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Katie Nzekwu of Fort Thomas received the prestigious Greater Cincinnati Jefferson Award in March. She is co-founder and chief executive officer of Found Village, a family-like support system for teens dealing with physical and psychological trauma.
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Nzekwu’s Found Village takes its name from the adage that it takes a village to raise a child. Her program, started in 2015, is for teens who do not have that “village” of support that often comes from family, mentors and close community. Through this program they have a “found village” where they can discover talents, explore interests and build strong relationships and healthy lifestyles.
After-school, one-on-one and community-based activities include job training, fitness, creative experiences and mentoring. Teens in the program had an 89 percent decrease in psychiatric hospitalizations, 90 percent graduated from high school and moved toward secondary education, and 70 percent left governed custody and were reunited with their families. The program has saved the community an estimated $200,000 in services.
“It was hard to pick a winner because all of them are doing such important work with at risk teens,” said Doug Adams, co-chair of the local awards program, which is administered by the Rotary Club of Cincinnati.
The national Jefferson Awards program was founded in 1972 by Cincinnati native Robert Taft and former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. It honors outstanding service in more than a dozen categories, from service by public officials and professional sports figures to service by private citizens, students and corporations.
Winners from more than 90 community Jefferson Award programs across the country will compete for the national awards presented in Washington D.C this summer.