JMB Award requires the most recent award winners serve on the selection committee that chooses the coming year’s award winners. That was not on my mind in 2017 when I checked email while walking to work and discovered I was selected as an awardee. I was so appreciative of receiving the award that the process behind how I was selected never entered my mind.
Then, in 2018, it was my turn to serve on the selection committee. While reading 30 applications, along with their stories covering the challenges that defined each applicant, I remembered being in these students’ shoes a year earlier.
I became more appreciative of being selected after helping with the selection process. I realized the time and energy it took to read the applications, participate in the selection discussion, and make the hard decisions of which finalists to interview from the many amazing applications we received.
Now, I’m a youth board member. I’ve been looking forward all year to being a part of the selection committee once again. It’s such an important moment. The JMB Award is so different from many other awards. We not only provide financial assistance to awardees, but also a community awardees can continue to interact with and be a part of for as long as they choose. Reading these various applicants’ stories allows me to advocate for those I believe will be a great addition. I hope to select awardees who will see the people and things we have to offer and make the most of them.
We depend on various voices to ensure we choose the best fit. This is where we former awardees come in—we can provide an awardee/youth point of view. It gives me joy to use my past experience to help the 2018 award winners, who are now serving for the first time, understand what to expect and what their role is. I’m happy to help, too, as it was a very daunting task my first time.
Being part of the selection process is an opportunity I’d never pass up. Deciding who receives the award and becomes part of our community greatly matters, because we are more than an award. We are family.
Vicktoria Phanthavong is a 2017 awardee. She writes about her experience on the 2019 selection committee.