YMCA leaders and partners were recognized as Champions of Change at the White House last Friday for their efforts in transforming their communities.

The Champions of Change program, created as part of President Barack Obama's Winning the Future initiative, honors people, businesses and organizations that are bettering their communities. Champions were selected by the White House and the YMCA of the USA, Chicago, and included Y staff, board members and volunteers, as well as corporations and foundations that partner with Ys.

"Across America, the Y works every day to address the most pressing social needs of our communities," Neil Nicoll, president and CEO of the Y-USA, said in a statement. "We are able to rise to this challenge thanks to the Champions of Change we are honoring, and the thousands of Y staff, volunteers and partners nationwide whom they represent."

Honorees from the Y included: Peggy Brown, director of early childhood education, Y of Greater Cincinnati; Greg Coop, CEO, Moultrie Y, Moultrie, GA; Mike DeVaul, senior vice president of organizational advancement, Y of Greater Charlotte, NC; Alan Hostrup, president and CEO, Y of Metropolitan Los Angeles; JoAnn Price, Wilson-Gray Y, Hartford, CT; Dr. William won-kyu Lee, Y New American Programs, New York City; and Giselle Schneider, Armed Services Y, Springfield, VA.

Y partners honored as Champions of Change were: Julie Gehrki, senior director, Walmart Foundation; Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Scott Menzel, superintendent, Washtenaw Intermediate School District; and John Urban, Rochester Health Foundation.

The Seattle Y's Youth Violence Prevention Initiative also was recognized. The program focuses on strategies to reduce youth and gang violence and build healthy communities in Seattle and its surrounding areas.