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2013 Southwest Key Employee Awards

Connie Gooding Posing for Picture at Table

Southwest Key Programs held their annual staff holiday party and employee recognition banquet on December 10, 2013 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Austin, Texas. It was a perfect wintry evening for staff to gather, with downtown Austin as the backdrop.

This year, a record-breaking number of employees were nominated for the employee awards with over 200 nominations submitted by their colleagues. We want to congratulate the award winners who have shown immense dedication to Southwest Key and East Austin College Prep. Not only do they make incredible contributions but also they show commitment to our mission and values.

This year, Southwest Key selected five individual winners and the program of the year. The winners are:

Angel Award: Connie Gooding, Regional Executive Director, Austin, TX

Angel Award: Connie Gooding, Regional Executive Director, Austin, TX

Connie Gooding has been described by staff as, “Truly an angel to many youth and co-workers.” Connie started with Southwest Key in 2004 as a teacher with Southwest Key’s Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program (JJAEP) and quickly moved to the Director of Day Enrichment Program and finally her current position as Regional Executive Director overseeing the JJAEP and Day Enrichment Program in Texas.

A co-worker says, “She brings to her work qualities that cannot be taught—compassion, sincerity, and thoughtfulness. She is a joy to work with at all levels. She is able to garner respect from our students, staff, funding source and anyone who spends anytime with her.”

Connie has established a wonderful relationship with Southwest Key funding sources and partners. Most recently, she was able to access more than $100,000 for the JJAEP for textbooks, printed support material, and technology. A co-worker said her most impressive quality is that she has really “challenged, encouraged and supported our Program Directors to step out of their comfort zones and meet all of Southwest Key’s values on a daily basis.”

Residential Program Employee of the Year: Maria Rios, Program Director, Casa Lighthouse, Phoenix, AZ

Residential Program Employee of the Year: Maria Rios, Program Director, Casa Lighthouse, Phoenix, AZ

Southwest Key has employed Maria for 15 years in various positions. She has acted as Teacher, Case Manager, Lead Case Manager, Assistant Program Director and now as Program Director. She is not only known in the Phoenix region but she has created partnerships with Texas and California.

Staff and supervisors speak highly of Maria. A co-worker says, “I remember a time she went to the shelter at 2:00am just to complete all the exit paperwork so a client could be reunified with his parents.” This is just one small example of the long list of compliments that were submitted. Maria has shown dedication by investing her life in Southwest Key, and her, “passion for the kids is greater than any other personal desire,” says a fellow co-worker. One of Maria’s biggest accomplishments this year was the successful opening of Casa Lighthouse with over 100 beds in approximately 30 days.

On a daily basis, Maria listens to the clients. A co-worker says “I will always remember when we met with a new client that had lost his twin brother on his journey to the U.S and he had witnessed his death. Maria was able to sit down with the minor, provide support and make him feel that we were not there to tell him to feel better, but to cry with him if necessary.”

Community Based Employee of the Year: Holli Alexander, Assistant Clinical Director, Family Keys Program, Buffalo, NY

Community Based Employee of the Year: Holli Alexander, Assistant Clinical Director, Family Keys Program, Buffalo, NY

Holli has excellent clinical skills, is extremely hard working and represents Southwest Key with the utmost professionalism to our funding sources and community partners.

A co-worker describes Holli as “an all around great supervisor. Holli always has an open-door policy.” Another co-worker says, “Holli is not afraid to respond to crisis calls, complete intakes, and take on difficult cases if needed. “

Holli has been a lead trainer in the replication of the Best Practice Model Family Keys Program in Delaware—the first time Southwest Key has pursued this endeavor. She has taken on the responsibility and has represented Southwest Key well.

“Holi is the perfect example of what a Southwest Key employee should be—dedicated, highly skilled, committed, creative and professional,” says a co-worker.

Program of the Year: Campbell Shelter, Unaccompanied Minors Program, Phoenix, AZ

Program of the Year: Campbell Shelter, Unaccompanied Minors Program, Phoenix, AZ

This year’s Program of the Year was awarded to Campbell Shelter, Unaccompanied Minors Program in Phoenix, Arizona. The overwhelming number of nominations made it clear they deserved the award.

Casa Campbell has been established for more than 17 years and has always been at the forefront of the best practice, innovative ideas and program design. A supervisor says, “The staff truly believes and lives the mission and vision of our company. The teamwork between departments is very focused on the client’s needs, ensuring the client’s rights and making a difference in the life of each child that comes through Southwest Key.”

This year, Campbell Program set a goal of raising $5,560 for East Austin College Prep’s Globaloria Program and managed to beat that, raising over $8,923 to contribute to the overall $28,000 raised by staff in all Southwest Key’s Arizona UM programs. Not only is the staff at Campbell dedicated to the well being of the children they serve in Phoenix, but they are willing to go above and beyond to serve all children. Many staff gave their own time, money and effort to raise funds for kids they may never meet.

Campbell also organized a prom for their clients this year, creating a magical night where the kids were able to dress up. A staff member says, “The kids had a blast and it was truly a moment for them to forget about their issues.” This is just one small example of the many events that the Campbell facility organizes and implements for the kids.

“The Campbell Program continues to grow and exceed the challenges of being an innovative program. Always open to learning, best practices and never giving up to be the best and live the mission of Southwest Key,” says a staff member.

Congratulations to all the winners this year and we appreciate you everyday for your dedication to our mission.