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Star Cluster

Award Winners


Women of 2022

The 34th annual Westman Communications Group YWCA Women of Distinction Awards Gala took place inside the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium, in Brandon MB, on March 9, 2023. The dinner and awards gala (started in 1985) honours the achievements of women from the Brandon, Westman and Parkland regions. It is a major fundraising event for the YWCA Brandon.

There are nine awards categories including Leadership in Arts Culture & Design, Business Leadership Entrepreneurship, Community Leadership & Social Action, Education & Mentorship, Healthy Living & Recreation, Lifetime Achievement, Science Technology Trade, Young Trailblazer, and Agriculture.

See below for the 2022 Women of Distinction Winners!



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Susan Ainsworth

Brandon, MB

Living in Brandon for most of her life, Susan is a proud owner of Stolon Glance Agronomy Ltd., an agronomic Services company that specializes in potato production. She is passionate about sustainable food production and regenerative agriculture. She has contributed a lot to the industry through her business, especially for women and communities right here in Westman.
“There is nothing you can't achieve. Don't strive for perfection, make joy your measurement of success. Mistakes and set-backs are all part of the journey, forgive yourself and move on. Be humble and vulnerable - it's not a sign of weakness. Surround yourself with a diversity of opinions and lean on people who have strengths in areas where you don't. Spend time doing what you love”.

Business Leadership


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Heather Day

Brandon, MB

Heather started her business journey when she became a hairdresser and opened her own small hair shop. After losing that business in a fire, she persevered and built the successful hair shop of her dreams. In addition, her passion for helping other women led her to create H&CO Academy Hair School in 2015, teaching other young stylists and estheticians to become skilled professionals.
“If I did it then anyone can. Tell them to never, never give up. I spend most days way outside my comfort zone, I take a breath and get it done. Clearly this is where the magic happens. With every obstacle comes a new opportunity, this is where the lessons are learned If you fail try again..........and again”

Community Leadership
&Social Action


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Shannon Saltarelli

Brandon, MB

As the Community Housing and Wellness Coordinator for the City of Brandon, Shannon works with and supports many non-profit organizations. She has helped create more focus on improving downtown Brandon through the Graffiti Removal Program, increased security, seasonal parks with additional washrooms, as well as, outreach and resources into homeless encampments.
“Do NOT fake it till you make it. Be genuine in all things. Work hard, learn, fall, get back up, be resilient, get rest, push boundaries, stay grounded, find the balance! But do not fake it. OWN it! And do not do life alone. You can be a "strong Independent woman" and also bring others on your journey with you”.

Education & Mentorship


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Shannon McKenzie

Nesbitt, MB

A certified Horsemanship Association Coach, Shannon McKenzie runs Shallako Horses; a facility that provides emotional and physical growth through equestrian riding lessons, horsemanship, mentorships. Her passion is to foster connection through creating opportunities for people to experience joy and self-discovery. She has served on several boards, lead a 4H club, and participated in countless clinics for continued learning.
“When you were born, you were already enough. Life is hard, but you are strong and you are definitely not alone. Be brave, stay true to yourself ..... and go out and find the people who will be your cheerleaders!”

Healthy Living, Recreation, & Wellness


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Kori Gordon

Brandon, MB

With an education in both psychology and business, Kori owns and operates Natural Elements Wellness Centre in Brandon. This centre offers all-natural therapies to help people improve their overall wellness with services such as float therapy, halotherapy, hypnosis, life coaching, and more. Many of her services are the only ones offered in Brandon and/or Manitoba, and she has many success stories from her services.
“I would tell all young women to take the time to get to know and love themselves. We all need a strong foundation before we can be of any service to anyone else. Too often, we as women, are focused on how we can please everyone around us and at the end of the day we have not taken the time to discover what makes us happy and who we are.
In order to be a strong, healthy woman we need to get clear on our values and our boundaries, honoring what is important to us. We cannot waste our time worrying about what others think about us, because honestly, they don't think about us as much as we think they do!
If we are clear on what makes us whole and complete, creating and maintaining clear boundaries, this affords us the pleasure of being the person we want to be for ourselves and others. Just like the analogy of the oxygen mask on an airplane. When we are about to take flight, we are reminded to put the oxygen mask on ourselves first so we can have the strength to help others. Once we are confident in who we are, the opportunities are endless. Stand strong in who you are and go out and accomplish your dreams because anything you put your mind to is possible!”

Science, Technology
& Trade


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Dr. Poonam Singh

Brandon, MB

As a Professor of Horticultural Science at ACC, Dr. Singh is passionate about teaching and research fields in horticulture to help create the next generation of professionals who will shape the future of their field. She has been involved in a wide range of research projects, with support from organizations such as NSERC, the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, Ag Action Manitoba, and more. Dr. Singh has also published several research articles.
“I would tell young women who are entering the science world that ''You are entering a field that is full of opportunities for growth and impact, and your perspective and contributions are valuable. Don't be discouraged by the lack of representation of women in science, as your presence helps to diversify and strengthen the field. Embrace challenges and keep learning, as growth often comes from stepping outside of your comfort zone. Surround yourself with supportive mentors and peers who will encourage and challenge you to reach your full potential. And most importantly, never lose your passion and curiosity for discovery, as it is what drives progress in the science world. Your future in science is bright, and you have the power to make a difference''

Young Trailblazer


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Amari Stocks

Brandon, MB

16 year-old Amari is not just a grade 11 student; she is also a mentor, volunteer, and public speaker. As a mentor for the Canadian Student Leadership Association (CSLA), VP of the Neelin Student Representative Council, and public speaker, she has already earned over 3 levels of leadership and facilitated classes to teach leadership to other students. As she gets older, she hopes to continue making positive changes in her country, while also empowering other young women to use their voices. 
“I want to emphasize to young women the importance of using your voice. Even what seems to be the smallest of positive actions can ultimately have a large impact on those around you. It is so important that we as young women feel confident enough to use our voices to stand up for the ideas we believe in, and become leaders. Leadership doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to stand up in front of lots of people and speak. Leadership can appear in many different levels in schools, and communities. Regardless, it is vital that we as young women use our voices to create positive change in our world.”

Young Trailblazer


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Sophia Smoke

Dakota Plains Wahpeton Nation, MB


Passionate about human rights, the arts, and her culture, 16-year old Sophia is a member of the Southern Chiefs Organization Youth Council, the youngest member in its history. She has served as an oral historian in the transfer of HBC land and property to SCO, and is a freelance writer for Canadian Broadcasting Corps Kids News. She hopes to study politics and history at university, with the motivation to create meaningful change for our nations.
“Any emotions you feel when you are told you can’t do something, channel that into your determination. The hurt you feel when people say you can’t, burn it to fuel your passions.”

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