Community Action ACEs Champion Award

ACEs Champions Announced at CoAction’s Reimagine Conference

During this year’s Reimagine Conference, CoAction announced the four individuals they recognized at the first Community Action ACEs Champion Award ceremony, which was held on October 12th, 2022.

CoAction established the Community Action ACEs Champion Award to honor individuals and organizations that are working to address Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) in Northwest Indiana. These leading experts have shown their commitment to this cause by working diligently to strengthen Northwest Indiana’s resilience.

The theme for this year’s Reimagine Conference and ceremony was “Healing Our Future.” CoAction’s Communication Manager Claudia Pena said, “It was important to us to recognize those individuals who have dedicated their careers to help Northwest Indiana overcome adversities and challenges caused by ACEs.” This year’s awardees demonstrate this commitment.

“Research and innovation in toxic stress and adverse experiences that cause trauma is not often publicized. All of us have experienced trauma. Our resilience is what sets us apart. When leaders can help people heal and gain resilience or teach us to respond differently, we are changing our communities for the better. These awards recognize these change agents in our communities.”

This year, CoAction honored the following awardees:

Michael Cortina, MSW, LCSW, LCAC
For developing The Cortina Method which is a brain-based healing methodology to resolve trauma. It utilizes a strategic protocol rooted in neuroscience for effective and efficient outcomes. There is an emphasis on people NOT having to relive or reexperience distressing emotions. The Cortina Method involves brain optimization and reprocessing. Brain optimization is getting the brain to respond to life, in the most enticing and optimal way possible.

Samantha Burgett, MSW, LSW
For founding Community Change Center, a local nonprofit which provides re-entry services to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals in Lake, LaPorte, and Porter counties. Burgett also works as Valparaiso Police Department first police social worker and teaches a restorative justice class in Valparaiso University’s Sociology department.

Dr. Amanda Zelechoski
For being a leading voice in the critical field of Psychology. Dr Zelechoski conducted research on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and parents, which led to the creation of Pandemic Parenting, a free digital resource hub and non-profit organization. In addition, Dr. Zelechoski provides training and consultation to mental health, education, and legal agencies.

Ken Barry
For founding Force for Good Community Development Corporation, that is improving the quality of life in Gary by providing opportunities for youth, helping small businesses and nonprofits and supporting community-led initiatives and for his innovation and leadership with youth in Greater Northwest Indiana in his numerous philanthropic pursuits.