MOST selfie photoEleven youth workers from nine different youth serving organizations, Neighborhood House, Goodman Community Center, Elver Park Neighborhood Center, Madison Schools and Community Recreation, Urban League of Greater Madison, East Madison Community Center, CEOs of Tomorrow, Lussier Community Education Center, and Wisconsin Youth Company were recognized for their outstanding contributions at a small outdoor ceremony on yesterday, August 25th.

16,000 children in Madison rely on Out-of-School Time 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 year, 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. The following individuals were recognized at the small outdoor reception.

Voyinese (Ms. Nese) Adams knows hundreds of students by name and cares for each one like they were her own children. Despite the ongoing disruptions caused by the COVID public health crisis during the 2020-2021 school year, she worked hard to keep students connected to their local community through organizing monthly opportunities for students to meet with community leaders. She is a truly essential member of the Sennett school community and dedicated advocate for youth success and empowerment. Nese has been a dedicated youth worker for more than 13 years, currently working as a dual Coordinator for MSCR and Urban League of Greater Madison.

Pau Xiong grew up at the East Madison Community Center (EMCC) and was recognized as EMCC's youth "Volunteer of the Year." when she was 12. Now as a staff member there, she is passionate, wise-beyond-her-years, hardworking, patient, bi-lingual, and excels at problem-solving. Pau also teaches the children to be self-sufficient in resolving their issues and making better decisions.

Courtney Howard brings her smile and laughter to the children at Elver Park Neighborhood Center every day. She creatively works with the children to ensure they have the best time at After School or Summer Camp and helps train the other childcare staff members. During the pandemic she also made sure not only academics were covered but that the children were able to have time to socialize in a safe social distanced manner with each other during break time.

Shane Saddison-Bradford joined Neighborhood House's youth programming in the middle of the pandemic and jumped right in. He helped create experiences for all the youth to support them outside of their virtual learning. He pushed all of the students to do their best work and remain engaged even when it was difficult. Shane has also created a new teen enrichment experience that focuses on art, cooking and community.

Hewan Schade is the youth program manager at CEOs of Tomorrow. Her personal story is one of incredible resilience and Hewan uses her experience to impact the lives of the youth we serve, andMOST awardee we have benefitted from her strong work ethic and burning passion to make the world better for other children. She shares her story unapologetically, to open doors and advocate for underserved young people.

Lisbeth Solano brings a unique combination of cheerful conscientiousness, creative commitment and deep relationality to her work at Lussier Community Education Center. During the pandemic Lisbeth never lost an opportunity to work with young people. When the Center was closed and everything was virtual, Lisbeth was holding one-on-one virtual tutoring sessions with individual teens until 8:30pm. During the summer she worked with teens to pack tailored boxes of food and essentials for families in the neighborhood, making sure 35-40 families a week got what they needed in these challenging times.

John Harmelink has been the East Madison Community Center's (EMCC) Youth Program Director since 1991. John has recruited, trained, and supervised 100's of paid, volunteer, work-study, and college interns to serve as center youth workers. Because of John's leadership, EMCC has received dozens of national, state, and local awards for effective, innovative programs. During the pandemic John helped the Center mobilize over $20,000 to improve air circulation and purchase every type of Personal Protective supply imaginable. EMCC never experienced COVID breakout.

Adriana Hernandez Perez came to Goodman Community Center after working with children with autism one on one. She wanted a new experience in teaching. She jumped right in with virtual learning. She is a great communicator, she believes in community and teaches children to care for each other and each other's needs and she welcomes all children with love and support.

Lupe Banda, according to everyone who knows him is passionate about youth work at MSCR. He wears his heart on his sleeve, and his students, families, and staff - whom he often refers to as his "family" - benefit from it. He aspires to lead high quality programming, and all of his decisions are made through the lens of what is best for his “family.” According to parents of his program, “Lupe brought joy and sunshine into their lives in a time of darkness and distress. The wide smiles that I see on my children's faces are testament to your deep compassion and connection with children.”

Erick Blue jumped right into a new supervisory role at MSCR in the middle of a pandemic and has thrived. He is now running a 5 half-day summer program, and if he’s stressed, you wouldn’t know it. Erick is creative and always amazingly calm and even keeled. He is a positive role model for all students, but especially those that struggle with emotional regulation. Erick considers everyone's viewpoints and perspectives and wants to see the good in others - staff and students. This ability to listen and be open-minded helps drive how he forms his program.

Josh Harper earned the promotion to site supervisor at Wisconsin Youth Company the fall of 2019. Having less than a full year under his belt, Josh rose to the occasion to gracefully navigate constantly pivoting from challenge to challenge to support our k-6 kids academically, socially, behaviorally, and emotionally during a pandemic. Families agreed, saying “During an incredibly trying year, Wisconsin Youth Company staff were supportive, accommodating, and flexible, all while having transparent communication.”

These winners are the second group of MOST Outstanding Youth Workers, joining Tanya Walker, Alejandra Becerril Estrada, Nate Savado, and Mayder Lor winners from 2019. 

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.

MOST group photo
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