International Women’s Day is celebrated every year on March 8. On this day, we wish to honor and celebrate women in the Western Great Lakes Region who we see making a positive impact in the lives of kids in our communities, schools, and churches.

The following nine women have been nominated by a Young Life staff member as one of our 2017 Women of the Year. These women are not affiliated with Young Life in any official role, and yet we see them as important partners in this mission of shining a light of hope and love into the world of adolescence and into the communities where we are called to live and serve.


Emily Berry, Counselor & Social Worker at Grand Haven High School

“Emily is a phenomenal school counselor. She engages well with both students and parents on a personal level. She has been working with many parents and the principal to help with the growing suicide problem. She also helps Young Life leaders meet new students at the school.”
[Nominated by Bryan Jackson / Photo credit: TCM Counseling]

mary behm

Mary Behm, Head Secretary at Forest Hills Eastern High School

“Mary (pictured above on the right) is a welcoming, inviting, and encouraging presence to anyone that enters Forest Hills Eastern. Her welcoming nature is especially appreciated by WyldLife and Young Life leaders entering the school to do contact work.”
[Nominated by Kaitlin Huissen]


Lindsay Cherry, Teacher at Harbor Lights Middle School

“Lindsay (pictured above on the left) is a passionate teacher who is loved by her students. She creates space for kids to learn and grow outside of the normal classroom setting. She looks for ways to engage students and ignite a passion within them to be the best they can be.”
[Nominated by Crystal VanHekken]

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Lonna Ellens, Community Volunteer

“Lonna is constantly serving others. She puts on a tailgate event every year for Unity Christian during football season which serves over 700 people. She works/volunteers at a retirement home in Grandville and has also worked with kids in an after-school program and story hour program through her church.”
[Nominated by Caleb Ellens]

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Tamika Henry, Principal at Allendale New Options

“Tamika is a faithful leader and principal at Allendale New Options. Recently multiple students shared how they feel acceptance and hope since being at the school. Tamika meets students where they are and shows them abundant grace, hope, and respect, which students have in turn learned to give themselves and each other.”
[Nominated by Ryan Elders and Rachelle Gelder]

Cheri Honderd

Cheri Honderd, Executive Director and Founder of Hand2Hand

“Cheri is the founder and director of Hand2Hand, a non-profit that works with local schools and churches to provide meals for kids (free and reduced) who are at risk for going hungry on the weekends. Cheri is talented and driven. Kids lives are being impacted because she saw a need in her community and did something about it.”
[Nominated by Ryan Elders / Photo credit here]

Christy Lipscolm

Christy Lipscomb, Pastor at City Life Church

“Christy is an incredible leader in our city. She demonstrates the love of Christ in her teaching each Sunday and gives great vision to our community with regularity. Christy spearheads numerous activities around issues of justice and is a “voice for the voiceless.” She is an awesome model of what it means to lead by example and with humility.”
[Nominated by Kevin Eastway / Photo credit here]


Laura Minkus, Community and Youth Worker at Heights of Hope

“Laura (pictured above on the right) does it all! She attends band concerts, birthday parties, cross country meets, school musicals. She is anywhere kids are.  She gives life to kids in a way I have never seen. Her presence is inviting and sincere. She is a real gift to the kids in the Holland Heights community and beyond.”
[Nominated by Crystal VanHekken]

Cara Montgomery, Teacher at Harbor Lights Middle School/Macatawa Bay Middle School

“I have known Cara (pictured above on the right) as a dear friend and sister for many years but it wasn’t until I started working for Young Life that I got to see the amazing teacher she is. She has a HUGE heart for kids! She works with a variety of students in small groups to help them be successful in school and life.”
[Nominated by Crystal VanHekken]

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”

—Matthew 5:16 [The Message]