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Champion for Change Awards

Change does not happen without great people leading the effort. It requires change agents who are dedicated to making a positive difference in their communities. The Network for a Healthy California has established the Champion for Change Gold Award to recognize individuals (over the age of 21) who exemplify empowerment, act as change agents and who are community leaders, and the Champion for Change Silver Award to recognize individuals (21 years of age and under) who have displayed consistent and effective commitment to an innovative nutrition and/or physical activity project, excellent leadership skills, and the ability to thoughtfully articulate their project’s outcomes.Nominations will be received in two categories:


2012 Champion for Change Gold Awards:

picture of Normandie NighNormandie Nigh

Normandie Nigh is a champion for healthy kids and a leader in advocacy and education efforts for quality physical activity, nutrition and healthy behaviors programs and training, especially for students and families from economically disadvantaged communities. As the CEO of A World Fit For Kids! (WFIT), Normandie has guided the organization from a small, in-school fitness and self-esteem program to a leading provider of transformational programming and training for over 200,000 young people and adults. In 2009, WFIT initiated the Snack Shack program that addresses the issues of food security, the accessibility and affordability of healthy foods in low-income communities. In partnership with The Los Angeles Food Bank and wholesale grocers, WFIT now provides free and reduced-price fruits and vegetables, along with healthy snacks and recipes, to families as they pick their children up from WFIT’s daily afterschool programs. Taking the lead in developing the key components of WFIT’s program structure and philosophy, Normandie created the Teen Mentors in MotionSM Program. High school students are provided with healthy behaviors and youth development training, then job shadowing with positive role models where they discover their own strengths in leadership.


Picture of Terri SoaresTerri Soares

Terri Soares is the Nutrition Services Director for the Merced City School District. Over the past four years, Terri has worked diligently to educate teachers, administrators, staff, students, and parents on the need for improved nutrition for children’s health. She introduced Harvest of the Month within the Merced City School District. The popularity of the program helped the Network for a Healthy California’s Local Incentive Award (LIA) to add some of these elementary schools onto their existing program. Terri also operates Harvest of the Month at five elementary schools which are not currently partnered with the LIA. To help introduce new fruits and vegetables to students, Terri implemented regular taste tests at school cafeterias and at Open Houses. Terri worked with a local farmer to add different varieties of stone fruit and citrus to the middle school menus. Terri implemented the Chef in the Classroom program, inviting a local chef to demonstrate how to make healthy meals in an afterschool program. She started a Student Culinary Council which impacted the new foods and beverages introduced on the Merced City School District’s á la carte menu. Terri has been invited to serve on the USDA Advisory Team to establish education, training and certification requirements for food service directors responsible for the management of the National School Lunch Program and Breakfast Program.


2012 Champion for Change Silver Award

Bryan Lam

Bryan Lam is an undergraduate student at University of California, San Diego (UCSD), studying Urban Studies, Physiology and Neuroscience. He has been an active and inspiring health advocate for low-resource youth in the San Diego region for over two years. On top of his studies, volunteer tutoring and training for his next marathon, he created a student-run organization at UCSD called University Health Champions (UHC), modeled after the Health Champion Program at Rady’s Children’s Hospital. Bryan’s vision was to create a sustainable after school program for low-resource teens from the City Heights community. The free program offers resources, education, advocacy training, and leadership development for youth, in order to create and sustain healthier lifestyles for themselves, their families and the entire community. He also recruited eight fellow college students to volunteer their time as facilitators for this program. The college-age students, being close in age to the high school youth, offered a peer-to-peer approach to the student participants, which created a safe, encouraging program. Bryan and his team also ran a summer camp for the neighborhood teens.


The Ralph Bonitz Award for Excellence in Administration

Picture of Ralph BonitzThe Ralph Bonitz Award for Excellence in Administration, Network for a Healthy California, is being established in honor of Ralph Bonitz, Manager for Administration and Fiscal Services, in the Network’s state office. It honors the significant skills and leadership that Ralph brought to help build California’s dynamic SNAP-Ed and SNAP Outreach efforts. It will be awarded in future years to recognize other administrators who, like Ralph, brought administrative innovation and integrity to enable a typical Network program efforts to flourish. The first award will be received by Ralph’s wife, Jeanne and his children, Jessica and Daniel. Ralph was the Network’s first and longest-serving administrator. He joined the Network early in 1997, set up the office; created the Network’s fiscal, contracting, desk, personnel, and control systems; administered the large Public Health Institute contract; processed interagency agreements with the California Department of Social Services; and supervised all business sections of the annual state plan and year-end reports. Most critical to the Network’s growth was his skill in setting up the Local Incentive Awards program that allowed California to qualify for SNAP-Ed and SNAP Outreach funds. They have enabled partners throughout the state to help millions of California families. His work established a strong fiscal foundation to address critical public health nutrition problems and disparities. Ralph was a quiet, behind-the-scenes person. He had earned his law degree and was deeply committed to good government as an instrument of positive social change. He had an ability to listen to sometimes heated discussions, say a few words that cut to the chase, and guide the issue to resolution. Everyone remembers him as the one who’d greet you by name with a wide smile. He’d give solid advice or comfort when you needed it. His ‘corner office’ was a place of calm, stability, competence, and wise counsel. Ralph had just retired from State Service when he died unexpectedly of natural causes on November 20, 2011. He is remembered with love and respect.


Last modified on: 3/20/2012 2:49 PM