NSPN Announces 2023 Award Recipients 

National Safe Place Network (NSPN) recognized several individuals, organizations, and businesses during its 2023 national awards ceremony on Wednesday, July 19 at the Focus 2023 national conference held at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky. 

“We are honored to celebrate youth service professionals, volunteers, advocates, and community partners who have made a positive difference in the lives of youth and families,” said Laurie Padilla, President/CEO of NSPN. “The 2023 NSPN Award recipients have contributed their time, money, expertise, and voices to ensure youth safety and for that, we are grateful.”

NSPN is proud to recognize the following 2023 NSPN Award winners:

Model Program Award

This award recognizes agencies that have developed creative and innovative ways to improve service delivery to youth and their families. NSPN is thrilled to celebrate The Center for Youth Services’ Safe Harbour program.

In 2013, this recipient was selected by the state to enhance efforts to enhance identification and services to survivors of labor and sex trafficking. The organization holds multiple press conferences yearly to release data and raise awareness about outreach efforts. Free training is offered to community partners and the organization sponsors a task force which includes members of law enforcement, health care providers, DV and sexual assault organizations, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and others. As the only program serving minor survivors of trafficking in the area, the program’s services are critical to addressing a growing need. The program’s team provides case coordination and advocacy for commercially sexually exploited (CSE) youth and they help youth access medical care, mental health counseling, financial assistance, emergency shelter, and other basic living and safety needs. The program’s goal is to address immediate life and safety issues and reduce the risk of continued sexual exploitation and abuse. The organization is recognized for its history as an organization founded by youth for youth and its focus on the current needs of youth is demonstrated through this program.

(Pictured center: Valerie Douglas accepts the award on behalf of the Safe Harbour program)

Helping Hands Award

With limited resources, volunteers are often the unsung heroes of youth service organizations and are crucial to daily operations. This award recognizes an individual or group of volunteers who go above and beyond the call of duty. NSPN's 2023 Helping Hands Award goes to Melissa Porter.

This recipient has been providing free haircuts to all residents in the program on a bi-monthly basis for over 24 years helping to make our youth feel special as she gives them a personalized experience each time they enter her salon. She can be counted on to participate in National Safe Place Week each year. Last year she helped to raise awareness during NSP Week by sponsoring a toiletry and hygiene drive within her salon. During this year’s NSP Week, she has served as a judge for a door decorating contest that was held at a local elementary school. She has also taken time to help us in fundraising events. Melissa not only supports our organization, but she also supports other non-profit and community businesses. She oversees the operation of the Bartow Christmas Coalition, a non-profit organization that exists to bring community-based resources together to help at-risk youth and their families have a wonderful holiday experience. 

(Pictured center: Tracy Arp accepting the award on behalf of Melissa Porter)

Safe Place® Coordinator of the Year Award

This award recognizes the Coordinator who provides quality Safe Place program management and does so without expecting recognition for their invaluable efforts. NSPN is proud to recognize Brigitt Nasby as the 2023 Safe Place Coordinator of the Year.

This recipient just transitioned from her role as a Safe Place Coordinator for 3 counties in 2022. During her time as a coordinator, she expanded the number of sites in all 3 counties, creating community partnerships and establishing outreach programs and sponsorships that are still in place to this day. Beyond Safe Place, her contributions were immeasurable. She joined extra committees, facilitated programming with at-risk youth beyond Safe Place, and trained agency members on recognizing bias, identifying victims of human trafficking, and assisting youth in crisis. She is incredibly thorough with site maintenance. She contacted every site annually for a site check and staff training where she would ask them to resign the Safe Place agreement every year, ensuring that each site was aware of the commitment. Every year, she partners with National CineMedia, Comcast, and Lamar to produce PSAs that would be seen by over 100,000 adults annually. She consistently assists other Safe Place Coordinators statewide, creating templates. Due to her helpful nature and expertise on Safe Place, She has recently become the State Safe Place Director, where it is now her role to help Safe Place agencies across the state be the most effective that they can be. Her dedication to the mission of Safe Place is something that she wears on her sleeve. She is a passionate, thoughtful, and caring individual who is unafraid to try new things and be persistent. 

Community Involvement Award

This award recognizes a business, serving as a community partner, which has consistently gone above and beyond the expectations of a local program. The 2023 Community Involvement Award goes to Tavian Harris.

This recipient utilizes more than $23 million in State, County, Federal, and private funding to provide housing and supportive services, and positive youth development services in Dallas and Tarrant County Texas communities and schools, having reached over than 350,000 youth and families. She is a Co-author of the evidence-based Possessing Your Power (PYP) curriculum that is listed on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Teen Pregnancy Prevention Evidence Review and is the Creator/Founder of the Bessed2Give (B2G) program that has provided resources and material assistance such as diapers, wipes, baby accessories, baby furniture, and clothing, and parenting classes to over 15,000 pregnant and parenting youth in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. She formed the Young Adult Council (YAC) comprised of 32 partners that served a TOTAL of 10,940 youth. Her achievements are demonstrated by the impact she has across the community and yet her truest impact may be felt though the words of her staff. When called to confirm the recipient had won the award, the staff member was working with the recipient in a warehouse on a community project. The nominator burst into tears and stated – “oh my goodness, you have no idea how much she deserves this award – she is everything – to all of us.”

Youth in Action Award

This award recognizes a young person or a group of young people, age 24 and under, whose efforts go above and beyond to make a difference in the lives of others. The 2023 Youth in Action Award goes to Rachel Litchman.

A survivor of homelessness and abuse, this recipient understands that her personal experiences are invaluable tools for creating social change and she courageously uses her voice to help and inspire others. She is deeply involved with a network of local and national Runaway and Homeless Youth service providers, and as a confident networker, she continually finds ways to make connections between the many different organizations she's involved with. In support of NRPM, she conducted media interviews about her experience with homelessness and the challenges young people often face in accessing critical services. She serves on the National Runaway Safeline's Youth Advisory Board where she has participated in a panel discussion with the White House and contributed to an educational webinar about the intersection of LGBTQ'S+ identity and homelessness. 

Click here to access Rachel’s acceptance speech.

Culture of Respect Award

This award honors those who champion the cause of justice and equality. NSPN is honored to recognize Kasy Ates with the 2023 Culture of Respect Award.

This recipient has proven to be a great social worker since the beginning of her internship experience at the agency. She has always had a passion and desire to work with a diverse population. She has challenged herself to grow in areas that are quite challenging. She thrives when faced with challenging youth and is able to build a unique rapport that leaves us all impressed. She is quick to listen and slow to speak showing an incredible desire to understand individual viewpoints and needs specifically with interactions that involve cultural diversity and social issues and disparities. Her success with students and families from varying communities and populations is only one example of her unique ability to meet kids in crisis just where they are. Our agency has benefitted from these attributes in many ways. Because of her community efforts, there has been an increase in networking with other youth-serving organizations, increased referrals to various programs, and an overall better understanding among community members and leaders of the services that our organization provides not just in our immediate area but in counties across our state. She is a quiet leader but is quick to speak up when tough decisions or topics arise among residents, staff, or other care providers. She enjoys expanding or thinking outside the box with service delivery that is needed in a rural area in which we serve. She is a true advocate for youth and families.

Executive Leadership Award

This award recognizes a leader who is consistently dedicated to staff and works hard to fulfill the mission of the youth service organization. This year's Executive Leadership Award goes to Curtis Joe.

According to his staff, this recipient deserves this award simply because he is just the best. He is always looking to the future for more ways that the organization can help assist all youth in our local communities and actually the whole state. He is a mover and a shaker, as they say, and you have to work to keep up with him. He is always there with a true open door and is very easy to talk with and he listens to you and your concerns and addresses them with sincerity and respect. Our mission is to provide a safe place for youth with respect and dignity and he definitely does that. This recipient has his own back story as he grew up in the foster system himself and understands the youth that we work with very well and all of their different emotions and behavior. The youth that we serve are his number one priority. Under his leadership the program has been recognized as the Non-Profit of the Year; awarded multiple foundation grants; increased our number of staff; added a mobile outreach van; and managed to keep programs going and growing without federal funding. He is also a proud husband, father, and grandparent – just ask him.

Essential Voice Award 

This award recognizes contributions to increasing awareness of the needs of youth and those who serve them.  The award winner has presented fair and accurate depictions of youth and/or the youth services field and uses messaging to create meaningful and lasting change. The 2023 NSPN Essential Voice Award goes to Yorri Berry.

This recipient’s bio says it all. Elevating the voices of young people. That is what drives this recipient in all facets of her work. As the NN4Y Director of Youth Partnerships, she has worked to build the National Youth Advisory Council (NYAC) into a formidable force. With increased geographic and demographic diversity, she has positioned the NYAC to influence policy on a national and local level. Employed on consulting projects throughout the country, these extraordinary young leaders are working to find innovative ways to engage local youth in the movement to end homelessness. Her leadership lifts each participating youth up and she advocates for others to recognize that the expertise of youth must be valued in change efforts. She uses her voice as a frequent presenter at national conferences and as an advocate in Washington, D.C.

Together We Can Award

This award recognizes an individual whose attitude and actions demonstrate an extraordinary passion for serving young people, commitment to professional development, and courage to engage community support. The 2023 Together We Can Award goes to Frank Eckles.

This recipient splits his time between his role as Board Member of the international Child and Youth Care Certification Board and facilitating growth for the hundreds of CYCs who engage in learning programs offered by the Academy for Competent Youth Work. This recipient is the Academy’s Executive Director, author of the Child and Youth Care: Foundations Course, and co-author of the Youth Thrive: Protective and Promotive Factors for Healthy Development and Well-Being training. He also serves as the Executive Director of the CYC Certification Institute. Beyond these responsibilities, he is a passionate advocate for youth and youth workers. He has personally trained thousands of youth care professionals and his first answer is “yes”. His most frequent response is “why not”. His most frequent question is “How can we do this together?” He epitomizes leadership and has positively impacted the work through his compassionate approach.

Click here to access Frank's acceptance speech.

HEREOS for Youth Award

This award recognizes individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to the services provided to at-risk youth on a national scale. HEROES serves as an acronym for individuals who:

H     Hear the voices of at-risk youth

E     Engage in the discussion

R     Respond to the call

O     Observe the need for change

E     Educate and encourage key stakeholders to make a difference

S     Significantly change the lives of at-risk youth for the better

Karen’s history as a leader in the youth development movement is well documented and recognized.

A sociologist, Karen started her career at the Urban Institute, conducting studies on social services for children and families. She later moved to the Children’s Defense Fund, launching its adolescent pregnancy prevention initiatives and helping to create its adolescent policy agenda. In 1990 she became a vice president at the Academy for Educational Development, where she founded and directed the Center for Youth Development and Policy Research and its spin-off, the National Training Institute for Community Youth Work.

In 1995 Karen joined the Clinton administration as director of the President’s Crime Prevention Council, where she worked with 13 cabinet secretaries to create a coordinated prevention agenda. From there she moved to the executive team of the International Youth Foundation (IYF). In 1998, she worked with ret. Gen. Colin Powell to create America’s Promise.

In 1998, Karen co-founded the Forum for Youth Investment and served as the President & CEO until 2021.

Karen has written three books and dozens of articles on youth issues, and was a regular columnist in the youth development newspaper, Youth Today. She is also a respected public speaker and has served on numerous boards and panels, including those of the Kauffman Foundation, the Educational Testing Service, YouthBuild and the National Center for Children in Poverty. Karen’s awards include recognition including the American Youth Policy Forum Decade of Service Award for Sustained Visionary Leadership in Advancing Youth Policy, The Non Profit Times’ Power & Influence Top 50 (2009) and was named one of the 25 most influential leaders in Afterschool by the National Afterschool Association. She also received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Partners for Livable Cities, joining previous awardees such as President William Clinton and Lady Bird Johnson.

Currently, Karen is a founding partner of Knowledge to Power Catalyst where she focuses on synthesizing research, policy and practice resources about where, when, how, and why learning and development happens, working to augment K-12 educators’ excitement and commitment to strengthening the education ecosystem with knowledge from the youth development fields. Karen also serves as the Creative Director of CTO Remix.

For more than half a century, Karen has promoted youth development and has strived to create change in the minds, spirits, and hearts of all those who have yet to believe in the transformative power to engaging youth with intention and support.

Click here to read Karen's acceptance speech.

Lifetime Achievement Award

This award recognizes individuals whose distinguished record of professional achievements and accomplishments has improved the lives of youth and families across decades. NSPN is proud to recognize Jim Pearce with the 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award.

This recipient was nicknamed the “Statesman of the Florida Network” many years ago.  He always shows wisdom and grace and is highly respected by all.  He has an unflappable nature and he leads with a steady hand.  Before his recent retirement, he served as the Chief Executive Officer of CDS in Gainesville, Florida for more than 25 years. During his exemplary tenure, he significantly expanded the organization’s scope of services throughout 14 counties. Prior to his work with CDS, he led programs in various roles with the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. He has served as a Board Member for the Florida Network of Youth and Family Services, the Youth and Family Services Network, and the National Safe Place Network. His commitment to youth, families, and communities has been clear at every juncture of his career and his support for colleagues and other non-profit organizations is exemplary.

Click here to access Jim’s acceptance speech..