By: Bina Patel

A group of talented women in Hamilton, including members of McMaster’s community, will be recognized this week for the contributions they have made, both in their immediate settings and the community at large. Each year the Young Women’s Christian Association collects nominations for the Woman of Distinction Award under a number of categories like Outstanding Workplace, Community Leadership and Health. The nominees range from students currently completing their post secondary degree to accomplished career women in their respective fields.

This year McMaster is a recurring component in some nominees’ profiles. The list consists of past and present students and includes Ashley Adile, Preethi Anbalagan, Jenelle Hinds, Sara Jama, Hanna Kearney and Lindsay D’Souza. From being a Horizons leader to founding HackItMac, their efforts have lead them to a chance at the prestigious award.

Hannah Kearney, an Aurora native and fourth-year Honours Life Sciences student recalls what led her to take on leadership roles, that the mentorship she received as a first year student and representative for the McMaster Biology Society.

“I stayed with the group until third year and I really liked that organization because it gave me a chance to meet, interact and learn from people older than myself. I’m the oldest in my family so I didn’t have any older siblings who could give me the run-down on what university was going to be like,” said Kearney.

In addition to the McMaster Biology Society, Kearney has also volunteered with the McMaster Students Union as a Spark leader with MSU Spark, Horizons as a Leadership Developer (Logistics) and currently works with the McPherson Institute to enhance Life Science courses. She cites mentor and previous winner of the YWCA award, Sarah Glen, as her inspiration.

“She was a wonderful teacher, she was so supportive and always there when you needed her. She really tried to bring out the best in other people,” she said. After graduating, Kearney plans to continue her education in healthcare.

Also in the running is Janelle Hinds, a biomedical engineering graduate who currently works at a rehabilitation hospital in Toronto.To Hinds, the opportunity to lead presented itself when she noticed something missing in her experience as an engineering student.

“I decided to do that because I wanted to mix my skills with what I was passionate about which was solving problems that would benefit society,” she explains. According to Hinds, engineering did not have enough of the practical component that allowed her to take her vision and manifest it in her community.

“I started to teach myself software but kind of struggled with the classes not being practical so I made a club called HackItMac that is now called Phase One that is all about making sure that students have that opportunity to get those software skills and it was campus wide,” said Hinds.

For Hinds, being nominated for this award means having a greater voice in the conversation about something she cares about deeply: gender equality.

“I’m really honoured because it’s not even about the recognition but it just gives me the opportunity and more authority when I talk now about women’s issues. I think as young women we tend to struggle with people dismissing us, and it’s given me internal confidence,” said Hinds. She hopes to continue her efforts both in healthcare and as an advocate for women.

The awards ceremony will be taking place on March 9 at the Hamilton Convention Centre.

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