Volunteer Administrator of the Year Award

This annual award honors the professionals who exemplify the highest principles and ethics in the field of volunteer administration. This award recognizes all people who lead the activities of volunteers and acknowledges their contributions to the San Diego community. 

2016 Volunteer Administrator of the Year 


Congratulations to Travis Kemnitz, Talent & Culture Coach with Ocean Discovery Institute, this year’s Volunteer Administrator of the Year!

“Ocean Discovery Institute uses science to empower urban underserved young people to transform their lives and become leaders in science and conservation, and a critical part of our ability to do so is engaging professionals from science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) industries as mentors. Travis has spent the last six years building our STEM Volunteer Corps, which brings in close to a 150 STEM volunteers each year to act as mentors so that students can envision themselves as scientists and have the spark they need to discover and pursue their own passions. This is one facet of the volunteer program, which under Travis’ leadership has engaged over 6,000 volunteers contributing approximately 45,000 hours valued at approximately $1M and resulted in thousands of young lives transformed through science.

Travis believes in the power of servant leadership and puts the needs of others before his own. He has designed the intake process for volunteers to learn what is special about each individual and what they are passionate about to best leverage their strengths, contribute their knowledge, and share their passion with our students and staff. He goes out of his way to do this personally whenever possible as he understands how important it is to build relationships that support the volunteers as well as connect them to the mission of our organization. Travis also knows the importance of fueling other’s motivation and recognizing the incredible contributions of so many generous individuals that give their time and talent to our organization. His favorite thing to do is make others laugh, smile, and feel appreciated which is most evident at our annual Celebration and Appreciation event, where he is thrilled to perform a comical skit to demonstrate the impact of individual volunteers by dressing up like them, superheroes, or other creative characters to authentically celebrate the uniqueness of each individual and pass along the inspiration these volunteers bring to our work. He generates the spark that makes individuals want to serve and support our efforts.

Travis’s leadership is evidenced in his work with our board, staff, and leaders of other organizations. This year, Travis led our staff’s involvement in the Service Enterprise Initiative and integrated best practices learned to build staff skills and organizational capacity in volunteer engagement. For his demonstrated capacity to bring impact and change to urban neighborhoods, Travis was selected as a 2015 RISE Fellow to join a cohort of leaders in training to lead more effectively in the face of the complex, contentious, and seemingly intractable challenges present in their communities.

Travis has dedicated 15 years of his life to Ocean Discovery Institute and as many of us believe, it is not a job it is a lifestyle. Travis has the title of Talent and Culture Coach, and coach speaks to how he leads. Travis sees all interactions with volunteers, staff, students, and our board as an opportunity to develop leaders. By helping those engaged in the organization’s efforts to find their own solutions to the challenges they face, he helps them build the skills to take on greater challenges and magnify their impact. From the days when Travis taught students in the classroom to today when he is meeting with a CEO to engage their company’s employees in volunteering, he brings the same level of passion and spark that inspires all to make a difference. His ability to energize a room paired with his deep commitment to empowering young people to transform their lives and community has been instrumental in catalyzing others to take on our nation’s greatest challenges and empowering the next generation of leaders. In addition, Travis is committed to continuing his own professional growth as a volunteer administrator, evidenced by his involvement this year in the Service Enterprise Initiative and being selected for the RISE fellowship program.  Travis is undoubtedly the right person to grow our volunteer program to meet this need of quadrupling our efforts and impact.” -Lindsay Goodwin, Associate Director of Ocean Discovery Institute

Kudos to all those nominated, including:

• Sanam Kalhoro-Escoto, Resident Services Coordinator, Housing on Merit
• Deborah Krakauer, Volunteer Manager, San Diego Rescue Mission
• Heather Hoffmann, Volunteer Services Specialist, American Red Cross
• Amy Hull, Volunteer Services Manager, ElderHelp of San Diego
• Adela Garcia, Latina Success Chair, MANA de San Diego
• Elizabeth Escobar, Director of Hermanitas Mentorship Program, MANA de San Diego
• Tiffany Hong, Volunteer Coordinator/Personnel Recruiter, San Diego Youth Services
• Dr. Ana Navarro, Health Committee Chair, MANA de San Diego
• Travis Kemnitz, Talent and Culture Coach, Ocean Discovery Institute
• Teresa Dale, Volunteer Programs Manager, Feeding America San Diego
• Tanja Schroeder, Manager of Volunteer Programs and Training, Reuben H. Fleet Science Center
• Sarah Merk-Benitez, Community Programs Supervisor & Volunteer Coordinator, The San Diego LGBT Community Center

Past Awardees

2015 – Sarah Adams, Voices for Children
2014 – Tammy Rach, San Diego Zoo
2013 – Sue Irey, City of Carlsbad
2013 – Rookie of the Year Award: Sara Griffin, Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society
2012 – no award given
2011 – Chrissy Califf, Words Alive
2010 – Cliff Beyer, Harmonium, Inc.
2009 – Lori Kiner, Scripps Mercy Hospital
2008 – Tonya Danielly, Oceanside Ivey Ranch Park Association
2007 – Jennifer Jones, Fresh Start Surgical Gifts
2006 – Deborah G. Horwitz, Elite Racing, Inc.
2005 – Amy Hoyt Bennett, Helen Woodward Animal Center
2004 – Nancee Hanson, County of San Diego Parks & Recreation
2003 – Julie Myres, San Diego Superior Court
2002 – no award given
2001 – Dave Andrews, Mama’s Kitchen
2000 – Diane Kennedy, County of San Diego Parks & Recreation
1999 – Margot Howard, St. Vincent de Paul Villages
1998 – Valerie Knox, City of Escondido Volunteer Program
1997 – Alyce Archuleta, City of San Diego Public Library
1996 – Deirdre Kleske, San Diego Humane Society & SPCA
1995 – Frank A. Silva, AIDS Foundation San Diego
1994 – Leslie Kelley, Fresh Start Surgical Gifts
1993 – Carolyn Nelson, San Diego Youth & Community Services
1992 – Ona Rita Yufe, Kaiser Permanente Hospice
1991 – Charles M. Dulaney, The Elizabeth Hospice
1991 – Barbara Jean Penn, County of San Diego Department of Social Services
1990 – Ramona Buck, Women’s Resource Center