2019 Award Winners & Nominees

Congratulations to our 2019 Winners and Nominees!

Organization Category:Az Youth Climate Strike

Arizona Youth Climate Strike (AZYCS)

Arizona Youth Climate Strike (AZYCS) is a climate justice organization led entirely by youth, focused on ensuring a safe and healthy environment for all people living in Arizona. AZYCS members are committed to working with state and local elected officials to pass green legislation to help transition Arizona into a sustainable state that addresses the climate crisis. To draw attention to this important issue, AZYCS held a Climate Strike on March 15, 2019, at the Arizona State Capitol, where hundreds of young people and adults joined together to demand action from elected officials to address climate change. AZYCS also has held events to help voters and youth engage with their legislators, city council members, and other local officials to discuss steps Arizona governments at all levels can take to preserve the environment. A strong advocate for solar energy, AZYCS feels transitioning the grid to clean and affordable electricity will not only benefit residents but will attract companies with renewable energy goals to the state, bringing more jobs to Arizona. In future years of advocacy, AZYCS hopes to amplify the voices from other communities across the state, recognizing climate change disproportionately impacts rural, indigenous, or majority low-income areas.

"Being recognized for such a key award is not only an honor, but also a step in the right direction for us as a community." -Aditi Narayanan, AZYCS co-founder.

Business Category:

Selrico Services, IncSelrico, Inc.

Selrico Services Inc. is the food services contractor for meal deliveries to homebound individuals served by the Area Agency on Aging in Maricopa County. In 2016, the Maricopa County Department of Public Health (MCDPH) in conjunction with Arizona State University, the Area Agency on Aging, and the City of Phoenix, conducted a study to determine the vulnerabilities of homebound individuals when extreme heat occurs. In order to adequately assess the needs of this population, it was suggested that the staff of Selrico Services Inc would be an ideal partner for the survey outreach. Thanks to their efforts, 1,300 surveys were distributed of which 472 (36%) were completed. These data helped increase understanding of homebound individuals’ needs of cooling systems at their residence; knowledge of available community programs/services, such as nearby cooling centers and utility assistance; and the barriers to accessing these services. Selrico continues to provide information to its homebound customers about the dangers of extreme heat and how to protect themselves. During the 2019 heat season the Selrico team distributed over 1,100 Heat Safety Cards (English and Spanish) designed by MCDPH, which listed community services and resources.

"This nomination is in the spirit of recognition and thankfulness to the staff of Selrico for the important service and knowledge that they continue to provide to a vulnerable population within our community.” - Nominating agency 

Individual Category:

Cindy GentryCindy Gentry

Cindy Gentry has been a fixture for more than two decades in local farmers markets and is widely recognized for her work in hunger prevention and healthy food systems development. Cindy has been a champion for Arizona small growers, asserting they are best suited to deliver locally grown fruits and vegetables to families living in the many ‘food deserts’ in Maricopa County. She also deeply cares about the health of Maricopa County residents, especially vulnerable populations. To help increase accessibility and improve health outcomes, Cindy helped growers qualify for SNAP benefit electronic processing so that low-income families could use their benefits to purchase local farmers market food. As president of Sun Produce Cooperative, the first agricultural cooperative of its kind in Arizona, Cindy works with nine Maricopa County growers to market, aggregate, and distribute their produce to institutional buyers such as school districts, mobile markets, corner stores, employee wellness programs, and others. Cindy’s efforts not only help to preserve existing green space, but also improve air quality by reducing fossil fuels associated with food transportation.

“I am extraordinarily proud to work for a public health department that champions climate change as an integral part of its purview, and which allows me to do the work I do.” -Cindy Gentry

Research Category:

Dr. Jennifer VanosJennifer Vanos

Dr. Jennifer Vanos is an Assistant Professor with Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability and Senior Sustainability Scientist with the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. New and ongoing research within Dr. Vanos’ lab involves studies of heat, radiation, humidity, and air pollution in play spaces; how these exposures may affect children’s physical activity; and how health symptoms are directly or indirectly affected by these exposures. The current design of most modern playgrounds has resulted in a lack of shade, extreme surface temperatures, and thermal burns, all of which intensify ultraviolet (UV) exposure and heat radiated from surfaces towards young children. Future work will involve examining the differences in exposures between current and new natural, vegetated playground designs to mitigate heat, radiation, and air pollution, and subsequent effects on health and activity. This research aims to improve the environmental safety, playability, and outdoor learning opportunities of play areas in a desert climate through evidence-based environmental and health measurements.

“I’m very honored to be selected to receive this prestigious award, and it feels great that some of our new work and ideas are being recognized by the county. We are very excited for what the next few years of results will show.” -Dr. Jennifer Vanos

Youth Category:aditi

Aditi Narayanan

Aditi Narayanan has spent the past four years of her high school career in the arenas of political advocacy, civic engagement, and public service. Aditi founded the Prickly Pear Progressive, a blog addressing government and public policy initiatives across the state, including topics such as climate education. She recruited a small group of like-minded friends who started with neighborhood cleanups and education events, such as showing community members how to recycle their old bicycle parts and properly dispose of old Christmas trees. The group formalized into Zero Hour Phoenix, a name chosen to note that now was ‘zero hour’ to act on climate change. Aditi helped lead efforts to organize the first Arizona Youth Climate Strike held March 15th at the Arizona State Capitol and spearheaded a campaign for local politicians to take the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge, requiring elected officials and candidates to not take money from big oil corporations. Through the collective efforts of Aditi and others from Zero Hour Phoenix, more than 100 student ambassadors have joined as volunteers, 50 new voters have registered, and eight (and counting!) politicians have taken the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge.

“Recognizing that climate justice is a need--and also must be combatted from an intersectional lens incorporating racial and economic justice--is a key component in battling environmental issues. I’d like to say thank you to the Maricopa County Office of Public Health and express my excitement in their partnership with us for future action!” -Aditi Narayanan

The following is a list of ALL award nominees. Thank you for your hard work in making Maricopa County a healthier place to live, learn, work and play!

Individual Category:

  • Cecelia Araiza
  • Cindy Gentry
  • Cliff Danley and Isaac Healis
  • Isaac Healis
  • Doug Bland
  • Greg Peterson
  • Lauren Kuby
  • Maggie Messerschmidt

Youth Category:

Research Category:

  • Anthony Brazel
  • David Hondula
  • Jennifer Vanos
  • Mona Arora
  • HeatReady Phoenix

To read about former award winners and nominees or how to apply, return to the Climate and Health home page. The nomination process for the 2020 awards will be announced in early summer 2020.