Workers Honored for Dedication & Creativity Supporting Youth

Ten youth workers (adults who work with youth) will be recognized at a ceremony this week by Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and Superintendent Lisa Kvistad for their outstanding contributions supporting youth. This annual event will also recognize two “Legends of Out-of-School Time.” Legends are just that - people who have contributed long and hard over decades and paved the way for the rest of us.

The recognition ceremony will take place Wednesday, August 30 from 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm At Madison Arts Youth Center, 4th floor.

Approximately 16,000 children in Madison rely on Out-of-School Time (MOST) organizations and the thousands of people who work for them. Although Out-of-School Time staff provide essential services to the Madison community they do not always get the recognition they deserve, particularly after an incredibly challenging several years, where they were often on the front-lines of the pandemic supporting young people and families. That is why MOST is recognizing their contributions to making our city better with $500 awards. 

Award winners were nominated by their peers with final selections made by local high school students among dozens of strong nominees. 

2023 Legends
Arthur Morgan III from Goodman Community Center 
Leslie Smith from Madison School & Community Recreation 

2023 MOST Outstanding Youth Workers
Ashleigh Hubert from Lussier Community Education Center
Gabrielle Hinahara from Middleton Youth Center
Athena McNeal from Madison School & Community Recreation
Lanette Hamilton from Madison School & Community Recreation
Travus Maloney from Rooted
Aza Muzorewa from Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center
Rita Chelmo from Wisconsin Youth Company
Shantrice Solis from Goodman Community Center
Anahi Gallegos from Centro Hispano
Mai Thao Yang (MT) from Freedom Inc.

Pictures of 2023 winners can be found here

2023 Winner Nominations

Arthur Morgan III from Goodman Community Center - Arthur started at the age of 16 creating his own 5 days a week camp at Mendota Elementary School. He would go to the elementary school to practice in the summertime doing drills by himself and notice a group of kids shooting on the other end of the court. The kids asked him to show them a thing or two, so he did. The next day they showed up with more friends. Arthur called up some friends, because by the end of the week he had more youth than he could handle. The custodian pulled out some tables and unlocked the school for water and he began doing youth work at the age of 16 in 1988. Since then, he has done it all: the FAST Program Young Men’s Group 1889-1991, Atwood Community Center Camp (Now Goodman Community Center) in Darbo Worthington Park 1991, Elementary Afterschool Counselor and Boys Group Counselor 1991- 1995, MSCR Programming at Okeeffe, Boys Group in the evenings 1995-2013, Sexual Health Teacher in MMSD Schools called Madison Empowering Responsibility in Teens (MERIT) 2011-2019, Middle School Manager Loft Program at Goodman Community Center 2015-2020, Family Advocate Manager 2020 - Present. 

Leslie Smith from Madison School & Community Recreation - Leslie started working for MSCR in 2006 as a program leader, directly serving students and their families with well thought out and creative afterschool programming for Madison families. In her current position, she supervises 5 full time Site Directors, coordinates MSCR Afterschool at 13 locations, coordinates MSCR Girls Inc at 15+ locations, and coordinates 5 full day summer camps each summer. Leslie gives 100%. She brings positivity, enthusiasm and a can-do attitude to everything she does. She is creative and caring to her core and makes everyone she works with know how much she appreciates them. Leslie is an excellent communicator with people of all ages. She is a great planner and an amazing leader. Former student participants are now her staff members. She cares deeply about inclusion and equity. From program design, to staff training, to communication with kids and families, she puts thought into making sure MSCR spaces are welcoming to all people. More importantly, Leslie is fun! She brings energy and enthusiasm wherever she goes. She is always willing to try new things and does not shy away from a challenge. On top of being an amazing staff member, Leslie is a mom to 3 girls who are her world. She treats her friends like family and has a tight circle that she holds dear. Leslie is a legend.

2023 MOST Outstanding Youth Workers 

Ashleigh Hubert from Lussier Community Education Center - Ashleigh lives in the neighborhood near Lussier Community Education Center and has real, meaningful relationships with the community that Lussier serves. She is basically never off the clock because the kids in her building know they can knock on Ashleigh's door if they are locked out or don't want to be at home or their own parent has had it with them and just needs a break. During COVID, Ashleigh led an initiative to make sure that families received food and supplies, often delivering them herself. Perhaps most powerfully, in our exit interviews for high school students we asked students who they admired and why. Many students answered that they admired Miss Ashleigh because she is always there for them even when her own life is hard and she never gives up.

Gabrielle Hinahara from Middleton Youth Center - Gabrielle reopened the Middleton Youth Center in 2014 after the city had closed it down due to low enrollment in previous years. By 2019, the youth center averaged over 45 kids per day and had a waiting list. She has fought to keep the program free to all families, with families who qualify for free or reduced lunch getting an increased chance in being chosen in our lottery system for enrolling new students. Several years ago she implemented a school time mentoring program to help us ensure kids still get 1 on 1 time with staff as the program grows. She has ensured that the youth center is focused on improving kids' SEL skills. Gabrielle is trusted and respected by the staff, parents, and most importantly the kids. She is an excellent supervisor to youth center staff, many of whom are social work interns, AmeriCorps members, and high school students. 

Athena McNeal from Madison School & Community Recreation - Athena is the most hard-working person I know! She is always willing to step in, help, and go the extra mile for anyone, no questions asked. Her quiet dedication and strong work ethic often go unnoticed by many coworkers. As a special education assistant, MSCR assistant director, and mom of four, she, impressively, never misses work. She is one of the first people in the school building in the morning and the last to leave at the end of the day. Athena has so many other outstanding qualities. She is: A thoughtful listener Kind and warm-hearted A collaborative team mate Observant and insightful, and Most importantly, my brain when I need it most - she remembers little details that are easy to forget when work gets busy and stressful, like students’ names, deadlines, and more! Athena has incredible leadership potential and could absolutely be an afterschool director someday!

Lanette Hamilton from Madison School & Community Recreation- Lanette is incredibly dependable and committed to ensuring that students feel empowered. She often goes out of her way to check in with students who need additional support. Above all, she is a kind and caring person who understands that our students are going through a wide range of emotions. She is an ally and advocate for students who are often not comfortable speaking up on their own behalf. She also works really long hours, working during the school day and for our program. Despite this she brings so much energy to our team and is a huge asset to the Toki community. 

Travus Maloney from Rooted - Travus works with youth of all ages at Rooted’s Goodman Youth Farm offering hands-on, educational farm-based programs to thousands of youth every year from MMSD and other area schools, MSCR programs, Goodman Community Center’s Garden Fit program, Family Field Trips and more! Travus and his team involve youth in all aspects of running the farm where they address food security issues through donating thousands of pounds of produce every year to the Goodman Food Pantry. You can find Travus with youth cooking in the outdoor kitchen, making smoothies on the bicycle blender, building campfires, harvesting honey from the honeybees, planting crops from many different cultures, making garden art, and so much more. Travus and his team always make space for youth to follow their curiosity and step into leadership roles to teach one another. The magic Travus and his team creates keeps young people coming back year after year.

Aza Muzorewa from Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center - Aza is the heart of our program. This past June we celebrated 10 years of him working at Wil-Mar and making a difference in the lives of so many in our community, a community that he grew up in as a Wil-Mar Alum himself. He is passionate about what he does and committed to being of service and building lasting bonds with our children and families. He ensures that every child feels safe and that their voices are heard. He helps create a space where a child can flourish and be comfortable with being their authentic self. Aza, brings an unmatched positive energy to the space and has a way of guiding and teaching from a place of love. We do not know where we would be without Aza's "Dad Jokes", his Freestyle raps, Disney Musical outbursts and most of all without his leadership and joy that he spreads. 

Rita Chelmo from Wisconsin Youth Company - Rita is a rare youth worker who can apply her skills to a wide range of differently aged youth. She works closely with K-8th grade students throughout the year and can meet all of them developmentally at their level. This is particularity needed for middle-school students who are often overlooked in terms of OST enrichment activities and programming, and Rita is gifted at providing opportunities that help students bridge the gap between primary school ages, and the further independence of high school. Additionally, she brings her inclusive programming skills to this range of ages as well and ensures that all students feel welcome, safe, and engaged in programming. 

Shantrice Solis from Goodman Community Center - Shantrice leads everyday with her unwavering dedication to the teens she serves. She possesses a remarkable talent for connecting with a wide variety of youth, regardless of their backgrounds or interests. Through her genuine empathy and approachable demeanor, she has created a safe and inclusive space for teens to express themselves freely. Shantrice is her relentless pursuit of new opportunities for the youth she serves. She consistently goes above and beyond to design innovative programs that cater to their diverse needs and aspirations. Shantrice places immense value on youth voice and choice, empowering the teens and ensuring they engage in programs and activities. She nurtures self-confidence, instills a sense of ownership, and fosters a deep sense of community. Through her unwavering commitment, her ability to connect with teens, her innovative approach, and her dedication to youth voice, Shantrice has undoubtedly touched the lives of countless teens and left a lasting positive impact on their personal growth and development. 

Anahi Gallegos from Centro Hispano -  Anahi is a member of the Madison community since her arrival from Mexico very young. She grew up in the City of Madison along with some years in Mexico. Life has taken her through many roller coasters but Anahi holds her passion for people, community, and growth above herself. She is a leader in our team of 4. She will never say no to her students plans, visions, or projects. Anahi finds a way to make sure the community is healthy and nourished no matter her circumstances. This Summer, 2 of Anahi's students wanted to make a Latino party because many students don't feel welcomed at the school dances. We had no money, no volunteers, just a team of 3-5 students and 2 coordinators. Despite the lack of resources, Anahi never said no. She researched for people that will help us out and ended up getting the East side club for $200, 2 DJ's as volunteers, and Dj Audio from a local Latino radio. Thhe party was created thanks to Anahi's drive and inability to put her students dreams down.

Mai Thao Yang (MT) from Freedom Inc. -  is a remarkable advocate who has shown unwavering dedication to supporting Hmong girls and LGBTQ+ youth in Madison. Through her commitment to Hmong Queer Feminism, she has created a platform that provides direct services and leadership development opportunities, ensuring the safety and well-being of Hmong girls in their homes, schools, and communities. MT’s work stands out for its intersectional approach, recognizing the unique challenges faced by Hmong girls and LGBTQ+ folx within their cultural context. By addressing the specific needs of her community, she has fostered a sense of empowerment and belonging among those who often face oppression. Through her tireless efforts, MT Yang has created safe spaces where Hmong girls and LGBTQ+ youth can express themselves freely, receive support, and access resources. Her leadership development programs have equipped these individuals with the necessary tools to advocate for their rights and challenge societal norms that perpetuate inequality.

These winners are the fourth group of MOST Outstanding Youth Workers, joining twenty-seven other winners from 2019, 2021, and 2022.
The Madison-area Out-of-School Time initiative ensures that all of Madison's children and youth have access to comprehensive, high-quality, out-of-school time programs that support positive youth development, educational achievement, and readiness for college, career, and community. MOST is an unprecedented collaboration between the City of Madison, Dane County, Madison Metropolitan School District, and over 45 Madison-area youth-serving organizations.

For Media:
Interview opportunities will be available during the event.


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