The Jefferson Awards for Public Service

The Jefferson Awards for Public Service

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Frequently Asked Questions

Find out answers to the most frequently asked questions about the Jefferson Awards.

What is a Jefferson Award?

Founded in 1972 by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Senator Robert Taft, Jr. and Sam Beard, the Jefferson Awards is America’s highest honor for public service, a “Nobel Prize for public service”. We are one of the largest multipliers of volunteerism in the country – with youth in communities and in workplaces. Over 41 years, we have recognized a “Who’s Who” of American change-makers and more than 50,000 unsung heroes in grassroots communities. We accomplish that through a network of more than 110 Media Partners reaching into 30 million households.

Starting six years ago, we began to transform into one of the nation’s largest multipliers of volunteerism. Our goal is to Build a Culture of Service.  We achieve that in three ways – in communities through our Media Partners, in workplaces with Champions, and with young Americans through Students In Action, our Lead360 Challenge and GlobeChangers.

Why are the Awards named after Thomas Jefferson?

Thomas Jefferson a reflects a spirit of excellence, entrepreneurship, leadership and giving back in America — author of the Declaration of Independence, President of the United States, advocate for education as the strength of our democracy and founder of the University of Virginia, and advocate for a free press and freedom of religion.

What is the Mission of the Jefferson Awards?

Our mission is to Build a Culture of Service.  We achieve that in three ways – in communities through our Media Partners, in workplaces with Champions, and with young Americans through Students In Action, our Lead360 Challenge and GlobeChangers.

How does someone get nominated for a Jefferson Award?

Anyone can nominate someone for a Jefferson Award.  Simply go to www.jeffersonawards.org/nominate/national and fill out the form.  Alternatively, you may send an email to info@jeffersonawards.org with the following information:
  • Name of the nominee
  • Name of their organization (if relevant)
  • Rationale for your nomination (what they have accomplished, their impact)
  • Relevant biographical information
At our Washington, D.C. National Ceremony in June, we honor individuals in the following four (4) categories: 
  • Greatest Public Service by an Elected or Appointed Official
  • Greatest Public Service by a Private Citizen
  • Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged
  • Greatest Public Service by an Individual 35 Years or Under
At our New York City National Ceremony in March, we honor individuals in the following four (4) categories:
  • Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Greatest Public Service by a Professional Athlete
  • Greatest Public Service by an Entrepreneur
  • Outstanding Public Service by an Individual 25 or Under
Who selects the National Winners?

The Board of Selectors chooses the winners through a democratic voting process.
The national Jefferson Awards honorees are a "Who's Who" of American history makers. They have included: Barbara Bush, Rosalynn Carter, Colin Powell, Peyton Manning, Oprah Winfrey, Lance Armstrong, Sandra Day O'Connor and Alan Greenspan.

Who selects the Local Winners and who are they?

Local winners are grassroots "Unsung Heroes" — ordinary individuals performing extraordinary deeds.

The Jefferson Awards has 110 Media Partners in approximately 70 communities across the country. These Media Partners are major local newspapers, television and radio stations. Most Media Partners honor a volunteer each monthly or weekly. Some honor five or six at an annual ceremony. Local panels of judges selects the grassroots winners.

How do Local Winners get to the national level?

Each Media Partners and local judging panel selects one local winner to represent their community and be honored as part of the Jefferson Awards National Ceremonies in Washington, DC in June. 50 to 60 U.S. Senators present these winners their awards.

The Jefferson Awards National Board of Selectors picks five of these to receive the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Award for "Outstanding Community Service Benefiting Local Communities." They stand side by side with the four other national award winners.

What are Jefferson Awards Champions?

The Jefferson Awards Champions program provides a turnkey recognition system for honoring and elevating volunteerism in the workplace.  Our Champions include corporations and universities such as Allstate, Prudential, Heinz, Aramark, Nationwide and Deloitte. In the next ten years, our goal is to have over 100 Champions and impact thousands of employees.

What are The Jefferson Awards Youth Service Initiatives?

As we Build a Culture of Service, we have a heavy emphasis on youth.  Young Americans can provide leadership today and will be the leaders of tomorrow.  Through our three youth service initiatives (Students In Action, the Lead360 Challenge and GlobeChangers), we have created a continuum for young Americans of all ages to engage, be trained, be mentored and become leaders, all around public service.

Students In Action

With Deloitte, we created Students In Action, a turnkey high school service and leadership training program. We are in 325 high schools and have trained more than 9,000 student leaders. We train 2,000 student leaders per year and the schools report two million annual service hours – rated by the Independent Sector as a $42 million value.

Ten Year Goal: In the next ten years, we will be in 2,000 high schools, training 6,000-8,000 student leaders per year and performing 25 million service hours.

Lead360 Challenge

This is the country’s largest contest for youth-based public service projects, engaging 900,000 young Americans in 2013 in 3,700 projects. One of our partners is the NFL’s Player Engagement initiative. Working with Mayors, our goal is to shine a spotlight on the good things that young Americans are doing. In our third year, 200 mayors signed up. More than 900,000 kids participated in 3,674 projects.

Ten Year Goal:  In the next ten years, our vision is to engage more than 5 million young Americans in more than 100 cities.

GlobeChangers

Through all of our programs, we see extraordinary kids with big ideas and energy. In June 2011, we launched GlobeChangers to identify and train young Americans to THINK BIG, take their big ideas to change the world and make them national or global service projects. We have 50 GlobeChangers and mentors in our system.

Ten Year Goal: In the next ten years, our goal is to identify, mentor and train 10,000 GlobeChangers – a cadre of tomorrow’s leaders.

Who funds the Jefferson Awards?

Donations are received from hundreds of individuals, corporations and foundations. We have a small endowment to help underwrite our costs.