New Start Career Network Volunteers Honored with a Jefferson Award

NSCN's Volunteer Career Coaches have been selected as a 2018 honoree for the New Jersey State Governor’s Jefferson Award.

Jeffersons_Award.jpgIn recognition of their extraordinary volunteer efforts to help New Jersey’s long-term unemployed midcareer and older job seekers, the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development’s New Start Career Network (NSCN) Volunteer Career Coaches have been selected as a 2018 honoree for the New Jersey State Governor’s Jefferson Award. The Jefferson Awards were established in 1972 as the official recognition program of the United States Senate and are considered America’s highest honor for public service and volunteerism. 

Maria Heidkamp, NSCN Director, nominated the Volunteer Career Coaches as a group for the prestigious award. 

“Since we launched NSCN at Rutgers University in late 2015, we have been astounded and humbled by our more than 270 Volunteer Coaches,” Heidkamp noted. “In the program’s first two years, these volunteers donated more than 17,000 hours of coaching services worth over $2.5 million. They have worked with over 600 job seekers individually and in small groups. They have conducted webinars, presented at NSCN and other career events, recruited employers and staffed our job fairs, and pioneered new ways of helping job seekers. They have been there to help when job seekers have faced crises, and to celebrate their triumphs. The Jefferson Award is well deserved.”

NSCN Senior Associate Michele Martin, who works with the Volunteer Career Coaches on a daily basis, added her gratitude and praise.

“It has been an honor to work with each one of our volunteers, many of whom have been with us for more than two years,” Martin said. “They continue to amaze me with their creativity, compassion, and dedication to helping our NSCN job seekers. We currently have over 3,700 job seekers who are NSCN members, and we couldn’t do what we are doing without our incredible volunteers.”

Heldrich Center Director Carl Van Horn congratulated the Volunteer Career Coaches and the NSCN staff. He also expressed his thanks to the Philip and Tammy Murphy Family Foundation for providing major funding for NSCN, and to New Jersey Resources and the Fund for New Jersey, which provided additional support. Van Horn noted, “We are grateful for the generous support we have received from our funders, which enabled us to launch NSCN to address one of New Jersey’s critical and ongoing labor market challenges, long-term unemployment, which affects over 66,000 New Jersey job seekers.” 

Heidkamp, Martin, and a number of the NSCN Volunteer Career Coaches attended the 2018 Jefferson Awards ceremony, which was held at the Patriots Theater at the War Memorial in Trenton on June 2, 2018. Several of the coaches reflected on their work with NSCN. 

“The job search process has completely changed in the last decade. For anyone who is doing a search for the first time in a while, it is like learning a new language. These job seekers, particularly older ones, need someone to guide them through this process. Being a coach with NSCN can be very challenging, but also very rewarding. One of the job seekers whom I coached said that I was ‘like an angel’ to him. That is when I knew I was working with the right team,” said NSCN coach Bill Gwynn. 

“Being a coach with NSCN has been a rewarding and gratifying experience, especially having the opportunity to serve, inspire, and encourage others in their journey. The learning and growth I’ve have gained over the past couple of years from being a part of NSCN has enrichened my life,” commented Lynn Dorrall.  

Career coach Ruth Kunstadter noted, “We are all working together to ensure that everyone can connect to their highest potential and to meaningful, fulfilling, and gainful employment. It’s an honor to be part of this effort and to work with everyone involved with NSCN!”

In addition to the Jefferson Award, in September 2017, NSCN was awarded $60,000 from the Commission on National and Community Service as part of a Volunteer Generation Fund grant, one of five awardees working with the New Jersey Governor’s Office of Volunteerism to promote volunteering in the state. 

NSCN provides free assistance to older (45+) long-term unemployed job seekers in New Jersey and is currently seeking additional volunteers. NSCN volunteers typically have backgrounds in human resources, recruiting, workforce development, career counseling, mental health counseling, mentoring, and education. Others have industry backgrounds, including IT, pharma, financial services, and health care. Several are bilingual. For more information about NSCN services or to become a Volunteer Career Coach, please visit the NSCN website at