After Youth In Need’s beloved former CEO passed away in 2017, a group of staff and Board volunteers decided to recognize Jim’s life of service with an annual award for staff who exemplify Jim’s attributes of Innovation, Dedication, Excellence and Advocacy. Each awardee receives a crystal “lightbulb” award, a $500 gift and $500 to use toward something of their choice at Youth In Need.
This year’s James A. Braun Big IDEA Award honorees are Stephanie Blakley, Continuous Quality Improvement Manager; Kiarra Kirksey, Counseling Administrative Assistant; Dena Strickland, Runaway and Homeless Youth Day Program Case Manager; and Jeannetta Wallace, Early Learning Program Center Administrator. Congratulations to the honorees and to the nine other staff who were nominated this year!
Stephanie Blakley, Continuous Quality Improvement Manager: Stephanie’s nominator says that she is always thinking about how to improve processes and make things easier for staff. She’s greatly improved the agency-wide quality report so data is streamlined, consistent and meaningful. Stephanie uses project management systems and other technology to structure processes and ensure they are clear and accurate. In addition to her quality role, Stephanie is very involved in Youth In Need’s Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion work, facilitating discussion groups and serving on the Diversity Council.
Kiarra Kirksey, Counseling Administrative Assistant: Kiarra’s nominator says that Kiarra is always focused on making sure clients and staff have what they need. She is willing to help anyone with anything (running errands, moving, organizing, etc.), and gives 110 percent at all times, always with a positive outlook and contagiously friendly personality. Kiarra is constantly learning and growing, and she embraces her vital role of supporting the Counseling team. Deeply compassionate, Kiarra offers support and understanding to everyone she meets, especially Youth In Need’s most vulnerable clients.
Dena Strickland, Runaway and Homeless Youth Day Program Case Manager: Dena’s nominator says that she is devoted to the youth the agency serves. Working quietly behind the scenes, Dena does whatever is needed, especially when programs are short-staffed. She helped a youth buy a car so he could transition to independence and helped another youth go to college by teaching her to her advocate for herself and by offering emotional support. Described as extremely competent and highly valued, Dena consistently goes above and beyond for Youth In Need and the youth she serves while still keeping good boundaries.
Jeannetta Wallace, Early Learning Program Center Administrator: Jeannetta’s nominator says that she encourages her to think out of the box. As someone who deeply understands the needs of families, she created schedules that would allow families to partner in the classrooms. She also advocates for teaching staff and encourages Youth In Need to value experience as much as education, which was instrumental in changing agency policy. Among many other things, Jeannetta established a parent room and started a “Chat & Chew” on Fridays for staff to debrief and set goals. Her nominator said, “I’ve always known that Jeannetta would shine in administration. She has the gift of engagement, creating processes and building relationships.”