This article was originally published by The Mennonite

MEDA announces “10 Young Women Changing the World” award recipients

Photo: The recipients of MEDA’s 10 Young Women Changing the World awards. Clockwise from top left: Ishita Aggarwal, Melisa Baez, Leena Miller Cressman, Janae Dagen, Mary Fehr, Kate Stoltzfus, Carissa Rempel, Audra Miller, Kelly Shenk Koontz, and Salima Jaffer. Photos provided. 

MEDA (Mennonite Economic Development Associates) is pleased to announce the recipients of the 10 Young Women Changing the World awards.

Over the last two years, MEDA’s 20 under 35: Young Professionals Changing the World Initiative recognized 40 young professionals under the age of 35. To reflect the special 2016 MEDA Convention theme – Business as a Calling: Women Changing the World – MEDA will recognize 10 exceptional young women who exude a strong commitment to faith values and service and embody an entrepreneurial spirit.

The award recipients are:

  • Ishita Aggarwal (Toronto, Ontario) has served as access and equity student blogger at the University of Toronto, founding member of Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) National Conference, and research associate at the International Women’s Rights Project. In December 2015, Ishita founded BEHIND-THE-SCENES-Magazine (B-T-S), an e-zine that aims to shed light on unseen and under-reported gender-based aggressions in society.
  • Melisa Baez (Lancaster, Pennsylvania) is director of the Women’s Business Center of ASSETS Lancaster. In addition to her work at ASSETS, she helps to motivate and guide at-risk youth on a path toward attaining higher education and to leave a legacy in their community. This has developed into the college prep program, Attollo.
  • Leena Miller Cressman (Kitchener, Ontario) is the owner and director of Queen Street Yoga. Cressman uses her yoga studio to engage the community in dialogue and action concerning social justice issues. She has hosted community conversations about Climate Change, a Bearing Witness Day to a local First Nations residential school, free summer Yoga in the Park and yoga with social services organizations and in workplaces.
  • Janae Dagen (Lancaster, Pennsylvania) founded and currently operates The Speckled Hen, a unique coffee shop that aims to create a safe and comfortable space to work and relax. She is dedicated to sharing Christ’s love through her business and by building partnerships with local businesses. In addition, she invests in her staff at the café staff as future leaders.
  • Mary Fehr (Sarasota, Florida) works with JMX brands, a specialty ecommerce retailer operating distinct niche-market online stores for both individual and business consumers. After interning with MEDA in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, as an impact assessment intern, she rode her bike across Canada with a fellow intern to raise money for MEDA’s GROW project.
  • Salima Jaffer (Toronto, Ontario) has worked on youth development and livelihood projects in war-torn countries such as Sudan and South Sudan. She has also implemented a national initiative in Canada that provided aboriginal entrepreneurs with the resources to grow their businesses.
  • Kelly Shenk Koontz (Boston, Massachusetts) is an associate with Isaacson, Miller, an executive search firm based in Boston that works with nonprofit organizations. Prior to attending Boston University, she worked for three years with Mennonite Central Committee in Kabul, Afghanistan, as a peacebuilding project manager.
  • Audra Miller (San Francisco, California) is a project associate for Delivering Innovation in Supportive Housing SF. After graduating from college, she dedicated two years to Mennonite Voluntary Service, where she initiated the Everyone Deserves a Homeproject, a large-scale public portrait series of formerly homeless San Franciscans.
  • Carissa Rempel (Arborg, Manitoba) is a mother, artist and philanthropist who opened a youth drop-in center called The Bridge in 2011. She also started Battle The Bad With Beauty, a project in which she sells her children’s art and donates the money to various charities.
  • Kate Stoltzfus (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) is a graduate of Goshen College and the Pittsburgh Urban Leadership Service Experience program, where she now serves as a boardmember. She is the co-founder of Propelle, an organization that helps women entrepreneurs succeed through networking events, workshops and individual coaching.

 The 10 Young Women Changing the World Awards will be presented at the MEDA convention, Oct. 27-30, in San Antonio, Texas.

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