The MLK Jr. Visionary Award at AU, initiated in January 2020, was created by the Public Relations Portfolio course in the School of Communication, taught by Professor Gemma Puglisi. The students created the concept of honoring an AU graduate who has stayed in DC and made a commitment to addressing the city’s inequities through work with a nonprofit agency or school.
In addition to designing and promoting the process, the students secured funding from various deans to enhance the recognition with a monetary award of $750, which goes directly to the recipient’s organization. The award is now institutionalized at AU through the Center for Community Engagement and Service and is supported by the Alumni Association. Each year an alumnus/a/i is honored in the light of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy at a commemorative ceremony in partnership with the Kay Spiritual Life Center.
In its inaugural year, the award was presented to Donald Curtis, SOC/MA ’14, who founded SOUL – Student Athletes Organized to Understand Leadership. The 2021 winner was George Garcia, SPA/MPA ’19, director for education and workforce at the Latin American Youth Center.
This year, we received five outstanding nominations, including:
• 2022 Award Winner: Jaleesa Hall, SPA/MPA ’14, Founder and CEO, Raising a Village Foundation
• Carla Cabrera Cuadrado, SIS/MA ’20, Co-Founder, More Perspectives
• Romina Martin Guevara, SPA/BA ’20, Paralegal, Kids in Need of Defense
• Queen Nwafor, SPA/BA ’14, Education Policy Specialist, Maryland State Education Association
• Janethe Peña, SIS/BA ’02, Founder and Executive Director, DC Doors Inc.
Award winner Jaleesa Hall works to provide high-quality intervention programs and community resources to underserved children and families. Read more about Jaleesa and her work. Jaleesa will be honored at a ceremony on Friday, February 25, at noon in the Kay Spiritual Life Center.