Hedy Lemar Walls is the chief social responsibility officer for the YMCA of the North, a leading nonprofit dedicated to strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. She is responsible for the Y’s social responsibility, diversity, inclusion and global efforts and provides leadership for the Equity Innovation Center that is committed to connecting individuals and organizations with valuable information and insight to help them navigate our ever-changing community and learn ways to advance inclusivity and system change so all may thrive.

Prior to serving the Y, Hedy held leadership roles in the Minneapolis Public Schools and Bloomington Public Schools. She holds a doctorate in education in leadership from St. Mary’s University, a specialist degree in education administration from Minnesota State University in Mankato, a master’s in business administration from Carlson School of Business at the University of Minnesota and a bachelor’s degree in accounting and management from Southern University in Louisiana. Hedy taught as an adjunct professor at Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota. Her professional and board affiliations include the Minnesota Youth Development Advisory Council, Minnesota Alliance for Youth, National Youth Leadership Council, Twin Cities Promise for Youth, Youthrive, Youth Service of America and more.

Why the Y?

“My background is in education, so when I first began with the YMCA in 2009, I was immediately drawn to the Y’s youth-serving programs. Studies have shown that the achievement gap is linked to an opportunity gap – not all students have traditionally had access to additional educational and enrichment support outside of school time. The Y makes an effort to invite young people of all backgrounds to participate in programs and provides financial assistance to those in need.

One program area that particularly models this is Beacons and School Success. These programs bring cost-free enrichment programming to our schools in Minneapolis and St. Paul to positively impact youth. We have found that youth participating in Beacons and School Success attend school more regularly and are able to achieve more because of this additional support. More importantly, connecting to these programs helps them become leaders.

Take Daniel’s Story. Daniel had been struggling after facing several challenges, including expulsion from another school. He transferred to a high school with the Beacons program, where he developed relationships with caring adult mentors who helped him develop his strengths and become a leader among his peers. This is just one of many examples of the Y meeting youth where they are and providing opportunities to thrive.”