News Release

National awards recognize 19 students, schools, and educators’ commitment to health

The American Heart Association hosts annual Kids Heart Challenge™ and American Heart Challenge™ National Awards Ceremony

Grant and Award Announcement

American Heart Association

DALLAS, September 13, 2023 — On Tuesday, Sept. 12, the American Heart Association, a global force for healthier lives for all, recognized 19 students, schools and educators for their commitment to end cardiovascular disease, the nation’s no. 1 killer, through the Association’s in-school programs, Kids Heart Challenge™ and American Heart Challenge™.  The annual National Awards Ceremony, held virtually, was joined by program participants from coast to coast and celebrated top individuals and leading schools for their work in advancing the association’s lifesaving work.

“It’s so encouraging to see schools, students and educators serve as a catalyst to improve health” said Marsha Jones, volunteer chairperson of the board of the American Heart Association. “This year’s awards winners demonstrate that through passion, dedication and leadership, nothing can stand in our way as we drive toward a world of longer, healthier lives for all.”

Award recipients participated in either Kids Heart Challenge or American Heart Challenge during the 2022-2023 school year and were nominated by American Heart Association staff.

The 2023 national award recipients are:

  • Outstanding Kids Heart Challenge Coordinator, Zac Edmiston of North Broward Preparatory in Coconut Creek, Florida
  • Outstanding American Heart Challenge Coordinator, Sherry Smith of Mirror Lake Middle School in Anchorage, Alaska
  • Superintendent of the Year, Chris Ragsdale of Cobb County School District in Marietta, Georgia
  • Principal of the Year (tie), Jessica Viershilling of Beechwood Elementary in Mountainside, New Jersey
  • Principal of the Year (tie), Jeremiah Costello of Bennett Elementary in Bennett, Iowa
  • Specialist or Nurse of the Year, Andrea Escobedo of Freedom Elementary in Cheyenne, Wyoming
  • Open Door Award, Renee Ybarra of Linda Vista Elementary in Orange, California
  • Heart Healthy School Award, Hempstead Elementary in Hempstead, Texas
  • Outstanding Team of the Year, Jason Feid and John Dempsey of North Attleboro Middle School in North Attleboro, Massachusetts
  • Young Heart Leadership, Zoey Hardy of Mill Pond Middle School in Lanoka Harbor, New Jersey
  • Young Heart Leadership, Maddie Eddy of Steele Elementary in Mason, Michigan
  • Young Heart Leadership, Anna Grace Smith of Catholic High School of Pointe Coupee in Ventress, Louisiana
  • Young Heart Leadership, Bryce Oliphant of Stratford High School in Houston, Texas
  • Young Heart Leadership, Tyla and Treyton Hurless of Eagle Elementary School of the Arts in Eagle, Idaho
  • Kids Heart Challenge Rookie of Year, Overton Park Elementary School in Fort Worth, Texas
  • American Heart Challenge Rookie of the Year – Middle School, Blake Bass Middle School in Sharpsburg, Georgia
  • American Heart Challenge Rookie of the Year – High School, Cobb Online Learning Academy in Atlanta, Georgia
  • Top Kids Heart Challenge Fundraising Student, Joliena Samoylovich of North Broward Preparatory School in Coconut Creek, Florida
  • Top American Heart Challenge Fundraising Student, Brandon Volosov of Auten Road Intermediate School in Hillsborough, NJ

With a foundation set in physical activity, Kids Heart Challenge and American Heart Challenge have expanded beyond the gymnasium to meet the needs of today’s youth and educators as science has proven the strong connection between physical and mental health. Kids Heart Challenge offers a variety of physical activities to get elementary students’ hearts pumping such as dance, basketball or jumping rope paired with digital mission to learn life-saving skills such as Hands-Only CPR™. The American Heart Challenge is a service-learning program for middle and high school students. The program also helps boost heart health and self-esteem, while reducing stress and anxiety through programs featuring yoga, dance, and obstacle courses.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, only 20% of kids get enough activity to meet physical activity recommendations. Both the Kids Heart Challenge and American Heart Challenge are rooted in proven science, which has shown that kids who are regularly active have a better chance of a healthy adulthood.

To learn more about American Heart Association youth-based programs visit


About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is a leading force for a world of longer, healthier lives. With nearly a century of lifesaving work, the Dallas-based association is dedicated to ensuring equitable health for all. We are a trustworthy source empowering people to improve their heart health, brain health and well-being. We collaborate with numerous organizations and millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, advocate for stronger public health policies, and share lifesaving resources and information. Connect with us on heart.orgFacebookX or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.

For Media Inquiries:

Megan Ramsey: 980-613-9066;

Public Inquiries: 1-800-AHA-USA1 (242-8721) and

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