DENTON (UNT), Texas – The University of North Texas College of Public Affairs and Community Service honored outstanding staff members, faculty members, students and community members at an April 5 appreciation dinner in UNT’s Gateway Center.
“I am humbled by the dedication and commitment of those who are so committed to strengthening their communities,” said Dr. Thomas Evenson, dean of UNT’s College of Public Affairs and Community Service. “Strengthening communities is our mission, and we feel it’s important to recognize the individuals and organizations who make it theirs as well.”
This year’s College of Public Affairs and Community Service award winners are:
Brenda Sweeten — PACS Exemplary Staff Award for Community Service
Sweeten, a Denton resident, helps train the next generation of Child Protective Services social workers as UNT’s program coordinator for the Title IV-E Child Welfare Project. In addition, she founded a student organization called PUSH: Persevere UNTil Success Happens, which helps UNT students who have aged out of the foster system adjust to college. The group also raises awareness of the challenges students face after aging out of the foster care system. Sweeten also volunteers with CASA of Denton County, for which she previously served as program director. CASA provides court-appointed advocates for abused or neglected children removed from their homes by Child Protective Services. She also serves on the planning committees for Denton County Adoption Day and the Denton County Kinship Fair.
Mariela Nuñez-Janes — Hiram J. Friedsam Award for Distinguished Faculty Service
Nuñez-Janes, associate professor of anthropology and a scholar of Latino education, leads the I am WE project that uses digital storytelling, participatory action research and an interactive film festival to help high school students tell their stories and address social issues. She also leads an immigrant rights and youth activism project — part of a national network of youth-led organizations providing education about undocumented students and the DREAM Act. She is highly recognized in the discipline of anthropology and her scholarly community of peers, is nationally and internationally published and was a board member for the Council on Anthropology and Education. Nuñez-Janes lives in Denton.
Erin Poppenger — William A. Luker Award for Student Involvement
A senior social work student, Poppenger participated in service learning and volunteered with Child Protective Services, Communities in Schools of North Texas, Denton Kinship Fair and Adoption Day, CASA, Red Cross Service to Armed Forces Dallas Branch and Denton Red Cross Disaster Action team. She has been recognized on the president’s and dean’s lists and is a member of several honor societies. In 2012, she won the Texoma National Association of Social Workers Student of the Year Award in and the Silver President’s Volunteer Service Award from the Dallas Area Chapter of the American Red Cross. Poppenger, a Lantana resident, has also worked for the Title IV-E program at UNT.
Nagla Moussa — Daniel M. Johnson Award of Distinction for Community Service and Leadership
Moussa supports and advocates for children with autism and their families. She is the president of the National Autism Association of North Texas, chair of the Lifepath Systems Advisory Committee, a volunteer for the Arc of Texas helping with the Governmental Affairs Committee, member of the Easter Seals of North Texas Autism Advisory Committee, governor-appointed member of the Texas Education Agency Continuing Advisory Committee for Special Education and member of the Easter Seals of North Texas DARS Autism Program Human Rights Committee. Moussa has worked as a community advocate with the UNT & Easter Seals Autism Treatment Program since 2008.
Child Study Center — Award of Distinction for Organizations Involved in Community Service & Leadership
Located in Fort Worth, the Child Study Center provides diagnosis and treatment services to children who have, or are at risk for, developmental disabilities and related behavioral and emotional problems. The nonprofit, founded in 1962, aims to help children reach their full potential by providing a comprehensive set of services regardless of economic status. The organization offers medical screenings, psychological assessment, behavioral assessment and intervention, family and caregiver trainings and family counseling, an on-site private school and a Behavior Disorders Clinic. In the 50 years since the center opened, more than 250,000 children have been helped through highly specialized assessment, treatment and other services.