Multiple UNCW women nominated for YWCA Achievement Awards

Jessica Aguilar

Courtesy of UNCW

Jessica Aguilar

Fairley Lloyd, Assistant News Editor

Nine members of the UNC Wilmington community were nominated for the local YWCA’s Women of Achievement Awards. This annual award, as described by the organization, “recognize outstanding contributions and achievements of women and young leaders” within Brunswick, Columbus, New Hanover, and Pender counties.

UNCW nominees include Sheri Shaw, the Assistant Dean of Student Success at College of Health and Human Services, and Jessica Aguilar, a junior studying social work with a nonprofit minor.

Sheri Shaw

Sheri Shaw has been working at UNCW since 2016. In her current position as the College of Health and Human Services Assistant Dean for Student Success, Shaw focuses on providing students with support during their varied academic phases, from admission to graduation. She helps both undergraduate and graduate students identify strengths that will grow their leadership skills. She also oversees the CHHS Student Success Center.

Shaw’s previous experiences focused on serving underrepresented and underserved students, a passion for her as a first-generation college student. As an undergraduate major and current doctoral student in Community Health at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Shaw is invested in working alongside the CHHS staff and community members. Shaw’s programs and initiatives are draws from past work experiences at the University of Illinois and Drexel University.

At Illinois, Shaw created a program, which, within a year of its installment, gained $2 million in endowment from Mannie Jackson, former chairman and owner of the Harlem Globetrotters. In 2012, Shaw moved to Drexel University to launch the LeBow College of Business BRIDGE Program. Within its first year, the program received a President’s Award for Diversity and Inclusion.

Shaw is excited that CHHS has allowed her to continue in her “dream” of helping people and is excited about the opportunities that can be integrated into the CHHS SSC to support students.

She is also honored to be one of the nominees for the Women of Achievement Awards.

“This award highlights the amazing work done by so many talented women in our community,” Shaw said. “It really showcases how success and showcases how success can be accomplished when we all work together.”

Jessica Aguilar

Jessica Aguilar is a social work student with a nonprofit minor. She is involved in several nonprofit organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity, the YWCA Reach afterschool program, and UNCW’s MI CASA high school mentoring program under Centro Hispano.

Aguilar is particularly passionate about her job at Juntos 4H in Pender County, a program that helps Latinx high school students pursue higher education through mentoring and supporting the students and their families. Juntos allows Aguilar to help students in a variety of ways, such as revising essays for college admissions, working with the parents and children, and staying involved in a student’s life.

Aguilar relates to many of her students, not only as a child of immigrant parents but with similar obstacles she faced to get where she is today.

“I saw my family struggle with finances and the lack of resources available to us,” Aguilar said. “As someone from a rural county, it made me think about others like me who are struggling with the same issues.”

Aguilar’s sister became the first-generation college student in the family. After graduation, she helped mentor Aguilar on her journey to college, and Aguilar sees her work at Juntos as a way to give back to the community.

One of Aguilar’s most inspiring experience with Juntos was the work she did at their summer academy program. She worked with several students to motivate them to consider why they wanted to go to college. Some students in the program had recently migrated to the United States and were still learning the language but had attended the camp with the goal of living a better life than the one they had previously lived.

“That was very impactful for me,” Aguilar said. “You don’t really think of yourself as a mentor until you realize a lot of these kids really look up to you.”

Aguilar said that she was still in shock from being nominated for the award. She is thankful for the opportunity and hopes it can help serve as a model for others

“I’m a big advocate for representation,” Aguilar said. “The bigger impact of this award is having other people see people who look like them are being recognized for our work.”

The Women of Achievement Awards reception will take place Tuesday, May 7, at 5:30 p.m. at the Wilmington Convention Center.