Past MLK, Jr. Leadership Award Winners
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Awards were established by Palm Beach State College to honor individuals and organizations that have made major innovative contributions toward improving the lives of others, particularly the underserved, through leadership, service and/or programs. These contributions can be in the areas of education, diversity, race relations, health care, social justice and economic empowerment.
Lifetime Achievement Award
Don Browne is the former president of Telemundo Communications Group, Inc. He oversaw all functions of the Telemundo television network and its 16 owned-and-operated stations.
Prior to joining Telemundo Network, Browne served as president and general manager of WTVJ, NBCUniversal’s owned-and-operated station in Miami and was a longtime advocate of expanding into the Spanish-language television market to better serve the Hispanic community. Browne was a key member of the NBCUniversal team involved in the acquisition of the Telemundo network.
Before joining WTVJ, Browne was executive vice president of NBC News in New York from 1991 through 1993. From 1989 to 1991, Browne served as NBC News’ executive news director. While he was the executive in charge of the "Today" show, he orchestrated its resurgence as well as the launching of the weekend edition of the “Today” show. He was also involved in the creation and the airing of “Dateline,” the first successful prime-time news magazine in NBC’s history. From 1979 to 1989, as NBCU’s Miami bureau chief, Browne directed news coverage of Central and South America. Before joining NBCU, Browne worked for CBS News for over a decade.
Throughout his career and even in retirement, Browne maintains a national reputation for his recruitment and career development of women and minorities. He is co-founder and board member of the "Women of Tomorrow Mentor and Scholarship Program" for at-risk high school girls. He is the recipient of the 2006 Florida Governor's Points of Light Award for exemplary service to his community and the 2004 prestigious Ida B. Wells Award for his commitment to promoting diversity in the workplace. He was a charter member of the NBCUniversal News Taskforce on Women and Minorities and served as a member of NBCU’s Taskforce on Diversity.
Browne has also remained active in giving back to colleges and universities. He is an advisor to the University of South Carolina School of Journalism. In 2020, Browne addressed the Lead to Influence cohort of upper-level college administrators at Palm Beach State College and with his own success, challenged them to commit to intentional inclusivity in their leadership.
Leadership Award - Alumni
Palm Beach State College alumna Julie Kime has dedicated herself to those in need, giving back to local organizations, supporting equity, diversity and at-risk youth, as well as providing resources and access to education.
Starting her journey as a student, she has now come full circle, returning to her PBSC alma mater as a scholarship donor and serving as a board member for the PBSC Foundation. As a mentor, philanthropist and scholarship donor, she has established the Julie Kime Hispanic Women Scholarship at Palm Beach State. Her philanthropy, community spirit and experiences have been inspiring the Palm Beach County community for over 30 years.
She knows firsthand the meaning of leveling the playing field through education and broadening opportunity. For her contributions to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County, she was nominated to the prestigious Jeremiah Milbank Society, an elite group dedicated to serving the local Boys and Girls Clubs. Since 1987, she has served on their Corporate Board of Trustees. When the new club in Wellington opened eight years ago, a generous donation from Kime and her husband, John, supported its construction. Their name is proudly displayed at the Welcome Center.
Of Cuban background, Kime was the first Hispanic female owner and operator of an Allstate agency in Palm Beach County, and she ran the business for 33 years before retiring in 2012. In 1982, she joined with a handful of business leaders in Wellington to become a founder of the Palms West Chamber of Commerce (now Central Chamber) and was a founding member of the Chamber Trustee Program. Other recognitions include:
- 2015 - earned the prestigious Hispanic Woman of Distinction Award and honored with the Portrait of a Woman Award by Quantum House
- 2011 - awarded with the Golden Stiletto Award by the Central Chamber
- 2009 - received the Chamber’s Business of the Year Award
- 1994 - received the Women in Leadership Award from the Executive Women of the Palm Beaches
Relationships and involvement are central to Kime. She rolls up her sleeves to make sure children and college students have memorable experiences and resources to be productive adults. She has leveraged her business and personal relationships to open numerous doors that broaden the horizons of the organizations she holds dear.
Leadership Award - Student
Dawn M. Rosado
Dawn Marchese Rosado has been serving for five years with the United Way of Palm Beach County’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. VITA provides free tax preparation services for low- to moderate-income households, and she helps prepare taxes at one of the busiest sites.
Rosado says she loves giving back to the community and helping people understand things. Through the years, she has logged over 860 volunteer hours at the United Way. Her colleagues describe her as one of the most reliable volunteers. She never cancels and always shows up on time. Each year, when volunteers must recertify as an IRS tax preparer, she also is one of the first to complete her certification and provide documentation to the United Way team.
She also has volunteered for the last three years at the United Way’s Tax-a-Thon event. During the pandemic, she began helping the Palm Beach County Community Services Department with reviewing residents’ applications for rent and utility assistance through CARES Act Funding.
Rosado volunteers her time while also juggling her part-time job as a cashier and going to school part time. A Brooklyn native and married mother of two adult sons, she decided to enroll at PBSC in 2020 after her youngest child graduated from high school. She had not been in school in over 26 years after dropping out of Long Island University to take care of family matters. She says she is pleased to be back in school to earn an education. She is pursuing an Associate in Arts degree and expects to graduate in summer 2022. While she is not yet sure of her career path, she knows that volunteering will remain central in her life. “I just want to make sure I continue to volunteer and make sure the people who I help get a fair and equal opportunity like everybody else.”
Leadership Award - Faculty/Staff
Jang-Young Bang, Ph.D.
Dr. Jang-Young Bang, a physics professor at Palm Beach State College, has turned his passion for his field into opportunities to do outreach on campus and in the community to provide support for students interested in STEM and to pique the curiosity of others.
He joined the PBSC faculty in fall 2014, and he quickly got involved. In January 2017, he officially launched a new Physics Club to create and sustain a welcoming community for physics and engineering students to find peer tutoring, mentoring and career direction.
The club, for which he still serves as advisor, organized a Physics Fest on campus at which students from various physics courses performed experiments to showcase their knowledge and to drive interest. It also participated in and contributed to the success of Palm Beach State STEAM Fests held in 2018 and 2019. Before the pandemic, club members visited elementary schools in economically challenged areas and underrepresented students. Since then, they have organized various virtual events. Bang says to increase diversity in physics and STEM long term, it is important to reach students at younger ages and from diverse backgrounds and communities.
A native of South Korea, he has taught both calculus- and algebra-based physics, conceptual physics, earth science, and some math courses. He served as Physical Science and Chemistry department chair from fall 2016 to spring 2020. As a member of eLearning and Instructional Technology Committee, he organized the Community of Practice for Lake Worth faculty. As a member of the College Affordability Task Force, he led the Open Educational Resources Promotion Subcommittee. Bang was a 2020 recipient of PBSC’s Stewart Award for teaching excellence.
He holds a doctoral degree in theoretical high energy physics and a master’s degree in physics from Indiana University. He also holds a bachelor's degree in physics and philosophy from the University of California Berkeley.
Leadership Award - Individual
Patricia R. Brown
Patricia R. Brown served the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office in various capacities for over 31 years before retiring this past November as a lieutenant and executive officer of the West Detention Center. However, her service to the community extends beyond her law enforcement career.
Since 2012, she has been a mentor for Take Stock in Children in Palm Beach County, and she works with other organizations that focus on youth support. She is on the board of Freeprenuers, a nonprofit that provides workshops on etiquette and other topics for African American girls ages 9-17, and she recently completed a four-year term on the board of the Glades Initiative.
She is currently president of the South Florida Chapter of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, and she previously served for three years as vice president for Sector 3, which covers Palm Beach County.
Brown is a graduate of Leadership Palm Beach County Class of 2013 and co-chaired Public Safety Day from 2014 to 2021. She also is a graduate of the University of Louisville’s Southern Police Institute’s 116th Administrative Officer’s Course and Police Executive Graduate Program, where she received the B. Edward Campbell Service Award for “meritorious service.” Among other honors, she received a Leadership Excellence Award from Leadership Palm Beach County in 2019 and the Southeast Florida Girls Scouts Emerald Award and Bethesda Hospital Foundation Women of Grace award in 2020. Take Stock in Children honored her with Mentor of the Year awards in 2016 and 2020.
A Palm Beach County native, she holds a master’s degree in public administration and bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from Barry University, as well as an associate degree in marketing management from South University. She recently completed an Associate in Science degree in Funeral Services from Miami Dade College and plans to become a licensed funeral director and embalmer in 2022.
Brown believes that faith, character, integrity, ethical decision making and education are the keys that will open many doors.
Leadership Award - Organization
Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County
Since 1989, through extensive outreach and collaboration with a network of community partners, the Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County has been dedicated to ensuring individuals in Palm Beach County receive the help they need to improve their literacy skills. The Literacy Coalition’s mission is to improve the quality of life in the community by promoting and achieving literacy, and its vision is that every child and adult in Palm Beach County becomes a reader.
In the past year, the Literacy Coalition served 46,867 adults, children, youth and families through literacy programs. Literacy AmeriCorps members provided 56,574 hours of service, which included teaching, tutoring and mentoring 234 adults, 1,662 teens and 212 children, and the Literacy Coalition distributed 102,536 books to children, families and organizations. The Literacy Coalition is working to address the fact that 22.2% of adults ages 16 and older lack basic literacy skills and can’t fill out a job application or read a bus schedule and that 46% of third-grade students read below grade level, begin to fall behind in every subject, not just language arts, and are at greater risk of dropping out of school.
The Literacy Coalition serves preschool children who live in homes that don’t contain a single book; children who feel alienated and angry because they struggle to read as well as their friends; and families who live in poverty because the parents don’t have the literacy skills to qualify for a job with a sustaining wage. The Literacy Coalition is highly regarded and has earned 12 consecutive 4-out-of-4-star ratings from Charity Navigator. For more information, visit LiteracyPBC.org.
Leadership Award - Alumni
Alberto R. Leal, J.D.
From humble beginnings to successful attorney, Alberto R. Leal is the son of two immigrant parents from Latin America and prides himself on the work ethic he was taught from an early age. A native of South Florida, Leal is well aware of the legal challenges facing our community and strives to correct injustices at every opportunity. Specifically, Leal is immensely proud of his vital role in bridging the internet and technology gap facing the visually impaired community through his advocacy work in prosecuting civil rights injustices under the Americans with Disabilities Act while also providing affordable representation in family law cases to low-income clients.
While Leal believes strongly in the difference his work makes, he is most proud of his philanthropic efforts, namely the founding of The Leal Scholars Program at his alma mater (A.A. ’11), Palm Beach State College, to help low-income students afford a higher education. The Leal Scholars Program has assisted multiple students in covering the costs of tuition and essential materials during their respective programs of study at PBSC. Leal is also a proud member of the Paradise Club at Florida Atlantic University, which collects donations to assist student athletes during their time at FAU. He has also donated his time to assist elementary school students with the Village of Wellington after-school tutoring program in recent years, and he has volunteered time to assist with operations at Feeding South Florida while also making monthly donations to the organization. The donations have been used to help bridge the nutritional gap faced by many in our community during the current coronavirus pandemic.
Aside from his professional and philanthropic works, Leal takes pride in being a devout family man and Christian. He and his wife, Christina, are members of the local Christ Fellowship church and when unwinding at home, the Leal family enjoys spending time with their dog, Papo, while preparing for the arrival of their first baby, who is due in August of 2021.
He is president and owner of The Leal Law Firm. In addition to his Associate in Arts degree from PBSC, Leal holds a bachelor’s degree from Florida Atlantic University and a Juris Doctor degree from the Shepard Broad College of Law at Nova Southeastern University.
Leadership Award - Student
Chronic illness has been a part of Michelle Aldas’ life since she was about eight. She was told many times as a child that she was just being lazy and making it up. The pain she felt as a child and then later as a college student was never acknowledged and then a diagnosis of stage 4 cancer came in 2011.
In the past years, her health continued to decline, and she became lost in the translation of being “normal” to being disabled. Since her cancer diagnosis, her body continued to break down and she admitted defeat in 2017. She hit rock bottom emotionally, mentally and financially, which led to losing courage and voice for some time and letting the pain and disease take over. In May 2018, she declared her independence from all the negativity brought on from being sick and decided to act. She founded The Invisible Me Warriors-Chronic Illness Advocates of Palm Beach County. A voice that had been muted, that felt defeated, and had been hidden for seven years is now fighting for others. That voice is strong and a warrior. That voice is her own voice, and she says no one or nothing will ever take it away again. Aldas has traveled to D.C. for the Advocacy Summit benefiting the Arthritis Foundation. Even in a flare-up, she made sure her voice was heard.
Aldas has learned to be proud of the struggle she has survived so far as it has made her a courageous warrior. She is thankful to the people who saw past her disability and illness and pushed her to keep going as a warrior, woman, daughter, friend, lover, and advocate. She’s used her newfound strength to help others seek resources and become a strong voice to advocate for access to care. Now, using mobility aides to get around, she is completing her Associate in Science and Associate in Arts degrees at PBSC and shaping a new career as a graphic designer and multimedia artist. She wants to empower others with her story because once someone helped her do that, her life took a positive sharp turn.
Leadership Award - Faculty/Staff
Robin Johnson-Blake has dedicated 31 years in community services outreach, dual enrollment, and recruitment at Palm Beach State College. In 2018, she became the first director of Community Relations for the College.
In her current role, she provides leadership within the organization and the community, publicly representing the College, identifying, developing, cultivating and maintaining partnerships and relationships with external agencies and businesses to enhance the College’s brand.
During her tenure at PBSC, Johnson-Blake has:
• managed and led community forums that relate to the needs and concerns of the communities that the College serves
• coordinated and worked in partnership on special events and projects liaising between the College and the community
• worked with various socioeconomic diverse populations throughout communities, middle and high schools in Florida, and
• directed, budgeted and managed nine local, private, state, and federal grant programs.
Prior to her employment at PBSC, she was employed at Florida Atlantic University as the first assistant director for Minority Recruitment (the position created to recruit diverse populations) and as an admissions counselor. In Alabama, she was an intern for the East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission where she surveyed residents in rural areas for economic development improvements.
Throughout her professional career, she believes in strengthening communities for the future educational and economic development of Palm Beach County citizens.
She is actively involved and serves on committees with the Town of Lake Park Diversity Council, Achieve Palm Beach County Parents & Family Engagement Team, Action Alliance for Mental Health, Homeless and Housing Alliance, Boynton Beach Tourism Task Force, Behavioral Health Workforce Pipeline, Refugee Task Force, Teen Leadership Roundtable, St. John Missionary Baptist Church Outreach ministries and other chamber and civil organizations.
Johnson-Blake received her Master of Science in Counseling and Guidance from Jacksonville State University and a Bachelor of Arts in Rehabilitation for the Deaf from Talladega College.
She is the wife of Charles Blake, the mother of Alexis and Evan Johnson, and a proud grandmother of two granddaughters, Ciara and Legaci.
Leadership Award - Individual
Elvin J. Dowling
Elvin J. Dowling is an award-winning author, activist and “architect of change” who is a proud native of West Palm Beach. A staunch advocate of educating future generations of leaders by equipping them with the resources and skills they need to be productive members of society, he has worked to elevate the lives of the “least of these” with unassailable results. In 2014 and, again in 2015, he was successful in securing two separate grants for $1 million each to conduct mentoring activities for 2,200 at-risk youths in 30 cities as a part of President Barack Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper Initiative.”
As chairman of the Board for the Palm Beach Harvest Food Bank, Dowling continues to demonstrate his commitment to South Florida children and families through leadership by example. Just as importantly, as an acclaimed public speaker, mentor and America’s leading advocate for “achieving greatness by embracing change,” Dowling’s book, “License to Live,” has been featured on national and international media outlets, including CNN and National Public Radio, and has been lauded as “an eye-opening and heart-stirring message that sheds light on the truth that your past does not dictate your future.”
Dowling has been recognized on the local, state and national levels for his commitment to advocacy and action, including the Distinguished Alumni Award (Education Foundation of Palm Beach County), Ebony Magazine’s Thirty Leaders of the Future Award, and the Pathfinders Award for Community Service, presented by the Palm Beach Post newspaper. In January 2020, he released his second book, "Still Invisible? Examining America's Black Male Crisis,” a gripping nonfiction narrative on the challenges facing Black men today. Since its release, “Still Invisible” has become an Amazon Bestseller and was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Additionally, the book has been nominated for the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction and U.S. History, the American Book Award, the Carter G. Woodson Book Award, the Florida Book Award, the PEN Open Book Award and the Black Caucus of the American Library Association Book Award for General Nonfiction among others.
Leadership Award - Organization
The Emanuel Jackson Sr. Project is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization with a mission to build and empower future leaders. The organization was founded in 2016 by Emanuel “Dupree'' Jackson, Jr. His desire to make a difference in his community inspired him to create an organization that gave power back to the youth.
Jackson dedicated the organization to his late father and honored him by naming the organization after him. The EJS Project’s mission is rooted in its desire to see every teen succeed, regardless of their zip code. Coming from the very same vulnerable footprint of Delray Beach, Jackson pushed past all the obstacles life brought forth to achieve his goals. The EJS Project believes that if it focuses on youth’s strengths and power this helps them write their own narrative. It also believes that teens deserve equity of opportunity and that strong supportive relationships promote change in individuals, organizations and systems. The EJS Project acknowledges racial discrimination and the barriers it has created in communities of color. It is dedicated to teaching truth, challenging systems, and fighting for its youth’s access to opportunity. It aims to surround youth with as many positive and forward-thinking adults as possible.
Leadership Award - Alumni
Denise Cotman Albritton
Denise Cotman Albritton was born and raised in West Palm Beach. She graduated from North Shore High School and obtained an Associate in Arts degree in Marketing from Palm Beach State College and a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management from Hodges College in Naples, Florida.
Albritton is the president and CFO of Bus One LLC, a charter bus company established in 2010 in Palm Beach County with the mission of being the premier transportation company providing excellence in customer service, a professional staff, safe and efficient equipment and luxury accommodations. It is the largest African American and woman-owned charter bus company in South Florida and the second largest overall in the county.
As the owner of a company in the community in which she was raised, Albritton understands the importance of giving back through leadership, sponsorship and service. She also is the CEO of LaDanez One LLC, an organization whose mission is to assist women in discovering and revamping their personal and professional style through closet cleansing/auditing, personal fashion and image consulting and providing personal shopping services.
Albritton is the immediate past president and a member of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc. West Palm Beach Chapter. She served four years as president of this organization of progressive women of color that advocates on behalf of women and girls of color in the areas of health, education, leadership and economic empowerment.
Albritton is also a past chair and current member of the Board of Directors for the Women’s Chamber Foundation and past president of the Board of Directors for the Women’s Chamber of Commerce of Palm Beach County, Inc.
She currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors for the YWCA of Palm Beach County as secretary and chair of the Advocacy Committee and has served as a mentor for five years with the Women of Tomorrow Program. Additionally, Albritton serves on the Advisory Committee for the Office of Equal Business Opportunity for Palm Beach County.
Leadership Award - Student
Rocio Montero-Mask is the definition of a servant leader. She is a mobilizer, motivator, energizer and an inspiration to her peer. Montero-Mask is the past president of the Student Government Association on the Lake Worth campus, where she advocated for change on campus and in Tallahassee at the state Capitol.
She completed her Associate in Arts degree from PBSC in fall 2019 with a 4.0 GPA. She is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in political science at the University of Miami in hopes of one day running for public office. While many students her age are still searching for their passion and career goals, she is laser focused and driven.
She has volunteered her time in the past to assist with an arts and crafts class for special needs adults held by the Arc of Palm Beach County. She is also the content creator of Princesses Against Cancer, a small organization that was nominated for nonprofit of the year and received funding from Palm Beach County Philanthropy Tank. She has organized donations, distributes groceries and cooks and serves meals at a local soup kitchen.
Montero-Mask has a keen eye for seeing gaps within her community and using her resources to find solutions to fill those gaps. She organized the College’s first Trunk or Treat because she recalled her mother driving her and her siblings “miles away to neighborhoods that were safe” so they could enjoy a ‘normal’ Halloween experience. The event saw over 200 neighborhood children from the surrounding communities, not counting students and the children of faculty and staff.
She served as an intern in the office of State Sen. Lori Berman.
Leadership Award - Faculty/Staff
Dr. Chandra (Sankaranarayana Chandramohan)
Dr. Chandra (Sankaranarayana Chandramohan), professor of Anatomy and Physiology at Palm Beach State College, is a scholar, educator and community leader. His leadership approach is based on motivation, inspiration, collegiality, inclusivity, spirituality and happiness. Since 2008, he has taught 7,000-plus students, and has led and significantly impacted the quality of instruction, STEM outreach (STEM Saturdays, STEAM Fests) and volunteering in the Division of Math and Science, College and the community as validated by the many awards (NISOD Teaching Excellence, BRAVO, STEM Champion, Volunteering Excellence) bestowed on him by PBSC and the community.
Dr. Chandra’s mom, brothers, teachers and friends instilled in him the values of self-care, confidence, hard work, compassion, and service to others. He attributes his overall success and development to his family members, students and many peers at the College, including Professor Bijayita Thapa, Associate Dean Carlos Ramos and Dr. Charudattan, his mentor. He earned a Ph.D. from University of Florida and master’s degrees from Belgium and India. Multicultural, multilingual and widely traveled, Dr. Chandra has authored a U.S. patent and 13 publications and has given many presentations at state, national and international conferences. These influences and experiences have positively impacted his outlook on teaching and professional development with a focus on engagement, inclusivity and work/life balance.
Dr. Chandra is a leading proponent of textbook and college affordability. He has personally counseled and helped students in financial/emotional distress by donating a personal vehicle, time, resources and job leads. He also spearheads many professional development activities (Development Day sessions and CTLE Talks, taking students and faculty to conferences, adjunct development, alumni engagement), creates comfortable active learning spaces (weekend study sessions, weekday homework labs, collaborating with SLC, study hall volunteer program), and mentors peer faculty (both adjunct and full-time) and staff. As a result, he has inspired and built his team of dedicated faculty, staff and students with the sole purpose of increasing college affordability, engagement and overall student success.
Leadership Award - Individual
From Detroit to Palm Beach County, Frank Hayden has spent his entire professional career creating opportunities for people who sought an equal opportunity to compete.
As director of the new Office of Equal Opportunity, Hayden continues to create programs designed to ensure equality and fair business practices within the city of West Palm Beach. His department is responsible for coordinating programs that foster workforce development, business development and professional education and training.
Prior to this position, Hayden was the procurement director for the city of West Palm Beach. He was responsible for the team that managed purchasing for goods and services, commodities, construction and professional services. He led the growth of the city’s Small Business Enterprise (SBE) program. Under his guidance, the city adopted the recommendations of a Disparity Study, which included the creation of a Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprise program that launched in April 2019.
Hayden began his career with the city of Detroit, where he worked for 35 years. Twenty of those years were spent with the Detroit Water and Sewage Department as the head of Contracts and Grants. In this position, he created and oversaw the Minority- & Woman-Owned Business program.
After his retirement from Detroit, he worked with the South Florida Water Management District as director of procurement, where he helped develop a Small Business Program, increasing SBE participation on District contracts by 15% in three years.
Hayden volunteers as the board chairman of the Sickle Cell Foundation of Palm Beach and Martin Counties, on the Palm Beach County School Board’s Area Boundaries Committee, as basileus (president) of the Kappa Upsilon Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Incorporated, and as the president of the Black Chamber of Commerce of Palm Beach County.
He is married to Marcia Hayden, and they have one daughter, three sons and five grandchildren.
Leadership Award - Organization
Youth Speak Out International (YSO INT)
Youth Speak Out International (YSO INT) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to giving children and youth a voice through collaborative media production. As a result of its innovative, hands-on curricula, children develop media literacy, learn to manage their screen time, strengthen their communication skills, and discover their life’s purpose.
Founded in 2008 by CEO/Executive Director William King, YSO INT was created to address the need for media education for youth and families impacted by media messages. YSO INT operates at the community level, working with afterschool programs, schools, families and youth to foster lasting change. Our trained facilitators have educated more than 9,000 multicultural students in South Florida, Belize, Jamaica and Costa Rica, giving priority to afterschool programs serving low-income families and underserved youth.
By helping youth think critically about media content, YSO INT promotes tolerance, safety and respect for others. This forms the groundwork for youth to create new media content aimed at producing positive change in their local and global communities. Youth learn script writing, storyboarding and filming techniques to create videos that educate the public.
Our programs promote self-exploration, public speaking and other life skills essential for job readiness. YSO INT’s most recent initiative, Unplug to Connect™, helps children develop skills to manage their use of screen devices, knowing when and how to put them down and communicate face-to-face. By teaching youth creative uses of screen technologies and, at the same time, encouraging parents to become media mentors, Unplug to Connect improves how screen technologies impact children and families.
YSO INT’s unique approach combining media literacy with media production empowers youth to share their voices and form stronger, face-to-face connections with others. In addition to inspiring positive change in their communities, these opportunities to discover and share their voice have changed the lives of thousands of youth.
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.
LEADERSHIP AWARD (ALUMNI)
Lynne Wideline Gassant
Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote a book in 1996, “It takes a Village to Raise a Child,” that’s based on an African Proverb. The proverb conveys the sentiment that we—our society and communities—have a responsibility to provide guidance, instruction and vision to our youth. Lynne Wideline Gassant lives this mantra in her everyday life by improving the lives of underserved students in South Florida.
As a first-generation college student, Gassant had to learn the American educational system on her own. She often struggled with English-language learning because Haitian Creole was her first language. She sought help and found a wonderful mentor to help her navigate the rigors of the educational system. It is these early experiences with American schools that helped her understand the many roadblocks for non-native speakers. Therefore, while still in her 20s, she founded the Scholar Career Coaching in 2012 so that other students, much like her, could excel in their academics too. Subsequently, these students would have a head start on a more stable future afforded by educational opportunities, like college, and have the potential to earn higher future income.
Scholar Career Coaching is a nonprofit educational organization that assists South Florida high school students, particularly ESL students in Title 1 schools, with college readiness, career planning, financial literacy and life skills through its after school mentoring services. To date, the organization has served more than 100 students and awarded 15 scholarships. In August 2017, Gassant’s work with Scholar Career Coaching was rewarded with the Volunteer Florida Champion of Service Award. Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet presented the award to Gassant in Tallahassee.
Gassant is an exemplary role model in affording youth opportunities to succeed. In her effort to fill a need, she has found a purpose much bigger—being a mentor that models the “keys to success.”
She holds a bachelor’s degree in public management from FAU and master’s degree in human resources management from FIU. She leads the human resources office for a Boca Raton-based private company. She’s also a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority.
LEADERSHIP AWARD (STUDENT)
Christian Allen is in his last year at PBSC studying computer science and plans to specialize in cybersecurity. He has excelled academically making the Dean’s List while maintaining a part-time job. Upon completion of his associate degree, he plans to attend Georgia Institute of Technology or the University of California, Berkeley to complete his studies.
He is the former president of Future Leaders United for Change, a youth council that serves as the voice of today’s Palm Beach County youth and sets the stage for change. He has served for two years as the male representative on the Birth to 22: United for Brighter Futures Steering Committee. Birth to 22 is a collaborative effort between several government entities and stakeholders within Palm Beach County whose focus is to improve the lives of youth from birth to 22 years old. As a representative on the Steering Committee, Allen uses the voice of the Future Leaders to develop strategic plans for youth across Palm Beach County.
In the summers of 2016 and 2017, he was employed as a summer food monitor with the Palm Beach County Youth Services Department. He ensured that the children and youth in the western communities of Palm Beach County had access to adequate food during the summer months, so that no youth within the county went hungry.
Allen is invested in the community. He has volunteered at the C.L. Brumback Health Department in Belle Glade, organizing supplies and assisting at the food bank. As an active member of the American Red Cross, Allen has been instrumental in helping families in the western communities during the historic floods with distribution of food, shelter and water. At the Greater Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, he has served as a member of the youth choir and usher board, and he participated in Sunday school and Vacation Bible School. As the first president of Future Leaders United for Change, he was instrumental in developing the first budget for the council, establishing bylaws and several community projects.
He is currently employed with the School District of Palm Beach County as a substitute teacher, and serves as a mentor at Elbridge Gale Elementary, helping students with their homework and extracurricular activities.
LEADERSHIP AWARD (FACULTY/STAFF)
Dr. Louise Aurélien
Dr. Louise Aurélien is director of the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at PBSC and has been instrumental in the growth of the program designed for registered nurses with an associate degree or diploma. Prior to her promotion, she was a tenured member of the nursing faculty for 12 years. She remains active as a family nurse practitioner, practicing on a part-time basis, as well as volunteering at several community health fairs throughout the year.
She has been a part of the nursing profession for over 25 years. Her areas of practice include primary care, long-term care, medical-surgical, maternal/child health, pediatrics and school health centers. She volunteers as an international/visiting nursing faculty in the baccalaureate and master’s degree programs at the Faculté des Sciences Infirmières de Léogane in Haiti. She was instrumental in the formation/training of the first-ever graduating class of family nurse practitioners in Haiti in November 2017.
She is the co-editor for the Haitian American Nurses Association’s biannual newsletter. She co-chairs the National Black Nurses Association Women’s Health Committee, and together they published a position paper related to the shackling of incarcerated women of color during the labor/delivery period. She is one of the South Region leads for the Florida Action Coalition, with whom she is working on a project aimed at training and empowering nurses in Florida. She is also a national and international speaker on topics related to nursing education and nursing workforce diversity.
She serves on the Board of Directors for FoundCare, Inc., a federally qualified health center in West Palm Beach, where she chairs the continuous quality improvement committee and is a member of the finance committee. She is the immediate past president for Palm Beach County Black Nurses Association and is active in many other local and regional nursing and non-nursing organizations and serves on the board of regional corporations/organizations.
She holds a doctorate in education from the University of Florida, a Master of Science with a primary care nursing focus from Northeastern University in Massachusetts, and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Massachusetts.
LEADERSHIP AWARD (INDIVIDUAL)
James Green is currently director of the Palm Beach County Community Services Department where he leads the county’s efforts in an array of programs for senior citizens, veterans, low-income residents and the farmworker population. He recently engaged leaders from various sectors to begin developing a comprehensive plan to end homelessness and reduce poverty in Palm Beach County.
In 2015, he served as director of the Outreach and Community Programming (OCP) division of the Palm Beach County Youth Services Department. As director of OCP, he served as a lead
strategist in the development of a cradle-to-career countywide youth master plan called Birth to 22: United for Brighter Futures. He also led the My Brother’s Keeper Network in the implementation of a local action plan that outlined strategies to recruit mentors, review internal policies and create economic opportunities for boys and young men of color. In February of 2017, James worked with community leaders to host a Racial Equity conference to address racial disparities within the county’s healthcare, criminal justice, education and employment systems.
He is the former program director for the Palm Beach County Community Action Agency. In 2014, CAA received the Florida Association for Community Action, Inc. Agency of the Year Award for assisting the greatest number of families and individuals to achieve economic independence and self-sufficiency. This award also recognized local advocacy efforts, community participation, partnerships and collaborations formed by the agency to assist low-income citizens in their journey to economic security and self-sufficiency as well as the agency’s efforts to achieve organizational excellence and represent the best practices within the network.
He received his B.A. degree from Auburn University and his M.S. degree from Palm Beach Atlantic University and is currently a doctoral student at Florida Atlantic University. He is a devoted husband and father of two daughters. Green is an active member of Omega Psi Phi, Fraternity, Inc. where he serves as chair of the Social Action Committee and mentors African American boys in the Omega Lamplighters Program. He has consistently stayed involved with various boards and civic groups throughout the community.
LEADERSHIP AWARD (ORGANIZATION)
League of Women Voters of Palm Beach County
The U.S. League was founded in 1920 by Carrie Chapman Catt to help newly enfranchised women become politically educated and responsible voting citizens. In 1953, a league was founded in West Palm Beach and eventually grew into a county league, which is now the third largest league in the United States. For almost 100 years, the LWV has fought to improve systems of government and has worked tirelessly to ensure that people have a free role in making democracy work. It is committed to reflecting the diversity and pluralism of the county by promoting inclusion in leadership, membership and participation in all league activities and programs.
During the general elections, the LWV contacted nine Palm Beach County high schools and registered over 450 graduating students. League members attended Senior Check Out Day at six schools. All schools were selected based on diversity and Title I status. Before the election, members texted each student it had registered three different times to remind them when early voting started, remind them when early voting was about to end, and to remind them to vote on Election Day. Of the 450 students, LWV had an 87% success rate of them voting. We also worked at the local university and college campuses to register voters.
In 2017, the organization worked with the High School Government Bee competition and doubled the number of schools who competed.
In each election period, the League holds public forums to explain the pros and cons of ballot issues and publishes and makes available online a Voters Guide which explains ballot issues and contains interviews of county and state candidates. Over 90,000 copies are distributed free of charge to voters.
The League encourages all citizens to be active in our democracy.