WARREN, Ohio (WYTV) — This week’s Hometown Hero takes us to the YWCA building in Warren where you’ll find Leah Merritt.

Merritt is the President and CEO of the YWCA Mahoning Valley, which has a mission to eliminate racism, empower women, and promote peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all.

Merritt started her journey at YWCA in Youngstown after college graduation from Youngstown State University. She said she fell in love with its mission.

“I just never left, and what’s been exciting is that I was able to learn and grow and develop my own professional track along the way,” said Merritt.

In 2012, Merritt became the President and CEO of YWCA. Its mission tackles education, equality and so much more — something she has been passionate about since a child.

“It goes back to when I was a child teaching school to my little neighborhood friends and ya know wanting people to have a better life and be able to learn and grow,” said Merritt.

Merritt, along with the organization provides access to housing, education, and scholarships through various programs. She said it’s a need in this area.

“We see a lot of disparities, a lot of racial inequity and there has been a resurgence of commitment to that to some extent but it continues to need addressing,” said Merritt.

One of Merritt’s favorite events is “Wise Women” — a time to hear testimonials from women that have gone through their programs.

“Just to hear that next generation and how they’re moving forward and how that assistance has helped them eliminate debt and grow within their own right that always tugs at my heartstrings,” said Merritt.

An organization that works closely with the YWCA notices the work that Merritt does, especially Brandi Parker from Veterans Haven.

“She is a huge advocate, and she makes sure that she brings and provides the services that are needed,” said Parker.

Merritt was also honored as the Woman of the Year by Youngstown Business and Professional Women’s Club back in Oct. of 2021.