5 For the 50th: AmeriCorps Alums Celebrates 50 Years of Fighting Poverty by Naming Five National Leadership Award Winners

ATLANTA, Feb. 23, 2015 – To commemorate the 50th anniversary of AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), AmeriCorps Alums – a Points of Light enterprise – today announced five winners of its National Leadership Awards, all of whom exemplify a commitment to a lifetime of service and bringing communities out of poverty. The 50th anniversary honors VISTA’s legacy of strengthening communities and creating opportunities that lift individuals out of poverty.

Building on their experiences as AmeriCorps VISTA members, these award winners continue to work to solve community problems in areas including economic development, state governance, educational opportunity, health care, youth civic engagement, and employment services. For a full list of the winners of the AmeriCorps Alums National Leadership Award, see below or click here.

“We are humbled by and grateful to the VISTA alums who continue to make fighting poverty and building up communities a priority after service” said AmeriCorps Alums Co-Executive Director Mary Bruce. “These alumni understand that poverty is not just tied to a person’s bank account,” says AmeriCorps Alums Co-Executive Director, Ben Duda, “but to the healthcare, education, civic engagement, and career opportunities available where we live, serve, and work.”

Eileen Conoboy, the Deputy Director of AmeriCorps VISTA who served on the Selection Committee for the awards, shares, “VISTA builds a talent pipeline to public service. After dedicating a year of their lives to address poverty in America, VISTA alumni continue to empower communities and promote economic opportunity long after their service ends.”

The award winners were chosen from a pool of nominees from every region of the country, who represented alumni who served in the first cohorts of VISTA in the 1960s to the most recent cohorts in the 2000s. The award winners will be honored in 50th anniversary events and will serve as spokespeople, advocates and resources for AmeriCorps Alums. 

As part of the 50th anniversary celebrations, a National Solutions Summit will be held in Washington, D.C. Award winners will be recognized as the Corporation for National and Community Service salutes VISTA’s legacy of strengthening communities and creating opportunities that lift individuals out of poverty.  

The AmeriCorps Alums National Leadership Award winners in honor of VISTA’s 50th anniversary are:

  • Denise Riebman, Director of Career Development and Alumni Services at the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration, George Washington University in Washington, D.C.  Denise served in AmeriCorps VISTA at the Denver Indian Center (1994-1995) and has spent over 20 years in the nonprofit and higher education sectors, including time directing several AmeriCorps programs, focused on poverty alleviation, volunteer engagement and career development.
  • Dr. John Baumann, Executive Director of Eugene Hearing and Speech Center in Oregon. Dr. Baumann is a physician, educator, and program developer with a long history of service. He was a commissioned officer in the U.S. Public Health Service and an Army Reserve Member. As an Oregon Asset Building Corps VISTA member (2012-2013), he collaborated with the city and a nonprofit to build a physical facility and coordinate services including a rural medical outreach program to make health care more accessible.
  • Miriam Gillow-Wiles, Executive Director, Southwest Colorado Council of Governments. Miriam manages a region that covers 6,500 square miles and includes two tribal reservations, 10 municipalities, and five counties. She works to increase efficiency in local governments and find solutions to address community challenges. She served on the Western Hardrock Watershed VISTA team (2009-2010) and as an AmeriCorps member for the Southern Ute Community Action Program (2011-2012).
  • Oscar Robles, Manager of City Learning Networks for US2020 in New York. Oscar works with city-based grantees to scale science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) mentorship throughout the nation to students underrepresented in this field: girls, students of color, and low-income students. Oscar began his career as a VISTA member at Our Piece of the Pie (2009-2010), and then served with the Public Allies AmeriCorps program in 2010-2011. He also works with Black Male Achievement and Opportunity Nation.
  • Susan Paul, Communications and Community Programs Specialist for the San Diego County District Attorney's Office. Susan served as a VISTA member for the D.A.’s office (2009-2010) to reduce recidivism by developing solution-oriented initiatives and community partnerships. Susan now coordinates Youth Advisory Boards which allow youth considered at-risk the chance to address issues through public service campaigns. She previously served with the Boston Community Health Corps AmeriCorps program (2005-2006).


About AmeriCorps Alums

AmeriCorps Alums is a community of engaged citizens and civic leaders that gets things done for America. An enterprise of Points of Light, AmeriCorps Alums is the only national network that connects the nearly 1 million alumni of all AmeriCorps programs (including an estimated 80,000 new alumni each year) to the people, ideas and resources that support their commitment to a lifetime of service. AmeriCorps alumni are predominantly between the ages of 21 – 35, more racially diverse than the U.S. population, and over 60 percent female. For more information, please visitwww.AmeriCorpsAlums.org and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

About Points of Light

Points of Light – the world’s largest organization dedicated to volunteer service – mobilizes millions of people to take action that is changing the world. Through HandsOn Network affiliates in 250 cities and partnerships with thousands of nonprofits and corporations, Points of Light engages 4 million volunteers in 30 million hours of service each year. We bring the power of people where it’s needed most. For more, visit PointsofLight.org.