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Avila Honored with Child Mind Institute 2016 National Change Maker Award

May 16, 2016 by Jennifer Nachbur

Maria Mercedes Avila, M.Ed., Ph.D., program co-director of Vermont Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (VT LEND) and assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Vermont, received the 2016 Local Hero Award from the Child Mind Institute. The awards event took place May 10 in New York City.

UVM Associate Professor of Pediatrics Maria Mercedes Avila, M.Ed., Ph.D. at the Child Mind Institute's Change Maker Awards in New York City May 10, 2016. (Courtesy photo)

Maria Mercedes Avila, M.Ed., Ph.D., program co-director of Vermont Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (VT LEND) and assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Vermont, received the 2016 Local Hero Award from the Child Mind Institute. The awards event took place May 10 in New York City.

Avila’s honor was one of five annual awards that make up the Child Mind Institute’s annual Change Maker Awards, which celebrate people and organizations that are creating real, meaningful change for children struggling with mental health and learning disorders. She was selected out of four finalists from across the U.S. via a crowdsourcing process as the winner of the Local Hero Award.

“Dr. Avila is dedicated to serving children and youth at the margins — refugees and immigrants, teens struggling with mental health problems and young adults affected by substance abuse,” states the Child Mind Institute on its website. “She has secured funding for programs that address these critical issues, and works to eliminate inequality in access to resources and programming.”

(Watch a video clip of Avila’s interview about the award on local Burlington, Vt. CBS affiliate WCAX-TV’s morning news here.)

An assistant professor of pediatrics, Avila has served as VT LEND’s co-program director and training director since 2015, and as associate training director, among other roles, since 2009. She also serves as a program evaluator for the Vermont Child Health Improvement Program at UVM and is chair of the Association of University Centers on Disabilities’ Multicultural Council. Avila is a 2015 UVM Kroepsch-Maurice Excellence in Teaching Award recipient and in 2014, received the 2014 Edith D. Hendley award from the UVM Women’s Center in recognition of her demonstrated excellence in research, scholarship and teaching, as well as performance of dedicated service to women and the community. She has provided culturally responsive care training to more than 2,000 providers.

In addition to Avila, 2016 Change Maker Award recipients included Linda Rosenberg, President and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health - Community Builder Award Winner; Muffy Walker, Board Chair, International Bipolar Foundation - Outstanding Organization Award Winner; Carolyn Rafaelian, Founder, CEO & Chief Creative Officer of ALEX AND ANI® - Corporate Advocate Award Winner; and Brandon Marshall, NY Jets wide receiver, Co-Founder of PROJECT 375 and Champion Award Winner.

Learn more about this year's Change Maker Award recipients here.