FARGO-When Jerilynn Brantner Adams was honored by YWCA Cass Clay as a high school student, she got to accept the award alongside a woman she admired.
"It was such a great honor," she says. "I was in high school and all these amazing other women received the award at the same time, and I thought, 'I don't know how I am possibly in this group with these women.' "
The same year Brantner Adams won the YWCA's Woman of the Year Young Woman of Today & Tomorrow Award, North Dakota Supreme Court Justice Beryl Levine was also honored.
"I specifically remember Justice Levine because she is somebody I really looked up to," says the now 47-year-old Fargo attorney. "She was a woman on the North Dakota Supreme Court, and I thought that was awesome."
The Young Woman of Today & Tomorrow Award is given to young women, ages 15 to 22, who have shown exceptional leadership, scholastic ability, volunteer service or special achievements.
"Winning the award with all these amazing women made me want to continue to strive to have a career and to be involved in the community," Brantner Adams says.
On Monday, the YWCA will recognize women and businesses in 12 categories during its 42nd Annual Women of the Year celebration.
Brantner Adams grew up in Harwood, N.D., and attended high school at Oak Grove Lutheran School in Fargo. She was active in the community, sports and school, and says she thinks a teacher nominated her for the award.
"Education was a big deal to me, and I hope I've passed that on to my kids," says Brantner Adams, who has two teenage sons.
After high school, she attended Concordia College in Moorhead and the University of North Dakota School of Law in Grand Forks. She joined Vogel Law Firm in 1995, and typically handles cases like divorce, custody and adoption. In joining Vogel, Brantner Adams followed in the footsteps of her father, who was an attorney for Vogel Law for 35 years.
She decided to focus on family law, she says, because she felt it was an area where she could make a difference.
The most challenging cases, she says, are the ones that involve children.
"You can fight about money, you can fight about a lot of different things, but there's nothing more important to people than their kids," she says. "It's very emotional and it can be very difficult to deal with those issues because sometimes neither side is happy with the outcome."
The most rewarding cases, she says, are adoptions and cases where she felt like she made a difference in someone's life.
"Family law can be very difficult, but it can also be very rewarding," she says.
Brantner Adams is involved in the community through the YWCA endowment committee, Bethany board of trustees and Oak Grove board of trustees.
"This is just such a great community for raising a family," she says. "I feel like everyone owes something back to the community that they've received something from."
While she has a lot going on, Brantner Adams says she makes sure to prioritize her family by putting family events into her calendar before anything else is scheduled. It helps, she says, that her husband, Jonathan, is so supportive.
If you go
What: YWCA Cass Clay 2015 Woman of the Year celebration
When: 5:30 p.m. Monday
Where: Fargo Holiday Inn
Contact: (701) 232-2547