AmeriCorps Names 2017 Harkin Award Winners at National Conference

Sep 13, 2017

Winners represent Georgia, Iowa, New Mexico, New York, and Washington

Washington, D.C. – The annual excellence in AmeriCorps award winners were announced today by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency that administers AmeriCorps,  during the 2017 AmeriCorps Symposium in Washington, D.C.  This year, five winners were honored for their community impact and commitment to service.

Created in 2014, the Tom Harkin Excellence in AmeriCorps Awards pays tribute to Senator Tom Harkin’s lifelong support for national service, while recognizing the outstanding and innovative AmeriCorps programs and members that are tackling the nation’s most pressing challenges. During his time in the Senate, Sen. Harkin was a champion for AmeriCorps and other national service programs and helped to strengthen national service programs for future generations.

“Being a good citizen means doing good. There is no better example of this civic responsibility than this year’s Excellence in AmeriCorps award winners,” said Chester Spellman, director of AmeriCorps. “While they represent organizations spanning the entire AmeriCorps family, we have all taken the same pledge: to get things done for America. I am honored to celebrate these outstanding Americans at this year’s AmeriCorps Symposium.”

“Since AmeriCorps’ inception, more than 1 million Americans have pledged to get things done, responding to critical issues facing our nation,” said Kim Mansaray, acting CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service. “We are proud to announce these winners and celebrate their achievements. They represent the true spirit of the Harkin Awards and we salute their dedication to strengthening and unifying our country through service.”

The 2017 Tom Harkin Excellence in AmeriCorps Award winners are:

  • Kristina Kofoot
    University of Northern Iowa (Cedar Falls, Iowa)
    Most Compelling member experience in either building an ethic of civic responsibility or having positive change in his/her life
    While pursuing her master’s degree in Leisure Youth and Human Services, Kristina Kofoot serves through the University of Northern Iowa’s (UNI) AmeriCorps VISTA program. Her service was vital to the creation of service-learning courses, student service projects, and development of new partnerships. Among her many accomplishments, Kristina was instrumental in developing the University’s Service-Learning Institute (SLI). Through partnerships made possible by Kristina, community partners and faculty developed new service learning courses to help students gain experience and learn about civic responsibility. UNI faculty describe the SLI as transformational and credit Kristina’s dedication for making it possible. In addition, she has played a critical role in implementing a community engagement plan, which is now included in UNI’s 2017-2022 Strategic Plan.
  • Harley Rescelo, AmeriCorps
    YouthBuild USA (Schenectady, N.Y.)
    Most Compelling member experience in either building an ethic of civic responsibility or having positive change in his/her life
    Harley Rescelo spent her first year of service renovating and constructing homes for low-income families in her community through YouthBuild. After her AmeriCorps experience, she wanted to do more and went to Louisiana to help after the 2016 Louisiana floods. Her unwavering commitment to service led her back to YouthBuild Schenectady for a second term. Using her prior experience in Louisiana, Harley was critical in helping transform abandoned homes into community assets. In her free time, she continues to educate her peers about the power of service and what it truly means to be an AmeriCorps member.
  • Running Medicine (Albuquerque, N.M.)
    Best New Program design addressing a critical priority
    During his service as an AmeriCorps VISTA, Michael Stocker launched a new program called Running Medicine enrolling more than 200 participants. Formed as a program through the Native Health Initiative, the vision was to create a culture of wellness through a supportive community. Unlike costly fitness activities, Running Medicine is a low-cost program, engaging many low-income families and communities. Bringing his experience in leadership and coaching, Michael set the standard of excellence for the competitive adult running group, coordinating weekday and weekend practices and events for more than 640 participants. His intervention and activities addressed a critical priority by engaging the community physically, mentally, and socially to improve health and wellness.
  • Youth Villages AmeriCorps (Douglasville, Ga.)
    Most Significant Enhancement to an Existing Program

    The Youth Villages AmeriCorps program at the Inner Harbour campus provides tutoring, life skills coaching, and afterschool and summer programs to Inner Harbor youth, many from the foster care and juvenile justice systems. This year, the program implemented the ServSafe vocational certification program, an accredited food and beverage safety training program administered by the National Restaurant Association that is recognized in all 50 states. The certification allows for employment in a broad range of positions in the food service and restaurant industries. This enhancement was particularly critical for youth who are transitioning out of the program, looking for employment. With this certification, the program is bridging employment opportunities to those served who can go on to pursue careers in the culinary arts.
  • Rotary First Harvest for AmeriCorps NCCC Food Bank Farm (Seattle, Wash.)
    Special Recognition for a National Service Partnership

    In 2016, Harvest Against Hunger launched a partnership with CNCS and hunger relief organizations from the state of Washington to develop the AmeriCorps NCCC Food Bank Farm Project. Through this partnership, AmeriCorps NCCC has strengthened food bank farm infrastructure and its capacity to grow healthier communities, increasing access to fresh food for residents in need. In 2016 and 2017 AmeriCorps NCCC teams served at three food bank farms, building new infrastructure to extend the growing season and repairing existing irrigation systems and fences. AmeriCorps NCCC members were also instrumental in leading the AmeriCorps Action Day, helping manage and coordinate volunteers to help plant much needed vines and bushes.
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