After a long day in the office, these city employees don’t always go home. Instead, they often volunteer their time helping others. It’s a united effort that is making a positive impact across our city.
To honor their service to the city and passion for volunteering, each of them was presented with a Bravo Award by Mayor Sylvester Turner and City Council on May 7.
The Bravo Awards recognize city employees who excel on the job and spend their free time making a difference in the lives of others.
From helping at-risk youth and being a cultural ambassador to creating second chances and improving healthcare access, these city employees do what they can to make Houston a better place. To them we say, "Bravo, and job well done."
Here are your 2019 Bravo Award Winners:
Azeezat Sulaimon, Financial Analyst
Finance Department, Financial Reporting and Operations
Azeezat Sulaimon is dedicated to community-based actions. Her volunteerism with Masjid-ul-Mumineen, a nonprofit organization, has helped to empower youth across Houston and build their sense of value and leadership. She serves on the core committee, strategizing, organizing and helping to oversee multiple events. Sulaimon also lends her time and skills to Celeradafrica, a nonprofit that makes healthcare accessible and affordable. By analyzing and creating cost-effective financial models, she has made health care affordable to citizens in Ghana, Africa. Over the last two years, her efforts have helped to reduce patient wait times from 72 to 6 hours and reduce costs by 30%.
Catherine Shepard, Senior
Health Department, Office of Chronic Disease, Health Education and Wellness
Catherine Shepard is a true cultural ambassador. For a decade, she has volunteered withThe Filipino Young Professionals of Houston. She has served as president, secretary, dragonboat liaison, youth outreach director and community outreach director. Within these roles, Shepard helped to organize various outreach, cultural awareness, professional development, and charitable events that positively impacted Houston. From college workshops and community cleanups to local and international relief efforts, Shepard strives to provide countless opportunities for FYP members to give back. Her selfless actions not only highlight Filipino culture, but help to foster meaningful community relationships that promote diversity and philanthropic efforts in Houston.
Michael Firenza, Project Manager
Housing and Community Development Department
Dedication. It’s the best word to describe Michael Firenza’s volunteerism with the BP MS 150 over the past 20 years. Serving on the Steering Committee, Firenzaoversees volunteers for the Special Assistance Group. They drive passenger vans that pick up riders unable to continue. Firenza also serves on the executive committee, where he supported more than 9,000 registered riders this year. Overall, his actions support a larger movement to make a difference in the lives of people living with and affected by MS. Firenza also volunteers with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Galveston’s Bike Around the Bay, and Tour de Houston, recruiting drivers for their Special Assistance Group Van.
Paula Walker, Customer Service Representative
Administration and Regulatory Affairs Department, 311
The daughter of the Rev. Harvey Walker, Paula Walker learned early in life how to give back. An active member of the Crossing Community Church for more than 20 years, she has participated in multiple ministries and program. Since 2010, she has served as co-director for IMPACT, an outreach ministry of her church that targets at-risk youth in southeast Houston. IMPACT provides weekly meals, classes and activities. IMPACT helps students build character, develop life skills and learn about conflict resolution. Walker is their mentor, their voice, and most importantly their advocate. When she’s not busy with IMPACT, she volunteers with the women’s ministry and the FUN Football League. The athletic program strives to teach teamwork and good sportsmanship to youth throughout Houston.
Reginald Holt, Senior Public Health Investigator Health Department, Community Re-Entry Network Program
Reginald Holt is on a mission to help those who society too often overlooks. As a team member of the Health Department's Community Re-Entry Network Program, he provides services and resources to ex-offenders working to become productive members of the Houston community. Program clients are drawn to Holt, because at one time, he also needed support and guidance.
After being released from prison in 2001, Holt worked tirelessly to rebuild his life. In doing so, he developed a desire to help others looking to get a fresh start. When he learned about the launch of the Community Re-Entry Network Program, he signed up to volunteer. For two years he provided mentorship to clients. Looking to further his mission, Holt then began volunteering with St. John United Methodist Church’s “Bread of Life Path to Freedom” program, which aims to break the prison cycle for those in and coming out of prison. For the past five years, Holt has served as a liaison, helping the peer group with their service and activities. Since then, Holt’s dream to advocate for people working to change their lives has come true.
In 2016, he applied to and was hired by the City of Houston, joining the Community Re-Entry Network Program team as a full-time employee. He is an integral part of the team, building a rapport with clients and creating a positive environment for learning and accountability. Holt has provided outreach to more than 71 facilities and signed up more than 1,000 potential program participants. He is highly valued by his team and the many clients he impacts daily. His story is one guided by faith, determination, and a belief in second chances.
Tierra White, 911 Telecommunicator
Houston Emergency Center
Tierra White has a heart for helping people. In 2010, she formed Tierra’s Community Multi-Services, an organizing alliance whose mission is to empower underserved communities. White offers services for little to no cost to low-income residents seeking to improve their financial literacy, build their resume skills, and boost their economic status. She prides herself on being an advocate for the Acres Homes community, where her organization works to provide access to community programs, including college workshops, positive interaction programs and charitable feeding events. Through her work, White is building up people and communities in hopes of creating a brighter future for them. She truly is an advocate of the people.