Girls Empowered Award Winners 2024

Over the next few weeks, Girls Empowered will be announcing our annual Girls Empowered Award winners!  Nominated by family members, peers, coaches, and teachers across South Eastern PA, these young ladies are being recognized for their strength, resilience, leadership, and positive choices. 


2024 Winners

Willa Donnelly

Elementary School Winner

First up, we would like to introduce our elementary school winner, Willa. Despite some of her own academic and social challenges, Willa started her own team of “recess helpers,” to help younger students learn techniques for standing up for themselves and solving other friendship problems.  She has also been an older friend to a younger, kindergarten student, and a wonderful helper with various classroom jobs, even creating her own organization system for the jobs that other students were able to also utilize.  Willa’s former teacher describes Willa as gentle, empathetic, and “unapologetically herself.”  Outside of school, Willa participates in horseback riding, soccer, skiing, and ice hockey.  We think Willa is one EMPOWERED 3rd grader! 

Jenna Yoder

Middle School Winner

Meet this year’s Girls Empowered Award middle school winner, Jenna! After receiving 3 separate nominations, our judges realized that Jenna is pretty special!  Jenna has shown her kindness and leadership in many ways, including her volunteer work with National Charity League, and also by standing up for peers being bullied.  She has also been a Reading Olympics captain.  Impressively, Jenna has organized toy drives and lemonade stands for a friend that had cancer.  Jenna also participates in volleyball, basketball, soccer, and camping.  A teacher described Jenna as “the most caring individual you will meet,” and “small but mighty.”  Congratulations, Jenna!

Claudia Caruso

High School Winner

Introducing Girls Empowered Award high school winner, Claudia!  Claudia was nominated by a coach and described as an artist, environmentalist, feminist, and an advocate for others.  She is involved in a number of leadership roles in school, including fundraising to provide free menstrual products in school bathrooms, and volunteering at a school food pantry. Claudia also writes for the school newspaper, holding the role of Senior Copy & Managing Editor.  She is a member of the Key Club and National Honor Society as well.  Claudia’s coach shared, “She is dedicated to multiple causes, not just in words, but in her deeds.  She is a quiet, unassuming leader.  She doesn’t seek out credit, but works diligently each and every day to make the world a better place.”  Congratulations to Jenna! 

Lillian Bendler

Elementary School Runner Up

Girls Empowered Award runner up at the elementary school level is 5th grader, Lillian.  At school, Lillian is Student Council President, is in Honors Band playing the tuba, a school bus safety, and also participates in a peer mediation program, working with younger students, planning leadership lessons with them.  She is also in chorus and on the Yearbook Committee at her school.  Outside of school, Lillian is a Girl Scout, participating in many service projects, including making sandwiches for the homeless and building a community garden. Lillian also volunteers twice a week at a local Boys & Girls Club, helping 2nd graders with homework, in particular, reading, which Lillian once struggled with too.  She is also an avid swimmer, and recently won an award on the swim team for her dedication and sportsmanship.  Lillian has advocated for friends and “believes in doing the right thing even when it’s difficult.”  In short, Lillian is quite the EMPOWERED young lady!  

Kendall Quirk

Middle School Runner Up

Girls Empowered Award winner runner up at the middle school level is 8th grader, Kendall.  Kendall was nominated by the assistant principal at her middle school, who noticed what a role model Kendall is among her peer group.  At school, Kendall sets high academic goals, and also participates on the volleyball team and is involved with student council, too.  Kendall’s principal shared, “She is a natural cheerleader for encouraging self-acceptance and promoting positive self-image, ultimately helping empower others to embrace their individuality and uniqueness.”  Way to go, Kendall! 

Elizabeth Witt

High School Runner Up

Girls Empowered Award winner runner up at the high school level is 12th grader, Elizabeth.  Elizabeth was nominated by a teacher at school and recognized for the number of leadership roles she has played at her school.  In addition to participating in West United, a student organization that works to create an inclusive environment for all students, she also runs the @humansofcbwest account and shares the stories of other students, mindful to represent a variety of community members.  Additionally, with the help of other students and staff, Elizabeth not only helped to stock women’s bathrooms with free feminine products, but later confronted administration when the products were removed without explanation.  Way to be EMPOWERED, Elizabeth! 

Caitlin Carroll

Elementary School Honorable Mention

Please meet elementary school Girls Empowered Award Honorable Mention, Caitlin!  Caitlin was nominated both by a former teacher, as well as her current teacher.  In school, Caitlin participates as a team leader in 6th Grade Club, and is also a field hockey player outside of school.  Both teachers recognized Caitlin’s helpful, kind nature.  On the field, Caitlin has taken newer players aside to practice skills they are struggling with.  In school, Caitlin is quick to stand up for peers being picked on.  Additionally, as a formerly shy and introverted student, who did not feel she was a strong writer, Caitlin really shined presenting her 6th grade project on asthma, a condition she personally experiences.  This project required significant writing, researching, and public speaking.  Caitlin presented personal accounts with confidence and commanded the room.  “Cait has overcome her own challenges and uses those lessons to show everyone kindness, even in their darkest moments.”

Sadie Schmellick

Middle School Honorable Mention

Introducing, middle school Girls Empowered Award Honorable Mention, Sadie!  In school, Sadie participates in Student Council, Math Club, National Honor Society, and is a Distinguished Honor Roll student.  Outside of school, Sadie volunteers at a women’s shelter and is also a Bux-Mont Scholar Athlete.  When her team folded, Sadie decided to serve as a mentor and volunteered to coach a team of younger athletes.  Since August, Sadie has been volunteering up to 5 days a week to help a team of 6 girls teaching them cheer skills, confidence, endurance, leadership, and grit.  That’s pretty EMPOWERED! 

Brooke Fenchel

High School Honorable Mention

Concluding Girls Empowered Award winner announcements is our high school Honorable Mention, Brooke.  Brooke has been quite busy throughout her high school career, participating in the Interact Club, Student Council, Link Crew, Flag Football, Athletic Leadership Council, and also teaching swim lessons.  Additionally, she was a captain of her varsity basketball team this year, and led a group of younger, inexperienced players.  Despite a challenging season without many wins, Brooke continued to uplift, inspire, and motivate the younger teammates.  Brooke’s coach shared, “One of Brooke’s most remarkable qualities is her ability to remain positive and encouraging even in the face of adversity.”  We wish Brooke luck next year at Messiah College and trust she will continue to EMPOWER others there too!