Outreach Volunteers of the Year

Outreach Volunteer of the Year (VOTY) awards recognize the immeasurable efforts made by ACS local section and international chapter volunteers who conduct outreach and teach the public about chemistry. ACS presents awardees with a small gift and a certificate during a meeting or event. The awardees are also recognized at the annual ChemLuminary Awards, on social media, and in a special article in C&EN.

Beginning in 2021, the ACS Committee on Community Activities (CCA) will select one VOTY awardee from a local section or international chapter to be named the Global Outreach Volunteer of the Year. Additionally, in 2021, CCA leveraged the VOTY program to recognize volunteers who were dynamic in response to the COVID-19 pandemic during 2020. Since ACS groups were discouraged from planning in-person events and, instead, encouraged to plan virtual chemistry events, CCA leveraged the 2021 ACS Global Outreach Volunteer of the Year award to name the most outstanding volunteer who planned virtual events in 2020.

How to recognize an outreach volunteer

Each ACS local section and international chapter can recognize one individual annually for demonstrating extraordinary outreach volunteer service. Chairs receive communications and access to the submission form in mid-October. The deadline for chairs to recognize an awardee is December 15. Volunteers are only eligible to be recognized once every five years. Members of CCA are not eligible for the Global Outreach Volunteer of the Year award if nominated or selected during their CCA service years.


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2021 ACS Global Outreach Volunteer of the Year

Christine Skaggs, Indiana Local Section

In addition to serving as Secretary of the Indiana Local Section of the ACS, Christine has successfully chaired the novel “COVID-19 Chemistry Kits for Kids” event, an Innovative Project Grant-funded initiative that distributed educational kits regarding COVID-19 to 200 underrepresented minority students. She also founded the Senior Chemists Mentorship Program, which facilitates mentoring relationships between senior chemists and younger scientists in the local section. Christine was also an important part of Celebrate Science Indiana, and her initiative in making things happen for the section has been remarkable. Her energy is contagious for all of the students that she is positively influencing.

 

Congratulations to the 2021 Outreach Volunteers of the Year!

Read about the accomplishments of the 2021 Outreach Volunteers below. Awardees' individual profiles are alphabetized by local section/international chapter.

Binghamton Local Section

Clarice Kelleher

Bringing "Dr. Silver" to life in early 2020 at Binghamton University Chemistry Outreach Program's MARVELous Metals events is the tip of the iceberg for Clarice's participation. Aside from teaching General Chemistry, she is the Faculty Sponsor for the Undergraduate Chemist Society. Clarice converted the in-person ACTIVE Center to a virtual format, helping students to hone learning skills. She hosted the February 2020 Program-In-A-Box, volunteered in-person until the COVID-19 pandemic, and effortlessly transitioned to host virtual Career Counseling and networking events throughout 2020. Clarice's dedication to bringing safe and inclusive science education to the community keeps the Binghamton Local Section Chemistry Outreach Program invigorated.

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Brazosport Local Section

John Patrick O'Brien

As Past Chair, John has devoted himself to abundant outreach activities and events for the Brazosport Local Section. These include the first successful launch of the 2019 Brazoria County Crystal Growth Competition, the Technician Career Outreach Event with the Midland Local Section, multiple Summer Socials with the Greater Houston Section, and the 2019 Retirement Preparation Workshop with Dow PR!ME Senior Chemists. His outstanding leadership, excellent organizational skills, and continued dedication have fostered much broader and stronger connections between the Brazosport Local Section and local high schools, students, teachers, parents, as well as practicing and retired professional chemists throughout the area.

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California Local Section

Atefeh Taheri

Atefeh has spearheaded collaborations between the California Local Section (CalACS) and the East Bay chapter of the Association for Women in Science (AWIS). One successful event, featuring the author Lois Frankel, had over 100 attendees and was the first joint event between CalACS and AWIS. Atefeh has also planned numerous events with a focus on diversity, featuring local speakers. Atefeh has also planned a screening of “Picture a Scientist,” raising over $5,000 for STEM-focused scholarships. She has planned networking events and technical presentations. Atefeh’s contributions to CalACS in 2020 were important for continuing to serve members.

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Central Arkansas Local Section

Sharon K. Hamilton

Sharon has helped the Central Arkansas Local Section in several important ways.  She has improved the visibility of the local section by developing a dynamic website, and established a positive presence for the Central Arkansas Section on social media. She continues to work tirelessly and quickly, ensuring the success of the Section’s activities and outreach. Using her skills in programming electronic media, Sharon streamlined communications throughout the section and within the Executive Committee. She is also consistently one of the first people to volunteer for any task. The local section is thankful for her dedication!


Central New York Local Section

Gary Bonomo

Over the last few years, Gary has been an invaluable member of the Central New York Local Section. He has served as Chair and newsletter editor, and is a consistent, encouraging voice for the section. He remains committed to the section’s small group of volunteers and the promotion of the chemical enterprises. Gary tirelessly gives his time and energy to make the local section and community a better place through the transformative power of chemistry.

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Chemical Society of Washington

LaKesha Perry

LaKesha has contributed to STEM outreach engagement throughout her academic and professional career. She participates in hands-on demonstrations, working with younger children. As an Engineering Technician at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, she loves mentoring college students and postdocs while conducting research. In fall 2019, LaKesha hosted a successful CSW Pump-Chem Patch Festival that had many “Marvelous Metals” National Chemistry Week-related activities. She continues her passion of STEM outreach with consistent event planning and volunteering at underrepresented schools within the CSW locality. Recently, LeKesha initiated the formation of the CSW Committee on Minority Affairs.

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Chicago Local Section

Sherri Conn Rukes

Sherri arranged for Chicago Local Section volunteers to work with the Shedd Aquarium for Earth Day.  Although cancelled due to COVID-19, this event will be attempted again this spring. For NCW, she received Innovative Project Grant (IPG) funding to make demo kits and videos for 50 teachers with the help of other Section members. She made many of the videos. Sherri made additional videos to share with teachers when education was suspended last spring. Sherri served as part of the 2020 Strategic Planning team. The Section has doubled participation in the Chemistry Olympiad, largely due to her efforts at contacting additional groups and opening more locations for testing.

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Cincinnati Local Section

Hong Zhang

Hong has represented the Cincinnati Local Section for fifteen years. She has been a demonstrator and leader for NCW from 2009. As co-chair of NCW planning for the past 8 years, she has contributed her leadership and organizational skills. She led Earth Day and NCW events at multiple venues as the Museum Center in Cincinnati. By engaging local section members to share their respect and devotion to the practice of chemistry, Hong has emphasized how chemistry can be a pivotal component to the understanding of everyday life.

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Colorado Local Section

Carlos J. Olivo

Carlos agreed to Chair the Regional Rocky Mountain Meeting (RMRM2020) to be held Fall 2020 at Colorado State University. Because of COVID-19, he and the RMRM2020 organization committee embraced the challenge to organize a virtual Regional Meeting. The meeting featured workshops, award presentations, flash presentations, and specialty symposia in Sustainability, Medicinal Chemistry, and Safety. In addition, “Young Talent”, “Senior Scientist” and WCC accomplishments in the Rocky Mountain Region as well as the 100-year anniversary of the Colorado Local Section was celebrated.

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Columbus Local Section

Jeffrey B. Trent

Jeff is the driving force behind the Columbus Local Section outreach programs. He has spent the last four years as the general chair of the 2020 Regional Central Meeting (CERM2020). Unfortunately, it was canceled due to COVID-19, but it would have been the largest regional event ever held. Jeff’s role made this event possible, and he rallied a diverse team to put it together. Jeff has also been active in events that bring chemistry to students, such as the H2OQ program where students took part in water source sampling and testing, Chemistry in Art, and Chemists Celebrate Earth Week.

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Detroit Local Section

Shannon Timmons

Shannon is a longtime volunteer who served as Detroit Local Section Chair in 2020. In the early days of the pandemic, she quickly moved the local section online to maintain monthly Executive Committee meetings, adding a Zoom social hour to help volunteers connect before the meeting. Shannon also played an instrumental role in moving the popular monthly Brewing Chemistry lecture series to Zoom and served as the first virtual speaker then as the continuing monthly host. In addition, she served as a virtual speaker in an “Inspiring Future STEM Stars” series led by a local Girl Scout troop.


Eastern New York Local Section

Lori Ana Valentín

Lori Ana's contributions have been impressive in 2020. She presented "A Day in the Life of a Forensic Chemist" and initiated A Day in the Life Series, organized the "Navigating your career in a COVID-19 world" event, and, as Younger Chemists Committee (YCC) Chair, established the YCC consortium of Eastern New York, Philadelphia, and Virginia. Lori Ana wrote and received METT grant, "Mastering the Virtual World: Professional Development by Younger Chemists for Younger Chemists." She organized the Self-Care Sundays event in October with Meditative Moment, Yoga, Stress Management Workshop and the Autumn/Halloween Social. She also obtained ACS Consultants for CV/Resume Writing Workshops.


Greater Houston Local Section

Laura Smith Callahan

Laura is a Director of the Greater Houston Section and Chair of the Communications and Technology Committee, where she coordinates with the newsletter editor and website administrator to keep members up-to-date on important section news. Laura is also the powerhouse behind the section’s social media accounts, sharing events and achievements along with a wide range of content to drive community interest and engagement in chemistry. She is instrumental in helping Greater Houston welcome new section members and has been an active participant in several virtual program events during 2020.

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Hawaii Local Section

Katelynn Perrault

Katelynn participated as National Chemistry Week co-coordinator for 3 years for the Hawaii Local Section. During this time, she coordinated an annual K-12 Illustrated Poem Contest and an interactive Hands-On Day at a local shopping center. The Hands-On Day for NCW attracted hundreds of attendees each year, and Dr. Perrault was able to coordinate exhibitors across different sectors including government laboratories, private laboratories, university research groups, university clubs, community colleges, and local professional organizations. Katelynn’s volunteer activity has significantly increased interest in chemistry in the broader community, and specifically in children. 

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Joliet Local Section

Eryn Pondo

Eryn has been instrumental in keeping Joliet Local Section members engaged during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the Community Outreach Coordinator, she has taken the lead on coordinating a diverse set of speakers, organized the awards ceremony, and marketing in general. She has also provided invaluable administrative support, including assisting with the publication of bi-yearly newsletters, social media operations, and membership correspondence.

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Lehigh Valley Local Section

Greglynn Gibbs

Greglynn successfully hosted and facilitated online and outdoor (socially distanced) outreach events celebrating National Chemistry Week, including Undergraduate Resume Workshops and community-wide Halloween Chemistry and Online Slime workshops through partnerships with the Penn State Alumni Association, Spring Township Parks and Recreation, and the Reading Science Center. In addition to her service as Membership Chair of the Lehigh Valley Local Section, she serves as Student Chapter Advisor at Penn State Berks, an ACS Career Consultant, a member of the Reading Science Center Programming Committee, and is on the Committee on Community Activities.

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Malaysia International Chapter

Hooi-Ling Lee

Hooi-Ling has been instrumental in the Malaysia Chapter's outreach events, even after stepping down as Chair. She helped secure the 2020 Chemistry Festivals Grant and the Global Innovation Grant (GIG), allowing the chapter to conduct the Festivals and GIG events online for the first time this year. Hooi-Ling is also actively involved as Associate on the Committee on International Activities, championing “Globalized” National Chemistry Week. She is the focal person for NCW for the Chapter, hoping that we can play a pivotal role for the Global NCW next year. She is also very active in IUPAC, IYCN, IKM and YSN-ASM events.


Nebraska Local Section

James M. Takacs

Jim has been a leader in the Nebraska Local Section for year, working to communicate science to all. He helped other outreach volunteers.

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New Haven Local Section

Gerald J. Putterman

Jerry has been a member of the New Haven Local section since 1960, when he was a graduate student in biochemistry at Yale. He returned to the New Haven Local section in 1982, and has been active in many different roles, including as Councilor, Alternate Councilor, Chairman of the Nominating Committee, member of the Selection Committee for the Kirkwood Award, Co-Chairman of the Awards Committee for NERM 2013, and judge and organizer for the Section’s award at the New Haven Science Fair. Jerry resigns from his councilor position this year after 60 years of service to the ACS.

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New York Local Section

Joseph Serafin

Most recently, Joe served as secretary of the New York Local Section in 2015-2016 and Chair in 2018. In addition to these leadership roles, Joe was instrumental in organizing and creating a series of online workshops dedicated to online teaching and learning in the time of COVID-19. Held over the summer, each of the three sessions had high levels of interest and participation.

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North Jersey Local Section

Mita Chaki

When Mita was teaching, she was an active member of the ACS teacher affiliates. She volunteered in many teacher workshops and led student groups performing demonstrations during NCW and CCEW.   She became a leader in the North Jersey Outreach group and has chaired the NCW outreach committee for the past 5 years. The NCW Expo at LSC is huge and requires tremendous organization and time. Mita also helped to organize and carry out the STEM Exploration at LSC this past February 15th. The committee ran four activities and enjoyed having several hundred children participate. 

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Northeastern Ohio Local Section

Krista L. Cunningham

Krista deserves recognition for her outstanding work serving the Northeastern Ohio Local Section and the local community for the last four years. She has served as a chair in 2018 and currently serves as a treasurer. Krista has been actively involved in the Local Section’s outreach efforts throughout the years. She has organized and coordinated the annual Spring Awards Banquet in 2018, and the fall networking event in 2018. In her current role, Krista works diligently to keep the Section’s finances in check. Krista’s positive attitude is contagious.

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Omaha Local Section

Denis Svechkarev

Denis currently serves as chair-elect for Omaha Local Section. He has taken several leads in activities and meetings organized by the local section during this year. He led the Virtual Drug Discover and Delivery seminar series and the initiative on creating a card for the celebration of the Omaha Local Section 100-year anniversary. Denis took initiative on developing the local section website.

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Orange County Local Section

Robert S. Cohen

Robert has distinguished himself as a volunteer for the Orange County Section through decades of service, especially as the Treasurer and Program Chair. He has been a Section Councilor, and a member of Regional Meeting and several National committees, most recently Constitution and Bylaws. His thorough and careful management of section accounts, budget, and finance, his personal interest in all membership and activities, and his sense of humor have made him a valuable role model and highly deserving of the award for outstanding volunteer service.

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Orlando Local Section

Michel Johnson

Michel displayed truly spectacular initiative in 2020 by both spearheading development of the Orlando Local Section Strategic Plan and forming the Communications Committee for networking with industrial chemists. Working with the Executive Board, Michel crafted a plan outlining the mission, vision, priorities, and challenges for the section. This allowed for defining strategic goals of becoming the Chemistry hub in Orlando; attracting, recruiting, and retaining more volunteers; seeking diversity and fostering a sense of belonging; and finding a path to expanding engagement. This plan, which the Orlando Local Section has already begun to implement, will help the section continue to grow in 2021 and beyond!

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Pakistan International Chapter

Hamna Mukhtar Tarar

Hamna Tarar is an undergraduate student pursuing her degree in Chemistry from University of Karachi, Karachi, Pakistan. She vibrantly participated in activities of National Chemistry Week organized by the Pakistan International Chapter as the speaker at a live webinar conducted on Mole Day. She has successfully completed internships in various departments of a Public Research Institution, which reflects her interest in learning and getting hands-on knowledge.        

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Philadelphia Local Section

James K. Murray

During his tenure as 2019 Chair of the Philadelphia Local Section, Jim held face-to-face meetings with over 55 members of the Section, ranging from Officers, Directors, Councilors and Volunteers as well as meeting with representatives from other local sections and a local non-profit consultant. The results of Jim’s efforts have been a revitalized interest of members running for local section office, a renewed interest in section meetings, and better legal and financial protection for volunteers and their work.  Jim has truly exemplified being an Ambassador of the Philadelphia Local Section and utilized his tenure as Chair to its fullest.

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Princeton Local Section

Barbara Ameer

Barbara epitomizes spirit of volunteerism. Her unstinted efforts and enduring passion ignite interest in chemistry and STEM among students. She chairs the annual Chemagination competition for New Jersey high school students. She organizes a novel annual symposium, “Protein Chemistry for Life,” with speakers across the professional career spectrum. For the broader community, Barbara co-organized a science café series, and was faculty speaker on medical topics and career paths for scientists. Her inspiring efforts and leadership helped Princeton attain recognition as ChemLuminary finalist four times: Most innovative new program (2019), Overall Section performance (2016), Sustainability program (2016), and High school program (2014).

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Puerto Rico Local Section

Angela M. González-Mederos

Angela was the leader of Elections Committee responsible for the creation of the electronic elections for the Puerto Rico Local Section. She has also been responsible for the organization, including the online registration of the local section annual meeting for the past three years. Angela is part of the technical team responsible for the organization of the Section’s program “Biografía de las Ciencias” which goes live every two weeks on Facebook. Angela was President of the Puerto Rick Local Section in 2013 and 2019 and is also a Councilor. She is an active counselor of the San Germán Student Chapter. 

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Red River Valley Local Section

Sarah Elizabeth Reagen

Sarah is a Chemistry Ph.D student at University of North Dakota. She is a student representative in the Red River Valley Local Section. At the beginning of 2020, Sarah performed polymer snow activity for Grand Forks Kids at the Sunday library event.  During the pandemic, Sarah led a student group making a video of “Observation of Protein Breakdown Process at Various Conditions using eggs” for North Dakota Native high school and middle school students to perform at home. She made a video to introduce nanotechnology at University of North Dakota Chemistry website. To cheer up students, she organized a Halloween movie night.

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San Gorgonio Local Section

Kevin M. Simpson

Kevin has gone above and beyond expectations in providing support for the San Gorgonio Section.  The section's annual meeting is normally held at UC Riverside, and Kevin has taken responsibility for organizing the logistics (conference facilities, meals/refreshments, student volunteer involvement, parking, signage, etc).  He has also coordinated the laboratory portion of the Chemistry Olympiad National Exam Part II, making necessary facilities and supplies available and arranging access for the participants.

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Savannah River Local Section

Tad S. Whiteside

Tad is an active member of the Savannah River leadership team, bringing great ideas to fruition for the local section. One of his latest projects involved spearheading a campaign to estimate the local section's greenhouse emissions from 1990-2018 to purchase carbon credits, turning the Savannah River section into a carbon neutral organization. He has also been involved in the local section's strategic planning team and has worked with local colleges to host public chemistry seminars. His strong leadership skills make him an asset to section. 

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South Carolina Local Section

Daniel Cain

Daniel has been very active in the section’s outreach program.  His activities extend over several years and include serving as SERMACS 2016 coordinator with Westinghouse, and Soda City Outreach Activities. The latter has seen hundreds of people participate in hands-on activities for all ages, but especially children. Soda City was open before COVID-19 every Saturday morning in Columbia. During National Chemistry Week, Daniel has been a major player. 

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Southern California Local Section

Barbara Belmont

Barbara has been the Southern California Local Section’s technology savant since 1998, and that was crucial this year. When COVID-19 shut down High School Olympiad, Barbara used Blackboard Course Sites to give the local section test online. Barbara continued to be involved and proctored the National Test online. When it came time for the Section’s High School Awards night, Barbara hosted a Zoom event to honor the students. She also hosted the Tolman Award Celebration with Prof. Andrew Borovik, attended by over 100 people.


Virginia Local Section

Stacey Sank

Stacey, Chair of the Women Chemists Committee, organized two networking workshops to promote the engagement of women in the chemical sciences. She collaborated with the Younger Chemists Committee to organize a two-part Virtual Women’s Leadership Workshop Series with the aim to empower and promote women in STEM. The 95 participants engaged in small group discussions on topics such as how to lead effectively & navigate their careers, equality in the workplace, work/life balance, and networking/personal branding.

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