Robinson Center’s Christy Burgess receives Youth Worker of the Year Award

by William G. Gilroy

Christy Burgess

Christy Burgess, program director for the Shakespeare Outreach Initiative at the University of Notre Dame’s Robinson Community Learning Center (RCLC), has been awarded the D. Susan Wisely Youth Worker of the Year Award by the Indiana Youth Institute.

The D. Susan Wisely Youth Worker Award honors one exceptional youth worker, serving as recognition of the service and commitment it takes to help improve the futures of Hoosier children. The Shakespeare Outreach Initiative, part of the RCLC Shakespeare Company, allows young people to learn about Shakespeare, acting, text analysis and how to work as an ensemble.

“It is an incredible honor to be recognized as the D. Susan Wisely Youth Worker of the Year,” Burgess said. “I am humbled and thankful. I love what I do. It is a rare thing to work a 14-hour day and feel grateful at the end of it that I am able to do what I do with the phenomenal children with whom I work.

“My door is always open to young people, or their parents, if they need to talk. One student said, ‘We don’t cry in your office because it’s bad, we cry because we can.’”

Nicole MacLaughlin nominated Burgess. MacLaughlin is a mother of two Shakespeare Company participants and is an advisory board member for the RCLC and an associate teaching professor in Notre Dame’s University Writing Program.

“At the core of Christy’s work is her belief in equal opportunity for all and in equal potential for greatness in every child,” MacLaughlin said. “She understands that belief in self is a key component to any definition of success, and she knows that for children to gain confidence, an adult first has to believe in them and notice what makes them special. Christy is that adult for many students.”

As part of the award, Burgess will receive a $2,500 cash prize to be used toward professional development.

“I plan to use the award to attend a conference or workshops where I can learn best practices for using theater education with students of diverse backgrounds,” Burgess said. “In addition, I plan to learn to play the guitar so I can incorporate more music when working with my younger students.”

Additionally, Burgess will be able to attend the 2016 Because KIDS COUNT Conference (BKCC) Nov. 29 and 30 in Indianapolis at no cost. Burgess will receive her award at the conference luncheon on Nov. 30.

The award bears the name of D. Susan Wisely, retired director of evaluation at Lilly Endowment Inc. During her tenure, Wisely oversaw the development of numerous youth service-related programs such as the Lilly Fellows Program. The Fellows established many organizations and policies aimed at improving the quality of life for Hoosier children, including the Indiana Youth Institute. The institute promotes the healthy development of Indiana children and youth by serving the people, institutions and communities that impact their well-being.