The GW Center for Excellence in Public Leadership hosts annual ceremony to recognize city workers’ exemplary service.
By Tatyana Hopkins
Exceptional D.C. government employees took center stage at during the Cafritz Awards Gala Wednesday night.
Since 2000 the annual Cafritz Awards celebration has honored D.C. employees who have improved the lives of the city’s residents through a partnership between the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation and GW’s Center for Excellence in Public Leadership (CEPL).
James Robinson, the executive director of CEPL, said the center is honored to be the steward of the Cafritz Award program.
“Our mission at [CEPL] is to develop public leaders who make a positive difference… and for us, the Cafritz Awards symbolizes our mission perfectly,” Mr. Robinson said to the crowd in the Marvin Center’s Cafritz Conference Center.
Calvin Cafritz, president and CEO of the Cafritz Foundation, said the mission of the awards is to highlight the otherwise unseen contribution of public workers.
“We hope to raise public awareness about these outstanding individuals and send a message to other government employees that their dedication and accomplishments are valued," Mr. Cafritz said.
This year, for the program’s 17th celebration, the Cafritz Foundation presented awards to five individuals and a team:
- Chanel Dickerson, B.A. '13, an assistant chief in the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), developed innovative programs including social media outreach to help further investigations of the District’s missing children and ensure each case receives the same level of attention when she served as a commander in MPD’s Youth and Family Services Division. Dickerson is currently pursuing at master's degree in homeland security at GW College of Professional Studies.
- Abimbola George, a behavior technician for D.C. Public Schools, who spearheaded initiatives at Malcolm X Elementary School to foster civility, justice and compassion and advance a positive learning environment for students.
- Kimberly Lucas, is a bicycle and pedestrian program specialist for the D.C. Department of Transportation, whose leadership helped provide safe and accessible transportation through Capital Bikeshare. She received a certificate from CEPL's Program of Ecellence in Municipal Management in 2017.
- Jason Medina, an MPD police officer, who established community outreach programs such as the Ward 7 Baseball League, which aims to prevent youth violence and delinquency and to restore public trust in law enforcement.
- Joshua Singer, a community garden specialist for D.C. Parks and Recreation, who works on developing sustainable policies in his department and building urban community gardens throughout the city.
Ms. Lucas expressed gratitude for the foundation's recognition of public servants.
"I'm sure that people think that tonight's awardees entered public service with the District government for the fame, the glory and the relaxing environment," she joked, "but, actually, we do it because we all want to make the world, and our great city, an even better place than when we found it."
She said formal recognition is not typically a part of the job.
"A well-functioning city filled with happy residents and visitors is the reward we get when we do a good job, but it is a true honor to have esteemed organizations and respected individuals such as Mr. Cafritz recognize our work and help give visibility to the great programs that D.C. has."
In addition to the five individual recipients, the members of the Restorative Justice Program of the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia team (Ameen Beale, Seema Gajwani, Robert Haferd, Alex Lambert and Lashonia Thompson-El) were also recognized for the program’s efforts to reform the juvenile justice system.
D.C. City Administrator Rashad Young congratulated the Cafritz Awards winners and thanked the city's 33,000 government employees.
"These often-unsung s-heroes and heroes uphold the public interest amid competing interests, pressures and demands," Mr. Young said. "Thank you for building a better, stronger D.C. government."
George Washington President Thomas J. LeBlanc closed the event highlighting the importance of service. He said he and his wife, Anne, had only been D.C. residents for 10 months.
"But, boy, do I feel good about my new city tonight,” Dr. LeBlanc said. "At the George Washington University, we’re proud of the community that surrounds us, and we want to be an important part of that community."
Each individual winner received a Cafritz Award of $7,500. Teams share a Cafritz Award worth $15,000.