The Henrico County Division of Fire and Henrico County Public Schools (HCPS) earned four awards from the Virginia Association of Counties (VACo) for innovative programs to enhance emergency response during the COVID-19 pandemic and promote equity and inclusion in schools.
The Equity Ambassadors program was recognized with the Best Achievement Award – the highest honor in VACo’s 19th annual Achievement Awards competition. In repurposing its Student Congress as the Equity Ambassadors, HCPS sought to strengthen student voices, ensure diverse representation and promote student leadership on issues of equity in schools.
Overall, the 2021 Achievement Awards competition recognized 30 programs from 102 entries submitted by member counties across the state.
Fire was recognized for two efforts that strengthened its emergency response during the pandemic.
Under the Communications RN Model initiative, paramedic fire officers partnered with HCPS nurses to ask detailed questions as part of its response to an emergency. The collaboration ensured that community needs were met while balancing the risk to firefighters and residents and making efficient use of personal protective equipment and other resources.
Similarly, the Communications Fire Officer program was established to help crews gather extensive information about an emergency before units arrive on a scene, allowing resources to be scaled appropriately for the response.
HCPS earned Achievement Awards for two other initiatives focused on equity and inclusion. The Culture of Dignity and Responsive Action Plan aligns with HCPS’ core values of reducing disparities and building relationships. It also promotes a safe and welcoming environment for all students and employees. The Progress Through Community Conversation series provided a platform for Black voices to be heard and encouraged dialogue on issues of equity and safety for all students, staff and families.
“VACo’s Achievement Awards program showcases the outstanding work that is being done in Henrico and in counties across the Commonwealth on behalf of residents and communities,” County Manager John A. Vithoulkas said. “In Henrico, these awards shine a bright light on how our general government and school system are constantly innovating and tailoring services to build a stronger and more vibrant county.”