make a significant contribution towards social good in Central Virginia.
  • Has displayed outstanding promise for continuing service and leadership.
  • Is between the ages of 25 and 40 years old.


  • ROWA winners will receive an award honoring her community involvement and the opportunity to attend a mutually agreed-upon leadership development experience of her choice at a value of up to $2,500 to positively impact her future leadership capabilities.
  • The award is presented annually with the winner announced during this year’s virtual OWA held on October 16, 2020 at 11:30 am.

Nominations will open soon for consideration for the 2021 Rising Outstanding Woman Award. Questions? Email ngooray@ywcarichmond.org.

2020 ROWA Nomination Form




Congratulations to our 2020 ROWA recipient, Crystal Benjamin!

Crystal Benjamin is the Owner of Black Belt Diva, mobile women’s empowerment unit uplifting and educating women through safety awareness.  As a Certified Martial Arts Instructor, Crystal had a desire to intertwine her love for human service and passion as a lifelong public servant; as a result, her mission to empower women was born.


Crystal strongly believes that “passing the baton of wisdom and knowledge” by cultivating each other is one of the ways that women can successfully succeed.  She was recognized for her community efforts by being inducted into  The Prince George/Hopewell Chamber of Commerce’s 2019 Class of Top 40 Under 40.


She’s expressed her platform of women’s empowerment through safety and awareness by partnering with the Richmond Public Library, presenting at The 11th Annual Hampton Roads Conference for Girls and Young Women, and speaking on college campuses.


Crystal is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Public Policy and Administration at Walden University.


Learn more about Black Belt Diva by visiting: