Heroes Inspiring Social Change

Heroes Inspiring Social Change

LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 7, 2019) Social work is all about making a difference, and this spring we recognized inspiring heroes who tackle social issues in communities across the Commonwealth. They were honored at the College of Social Work’s Evening of Excellence in April.

The Social Justice Unsung Heroes Award recognizes those who work toward social change and equity for all members of society; take action to improve the lives of individuals, families, and communities; and inspire others to make a difference in the lives of others. Recipients are nominated by their peers and members of their communities.

Six Kentuckians were named this year’s honorees.

Ryan Burt

Burt organized a first-of-its-kind round table for Louisville area businesses to deliver meaningful discourse on the issue of food insecurity in and around Jefferson County. She also hosted a community-level feedback survey in partnership with Dare to Care Food Bank, which assessed food distribution and environment at multiple food pantries in Louisville’s most vulnerable areas. Groundbreaking, multi-organizational research resulted from these efforts, and her actions inspired the work of the 2018 Hunger Innovation Fellow.


Sherry Currens

Currens is the executive director of the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence based in Frankfort and has participated in, or overseen, every significant domestic violence reform in Kentucky since 1987. She has advocated for reforms to the domestic violence protective order statute, including a provision requiring local governments to make protective orders available 24 hours a day, as well as the expansion of protective orders to victims of dating violence in 2015. Currens also sought justice for women serving prison sentences for killing their abusers, and thanks to her efforts 18 domestic violence survivors were either pardoned or granted clemency.


Captain Seth Lockard (center) and Lieutenant Patrick Branam

Lockard and Branam of the Lexington Fire Department developed the Community Paramedicine program, which offers a comprehensive approach to patients who are dependent on 911 for care and services. Often these are vulnerable people who have fallen through the cracks of our community’s systems of care. Lockard and Branam provide education and resources, care coordination, and patient advocacy. Their efforts also help to counteract the growing demand for unnecessary use of emergency services. As of December 2018, ambulance runs have decreased by 1.7 percent, which is the first time in five years that utilization has declined. When 911 resources are redirected to more critical circumstances, lifesaving resources are available when needed.


Scott Lockard

Lockard is the Public Health Director for the Kentucky River District Health Department, which covers a seven-county area in Eastern Kentucky. Under his leadership, five Eastern Kentucky counties now have needle exchange programs, which bring hope to slow the drug epidemic and spread of hepatitis C and HIV. Lockard believes in the dignity of the individual and that every life is worth saving. He encourages others to see the value in every person that comes through the doors of the health departments. Lockard is a great example of how a social worker can make a difference in the communities and lives of those around him.


Jill Wilson

Wilson works for Lexington Parks and Recreation as the director of the William Wells Brown Community Center. She has made it her personal mission to create an environment for people in the neighborhoods to find reprieve from poverty, violence and drug use by providing programs such as exercise classes for all ages, dance classes, basketball, open-gym activities, nutrition classes, financial literacy classes, cooking classes, and other empowering activities. She strives to fill the center with joy, fun, recreation, and happiness and is always uniting people, organizations, and communities in pursuit of this goal. Jill is described as an absolute pillar of strength, love, social justice, and compassion in her community.