Compton mayor among recipients of prestigious award
The John F. Kennedy New Frontier Awards honor Americans under the age of 40 who are changing their communities and the country with their commitment to public service.
Mayor Aja Brown, Max Kenner recipients of 2016 John F. Kennedy New Frontier Award
COMPTON – Mayor Aja Brown, and Max Kenner, founder of the Bard Prison Initiative, an organization dedicated to helping incarcerated individuals earn college degrees while in prison, have been named this year’s recipients of the John F. Kennedy New Frontier Awards. The awards were presented by Jack Schlossberg during a ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum on Dec. 13 in Boston, Mass.
At age 31, Brown became the youngest mayor in the history of Compton, Calif. Elected in 2013, Brown previously served 10 years as an urban planner in municipalities across Southern California. She was elected to office on her 12 point plan, “Vision For Compton,” that focused on gang violence and bringing new jobs into the city.
Brown mediated talks between gang organizations to significantly reduce violence and crime. After doing so, Brown secured federal support for Compton through a new United States Department of Justice violence prevention program, the Violence Reduction Network.
In 2014, Brown instituted a Local Hiring Ordinance that requires all city-assisted development projects to guarantee a 35 percent local hiring preference and community benefits agreement to further enrich the City of Compton. Over the past three years, Brown has been integral in bringing major redevelopment projects and jobs to the City, including UPS, Walmart, Smart & Final, and infrastructure improvement projects that have created local jobs.
Brown earned a bachelor’s degree in Public Policy, Urban Planning and Development, and a master’s degree in Urban Planning with a concentration in Economic Development from the University of Southern California. She was awarded the prestigious University of Southern California Young Alumni Merit Award in 2014.
As the founder and executive director of the Bard Prison Initiative (BPI), Kenner has devoted his career to providing access to higher education and effective solutions to the criminal justice system. The leading program of its kind in the country, BPI enrolls more than 300 students across six prisons in New York State and has awarded nearly 400 Bard College degrees. The outcomes are impressive, with less than 2.5 percent of graduates returning to prison; 83 percent of alumni employed in a variety of positions in the public and private sector; and many others continuing their studies and completing graduate degrees at universities including Yale, NYU, Columbia, and across the CUNY system.
Through its Consortium for the Liberal Arts in Prison, BPI also engages colleges and universities across the United States to create programs based on its model. Currently, BPI is active in 15 states, with partnerships that include the University of Notre Dame and Washington University. Building on BPI’s record of innovation and creative college opportunity, Kenner launched the Bard Microcollege, which brings ambitious, tuition-free college to the most isolated urban communities. The pilot Microcollege launched this year in Holyoke, Mass., and will expand to New York City in 2017.
Kenner serves as vice president for Institutional Initiatives and advisor to the President on Public Policy & College Affairs at Bard College. In 2014, he was appointed to serve on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s New York State Council on Community Re-entry and Reintegration. He is the recipient of numerous awards and speaks frequently on the topics of higher education and criminal justice issues.
About the Award
The John F. Kennedy New Frontier Awards were created by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and The Institute of Politics at Harvard University to honor Americans under the age of 40 who are changing their communities and the country with their commitment to public service. The awards are presented annually to two exceptional individuals whose contributions as full-time public servants in elective office, community service, or advocacy demonstrate the impact and the value of public service in the spirit of John F. Kennedy.
One award honors an elected official whose work in politics has brought significant, tangible results in response to a public challenge. This award is named for Dan Fenn, the Library’s first director.
The other New Frontier Award® honors an individual whose contributions in the realm of community service, advocacy or grassroots activism have had a positive impact on a broad public policy issue or challenge.