2019 MLK, Jr. Leadership Award Winners
Leadership Award - Alumni
Justin Kunzelman is a Palm Beach County native and the co-Founder/CEO of Rebel Recovery. He is an alumnus of Palm Beach State College, holding an Associate in Science degree in Human Services and earning membership into Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.
As CEO of Rebel Recovery, Kunzelman has led the charge to drastically reform local policy affecting people who use drugs. He has led community organizing around Syringe Access Programs (SAP), Naloxone Distribution, Recovery Peer Supportive Services, and ending patient brokering. To date Rebel Recovery remains the first and only peer led (or otherwise) Harm Reduction agency in South Florida.
Kunzelman’s passion for revolution and change is highlighted by not only his paid work, but in the various voluntary roles in which he serves. He is a member of the Palm Beach County Substance Awareness Coalition, Palm Beach County Re-entry Taskforce, Palm Beach State College Human Services Business Advisory Council, the State’s Attorney Sober Homes Task Force, and Palm Beach County Heroin Task Force.
For all the professional accomplishments, it is his home life that provides joy and a sense of pride. Kunzelman is a devout family man. He credits his success to his wife Allegra for her undying support, encouragement, and love. Allegra and Justin share in their love for their children, Kaleo Lawless and Nakoa Vandal.
Leadership Award - Student
Joseph Morel is not the average student. After serving his country in the United States Marines Corps, he found himself striving to expand his academic knowledge to help others. While pursuing his first degree, an Associate in Arts, he was able to serve Palm Beach State College as the student trustee. In the role, he was able to listen to and advocate for the 49,000 students that call Palm Beach State College home. He is currently working on his second degree, an Associate in Science, from Palm Beach State and is on the prestigious President’s list. His current area of study is Electrical Power Technology with a focus on alternative energy, his inspirations stemming from the worldwide issue of a lack of clean water.
In 2013, he began his journey of advocating for the needs of people with Cystic Fibrosis by stand-up paddling 90 nautical miles from Bimini in the Bahamas to West Palm Beach. His never-give-up-attitude has translated into many community outreach endeavors from mentoring high school students through Palm Beach State’s Summer Best Academy to working with government organizations in creating new ways of therapy for veterans to become active and mobile again. He currently serves as a member of the C.L. Brumback Primary Care Clinics District Clinic Holdings, Inc. Board of Directors, where he continues to serve the community. The C. L. Brumback Primary Care Clinics, owned and operated by the Health Care District of Palm Beach County, provide medical, dental, behavioral health and pharmacy services for adults and children with or without insurance at locations throughout the county.
Striving to achieve a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University or Howard University, he plans to use his knowledge to start a 501c3 organization that focuses on urban areas with high-risk youths. His humble upbringing has taught him to not only look for the good in people but to strive to bring out the good in others. He lives by the motto, “Don’t judge a man by the clothes he wears, but rather by the actions that emulate the essence of what that man is made of.”
He is currently employed at Palm Beach County Water Utilities and plans to learn the fundamentals of water treatment to build a NGO that focuses on desalinization, which will bring fresh water to parts of the world crippled from extreme temperatures and drought.
Leadership Award - Faculty/Staff
Dr. Irving Berkowitz
Dr. Irving Berkowitz, dean of Academic Affairs at the Palm Beach State College Lake Worth campus, has dedicated over 42 years to academia, advocating for underserved groups, improving race relations, raising awareness of social injustice and championing diversity. He is widely respected and acknowledged by those who have worked with him locally, nationally and internationally for his contributions to improving the life of underserved groups.
He has spent most of his personal and professional life volunteering his time and expertise to nonprofit organizations in the areas of human services, civil rights, poverty and social justice, arts and culture, environmental, animal welfare and education. Berkowitz’s pursuit of social justice for underserved groups has no geographic boundaries. He has provided counsel to several foreign governments, including the formerly Communist governments of Romania, Albania and Slovakia.
As the son of Holocaust survivors, he has been passionately engaged in issues and causes related to social justice, prejudice and equal opportunity. He is the proud recipient of numerous awards and recognition from civil rights organizations such as the Urban League, the North American Indian Association and the New Mexico Holocaust and Intolerance Museum. In 1993, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights honored him for Distinguished Contributions to Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights. In 2013, he was honored as the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial speaker at an Urban League event in Grand Rapids, Mich. In 2015, the Republic of Albania recognized and honored Berkowitz for his 24 years of work with the government and named him the “Founding Dean” of the Faculty of Social Sciences. The following year, he was awarded a fellowship to the prestigious International School for Holocaust Studies in Jerusalem. In 2018, he completed a fellowship as a Scholar-in-Residence at Oxford University’s Institute for the Study of Global Anti-Semitism and Policy. Berkowitz’s personal mission is to promote and protect human rights; to preserve human dignity; to contribute to human development and to improve the human condition.
Prior to joining the PBSC administration in 2013, he worked as the executive vice president of Academic and Student Affairs at Bermuda College, the only institution of higher education on the island nation of Bermuda. Berkowitz, a former distinguished university professor, was selected as one of Ohio University’s Distinguished Alumni. He has served in executive leadership roles at Lassen Community College, Central New Mexico Community College, and John F. Kennedy University in California.
Leadership Award - Individual
Vera Rolle Farrington
Vera Rolle Farrington was born in West Palm Beach. After the death of her father, she moved to Delray Beach with her mother and sister in the 1930’s. She attended the public schools of Palm Beach County and graduated from George Washington Carver Jr./Sr. High School in 1947. She received a bachelor’s degree in 1949 from Tuskegee Institute in Alabama and a master’s degree in education from Florida Atlantic University in 1980. Farrington taught in the Palm Beach County School System for 34 years and retired as assistant principal of Boca Raton High School in 1992.
After retirement, she co-founded a nonprofit organization called Expanding and Preserving Our Cultural Heritage, Inc. (EPOCH) in 1995. The mission of EPOCH is to preserve and share the black history of Delray Beach through preservation and education. In furtherance of their mission, the Spady Cultural Heritage Museum was established in 2001.
She has received numerous awards and recognitions for her work, including Ken Ellingsworth Community Service Award from the Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce; African American Achievers: Arts & Culture Award from JM Family Enterprises, Inc.; Fannie James Pioneer Award from the Historical Society of Palm Beach County; Woman Volunteer of the Year Award from the Junior League of Boca Raton; Publisher’s Community Service Shining Star Award from the Sun-Sentinel and the Woman of Distinction from the Palm Beach County chapter of the March of Dimes. In addition to her nonprofit, she has served on the Board of Directors of the Storm of ’28 Memorial Coalition, Palm Beach County Historical Society, Delray Beach Historic Preservation and the Delray Beach Historical Society.
Farrington currently resides in Delray Beach and is still a strong advocate for civil rights, education and preservation.
Leadership Award - Organization
Dress for Success Palm Beaches
Dress for Success Palm Beaches is the local affiliate of the global nonprofit that was founded in Manhattan in 1997 by Nancy Lublin. With a $5,000 inheritance and help from two nuns, she opened a boutique where women in need could find appropriate attire to make that all-important impression on a job interview. Today, the organization is about more than clothing the individual. It’s genuinely about the empowerment of women – offering the kind of coaching and development tools to help them find the job that’s right for them, grow and progress in that position, and ultimately achieve economic independence. It’s an especially critical need in Palm Beach County where the poverty rate for women is about 15 percent and even higher among the demographics Dress for Success serves, which is mostly single moms and African Americans.
Since opening the doors to the Palm Beaches chapter in 2010, Dress for Success has assisted nearly 5,000 women – many who face issues such as homelessness, poverty, addiction, recovery, domestic abuse, and mental or physical disabilities. In the job readiness courses that Dress for Success has been offering for only the past four to five years, the success rate is notable. More than 200 women age 26 years and older have completed New Directions, a free 10-week course, with 65 percent obtaining jobs as a result. Among the more than 100 women who’ve experienced the organization’s Next Step program for 18-to-25-year-olds, 60 percent have gone on to earn jobs. More importantly, these women – as well as the countless others who go through the Lantana-based boutique and meet with a career coach – gain a newfound self-awareness, self-confidence and mega-boost in their self-esteem. It’s an unparalleled head-to-toe, inside-out transformation.