21st Annual Amy Biehl Youth Spirit Awards to be presented at annual conference

June 26, 2015

CONTACT: Sharon Kayne, Communications Director, NM Voices for Children, 505-244-9505 

ALBUQUERQUE—The 21st annual Amy Biehl Youth Spirit Awards will be presented to four remarkable youth on Monday, June 29 as part of the 3rd annual KIDS COUNT Conference. The awards presentation will begin at 11:30am and will be followed by the dynamic speaker Reverend Dr. William Barber. KOB TV anchor Nicole Brady will emcee the awards, and Attorney General Hector Balderas will be on hand to congratulate the winners.

The awards are given to New Mexico youth who are making a difference in their communities through advocacy or community service work. The award is named in honor of Amy Biehl, a graduate of Santa Fe High School who was killed at the age of 26 in a race riot while working in South Africa to end apartheid. Nominees are divided into two age groups: 13-18 and 19-26. A first and second place winner is chosen from each group. The two first place winners each receive a $1,000 cash scholarship and the second place winners each receive $500.

“This is always a very uplifting event that gives us hope for the future,” said Veronica C. García, Ed.D., executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children. “These young people do amazing and often very innovative things. It’s an honor to be able to recognize them for their contributions to making the world a better place.”

A total of 12 youths were nominated for this year’s awards. The four winners are:

Rafael Mario Colon (age 17, of Albuquerque, 1st place in the 13-18 age group) serves as a Teen Ambassador for Ronald McDonald House Charities of New Mexico, organizes fundraising events and donation drives for causes such as Los Ojos de la Familia and Alta Mira Family Services, and travels to El Salvador to provide assistance to families living in poverty.

Nicole Baty (age 26, of Albuquerque, 1st place in the 19-26 age group) is active in the National Society of Black Engineers where she has organized Kids Science and Sustainability Days, held STEM workshops, initiated STEM after-school activities, provided hands-on demonstrations for elementary school children, and taken part in a joint initiative with the American Indian Science and Engineering Society. Nicole also volunteers with KUNM’s Generation Justice and instructs middle and high school students with the Hands-on-Minds-on Technology organization.

Ulysses Yarbrough (age 13, of Ohkay Owingeh, 2nd place in the 13-18 age group) has been a docent at the Albuquerque Natural History Museum, used his musical talent to raise money for scholarships given out by the Sky Velvet Vassar Music Foundation, gave an articulate and effective speech at the Roundhouse in 2014 in support of gun safety legislation.

Susanna Derby (age 26, of Albuquerque, 2nd place in the 19-26 age group) recently organized a successful Earth Day celebration at Santa Domingo Pueblo where she worked with community and school leaders to provide hands-on educational activities focused on earth-friendly practices. She has also worked for Peace First, AmeriCorps and American Indian Health.

The awards presentation will begin at 11:30am, Monday, June 29, 2015 at the Marriott Pyramid, 5151 San Francisco Rd. NE, in Albuquerque, and is part of the 3rd annual KIDS COUNT Conference (conference schedule is attached as a pdf).

Photos of the four winners are available on request.


The conference is presented by New Mexico Voices for Children and Presenting Sponsor CHI St. Joseph’s Children. The awards are sponsored by the Bank of Albuquerque and Early Educators United. Other event sponsors are Brindle Foundation, Nusenda Credit, AFT, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico, Center for RelationaLearning, CES, Con Alma Health Foundation, Delta Dental, Youth Development, Inc., and Don Simonson. Special thanks to: Annie E. Casey Foundation, Sandy Gold, McCune Foundation, Santa Fe Community Foundation.

New Mexico Voices for Children is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization advocating for policies to improve the health and well-being of New Mexico’s children, families and communities.

625 Silver Ave. SW, Suite 195, Albuquerque, NM 87102; 505-244-9505 (p); www.nmvoices.org