December 13, 2016 - 2016 New Frontier Award Ceremony

December 13, 2016
Media Contacts: Matt Porter, JFK Library Foundation
o: (617) 514-1574; c: (978) 764-4255  
Mary Cappabianca, The Institute of Politics
o: (617) 384-5923

Mayor of Compton, CA and CEO of Country’s Leading College Prison Initiative

to Receive 2016 John F. Kennedy New Frontier Awards

Boston, MA – Aja Brown, the Mayor of Compton, CA, and Max Kenner, founder of the Bard Prison Initiative, an organization dedicated to helping incarcerated individuals earn college degrees while in prison, have been named this year’s recipients of the John F. Kennedy New Frontier Awards. The awards will be presented by Jack Schlossberg this evening during a ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

“The energy, faith and devotion of a generation of young Americans is what my grandfather, President Kennedy, was himself a part of – it is who he believed in, and who he relied on throughout his political career,” said Schlossberg during his remarks at the ceremony. “With the youthful energy Mayor Brown brings to the job, and the ambitious programs and high hopes she has for her city, she represents my grandfather’s vision for a New Frontier in a new century and at a moment when our country surely needs it…Max Kenner’s innovative approach has had lasting, positive impacts on hundreds of individuals and proves that a problem, which may seem intractable, or too complicated, can be addressed by a motivated young student who understands what a great fortune an education is for anyone.”

The John F. Kennedy New Frontier Awards were created by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics to honor Americans under the age of 40 who are changing their communities and the country with their commitment to public service. The awards are presented annually to two exceptional individuals whose contributions in elective office, community service, or advocacy demonstrate the impact and the value of public service in the spirit of John F. Kennedy.

One of the New Frontier Awards honors an elected official whose work demonstrates the importance of elective service as a way to address a public challenge or challenges.  This award, called the Fenn Award, is presented to a young elected official in honor of Dan Fenn, the Kennedy Library’s first director and a former member of President Kennedy’s staff.  The other New Frontier Award honors an individual whose contributions in the realm of community service, advocacy or grassroots activism have had a positive impact on a broad public policy issue or challenge.


At the age of 31, Aja Brown became the youngest mayor in the history of Compton, California. Elected in 2013, Brown previously served over 10 years as an urban planner in municipalities across Southern California. She was elected to office on her 12 point plan, “Vision For Compton,” that focused on gang violence and bringing new jobs into the city.

Brown mediated talks between gang organizations to significantly reduce violence and crime. After doing so, Brown secured federal support for Compton through a new United States Department of Justice violence prevention program, the Violence Reduction Network.

In 2014, Brown instituted a Local Hiring Ordinance that requires all city assisted development projects to guarantee a 35% local hiring preference and community benefits agreement to further enrich the City of Compton. Over the past three years, Brown has been integral in bringing major redevelopment projects and jobs to the City of Compton, including UPS, Walmart, Smart & Final, and infrastructure improvement projects that have created hundreds of local jobs for residents. 

Brown holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Policy, Urban Planning and Development, along with a Master’s degree in Urban Planning with a concentration in Economic Development from the University of Southern California. She was awarded the prestigious University of Southern California Young Alumni Merit Award in 2014. She lives in Compton with her husband Van.


As the founder and executive director of the Bard Prison Initiative (BPI), Max Kenner has devoted his career to providing access to higher education and effective solutions to the criminal justice system. The leading program of its kind in the country, BPI enrolls more than 300 students across six prisons in New York State and has awarded nearly 400 Bard College degrees. The outcomes are impressive, with less than 2.5 percent of graduates returning to prison; 83 percent of alumni employed in a variety of positions in the public and private sector; and many others continuing their studies and completing graduate degrees at universities including Yale, NYU, Columbia, and across the CUNY system.

Through its Consortium for the Liberal Arts in Prison, BPI also engages colleges and universities across the United States to create programs based on its model. Currently, BPI is active in fifteen states, with partnerships that include the University of Notre Dame and Washington University. Building on BPI’s record of innovation and creative college opportunity, Kenner launched the Bard Microcollege, which brings ambitious, tuition-free college to the most isolated urban communities. The pilot Microcollege launched this year in Holyoke, MA, and will expand to New York City next year.

Kenner serves as Vice President for Institutional Initiatives and an Advisor to the President on Public Policy & College Affairs at Bard College. In 2014, he was appointed to serve on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s New York State Council on Community Re-entry and Reintegration. He is the recipient of numerous awards and speaks frequently on the topics of higher education and criminal justice issues.

About the New Frontier Awards

At the New Frontier Awards ceremony, Jack Schlossberg will present Brown and Kenner each with a ship’s navigational compass in a wooden box bearing the inscription: “We stand today on the edge of a New Frontier….I believe the times demand new invention, innovation, imagination, decision. I am asking each of you to be pioneers on that New Frontier.”  – John F. Kennedy.

The New Frontier Awards are named after President Kennedy's bold challenge to Americans given in his acceptance speech to the Democratic National Convention on July 15, 1960:

We stand today on the edge of a New Frontier…a frontier of unknown opportunities and perils -- a frontier of unfulfilled hopes and threats. The New Frontier of which I speak is not a set of promises -- it is a set of challenges. It sums up not what I intend to offer the American people, but what I intend to ask of them. It appeals to their pride, not to their pocketbook -- it holds out the promise of more sacrifice instead of more security…. Beyond that frontier are the uncharted areas of science and space, unsolved problems of peace and war, unconquered pockets of ignorance and prejudice, unanswered questions of poverty and surplus. It would be easier to shrink back from that frontier, to look to the safe mediocrity of the past, to be lulled by good intentions and high rhetoric…but I believe the times demand new invention, innovation, imagination, decision. I am asking each of you to be pioneers on that New Frontier.

Past recipients of the New Frontier Awards include Pete Buttigieg, the Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and Kirsten Lodal, Co-Founder and CEO of LIFT, Svante Myrick, Mayor of Ithaca, New York, Nina Dudnik, Founder and CEO, Seeding Labs, Charles Best, founder and CEO of; Cory A. Booker, U.S. Senator and former Mayor of Newark, New Jersey; U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii; Eric Garcetti, Mayor of Los Angeles; Wendy Kopp, Founder and CEO of Teach for America; and Zainab Salbi, Founder and CEO of Women for Women International.

A distinguished bipartisan committee of political and community leaders selected Brown and Kenner based on their contributions to the public and their embodiment of the forward-looking public idealism to which President Kennedy hoped young Americans would aspire. The 2016 John F. Kennedy New Frontier Awards Committee was co-chaired by Steven Rothstein, Executive Director, John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, and Maggie Williams, Director, Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics. Committee members are: Terence Burke, Vice President of Communications Strategy, Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce; Carolyn Casey, Founder and Executive Director, Project 351; Ranny Cooper, President & COO, Weber Shandwick Public Affairs and former Chief of Staff for Senator Edward M. Kennedy; The Honorable William “Mo” Cowan, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, ML Strategies and former United States Senator (D-MA); Dan Fenn, former member of President John F. Kennedy’s staff and former Director of the John F. Kennedy Library; Tina Flournoy, Chief of Staff, Office of President Clinton, The Clinton Foundation; The Honorable Rachel Kaprielian, Vice President, MA Community and Government Affairs, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, and 1999 Fenn Award recipient; Vivien Li, President and CEO, Riverlife, and former President, The Boston Harbor Association; Kristin McSwain, Executive Director, Boston Opportunity Agenda and former Director, AmeriCorps; The Honorable Doug Palmer, Former Mayor, Trenton, New Jersey; Aneesh Raman, Vice President, Growth at, and former domestic policy speechwriter, President Barack Obama; Kristen Soltis Anderson, GOP strategist, columnist, The Daily Beast; Jack Schlossberg, grandson of President John F. Kennedy; Barbara Souliotis, former State Director, Office of Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics both have their origins in the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library, Inc., a non-profit corporation that was chartered in Massachusetts on December 5, 1963, to construct and equip the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Massachusetts.

About the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation

The mission of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation is to carry President Kennedy’s legacy forward. We aim to inspire and engage Americans and people throughout the world with his timeless vision and ideals of building a positive future through peace, optimism, innovation and service. The Foundation also supports the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in their efforts to preserve and provide public access to historical materials related to President Kennedy and his administration, and to provide a dynamic, inspiring and educational experience for visitors.

About the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics

Our mission at Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics (IOP) is to create the future of politics and public service every day, inspiring undergraduates to lead lives of purpose by committing themselves to the practice of politics and governing, and to public service and the countless opportunities to serve at home and around the world. The IOP was established in 1966 as a living memorial to President Kennedy. More information is available online at