Skip to main content

PBS Reno Announces 2021 Spotlight Award Winners

RENO, NV (Sept. 28, 2021) – The winners of the 2021 PBS Reno Spotlight Awards and Auction have been announced, after a community-wide voting process that included more than 6,600 submissions. Awards were presented in five categories during the live broadcast of the program on channel 5.1 and streamed live on September 18, 2021.

Emmalee Sutton, a freshman at Spanish Springs High School and top Girl Scout Cookies seller, won the Spotlight Award for Extraordinary Youth. Jonah Howell, a senior at Sparks High School and community volunteer, was the other finalist recognized in this category.

Jane Dunn, founder of The Reno Posse, which feeds people experiencing homeless in northern Nevada, won the Spotlight Award for Extraordinary Individual. Diaz Dixon of CommonSpirit Health Foundation, and Kurt Hoge, President and CEO of Reno Type, were the other two finalists recognized in this category.

Milton Hyams, a teacher who heads the We the People program at Incline High School, won the Spotlight Award for Extraordinary Educator. Rebecca “RJ” Larrieu of The Newton Learning Center and Kimberly Smerkers-Bass, a CLS teacher, were the other two finalists recognized in this category.

Community Health Alliance won the Spotlight Award for Extraordinary Community Group. Step 1, which helps men battling addiction, and Trauma Intervention Program of Northern Nevada, whose volunteers help victims and survivors of trauma and other life-changing events, were the other two finalists recognized in this category.

Mari Chuy’s Mexican Kitchen, which operates three locations in the Reno/Sparks area, won the Spotlight Award for Extraordinary Local Business. Thrive Wellness of Reno, which helps people experiencing mental health issues, and United Federal Credit Union, were the other two finalists recognized in this category.

“This PBS Reno Spotlight Award means so much to me and our team at Mari Chuy’s because it shows we have the support of our community,” said Jesus “Chuy” Gutierrez, chef and owner of Mari Chuy’s Mexican Kitchen. “We work so hard to connect with people of northern Nevada and give back every opportunity we can. Mari Chuy’s is your community Mexican restaurant, and we seek to inspire and share our passion with everyone who walks in our doors. We are your safe hub for good times, good people, and good food. We are simply grateful for this beautiful honor from PBS Reno.”

PBS Reno produced in-depth videos highlighting all 14 finalists for the Spotlight Awards and Auction broadcast. The videos can be viewed online. PBS Reno congratulates each finalist and extends appreciation for their work throughout the community. PBS Reno also honored Sandy Raffealli as 2021’s Extraordinary Philanthropist. The broadcast also featured more than 100 exciting auction items during the live event, with Keith McLane as the program’s entertaining auctioneer.

“As a community-owned public television station, it was an absolute honor to “spotlight” the individuals, community groups, and businesses who are doing great things in our community,” said Emma Glenn, PBS Reno Development Officer. “The Spotlight Awards & Auction is our largest fundraiser of the year. This year, through the generous support of our sponsors, donors, and auction purchases, the station raised over $174,000. This fundraiser directly benefits PBS Reno’s educational outreach in classrooms across northern Nevada and helps fund the production of its award-winning local programs, Wild Nevada and ARTEFFECTS.”

About PBS Reno

As of November 2020, PBS Reno is watched by more than 124,000 people and more than 85,000 households weekly in northern and central Nevada and northeastern California, with viewership on multicast channels Reno Create and PBS KIDS Reno. PBS Reno channels are also available on cable, satellite services, and via livestream on YouTube TV. PBS Reno provides PBS national programming and award-winning, locally-produced content. provides engaging interactive content, including the video portal at watch.PBSReno.orgthat streams all locally-produced content and most PBS national content. PBS Reno serves students, teachers, parents and caregivers through immersive educational services including Ready To Learn Workshops that bring classroom lessons to life. Through the support of local corporations and foundations, as well as individual members, PBS Reno has been delivering public television and educational services to the communities it serves since 1983.

Contact us:

Membership Questions:
Programming Hotline:

Phone: 775.600.0555
Fax: 775.784.1438
Address: 1670 N. Virginia St. • Reno NV 89503