Austin Aspires earns 2023 Commissioner’s Circle of Excellence Award

Published 3:29 pm Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Austin Aspires has recently been named a winner of the 2023 Commissioner’s Circle of Excellence Award, presented to them from the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) Commissioner Jodi Harpstead. 

The annual award recognizes outstanding initiatives and innovations that address critical needs in Minnesota’s communities while fostering equity within the human services system. Austin Aspires is one of ten organizations and seven initiatives acknowledged this year. 

It also serves as a testament to the efforts of Austin Aspires and their dedicated early childhood navigators.

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The award is the direct result of a shared grant from DHS that supports the work of the early childhood navigators that are working for Austin Aspires and Growing Up Healthy in Northfield and Faribault. Their shared commitment to improving early education and childcare access, especially for children coming from low-income families and children of color, has made a profound impact in our communities.

Across all three communities, the early childhood navigators spearheaded outreach efforts to support expectant parents and families with young children. Bilingual staff worked tirelessly to staff resource hubs and neighborhood events, facilitating greater access to resources and building social connections with families. Furthermore, they provided invaluable feedback to organizational partners, helping to identify and implement systemic changes to enhance services for local children and families.

During the award ceremony, Harpstead commended the partnership between Growing Up Healthy and Austin Aspires, highlighting the transformative power of cross-sector collaboration and a whole family approach. 

“We can achieve more and make families even stronger by working together rather than on our own,” she said. “You are fabulously ahead of the curve, and I can’t wait to watch how you keep building on the strong foundation you have set.”

The ceremony took place at the Growing Up Healthy office within the Northfield Community Education Center. Jayne Gibson, executive director of Austin Aspires, and Jennyffer Barrientos, director of Growing Up Healthy, accepted the award on behalf of their organizations. 

Austin Aspires staff members Makayla Oxley and Jessica Anderson were also in attendance.