WEST DES MONES, IA (TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 12, 2022) – The West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce (WDM Chamber) held its third annual Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Workplace Excellence Awards (DEI Awards) on September 7 at the Community Choice Convention Center.

Award recipients across 10 categories were recognized in front of the 300 leaders in attendance, and the impact of their work was highlighted through powerful videos produced by Fred Ebong with FE Studios who got to hear each story firsthand.

"It was enlightening listening to the award recipients tell their stories. Even though they all have personal reasons why they think DEI is essential, they all echoed the same message that DEI is the future,” said Ebong. “We will lose a lot of our youth and workforce if we don't make Iowa inclusive, and more importantly, DEI is just the human thing to do.”

There were also 3 check presentations throughout the evening. One was a $4,800 check for Can Play, who was the nonprofit donation recipient selected by the WDM Chamber’s DEI Committee. The other 2 check presentations were thanks to the Minority Leader Scholarship Sponsor, IMT Insurance.

“At IMT, we are committed to providing peace of mind in the moments that matter, and we understand this isn’t always easy or simple for everyone in our communities,” said Gilmara Vila Nova-Mitchell, Director of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion at IMT Insurance. “That's why we are proud to support the efforts recognized at the DEI Workplace Excellence Awards.”

Ayanari Morales-Rodriguez, the Student Leader of the Year, received a $1,700 scholarship for her future education. Iowa Safe Schools, the nonprofit award recipient, will select a minority leader to go through the West Des Moines Leadership Academy on a full-ride tuition scholarship beginning fall of 2024.

Photos from the DEI Awards can be found here. Videos about the recipients’ DEI efforts can be found here along with videos of their speeches from the evening.

As attendees arrived to the event, they participated in a community art project drawn by Laura Palmer of XO-LP. This collective art had representations of love, family, culture, and inclusion. The three canvases were presented to a randomly drawn attendee, Gilmara Mitchell as the DEI Awards Chair in gratitude, and to the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce to display in their office as a reminder of community.

“What’s most important right now in our community when it comes to Inclusion work,” Meredith Murphy, Talent Attraction Manager at the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce says, “is that we listen when someone speaks up. The award recipients we are recognizing this year have spoken up for themselves, their coworkers, their families, and for our communities. We are not here to feel better, we are here to lift up and push forward so that those voices are not ignored.”

The need for continued work remains, and therefore, so will the DEI Awards. The date for the 2024 DEI Awards has officially been set as September 12, 2024. Anyone interested in being a part of the inaugural planning committee for the next year’s DEI Awards can visit here to learn more.

Congratulations again to the award recipients: 

  • DEI Student Leader of the Year: Ayanari Morales-Rodriguez, Valley High School Student
  • DEI Emerging Leader of the Year: Jackie Minsoe, Hoover High School Boys Soccer Program
  • DEI Leader of the Year: Kate Hightshoe-Lambert, QCR Holdings, Inc.
  • Small Business: Knight Moves
  • DEI Ally of the Year: Adrianne Towe, Waukee Community Schools Foundation
  • Large Business (250 and above): Bankers Trust
  • Nonprofit: Iowa Safe Schools
  • Education: Youth Justice Initiative
  • Medium Business (50 – 249 employees): Merchants Bonding Company
  • Best Inclusion Initiative: Spark DSM, Greater Des Moines Partnership 
A special thank you to all judges and volunteers who made this possible as well as DEI Awards Chair & Emcee Gilmara Mitchell, Video Partner FE Studios, Exclusive AV Sponsor CTI, and Awards Sponsor Triplett Office Solutions. Thank you as well to Des Moines Gay Men’s Chorus and to CultureALL for making the performances with Emmett Phillips and Pragnya Yogesh & Co. possible.

An additional thank you to supporters making this possible:
Minority Leader Scholarship Sponsor: IMT Insurance
Award Partner – Gold Sponsors: Wellabe, Google Fiber, F&G
Advocate Sponsor: Sammons Financial Group
Champion Sponsors: NCMIC, Merchants Bonding Company, RainyDayPal, Simpson College, Turner Construction, City of West Des Moines, Broadlawns
Partners: One Iowa, Women Lead Change, Lutheran Services of Iowa, Avenue Scholars, Can Play, Oakridge Neighborhood, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Iowa, Latina Leadership Initiative, Des Moines Gay Men’s Chorus, CultureALL


About the WDM Chamber of Commerce
The mission of the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce is to champion all things West Des Moines by strengthening our area companies, providing personalized resources, and attracting a top workforce to position WDM as the best suburban city in America. A 2022 ACCE Chamber of the Year Finalist, the WDM Chamber produces programs and events for everyone. Learn more about the WDM Chamber and how to get involved at wdmchamber.org

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