Awards and Recognition - Stratford Diversity Award

It is appropriate that the first recipient of the Willie J. Stratford Sr. Diversity Award in 1999 was Willie himself. An artist, poet, author and activist, he pointed the YMCA of Greater Charlotte and all of Charlotte-Mecklenburg toward the path to inclusion.

Willie worked to make the Y open and accessible to everyone in the community. He was a leader at the McCrorey YMCA on Beatties Ford Road. He’s remembered with affection, too, at the Stratford Richardson YMCA on West Boulevard. Indeed, Willie’s impact resonates throughout the Y and beyond. The Urban League and Habitat for Humanity were among the other organizations with which he was involved. A graduate of Johnson C. Smith University, he was a Golden Bull to the core. He served his country in the U.S. Army during World War II, and was devoted to his family and strong Christian faith.

The Y’s Diversity, Inclusion & Global Committee oversees this award, named for a dear man who meant so much to so many. Willie passed away in 2002 at age 78. His legacy lives on.

2022 AWARD WINNER - Michael DeVaul

Michael is a seasoned veteran with 41+ years experience in the nonprofit sector.  Michael is from Evanston, IL, where he was a member of the Emerson Street YMCA and Ebenezer A.M.E. Church.  He is proud of those two strong black institutions that, alongside parents and extended family, helped seed his potential. 


While Michael has been recognized by a number of organizations, his highest the honor is the Champion of Change Award given by the Obama White House for his efforts in community building and global work in Senegal and Bangladesh.  In 2019, Michael received the YMCA of the USA Carlos Sanvee award for his YMCA work in DEI and most especially his targeted work strengthening emerging young leaders. 


Today, Michael serves as the YMCA of the USA National Executive Director for Boys and Young Men of Color and his focus is to lead re-imagining polices, practices, procedures across 100+ cities to improve outcomes, impact and economic mobility. Lastly, Michael is one of the 18 founding members of My Brother’s Keeper Charlotte-Mecklenburg which is designed to help drive better outcomes, impact and economic mobility for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area. He is also a founding Member of Theta Kappa Kappa Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity where he joined in Epsilon Delta in 1981 and is currently active in Pi Phi Graduate Chapter in Charlotte.


Michael believes that to drive culture and change, you have to best understand your personal brand and develop how you use it to address inequities for the purposes of re-imagining an important concept called belonging. He considers himself a belonging curator and system builder.  He loves jazz and acapella music and most especially being a husband, brother, father, uncle and friend. He has developed a new nonprofit called The Center for Common Ground and speaks professionally to institutions and organizations through his LLC BYOB Team.

Awards & Recognition
For The Y Mission

George Williams

In recognition of our founder, the YMCA of Greater Charlotte honors outstanding volunteer leaders for their invaluable contributions of time and talent to help our Ys grow stronger in service to others.

John R. Mott

The YMCA of Greater Charlotte established the John R. Mott Award in 1996 to honor its top volunteer who exemplifies Mott's ideals through longtime service to the YMCA.

Willie J. Stratford, Sr.

The Willie J. Stratford, Sr. Diversity Award is given annually to an individual who recognizes, leads and inspires others to help create a stronger community through valuing diversity.