Duo receive awards for inspiring women, girls

Two local volunteers, JoAnne Sytsma and Allie Stewart, were presented with Leading Girls-Women Building Communities Awards. Pictured are Girls Inc. Executive Director Lesley Hubbard, Sytsma, MPP Steve Clark, Stewart and YCMA CEO Diana Deakin-Thomas. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

BROCKVILLE – Two local residents have been recognized for their leadership and commitment to inspire girls and women to be more involved in the community.

During a ceremony Thursday morning (March 31) at the YMCA on Park Street, MPP Steve Clark presented Allie Stewart with a Leading Girls Building Communities Award and JoAnne Sytsma with the Leading Women Building Communities Award.

“I have to admit, I was lured here to see Allie and congratulate her. This is completely undeserved. You shouldn’t get awarded or recognized for what you love to do, that’s just too much,” said a humbled Sytsma during the ceremony.

But her nominator feels differently.

“I think the awards are a really important…that we are recognizing woman and girls for having leading roles in the community,” Lesley Hubbard, executive director of Girls Inc. Upper Canada, told Brockville Newswatch.

”JoAnne (Sytsma) has been involved with Girls Inc. as long as I have. She’s a real leader in our community…supporting girls and woman’s issues and she’s a great champion for the underdog…for that reason it was a no-brainer for me to put her name forward,” she said.

Sytsma works with a number of local organizations. She is the co-chairwoman of the Brockville food bank board and chairwoman of the Girls Inc. Upper Canada board.

Hubbard got to know Allie Stewart through last year’s Girls Government program, organized by Girls Inc. and MPP Steve Clark.

“She’s (Stewart) been involved in leadership initiatives through the Y and (I was) just really impressed with the young woman that she was and with her personal growth through that experience,” Hubbard added.

Allie Stewart and JoAnne Sytsma listen as MPP Steve Clark (not shown) reads certificates given to the two on Thursday, March 31, 2016. The pair were recognized for their volunteerism, leadership and commitment. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

Allie Stewart and JoAnne Sytsma listen as MPP Steve Clark (not shown) reads certificates given to the two on Thursday, March 31, 2016. The pair were recognized for their volunteerism, leadership and commitment. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

Stewart, 16, is a grade 11 student at St. Mary Catholic School, and was all smiles and wonder struck at receiving the award.

“We headed over to the YMCA and…Diana came and shook my hand and I was like ‘Oh my goodness!’ and my mom was there and I’m still kind of in shock,” Stewart laughed.

Stewart spoke with BNW about the Girls Government program, which she got involved in last year about hearing about it from the YMCA’s director of programs.

“I had Fridays off so we met for a couple months and we kind of talked about what politics were and how to get girls involved in politics. And the last couple of Fridays we were getting up for a press conference at Mr. Steve Clark’s office…we talked about sexual harassment in the workplace, we did that and it was really cool and we got to experience what Queen’s Park was like in Toronto,” Stewart said.

“I would never expect this (award and ceremony) to be honest. I just do what I like, just do what I love. I love being involved in the community, I love helping people,” Steward told BNW.

Stewart wants to be a social worker, helping foster children. After finishing high school, she wants to attend Carleton University.

“By taking a leadership role, women like you (Allie and JoAnne) help make our community strong and it is with that in mind that we recognize your success and contributions,” said MPP Steve Clark.

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