August 01, 2017
Before joining the Rauner Family YMCA and the West Communities YMCA as Executive Director, Louiza Williamson became familiar with the Y’s values and mission as a young girl. She participated in a modeling program that taught young girls about etiquette, style, and self-esteem. “I learned so much and the programs gave me purpose, self-esteem and opened doors to opportunities I wouldn't have experienced without that training. I stay involved with the Y today as I feel it gives me purpose. Also, I feel like I need to give back and help youth and teens as I was helped by the Y growing up” says Louiza.
The YMCA became a place for Louiza and her family when her two children started participating in swimming and other sports like basketball. Her son Lucas, first held a basketball at the New City Y at age 4. “One day, a volunteer coach saw Lucas playing a pick-up game,” says his mom, Louiza, “and asked if Lucas would like to play on the team — even though all the players were three or four years older. That’s how good he was. He had a gift, and we just went with it.” Her daughter, Lauren, was also introduced to sports at the YMCA and currently plays tennis at Whitney Young High School.
While her family spent Saturdays playing sports and taking swim lessons at the Y, she started talking to the Executive Director at the former New City YMCA, their local YMCA about programs she would like to see and soon became the Membership Director at the New City YMCA. When the New City Y closed in 2007, Lucas continued to play basketball at the South Side YMCA and went on to win two state championships at Whitney Young High School. Today, Lucas is a guard on the Loyola University Chicago men’s basketball team, which made it to the Final Four in the 2018 NCAA Tournament.
Louiza believes it is important for mothers to be present in the moment and in their children’s lives. She knows it is hard to do so in between work and paying bills, but says “you only get one chance and you should take advantage of it.”
Williamson grew up in Hyde Park on the south side of Chicago and went to the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee, where she received a bachelor’s degree in accounting. After graduating, she worked as an accountant for Navistar. Louiza became New City Y’s Membership Director in 2003, and when the center was closed Louiza joined the Frances Xavier Warde School, where her children attended, as the Athletics Director and later as the Afterschool and Program Director. In 2015, when her daughter graduated from 8th grade, Louiza came back to the YMCA of Metro Chicago as the Regional Membership Director and within a year became Rauner Family and West Communities’ Executive Director.