Left to Right: Vanessa Nesbitt, Julie McKnight, Don Edwards, Cindy Ringer, Jessica Perlick, Alexandra Ellison

All the AmeriCorps National Service Programs in Nevada are being saluted, by proclamation of Governor Brian Sandoval, during AmeriCorps Week, May 14 through 21, 2011. In conjunction with AmeriCorps Week, Nevada Volunteers, the state commission on national and community service, is recognizing five national service participants and a program director for their exemplary service to Nevada. Read more about these 2010-2011 NEVADA NATIONAL SERVICE AWARDS HONOREES:

VANESSA NESBITT—2011 Northern Nevada AmeriCorps Member of the Year, AmeriCorps Member, AmeriCorps State, Tahoe’s Connection for Families, Incline Village, NV

“Vanessa defines commitment,” explains her supervisor at Tahoe’s Connection for Families, which provides parent education and programs for infants and toddlers. “She never does anything part way!” Without any funding, she created a six week music exploration program for the center’s families, developed an accurate evaluation system to track statistics that would help the center receive grants, and forged a media/awareness campaign that brought a 28% increase in new families participating in the program, all while serving the day-to-day needs of the families that she serves. It is her ability to create trust, though, that sets her apart. People confide in Vanessa, which allows her to touch people’s lives in a special way, from her fellow AmeriCorps team members to the little boy who is getting speech therapy right now because of her intervention.

JESSICA PERLICK—2011 Southern Nevada AmeriCorps Member of the Year, Volunteer Liaison, Pro Bono Project, AmeriCorps State, Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, Las Vegas, NV

Juggling law school and managing 5 separate volunteer programs is a breeze—at least that is how Jessica Perlick makes it seem. Jessica is so capable that her supervisors at the Legal Aid Center never have to give these programs a second thought. “Jessica is extremely dependable. When she is assigned a task or agrees to take on a project, we always know it will be done and that she will do it well.” Jessica has signed up over 120 new volunteers and helped to match 602 pro bono clients with volunteer attorneys. These volunteers are busy lawyers with tight schedules. Jessica knows how to keep them coming back—through thank you notes, reminders, and excellent people skills. Jessica creates a positive experience for her volunteers, which ensures they continue to help those who have so much need.

ALEXANDRA ELLISON—2011 Nevada AmeriCorps VISTA Member of the Year, Honors Service Learning Coordinator, AmeriCorps VISTA, Honors Program, University of Nevada, Reno, NV

“She will leave a legacy of giving among students.” There is no better way to sum up the impact of Alex Ellison has had on the UNR campus. When Alex arrived, there was no central office at UNR that dealt with volunteerism and service engagement. Alex built it from the ground up through constant meetings with faculty, students, and nonprofits. She developed an Honors Service Council of 17 students to ensure sustainability in campus community service. She also spearheaded numerous initiatives such as the “Expressions of Homelessness” service project to engage faculty and students in a poetry project at the local shelter and the “Golfing to Give Benefit” to support future student community service projects. Alex “arrived running,” as her supervisor says, and she hasn’t stopped for breath yet.

CINDY RINGER—2011 Nevada AmeriCorps VISTA Member of the Year, AmeriCorps VISTA, Nevada Youth Empowerment Project, Reno, NV

It’s the second time around for Cindy Ringer. Her dedication to the Nevada Youth Empowerment Project is phenomenal, made abundantly clear when she signed up for a second, and now third year of service. That kind of commitment shows in her invaluable work helping to develop and document many initiatives that are integral to NYEP such as the Resident Council and the Token Economy system. “Cindy has been diligent in providing capacity building for the NYEP to build infrastructure for lasting success,” her supervisor says. Instruction lists, manuals, tracking systems are an essential part of that effort, so Cindy can rest assured that all her effort will continue when her service years finally end.

DON EDWARDS—2011 Nevada Senior Corps/RSVP Participant of the Year, Telephone Reassurance Program, Senior Corps, Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada/RSVP, Las Vegas, NV

Don Edwards is the gold standard when it comes to volunteers. In the last nine years, he has made a staggering 20,370 calls to homebound individuals to provide contact, comfort, and wellness checks. That is commendable in itself, but it becomes even more extraordinary with the additional information that Don is homebound himself. He has MS, but that doesn’t deter him from using his “positive and radiant attitude” to reach out to those who may be isolated from the world. His supervisor says, “Don has health concerns that would keep many of us from lending a helping hand or using our time to benefit others, and that is why he is so commendable. These very setbacks are what motivate him to be a beacon of light and inspiration to others.”

JULIE MCKNIGHT—2011 Nevada AmeriCorps Program Director of the Year, Program Director, Clean Energy Corps, Great Basin Institute, Reno, NV

Julie McKnight accepted the enormous task of taking a one-time only, special AmeriCorps grant and turning that grant into Great Basin Institute’s new Nevada Clean Energy Corps AmeriCorps Program. From Day 1, Julie has consistently demonstrated a “can do” attitude. She aims high and is truly making a difference in the short time she has to create this new program and then integrate it into the Nevada Conservation Corps. She is enthusiastic, thoughtful, collaborative, and committed to success every step of the way. Julie seems to be having a great time following her passion towards environmental stewardship. In short, Julie “gets” it. She has gone the extra mile to get the job done.

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