The Yankton School District has been named one of the 15 recipients of the 2021 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, in recognition of the organization’s exemplary support for its National Guard and Reserve employees.
The announcement was made Wednesday in press releases from the U.S. Department of Defense, the South Dakota National Guard and the Yankton School District (YSD).
Yankton School District along with 14 other recipients were selected from 3,382 nominations received from Guardsmen and Reservists highlighting how their civilian employers went far beyond what the federal law requires to support them.
Celebrating its 25th year, the Freedom Award began in 1996 under the auspices of Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) to recognize exceptional employer support, with 310 honorees to date.
ESGR received 3,382 nominations for this prestigious award for employers throughout the 50 states, Guam-CNMI, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands and District of Columbia. The recipients distinguished themselves by going far beyond the requirements of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, or USERRA, to support their National Guard and Reserve employees. Many offered enhanced pay and benefit packages; flexible scheduling and generous leave policies; and pre- and post- deployment support. In addition, they implemented robust training to equip human resource professionals and managers to support their organization’s military serving employees; stayed connected to deployed employees by sending care packages; and took care of their employees’ families during deployments by assisting with household repairs, including them in company functions, or providing financial assistance.
YSD supports their military employees with programs for National Guard and Reserve service members. The company ensures uninterrupted pay, compensation and benefits during deployments; and goes above and beyond in its compassionate support of service members and their families.
“The Yankton School District continually strives to contribute to the well-being and success of the citizen-soldiers they employ as well as those that reside within the community,” said Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Zachary Campbell. “YSD’s devoted encouragement and support allows me to pursue opportunities and experiences that grow me as a leader within the South Dakota Army National Guard.”
In a press release, YSD Superintendent Dr. Wayne Kindle said he was delighted by the award.
“We are honored by this nomination acknowledging Yankton School District’s commitment to our military personnel,” Kindle said. “We take great pride in supporting our staff in uniform. We hope this nomination highlights the importance of employers standing with the Guard and Reserve in our community.”
Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III lauded the winning school districts in a press release.
“I am proud to salute the outstanding employers who have earned the distinction of being named Freedom Award recipients as we mark the 25th year of this highly coveted recognition,” he said. “The men and women of the National Guard and Reserve make significant contributions to our communities and our national security through their civilian and military careers. We owe a debt of gratitude to these exemplary employers, who by valuing and supporting their employees’ military service, enhance the strength, readiness, and diversity of our National Guard and Reserve forces.”
According to Kindle, a local presentation and celebration of the award will be held in September.