The YMCA is in a bit of everything Angie Reese-Hawkins does. As president and CEO of the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington, she is busy developing new and needed programs, expanding and enriching existing services, and working to secure the lasting impact of the YMCA, where she has worked for 28 years. Her personal connection to the Y runs deep. Reese-Hawkins remembers coming into her own at her local YMCA. “I was an extremely shy child,” she says. “At the YMCA I found a fun and nurturing environment, and I truly blossomed there.”
In 1986, after a stint in retail sales management, she made a career move by joining the Washington Y staff and has never looked back. “Once I became a part of the YMCA movement, I knew I had found a career with meaning and purpose,” she says.
She was right. Every day, the building is abuzz with the sounds of a neighborhood at work: students and tutors exchanging questions and answers; athletic courts alive with the squeak of sneakers; children at play laughing. These, says Reese-Hawkins, are the best parts of the job. “The rewards of this line of work are far too numerous to count. Whether it is a single mother who raised healthy and happy kids with the help of the Y, or a senior citizen who regained strength after a heart attack, the success stories have always kept me going.”
Nearly 30 years after first heading through those doors, Reese-Hawkins is as committed as ever. This fall she was awarded AU’s 2008 Cyrus Ansary Medal for her significant contributions to the D.C. community. It’s personal recognition she is unaccustomed to receiving. “The YMCA’s staff members, volunteers, and participants work together to make so many wonderful things happen in the community,” she says. “Everything we accomplish is truly a collective effort.”
Managing the programming and expansion of the large, beloved institution—home to programs that link the community with services that range from wellness initiatives to literacy—presents unique challenges. But a belief in the community, and the role the YMCA plays in sustaining and developing the links people make with their neighbors and friends, has made a strong impression on its director. Reese-Hawkins says, “being president and CEO of the YMCA has been a positive and life-changing experience for me, and my connection to the Y is infinite and strong.” She also notes her appreciation for her alma mater, “AU helped me develop a pattern of achievement that prepared me to contribute in very specific ways to this organization and to society.”