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Vendella Barnett, LCSW, BCD Receives NASW Lifetime Achievement Award

Washington, D.C. - The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is pleased to honor Vendella Barnett, LCSW, BCD with the NASW Lifetime Achievement Award for her dedication to children and families and to the social work profession.  Ms. Barnett recently retired after 32 years of service to the Neighborhood Youth Association (NYA), an organization that brings the needs of disadvantaged and high-risk youth to the awareness of the community and provides them with programs, services and resources.

While receiving her Master of Social Work from UCLA in 1975, Ms. Barnett was an intern for NYA.  Once employed full-time, she quickly moved up from the Director of the Outpatient Adolescent Drug Treatment Program to Deputy Director to Executive Director.   She has served as executive director of NYA since 2003.

“Ms. Barnett’s leadership, compassion and selfless commitment to not just improving the lives of local youth, but giving them the necessary tools to flourish, is a testament to why she is receiving this award,” notes Dr. James Kelly, president of NASW.

During her tenure at NYA, she has worked tirelessly with a dedicated staff to improve the lives of children from the Harbor and Western regions of Los Angeles including the Venice and Mar Vista neighborhoods.  More than 3,000 children, youth and families have been served by the agency and outreach programs with more than 100 scholarships given to youth over the past 24 years.  The NYA youth boasts a 98% high school graduation rate, with 70% going to trade school or college.

Several years ago, NYA was funded by the Office of Justice and Juvenile Delinquency Prevention, after being chosen as one of only 13 programs from more than 500 organizations, to create a life and leadership program for at-risk youth.  Ms. Barnett was chosen to direct this model program which serves as the foundation for NYA’s present date highly acclaimed educational enhancement program, “Personal Best.” 

Twenty-five years ago, Ms. Barnett saw that NYA alone could not provide all the services that at-risk youth needed and decided to bring together the community to create a unified solution.  The Youth Service Council is a collaboration between local community-based agencies, schools, law enforcement and mental health facilities to improve the lives of local children.  This group has been meeting quarterly for the last 25 years.

“Ms. Barnett has an incredible reputation in the community for providing high-quality services to families throughout West Los Angeles,” says Dr. Kelly.  “She has continuously developed new and innovative programs to serve the most vulnerable populations.”

Ms. Barnett has also been dedicated to the social work profession.  She was chosen to serve on the Faculty Advisory Board for UCLA’s School of Public Affairs and was a key organizer of a conference called “Troubled Youth in Troubled Times” at USC.  She has dedicated herself to social work students over the years as a Field Instructor for both macro and micro students.

Because of her remarkable dedication to the communities she serves, she has been honored with the Angels Over LA Award from the Los Angeles Commission for Children, Youth and Families and the Certificate of Tribute from the City Council of Los Angeles.

It is with great pride that we confer this award on Vendella Barnett, LCSW, BCD, as she has dedicated her career to improving the lives of at-risk youth and the social workers who serve them.

For more information about Ms. Barnett, or to set up an interview, please contact NASW Communications at or 202-336-8228.

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NASW is the largest association of social workers in the world. It promotes, develops, and protects the practice of social work and social workers.  NASW also seeks to enhance the well-being of individuals, families, and communities through its advocacy.