Psych PhD Student & Nonprofit Co-Founder Honored at SXSW
April 04, 2018
Chris Diaz, PhD student in clinical psychology, received the 2018 SXSW Community Service Award at the annual gathering of techies and creators known as South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. Diaz, a Navy veteran and Pat Tilman Scholar, is the executive director and co-founder of Action Tank, a nonprofit organization of service-minded veterans focused on improving their community after their time in uniform.
Six individuals from organizations around the country were honored at the event. Each was presented with a financial grant to help further their goals.
“It’s a privilege to be here, in Austin, Texas, recognized for the work we’ve done as a collective group over the last year,” Diaz said in his acceptance speech. “Part of me is honored to be here and to help spread the word that veterans are civic assets and an integral part of our community, even after wearing the uniform. Part of me is also humbled because we, Action Tank, believe there is still so much work to be done.”
Action Tank was formed in 2016 when a group of Philadelphia-area veterans gathered for a meal on Veterans Day. They knew that the growth and resilience learned from their days in the military could be leveraged for the benefit of the community — but they weren’t quite sure how, at first.
Knowing that Philadelphia, like many U.S. cities, has been heavily impacted by the opioid crisis, the group decided to set its intention on supporting those impacted, as well as those dedicating their daily lives to addressing the issue. In 2017, Action Tank members volunteered at drug and addiction clinics, cleaned up needles at local parks, and introduced legislation to help reduce overdoses and, ultimately, save lives.
Every year, the members of Action Tank will focus on a new issue in the community.
In 2018, the group is focused on food safety and insecurity; they are currently working to form relationships with key partners — those who need support and those who can help educate the community-at-large on the issue.
“We each served our country because we felt a calling,” Diaz says. “Now that we’re veterans and living in our community, that calling hasn’t subsided. This is our way to continue to serve. We hope that we can inspire other veterans to do the same in their communities, and even reach out to collaborate and open their own ‘Action Tank’ chapters around the country.”