Bright News

NEO Program Director Halli Ellis-Edwards receives Women of Persistence Award

NEO Program Director Halli Ellis-Edwards was honored Wednesday (March 20) with the Women’s Caucus of the League of California Cities’ Women of Persistence Award.

The annual award celebrates women who have persisted in their efforts for equality, change, growth and improvement in their respective communities.

Grass Valley Mayor Jan Arbuckle, former President of the California League of Cities, honored Ellis-Edwards during Bright Futures for Youth’s Power of the Purse fundraising event at the Grass Valley Veterans Memorial Building.

“I greatly appreciate and am humbled by the recognition,” said Ellis-Edwards, who cofounded NEO when she was 19 years old with Lynn Skrukrud in 2008. “But it has always been a team effort, from the hard work of the NEO staff to the ongoing support of donors to the commitment of dozens of volunteers. We are all dedicated to the young people in our community.”

In 2020, NEO merged with The Friendship Club and the organization was renamed Bright Futures for Youth.

Ellis-Edwards, a native of Nevada County, has been committed to and working hard with the Bright Futures team on opening a new NEO Youth Center the past several years. The 3,700-square-foot youth center opened in late fall 2023.

Hundreds of children and young adults enjoy the Youth Center every week. The center includes a café, a music room, small stage, a backyard and a game area with board games, video games and ping-pong and pool tables. The youth center – funded by a $500,000 capital campaign – includes free healthy food and access to a range of services, such as clothing to counseling and health care, if needed.

“Halli works tirelessly to improve the lives of young people in our community,” said Bright Futures for Youth Executive Director Jennifer Singer. “She is always thinking ahead, looking at what more we can do to help young people who face so many challenges.”

Bright Futures for Youth and its three core programs – The Friendship Club, NEO and SAFE, which helps young adults experiencing homelessness – serves several hundred young people every month.