2015 Award Winners
LEADERSHIP AWARD (ALUMNI)
Dr. Delsa R. Bush
Dr. Delsa R. Bush created many firsts during her 28-year career with the West Palm Beach Police Department. She became the first African-American female officer, sergeant and lieutenant. She continued moving up the ranks, becoming the first female captain and assistant chief. In 2004, then Mayor Lois Frankel appointed her police chief, making her the first African-American and female to hold the position.
Her most significant contribution as police chief was crime reduction. When she took
the helm, the crime index and crime rate were among the highest in the nation per
capita. The city consistently ranked in the top ten as one of the most violent cities,
based on Uniform Crime Report data. When she retired in 2011, the crime rate and
index were reduced by more than half and the city was no longer ranked as one of America’s
She developed three major components of a strategic plan to revitalize CityPlace, Downtown, and the Northwood Road entertainment districts. Retail businesses were in severe decline due to mass juvenile disobedience. She initiated juvenile curfew for CityPlace and Downtown and an extensive partnership with private security and community service aides to complement law enforcement efforts. She also implemented a separate and distinct Entertainment District Unit of police officers.
Under her leadership, the department attained accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies for the first time since the 1980s, while retaining its state accreditation. The Dispatch Operations Center also earned CALEA accreditation. The department implemented several technological advances, including a paperless report writing system and a citywide remote controlled camera surveillance system.
Bush holds an A.S. degree from Palm Beach Junior College, a B.A. degree from Florida Atlantic University and an M.S. degree and Ph.D. from Lynn University. She continues to serve on the boards of professional and civic organizations and volunteer for youth causes and as a motivational speaker at community events.
LEADERSHIP AWARD (STUDENT)
David G. Cruz
David G. Cruz serves the community through organizations on and off campus. He is
vice president of the Student Government Association on the Palm Beach Gardens campus
and a college caucus representative for the Florida College System Student Government
Association, which represents and advocates for more than one million students. Through
the campus SGA, he has worked with programs such as Habitat for Humanity, which provides
homes for the needy, and Hannah’s Home, which provides shelter and support to at-risk
pregnant women and their babies.
As a lay health advisor for the Community Voice Program implemented by the Sickle Cell Foundation of Palm Beach County & Treasure Coast, he goes into the community to raise awareness about infant mortality and provide information on preventive measures to decrease the rate. Cruz is a former volunteer with the Palm Beach County Library System where he tutored low-income children in reading. He is currently a prekindergarten teacher for Children of the Future Christian Academy that serves low income families and gets them to become actively involved in their children’s education through collaborations with Family Central, Early Learning Coalition and the Children’s Services Council.
As a part-time Walgreens employee he has helped coordinate and organize the company’s
participation in such charities as Susan G. Komen, Toys for Tots and Ronald McDonald
Cruz said his interest in helping youth get a solid foundation stems partly from his own background. Born in the Bronx, he was a foster child before being adopted. But after losing his adoptive father and later his adoptive mother, he said working with children is like gaining a family.
He holds an Associate in Science degree in Early Childhood Education from Palm Beach State and is currently completing his Associate in Arts degree. He plans to pursue bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in early childhood education.
LEADERSHIP AWARD (INDIVIDUAL)
Denny Abbott risked his own life to improve the lives of helpless children. He was
a youth probation officer in Montgomery during the civil rights movement when he felt
a conviction to correct wrongdoing by the state of Alabama.
He filed a federal lawsuit in 1969 to stop institutional abuse of black children in the Alabama court system. Instead of being reformed, the children were housed in deplorable conditions in a state correctional facility, used as slave laborers on prison farms and abused. In 1972, he filed another federal lawsuit to stop the unfair treatment of orphaned black children who were being housed in juvenile detention facilities instead of foster care facilities.
Eventually, Abbott was fired for filing the lawsuits and faced death threats from the Ku Klux Klan, but his actions led to major reforms in the state. The correctional facility “farms” were disbanded and every staffer was fired. Then vocational rehabilitation and social services were instituted. When Florida began taking over the detention centers in 1973, Abbott became the regional detention director for Palm Beach County, Orlando and Fort Pierce.
Abbott, author of “They Had No Voice: My Fight for Alabama’s Forgotten Children,” continued his work in Florida to make a difference. He helped John Walsh start the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in 1984 and served as national director of the Adam Walsh Child Resource Center from 1981 to 1989. In 1990, he became coordinator for victim services in Palm Beach County. He also wrote victims’ rights legislation, which became Florida law in the mid-1990s. He has served as an expert source for major media outlets and Congress.
Abbott holds a master’s degree in criminology and corrections from Florida State University and has served as an adjunct professor at two community colleges and four universities.
LEADERSHIP AWARD (ORGANIZATION)
Florida Immigrant Coalition
Florida Immigrant Coalition is a statewide coalition of nearly 50 member organizations
and 100 allies. It is led by its membership, which includes organizations, farm workers,
youth, lawyers, unions and others. Since 1998, FLIC’s mission is to amplify the power
of immigrant communities to impact the root causes of inequality, defending and protecting
basic human rights, including the right to live without fear. Over the past four years
alone, FLIC has effectively organized and mobilized for economic and immigrant justice
at the local and state levels resulting in 11 important victories related to protections
against wage theft and the criminalization of undocumented immigrants in Florida,
among others. Its most recent legislative victory was the passing of a law that allows
eligible undocumented students to qualify for in-state tuition rates at Florida colleges
and universities. FLIC works at the intersections of race, gender, age and class,
allowing the organization to engage in multi-issue and multi-generational efforts
to achieve important victories for the immigrant rights movement. It accomplishes
its mission through statewide campaigns and programs in the following key areas:
- Civic Engagement and Citizenship: Provides support to immigrant youth and adults to
become naturalized citizens and engaged voters.
- Wage Theft Protection: Supports Florida’s growing wage theft movement by defending
established ordinances and programs in four counties and bolstering efforts to implement
regulations against wage theft for low-income and immigrant workers across Florida.
- Criminalization and Enforcement: Reduces rates of immigrant incarceration and prison
profiteering, acts as a liaison between detainees and service providers, and provides
community oversight to eliminate the need for immigrant detention centers.
- Organizational Capacity Building: Strengthens the ability of member organizations to effectively organize and support their local community and constituents, including youth, farmworkers, workers and families.
LEADERSHIP AWARD (FACULTY/STAFF)
Dr. Dennis P. Gallon
When Dr. Dennis P. Gallon became Palm Beach State’s fourth president in 1997, he immediately
encouraged and embraced a culture of diversity. He created the assistant to the president
for equity programs position, and diversity was one of the priorities of the first
five-year Strategic Plan developed under his leadership.
From the Strategic Plan, the College created its first ever Diversity Plan, which called for more programs and initiatives to enhance diversity among faculty, staff, administration, students and programs. Essentially, Gallon wanted to go beyond the mandates of the Florida Educational Equity Act and more visibly recognize the College’s rich diversity.
Other initiatives that resulted from the plan were mandatory diversity training for all employees, a Minority and Small Business Enterprise Program to broaden participation in the procurement process, a District Diversity Committee, as well as celebrations recognizing the contributions of people of all backgrounds, including the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Breakfast.
Gallon worked to preserve the history of Roosevelt Junior College, an all-black junior college that merged with Palm Beach Junior College in 1965. As part of this effort, the College held a community event marking the 40th anniversary of the closing of RJC, rededicated the Social Science building on the Lake Worth campus in honor of RJC President Britton Sayles, and established an RJC oral history project and archive of memorabilia.
In the community, Gallon launched the Glades Initiative Partnership Council to involve education, community and civic leaders in planning and supporting educational programs and services at the Belle Glade campus. He also has been involved in the Black, Brown & College Bound annual statewide conference to boost student persistence, retention and graduation among African-American and Latino males.
The efforts to embrace diversity were and continue to be crucial to a community and region that has become increasingly diverse since Gallon’s arrival. With a 25 percent Hispanic enrollment, the College recently received a Hispanic Serving Institution grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Overall, the College serves students from 165 countries. Gallon is retiring at the end of June after 18 years at the College.