• The Special Ambassador Award is the highest recognition given by SSD. The award is presented to individuals, groups, and organizations throughout our community (or in special circumstances, to SSD staff members) who have demonstrated an extraordinary level of commitment to SSD and its mission. 

    Because it takes a village to raise - and teach - a child, SSD is grateful for the dedication and support so generously given by this year's Special Ambassador Award winners.

  • Barb Kick, SSD Volunteer

    "Barb Kick is an incredibly generous volunteer who has demonstrated compassion and dedication to SSD students for almost 20 years. Her creativity, support, and advocacy result in scholarship funds, educational opportunities, leadership programs, and fulfillment of critical needs. She is co-founder of 'Project Hug' and personally sewed many of the first 1,400 free weighted blankets distributed in this effort. She provided financial support and countless hours of labor to establish 'Mark's Garden" at Litzinger, purchasing plants, art, and equipment for the hands-on, ecological experience for students. She also serves as the Dan McLaughlin Golf Tournament silent auction chairperson, gathering donations that result in $10,000+ each fall. Her care for students and willingness to collaborate on any project provides invaluable financial and emotional support for the Litzsinger community and all SSD students."

    - Nominator, Patricia Benner

  • Demetrius Evans, Officer, St. Louis County Juvenile Detention Center

    "Demetrius Evans' impact on the students and staff of the St. Louis County Juvenile Detention Center is immeasurable. Through a shared history, Demetrius is able to relate to students and guide them towards positive choices and changes. Because he is extremely knowledgeable about the daily lives our students endure both in and outside of the facility/school, he uses his insight to help guide staff, teachers, and students and help staff establish relationships with students in crisis.  He goes above and beyond for every student that enters the JDC and demonstrates to each why making better choices is possible. His care for our students is shown in everything he does - words do not do justice to how much of a positive impact Demetrius has on our students." 

    - Nominator, Lindsay Traffas


  • Eric Heacox, Chef - Nutritional Services Department, Mercy Hospital

    "Eric Heacox partners with VSP to build students' employability skills and hires many students. He brings dignity to his coaching and is an exemplary model of inclusion. Many of our former VSP students who now work for Eric have gone on to become mentors to new employees and students working in the department. His commitment to our students is extraordinary and he focuses on their abilities and strengths, taking the time to get to know each of them individually so he can best support them. His positive attitude and sense of humor ensure that our students love working with him in the kitchen. He treats them all with respect, jokes with them, and makes them feel comfortable and confident. Eric currently employs 25 persons with disabilities and his commitment to inclusion has resulted in other departments hiring our VSP students."

    - Nominator, Deb Jost

  • Gene Slattery, Industry Partner & Volunteer, Automotive Technology, Inc.

    "Gene's efforts are endless; he’ll do anything to help. He has been a true champion for our auto collision programs, our technical schools, and career/technical education in general.  For several years, he has served on the advisory board for the Auto Collision Repair program at North and South Technical High Schools. Both program instructors know that when they have a question, need an industry connection for a student, or simply need some guidance, they can call Gene. Career fairs, sponsored by our local I-CAR Committee and facilitated by Gene, have connected hundreds of students in all of our transportation programs to regional employers. With Gene's support, the committee also provided both technical high schools with plastic repair stations this year, each valued at $13,000, and assisted North Technical with uniform purchases."

    - Nominator, Sally Difani