National Service Heroes Win Excellence in AmeriCorps Awards for Inspiring Acts of Service During the Pandemic

WASHINGTON, D.C. Sept 24 – Today, AmeriCorps, the federal agency for volunteering and service, awarded the annual Excellence in AmeriCorps awards to five alumni, grantees, and advocates, for their outstanding service within AmeriCorps State and National programs. From California to Puerto Rico, and from COVID-19 response to mental health awareness, this year’s award recipients go above and beyond every day to make our country safer, smarter, and healthier.

Now in its seventh year, the Excellence in AmeriCorps Awards were created to recognize the outstanding and innovative AmeriCorps programs, members, and alumni tackling our nation’s most-pressing challenges. The 2021 Excellence in AmeriCorps award winners represent important examples of national service, responding to adversity with resourcefulness, creativity, and community-mindedness.

“Hailing from across the country, AmeriCorps members are strengthening their communities through their dedication and service,” said Sonali Nijhawan, AmeriCorps State and National Director. “This year’s Excellence in AmeriCorps awardees are an example of the tenacity and compassion of our country’s best. We’re proud to honor their impact and highlight their service during the pandemic.”

The 2021 Excellence in AmeriCorps award winners are listed below:

Jaret Reyes, Reinvent Schools Las Vegas AmeriCorps, Nevada – Impactful Service Award

Jaret is a community navigator and provided assistance to multiple community members on a daily basis. His service helped students connect with their teachers through distance learning, families keep their homes, and parents keep food on the table for their children through the pandemic. Jaret worked directly with at-risk students, inspiring them to stay engaged with their schoolwork virtually and in-person.

Darian Boyd, Impact America, Tennessee – Influential Service Award

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Darian completed three separate AmeriCorps service terms. Darian stepped up as Team Lead for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance service and implemented new virtual and drop-off models that were utilized to prepare over 800 tax returns in the Memphis area. Darien stayed after his term concluded to see the job through and ensure that families had access to their tax refunds throughout the summer, exemplifying his unwavering commitment to service.

Victoria Ramierez-Gomez, California AmeriCorps Disaster Team – Inclusive Service Award

Victoria helped plan and coordinate the production of Be Red Cross Ready training and presented Homes Made Safer education to Alma Family Services, the lead agency for a collaborative Gang Reduction Youth Development Program serving youth and families. In addition to her work on the ground, Victoria has reached out to local school districts and local organizations to provide virtual preparedness training and offer personal protective equipment. She also played a vital role in helping to rebuild a Preparedness Coalition for the city of Bell Gardens where the majority of residents are monolingual Spanish. She reached underserved and underrepresented communities far beyond Los Angeles County to build partnerships and provide housing resources for Latinos while also building a core of Spanish-speaking volunteers through volunteer recruitment and engagement.

Paloma Suarez, Social Capital, Inc., Massachusetts – Innovative Service Award

Paloma served at the South End Community Health Center, addressing food insecurity and other social determinants of health. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Paloma established partnerships with local organizations to provide over 5,000 prepared meals, 3,000 culturally sensitive frozen meals, fresh produce, and supplies to pediatric patients. Paloma also played an important role in conducting 70% of the health center’s social determinants of health screenings. Paloma was onsite every day making sure that families had what they needed and through her contributions 706 adults, 183 youth, 494 children, 125 infants, and countless others were reached.

Jenise Terell, Public Allies, Wisconsin – Lifetime of Service Award

Jenise served in AmeriCorps’ Public Allies for 25 years, serving most recently as vice president of programming. During her tenure, Public Allies has grown its alumni network to more than 8,000 individuals and engages with more than 750 Allies per year, while also partnering with over 450 nonprofit and governmental organizations across 24 communities nationwide. Additionally, Jenise has played a central role in developing several groundbreaking national programs, including a collaborative, multi-city venture with the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance that will build career and education pathways for men of color. Jenise is proud to be a native Milwaukeean, a Public Allies alumna, and a working mother of two children.

AmeriCorps State and National programs are implemented in partnership with State Service Commissions across the country. More than 1.2 million AmeriCorps members across all AmeriCorps programs have served the nation, giving more than 1.6 billion hours of service and earning nearly $4 billion in education awards since 1994. Every year, thousands of AmeriCorps members prepare students for success, rebuild communities and revitalize cities, support veterans, fight the opioid epidemic, respond to disasters, preserve public lands, strengthen education, foster economic opportunity, and more.

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