“Saluting Women Who Change the Game,” was the theme at Tuesday’s YWCA Greater Los Angeles Phenomenal Woman Award luncheon at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles which recognized tennis champion and businesswoman Venus Williams, “Phenomenal Woman of the Year.”
The Phenomenal Woman Awards fundraiser also celebrated and recognized top women executives and leaders from many prominent companies such as AT&T, Farmers Insurance Company, Southern California Gas Company, Union Bank and many more, before an audience from the Los Angeles business community.
In addition to Williams, other celebrities such as LaVan Davis, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Vanessa Williams, Beverly Todd, and Rachel Grant attended the event to support the cause.
Prior to the luncheon, Williams participated in a host of events to support the YWCA GLA Job Corps program during a two-day visit to Los Angeles, which included a book signing for her new book, “Come to Win,” at Barnes and Noble in The Grove at Farmer’s Market. Williams’ visit concluded Wednesday when she served as guest speaker for the YWCA GLA Job Corps graduation ceremony at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
“I’m very excited about the honor, but I’m more excited about their graduation,” Williams said.
“It’s more fulfilling than being on the court.”
Proceeds from the award luncheon as well as a portion of sales from Williams’ book will benefit the YWCA GLA Job Corps program and the Urban Campus project.
“She is a phenomenal, phenomenal, phenomenal woman,” said, actress and singer, Sheryl Lee Ralph about Williams. “I’m so excited about her success. She understands what it means to be focused.”
The YWCA GLA Job Corps is one of the nation’s top urban development programs and offers at-risk youth, ages 16-24, social/life skills training, vocational training, health care, housing and introductions to the L.A. business community through internships, apprenticeships and employment.
The program focuses on “developing all aspects of the individual in order to achieve the goal of producing healthy and self-sufficient young adults.”
The program encourages participants to obtain a GED or a high school diploma, which can be completed at the on-site GED program and Charter High School. The program is completely free for up to two years and offers support for two years, after completing the course.
“I’m honoring an incredible woman. [Williams] makes me proud,” said actor LaVan Davis, who added that, he was very honored to support the event, because Job Corps was a part of his life in Kansas. He went through training at job corps, which helped him with life and job skills.
Faye Washington, CEO of YWCA GLA, opened the luncheon ceremony by presenting program graduates, referring to them as her “posse.” She then presented Williams, who she said stands as the YWCA core mission, “eliminating racism, empowering women.”
As Williams was being honored with an award and a sincere “thank you” from Washington, the crowd gave her a standing ovation which caused the tennis champion to shed a few tears. She then spoke about the importance of giving back to her community and thanked the phenomenal women who had gone before her–including her mother.
Williams encouraged the graduates to give back to their community. She also spoke about injustices and how one should not stand for them. Finally, she spoke about a few of her role models including Althea Gibson, who was the first African-American woman to break the color barrier in the world of tennis.
The ceremony lasted an hour and a half and concluded with Washington’s hope of opening a YWCA empowerment “village.”
“If USC can have a village, why can’t we?” she asked.
Urban Campus, a home for 400 job corps students, that includes dorms, a cafeteria, a library, classroom and a computer lab, is set to open its doors in the fall of 2011.