Rockstar Awards 2019
Do you know a youth leader who is creative positive change through advocacy?
Download the 2020 Nomation Form
Since 2011, Youth MOVE National has presented the Rockstar Awards to youth advocates, advocates for youth, and organizations who have made great strides in improving the lives of youth and youth-serving systems.
Youth MOVE Virginia
Youth MOVE Chapter of the Year
Youth MOVE Central Virginia has come such a long way as a local chapter. They are well known and respected within the local
community. Over the years they’ve developed two annual events/fundraisers that have become very successful. The first is the Car
Wash. This is a widely advertised event, where community members have the opportunity to bring their cars in to UMFS (the location of
the monthly youth group) and get them washed by the youth who participate in the group. What makes this event especially cool is the
amount of support it gets from the local community. Not only do others volunteer to help wash cars, but they are lined up around the
block waiting to support the YM chapter! This past year, the group was able to raise over $450!! The sheer joy and pride seen on their
faces when all the money was counted was truly priceless! The second event is the Annual Showcase. This is an opportunity for the
youth group participants to “showcase” their talents. Youth sing, dance and read poetry. They also MC the event (which is basically it’s
own comedy act). The youth are involved with ever step of the planning and execution process. From planning the timeline,
decorations, colors and theme. They collectively decided on this year’s theme: “Indestructible Resiliency.” Audience members include
parents, foster parents, caregivers and members of the community. This past Showcase was one of the most successful yet! With over
100 people in the audience, a solid group of youth and young adults each performed on stage. There were several instances where the
youth performed together. There was one young man who was particularly shy, and 2/3 other group members provided “back up” to him
as he sang. This was all figured out prior to the show, as the group had a number of dress rehearsals. Like the car wash, this event has
become a staple of the chapter’s activity and community presence. Members of both the youth group and local community have been
heard saying that it’s their “favorite time of year.” This group has come such a long way in terms of cohesion, youth voice and
leadership. Over the years, some clear leaders have emerged (possibly the next facilitators). The group collectively identifies “as a
family” and wears the Youth MOVE name with pride!
Copeland Center for Wellness & Recovery
Organization of the Year
The Copeland Center has made a tremendous effort to enhance youth involvement, youth-led and youth-driven initiatives. They
consistently promote youth engagement in all projects and ensure that not only that youth voice is heard within the organization, but in
all other organizations they are in collaboration with. The Copeland Center launched a National Youth Mental Health Convergence that
was entirely youth planned and executed. They have also developed youth peer support curriculum that was created by youth, for
youth, keeping to the model of youth-led projects and programs. As an organization that has a history of providing education to the peer
workforce, The Copeland Center serves as a model for how organizations can fully implement a well workforce with authentic youth
voice included in decisions. The Copeland Center also promotes this type of youth leadership consistently through their Doors to
Wellbeing Program that serves as a TA provider, giving guidance and support to many peer-run organizations through out the Country.
The Copeland Center youth team has also worked alongside many of the Youth MOVE chapters such as in FL ,VA and PA. The young
team leaders of the Copeland Center have also connected with some of the Youth MOVE National leaders, and have worked alongside
this group in multiple projects. The Copeland Center is a deserving organization that genuinely promotes youth voice and involvement
through programming, advocacy, and organizational governance.
Dr. Gary M. Blau Professional of the Year
Wendy Lesko is one of the most ardent and accomplished advocates for youth voice in America. As a former community organizer and
congressional reporter, Wendy has devoted over 30 years working with youth-serving systems to authentically engage youth as equal
partners in decision-making. When community service was the focus for positive youth development in the 90s, Wendy pioneered youth
voice in decision-making. She created the first youth engagement training for the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and
Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and developed statewide teen summits focused on top public health issues with the Louisiana and
Florida Departments of Health. Wendy has presented over 1,000 keynote speeches and trainings to multigenerational audiences to
promote full youth integration at the American Cancer Society, California Wellness Foundation, Jóvenes en Acción, National Campaign
to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, United Way of America, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Maine Department of
Education, among several other national and state NGOs and governmental departments in over 30 states. In health advocacy, Wendy
was a key figure in crafting the Truth Campaign to fight Big Tobacco and guiding high schoolers from two Maryland counties to pass
Healthy Vending Machine ordinances as part of the Sugar-Free Kids campaign. Among several toolkits, Wendy also published two
books: “No Kidding Around! America’s Youth Are Changing Our World & You Can Too!” and “Youth! The 26% Solution.”
I am the perfect case study of Wendy’s impact on both the individual and societal level. At age 12, I had the pleasure of meeting Wendy
when I was unaware of the power of my voice. She mobilized me to join her as a founding member of the Youth Activism Project to
promote youth-led advocacy and organizing (which she has self-funded and worked pro bono for since its founding). She guided me to
be a powerful advocate for girls’ education in the developing world, where I had a role in successfully lobbying Congress for a $200
million increase for foreign aid for education, among other achievements. Engaging in policy advocacy before I could vote has been the
most transformative experience of my life and I am now committed to paying forward my experience as a youth activist to thousands of
young people around the world. Thanks to Wendy’s legacy and her belief in the young me, I am now a Harvard-backed social
entrepreneur leading the Youth Activism Project. Emblematic of a great leader, Wendy has gleefully passed the reigns to me and she
continues to work full-time and pro bono to help me develop a scalable youth advocacy training program.
Wendy’s belief in the much-needed civic leadership of young people is unparalleled, evidence of her outstanding and continued
commitment to youth engagement consistent with the highest standards in the field. Since Wendy’s selflessness prevents her from
singing her own praises, I will sing them from rooftops. There is no other individual more worthy of the Dr. Gary M. Blau Professional of
the Year award than Wendy Lesko.
Marlene Matarese Advocate for Youth of the Year
Aaron has been a powerful advocate for youth after going through various child serving systems and serving on the state advisory board
LUVYA (Leaders Uniting Voices Youth Advocates). Aaron has shown exemplary leadership skills and passion as he strives to make
youth systems more youth driven and engaging. Recently, Aaron co trained a train the trainer for our Youth Engagement Training with
12 youth in foster care and 7 adult professional youth workers, in which these trainers went on to train 500 adults.
Aaron is always a strong encouraging voice for youth to share their experience and be the best they can be and he does whatever he
can to help them. He has had a key role in our newly developing Social Media 101 training to train adult professionals to engage youth
through social media. He also has been a part of a pilot project to create a tool and assess youth providers on their youth friendliness
and accessibility. Aaron is always ready and willing to present and speak to state stakeholders on panels, presentations, and advisory
boards. He is finishing up his psychology degree and looks to continue advocating and helping youth and youth adults. Aaron is one of
a kind young man and has already left a huge stamp on NM’s youth engagement efforts.
Tricialouise Gurley-Millard Youth Advocate of the Year
Alex Barker is an outstandingly thoughtful, creative, and effective advocate, engaging in work that has impacted a variety of youth-
serving systems, including mental health, schools, and the legal system. Alex is a natural leader who consistently brings a strategic, strengths-based perspective to the table, inviting other advocates and professionals to do the same. Alex has worked on two national boards- the National Youth Advisory Council and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network Youth Task Force, which is where I met them a year ago. Alex now serves as a Co-Chair of the NCTSN Youth Task Force, with a specific
focus on mentorship and training for youth and young adult advocates with lived expertise related to trauma. This is a perfect leadership role for Alex, as I have seen them comfortably and effectively bring forward both their professional and their lived expertise to advocate for changes in how mental health providers and systems interact with youth. Alex advocates strongly and persuasively for strong youth-provider partnership in mental health treatment, elevating the importance of youth’s expertise about their own experiences and the direction of their care.
I am not only nominating Alex for their national work, but also for their local advocacy work. Alex and I both live, work, and advocate in North Carolina. When Alex originally relocated to NC, they worked in a rural school system for the Cooperative Extension 4-H program, providing group services to youth experiencing behavioral health concerns and educating community members on child trauma and youth mental health. After less than a year in that position, Alex conceptualized and gained leadership buy-in to develop a research study about the impact (or lack of impact) of 4-H programming for LGBTQ+ students in schools across the state. They invited me to be a part of a team strategizing and implementing the project. I was not only struck by Alex’s incredible vision for this work, but also their initiative and ability to gain buy-in from leadership, to pull together a strong team, and to facilitate meetings to move the project forward into implementation. Although Alex has since left that job, the project continues to move forward, in line with their vision to build protective factors and reduce risk factors for LGBTQ+ youth in our state, especially in rural public schools. Since being in NC, Alex has also been accepted to the Board of Safe Schools NC, a statewide board focused on creating safer schools for LGBTQ+ youth.
As a LGBTQ+-identified person living in the Southeast U.S., I could not choose a better advocate to co-conspire with than Alex. I have consistently been inspired by their approach to advocacy- their insightful perspectives, their relationship and bridge-building
approaches, and their natural and impactful leadership. Their contribution to impacting youth-serving systems, both locally here in the Southeast as well as nationally, has been truly outstanding, and I am grateful for the opportunity to continue to work with them and learn
Jose Che-che Turrubiartez
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Award for Health Equity
This individual throughout his career has advocated for comprehensive sexual health for people for all, specially those who are affected
most by HIV African American MSM and Latinx MSM folk who do not speak English. He has participated in the National HIV Testing
campaign “Doing It” in both languages and has continued to advocate for sexual health services for young people. This past year he
was able to bring much needed sexual health services to the University of San Diego which is a Catholic University that doesn’t fully
offer its students sexual health and reproductive health information. I can’t think of a better individual to receive this award.