Fort McCoy News September 26, 2014

McCoy staff judge advocate receives diversity award

STORY & PHOTO BY SCOTT T. STURKOL
Public Affairs Staff

Garrison Staff Judge Advocate Col. Audrey Lewis was selected as the 2014 Excellence in Diversity Award winner at Fort McCoy during the recent Women's Equality Day observance.

Photo for Diversity Award article
Garrison Commander Col. Steven W. Nott presents the 2014 Fort McCoy Excellence in Diversity Award to Garrison Staff Judge Advocate Col. Audrey Lewis.

According to Fort McCoy Equal Opportunity Adviser and Sexual Assault Response Coordinator Master Sgt. Matthew Fitzgibbons, the award recognizes an individual who has contributed to the advancement of women, minorities and individuals with disabilities in the federal government.

Lewis, a 29-year Army veteran, earned the award through numerous achievements and actions in the installation community. She arrived at Fort McCoy in 2011, and since then, has been active in many roles.

According to the award citation, Lewis has been an "enthusiastic and able supporter" of the Army Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) program.

"Colonel Lewis' experience and expertise as a special victim counsel and as a (SHARP) coordinator directly contributed to the revitalization of Fort McCoy's Sexual Assault Review Board process," the citation reads. The colonel also is credited with establishing the first-ever Fort McCoy Juvenile Offender Program.

"While these accomplishments are exemplary, they pale in comparison to the personal efforts she has taken here on Fort McCoy to help troubled youth turn their lives around," according to the citation.

In addition to SJA duties, Lewis has volunteered hundreds of hours as a mentor for at-risk youth at the Wisconsin Challenge Academy (WCA). As a mentor, Lewis has helped a large number of male and female students.

"I have absolutely loved tutoring at the Challenge Academy," Lewis said. "It's a very rewarding experience."

Lewis has supported six classes of students at the WCA and has mentored dozens of students. She recalled one of the first students she tutored, helping him earn his high school equivalency diploma before he graduated from the WCA.

"I think I was more excited about his achievement than he was," Lewis said. "I was very happy for him. I have learned in my time supporting the Challenge Academy that it's important to get the best out of everyone. Those students demonstrate that every day."

The award citation highlights how Lewis was one of the first role models many of the students ever had interacted with. As a result, she has been "an inspiration" to many students, "instilling and building the confidence within them needed to complete school, graduate and develop as productive citizens."

"She has done a wonderful job working with our students," said WCA Lead Instructor Nancy Wedwick. "The great thing about her is she is such a great role model, especially for the young female students."

In addition to mentoring the students, Lewis also has traveled across the state of Wisconsin numerous times to attend the graduation ceremonies of students she has mentored.

"Colonel Lewis has been an outstanding role model helping to guide our younger generation to develop the strength of character and the life skills necessary to become successful, responsible citizens," the citation said.

"I was very surprised, and pleased, to receive this award," Lewis said. "Diversity is important to what we do in the military services and in our communities.

"Engaging a diverse community results in obtaining the best skills of a broader group of Soldiers, employees or community members, promotes improved understanding between individuals, tolerance and community relations, and allows individuals to reach their maximum potential," Lewis said.

Lewis also said she encourages others to go out, volunteer, and expand their understanding of diversity.

"The Challenge Academy is great place to volunteer," Lewis said. "But whether you volunteer there, or with some other worthy organization, it can be a very fulfilling experience. In my case, I believe it's helped some young people expand and achieve their goals, while also making me a better member of my community and a more understanding and caring individual."

"She (Lewis) has stepped forward and volunteered in the true sense of the word," Wedwick said. "We cannot thank her enough for what she has done for the students."

For more information about the Excellence in Diversity Award, call Fitzgibbons at 608-388-3246.