SUNY Cortland honors longtime YWCA director

The following is a republished press release…to submit a community announcement, email Peter Blanchard at [email protected].

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During her two decades of leadership Amy Simrell, the longtime executive director of the Cortland YWCA, deepened the organization’s ties with SUNY Cortland and its students, thereby strengthening the College’s connection with the community.

Simrell, who recently retired, was recognized on Oct. 5 as SUNY Cortland’s 2015 College-Community Appreciation Award recipient. She was honored during a dinner event in the College’s Corey Union Function Room.

A quiet but highly effective force in the Cortland community for nearly two decades, Simrell expanded the importance of the YWCA in the social fabric of Cortland County.

After taking the reins in 1996, Simrell more than tripled the $750,000 annual budget to $2.4 million in 2014. The driving force behind the $3.2 million expansion of the YWCA’s building, her efforts as chief fundraiser for that project helped the YWCA board raise more than triple the amount that a consultant told them was feasible.

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 1.04.36 PMHer efforts often mirrored the priorities and values of SUNY Cortland.Under her guidance, YWCA programming addressed issues related to violence, health and fitness, poverty, diversity, quality of life and the needs of women and children. By combining ambitious vision with practicality and fiscal responsibility, Simrell was able to positively impact the lives of thousands of people in the Cortland region and beyond.

Simrell worked with the College to establish the successful “Girls Day Out,” in which girls in grades five through eight try new recreational and athletic activities on the College’s campus, aided by SUNY Cortland student-athletes and staff.

She was a very early and enthusiastic partner with SUNY Cortland’s civic engagement initiative, providing a wide variety of service-learning opportunities through the YWCA that benefit both students and the community.

Simrell also strengthened the YWCA’s “Bridges for Kids” program, which pairs at-risk local children with positive adult role models, nearly 80 percent of whom are SUNY Cortland students.

During her tenure, the YWCA absorbed the Aid to Victims of Violence program, which provides services to sexual assault survivors, including SUNY Cortland students.

Under Simrell’s leadership, the YWCA expanded its childcare programs to include several sites in local schools. The number of summer day camps increased from one to three. By embracing student interns in these centers, she enabled many SUNY Cortland students to satisfy their practicum in early childhood education.

Simrell has been active in many local community groups — such as the Downtown Partnership, Rotary Club and the Cortland Regional Sports Council — that seek to improve the attractiveness and economic vitality of the Cortland area.

Born and raised in Ithaca, N.Y., Simrell graduated from Cornell University and directed area job-training programs and housing development for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled. She served as an instructor of public administration at Tompkins Cortland Community College before accepting the leadership role at the YWCA.

The College-Community Appreciation Award is sponsored by the College Council. It was created in 1985 as a means of thanking persons who have assisted SUNY Cortland in a significant manner. Simrell is the 31st citizen to receive the honor.

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