17th Cafritz Awards Winners

Individual Winners


2018 Cafritz Awards Winner Chanel DickersonChanel Dickerson
Assistant Chief, Patrol Services South
Metropolitan Police Department

"It is my belief that it is every adult’s responsibility to support our young people and assist them in becoming productive adults and reaching their full potential. I vowed to not just make a living but to make a difference."

There is nothing more frightening than a missing loved one. Regardless of whether they left on their own, or are found within a few hours, not knowing whether someone we care about is safe is a dreadful experience. The sobering fact is that every missing person case has the potential to become a homicide investigation. Chanel Dickerson (CPS BPS ‘13), Assistant Chief of Patrol Services South at the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), recognizes this and has sought to address the issue of missing youth, especially young girls. Her efforts have produced meaningful, measurable results, for both a community in dire need, and the agency for which she works so tirelessly.

From a young age, Chanel Dickerson knew that she wanted to be a police officer. Inspired by her own experiences with police who strove to connect and make an impact within her neighborhood, she saw firsthand the benefit a positive relationship with the law could have on a troubled community. At the age of 17, she began her work with the MPD as a cadet and has proven herself an invaluable resource for the last 30 years.

As Commander of the Youth and Family Services Division, Chanel made it her priority to ensure all missing persons cases received the same level of attention. Through the adoption of social media initiatives in line with that of Mayor Muriel Bowser and Chief Peter Newsham, she utilized social networks to solicit help in locating missing persons. Initially, this new influx of attention to missing persons cases startled the city and gained national coverage. Many were unaware of the number of children, particularly young girls, who go missing. Commander Dickerson handled the understandable outcry with poise and deftly used it to increase awareness of missing person cases, and how the community can help facilitate reunions.

The impact of this movement has had a twofold effect on how the District understands the issue of missing youth. Firstly, it revealed many youth were leaving home voluntarily. This information led to the creation of Mayor Bowser’s Task Force for the safety of our young people, on which Chanel served. In turn, this task force led to the STEP (Strengthening Teens and Enriching Parents) program, which aims to stabilize families and prevent children from leaving home. In addition, Chanel’s efforts led to the creation of The Sasha Bruce Youth Network, a 24-hour drop-in center where previously-missing youth are given a safe place and assistance upon their return. As a secondary result, the MPD has achieved an unprecedented closure rate of over 99 percent of last year’s nearly 3,400 missing persons cases.

As she rose through ranks of the District of Columbia MPD, Chanel Dickerson has always led with a commitment to her core belief that everyone deserves to be treated with respect and compassion. This dedication has, in her own words, “Helped to form a strong and enduring partnership with my community that has absolutely revitalized our neighborhood.” She is a model of what all public service leaders can strive to accomplish.


2018 Cafritz Awards Winner Abimbola GeorgeAbimbola George
Behavior Technician
Malcolm X Elementary School, DC Public Schools

"Not having one specific community to call home while growing up, I am especially proud that all of my accomplishments work together to create a positive, innovative, and safe home for my MXES scholars."

As the adage goes, children are our future. This makes our education system paramount in determining if our youth and our broader community can flourish. It takes patience, compassion, and dedication to walk into a school and create a culture that allows students to realize their fullest potential. Abimbola George, the Behavior Technician and Climate/Culture Lead at Malcolm X Elementary School (MXES), embodies all of these traits. In addition, he has the passion for making a difference in the lives of his students and their families. Mr. George set out to change the culture of MXES through structured, measurable changes. He started by revisiting methods used to address behavior challenges. By giving students a solid foundation and clearly defining positive behavior -- “Self- control, On-task behavior, Acting responsively, and Respecting all (SOAR)” -- he shifted the school culture to a system that favors incentives over punishment. Instead of focusing on punishing negative behavior, the school began to prioritize rewarding positive behavior. Once the foundation was set, Mr. George took it further by establishing the Dojo Store, a reward system in which students earn points for exhibiting SOAR behaviors. Students can then spend those points on a variety of items donated to the store by the community once a month.

Beyond establishing achievable goals and behavioral incentives for students, Mr. George has set out to create a community within the walls of his school. He made it a priority to ensure students feel safe and have access to excellent role models. “I am confident all of my students feel a strong sense of home at Malcolm X, and that is truly my greatest accomplishment.”

Mr. George also set out to create a broader sense of community outside the walls of the school and he facilitates community events to promote parental involvement in his students’ education. His Harambee program is based on a Kenyan tradition of community self-help. Harambee literally means “all pull together”. Additionally, he has introduced restorative justice conflict resolution to the students, making them active participants in creating solutions when behavioral problems do arise. Since he has come into the children’s lives, suspension rates at the school have dropped by 45 percent.

Mr. George did not stop there. Once the climate and culture of MXES stabilized as a result of his efforts, he sought to enrich the educational experience by introducing STEM programs to the curriculum. Alongside his colleagues, he was a member of the first group of African-Americans to complete a fellowship with the University of Notre Dame that focuses on integrating STEM learning in schools. As a result, MXES is a nationally recognized model STEM school. His students are able to gain exposure to resources in STEM education from educators that look just like them.

While he may wear many hats at MXES, Mr. George is committed to fulfilling any role in which he is needed: from Behavior Technician and Climate and Culture Lead, to stand-in firefighter. As a great role model and exemplary leader, we can be confident he will continue to inspire children and adults alike.


2018 Cafritz Awards Winner Kimberly LucasKimberly Lucas
Bicycle and Pedestrian Program Specialist
District Department of Transportation

"Providing great transportation options for the general public while simultaneously improving the environment, improving mobility for individuals, and saving money for the government and residents, is my dream job."

Innovation and dedication run strong within the District Government. On occasion, however, an individual will exemplify these traits to such an extreme that their colleagues cannot help but take notice. Kimberly (Kim) Lucas of the Planning and Sustainability Division at the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), is one of these demonstrative individuals—driven to make changes that benefit the community and the environment.

In the five years that she served as a Bicycle and Pedestrian Program Specialist, “Kim has helped to bridge communities throughout the District with her cutting-edge technologies and has assisted the City in building greater, more effective forms of mobility and public transportation,” said Evian Patterson, Associate Director of Parking and Ground Transportation at DDOT. The largest program that she heads up, Capital Bikeshare, has been painstakingly nurtured into a robust transportation program, with an annual ridership of well over three million. This is an increase of 40 percent in the past four years, which translates to an environmental impact offsetting over 24 million pounds of carbon.

As a diligent and eloquent representative of the program, Kim is committed to outreach and the education of groups most impacted by transportation costs— low-income residents. Under Kim’s leadership, Capital Bikeshare partnered with several local non-profit organizations to launch the Community Partners Program, connecting nearly 1,000 low-income residents with a $5 annual Capital Bikeshare membership, a free helmet, and bicycling education. Moreover, her commitment to being viewed as a positive, biracial role model to her community has led her to organize countless other public outreach and education programs, on top of her work with local youth.

In addition to growing the available bikeshare resources and making them available to the people who need them the most, Kim Lucas reduced annual operations costs by 25 percent, which is equal to $2 million. Furthermore, while taking part in GW’s Certified Public Manager Program, she and her team pioneered an asset management study, the results of which already saved the District $1 million.

Kim Lucas proved herself to be an invaluable member of the DC community through her tireless service and her impeccable work ethic. The influence of her work on the people of the District and the environment is not only impressive but promises to be ongoing. It is merely a statement of fact: she is saving the world, one bicycle at a time.


2018 Cafritz Awards Winner Jason MedinaJason Medina
Police Officer, 6th District
Metropolitan Police Department

"He is truly unique and epitomizes what all communities need: the true strength of caring."

In unstable environments and areas stricken with poverty and crime, the faces of the law, police officers, can often be viewed as the enemy by the citizens they are tasked to protect. It takes outstanding effort and unyielding empathy, tied together by actionable process and an unequivocal sense of duty to bridge that gap. Police Officer Jason Medina embodies all these characteristics. He has made it his mission to prove his devotion to his entire community, from the youth who have been saved from violence through his outreach programs, to the elderly population who he ensures is represented in the community discussion.

For over ten years, Jason Medina has tirelessly served the citizens of Washington, DC with the Metropolitan Police Department, specifically the 6th District and Ward 7. During his early years of service, Officer Medina saw a community rife with gun violence, tragedy, and a lack of alternatives for the young population. He dedicated himself to creating those alternatives and earning the trust of this marginalized community. By gaining their trust, Officer Medina has proven to the people of his community that they benefit from an “open dialogue” with law enforcement, giving them “100 percent accessibility should they need any type of service” during working hours, as well as during his time off. During his years of service, he spearheaded many programs that proved successful for transforming his community. His baseball program has taken adolescents between the ages of 7 and 14 and given them a safe place to learn the game, healthy habits and fitness, and grow self-confidence and discipline, all while bridging the gap between groups of youth that were previously involved in violent feuds. A program that initially sought to positively affect and support approximately 40 children has now grown by over 50 percent. The program benefitted over 150 individuals during the last seven years, throughout the most vulnerable times in their lives and into adulthood.

In addition to supporting the youth, Officer Medina has put equal effort into supporting the elderly and senior members of the community. He wanted to ensure that they are included in the conversation through weekly community meetings at various homes throughout Ward 7. Jason has extended a hand to individuals who may not otherwise be able to attend by taking the meetings to them, as well as organizing community events to entertain and engage the older adults in our City.

Jason Medina is an inspiration, not only to the community he serves and to his fellow officers in the Metropolitan Police Department, but to everyone who has had the honor of coming into contact with him. His endless dedication to elevating the quality of life of a community to which hope was a previously a distant idea is a hallmark example of why caring is so necessary in public service.


2018 Cafritz Awards Winner Josh SingerJoshua Singer
Community Garden Specialist
Department of Parks and Recreation

"Many of us feel generous and gratified by sparing an occasional hour or two of our time in service to the community, but to Josh, teaching and empowering others is nothing less than a way of life."

Think of a community as an ecosystem -- a complex network of people interacting with each other and their environment. A thriving community owes its success to leaders who understand this ecosystem and tirelessly ensure it continues to blossom. Joshua (Josh) Singer has earned his reputation as one of DC’s most respected urban agriculture and community leaders. His personal activism and work as a public servant for the Department of Parks and Recreation have resulted in an unprecedented number of public programs that positively impact the local environment and empower the District’s citizens to improve their health and well-being.

Josh has dedicated his life to the betterment of the Washington, DC environment, and the lives of its citizens. As the Community Garden Specialist at the DPR, he has recognized the importance of developing the District’s urban agriculture presence and extending the opportunity to participate in community gardens to every single individual in need. He has developed extensive community education programs, and partnered with local nonprofits and private organizations to ensure that his programs are effective, accessible, and that their impact is long lasting.

Soon after starting in the role, Josh discovered a $750,000 government grant had been awarded to the DPR, but that the funds were expiring in only two months. Many would struggle with the idea of organizing programs and plans to use the entire budget in such a short time, but Josh sprung into action. In just six weeks, he developed the Urban Garden Division, through which he used nearly all of the funds to build two new community gardens, a youth teaching garden, two greenhouses, 20 innovative compost bins (plus the materials to build twenty more). In addition, he prepaid for well over 50 garden workshops, developed a garden tool share program, and built vertical garden installations that doubled the amount of growing spaces. The Urban Garden Division is now a national leader in Urban Agriculture, and under Josh Singer’s guidance and execution, the number of community gardens has more than doubled, giving thousands of DC residents access to growing their own fresh produce.

The growth does not stop there. Josh has created “Multiple Partner Model” systems that allow local organizations to partner with and develop urban agriculture programs, such as the one-acre farm in Ward 7, the Community Cooperative Composting Network, the DUG Network, the DC Food Recovery Working Group, and the Beekeeping program. He plans to roll out a free social justice workshop series this year to help empower others and inspire further community organization.

Josh’s approach to public service is deeply rooted in an understanding of community as an ecosystem as a self sustaining network of individuals that care for each other and the physical world around them. Fellow activists consistently marvel at his unparalleled ability to impart this sense of community to others: “Josh is, perhaps above all else, a social catalyst. Rarely have I known anyone with such a natural ability to mobilize and inspire others for the common good.”

Team Winner


2018 Cafritz Awards Team Winner The Restorative Justice Program of the Office of the Attorney General
(from left to right): Lashonia Thompson-El, Alex Lambert, Calvin Cafritz of the Cafritz Foundation, Seema Gajwani, Robert “Roman” Haferd, Ameen Beale

The Restorative Justice Team Office of the Attorney General
(Ameen Beale, Seema Gajwani, Robert "Roman" Haferd, Alex Lambert, Lashonia Thompson)

"Indeed, a box of Kleenex is de rigueur as tears are routinely shed when, at the conclusion of a circle/ conference, both victims and offenders can exhale with a sigh of relief as they ‘mend fences’ and feel heard and empowered."

For many youth in communities riddled with crime and violence, there is an almost passive approach to having charges brought against you. They are so surrounded by it, that it seems to be a matter of luck as to whether or not you are caught. This attitude is a large part of what traps young men and women into cycles of breaking the law, gradually escalating their punishments and forcing them into “the pipeline to prison”. The Restorative Justice Team has helped to bring a change in the culture of prosecution to one that favors problem-solving and healing.

The program began in 2015, providing Restorative Justice conferences on conflict in schools in an effort to keep students from entering the justice system. In 2016, the program launched with the Office of the Attorney General, allowing prosecutors to divert cases, rather than prosecute them. Since then, it has received well over 70 cases, and of the juvenile offenders who completed the program, over 90 percent have not been re-arrested. Simply put, the hard work that this team puts into helping the youth of our community has paid off immensely.

Seema Gajwani, Special Counsel for Juvenile Justice Reform, founded and has supervised the program and the staff. She has worked extensively with prosecutors and their supervisors to shift how prosecutors address crime and conflict, as well as how they relate to the communities most affected by the justice system.

Robert “Roman” Haferd, Restorative Justice Coordinator, coordinates the program and facilitates conferences full-time, serves as the primary point of contact, and maintains much of the administrative duties associated with the program. He has also advised other restorative justice programs in California and elsewhere.

Lashonia Thompson-El, Restorative Justice Facilitator, is the gender-responsive expert and works primarily with women and girls as a full-time facilitator. She co-facilitates a weekly support circle of 10th-12th grade girls called the Sister Circle, and also is the Executive Director of The WIRE, an organization dedicated to supporting women who are currently or formerly incarcerated, and their families.

Alex Lambert, Restorative Justice Facilitator, serves as the subject- matter expert. He has extensive experience in trauma-informed care and working with disadvantaged youth of color. He is responsible for training, and also works to bridge the gap between the Justice System and the community’s at risk youth through the “Prosecutor to School” initiative.

Ameen Beale, Restorative Justice Facilitator, facilitates conferences full-time between the victims and offenders. Additionally, he has expanded the scope of the Restorative Justice team to include neighborhood violence reduction efforts, working to resolve conflict, reduce mass incarceration and recividism, and address public health concerns to reduce crime throughout the City.

These talented, driven individuals, along with the collaboration of public sector, non-profit, and private organizations, work tirelessly to provide our city’s marginalized youth with the opportunities to make right wrongdoings that would have previously landed them in the justice system. This, in turn, gives hope to the community and works to heal the rift between the perpetrator of a crime, the victim, and their families.


17th Annual Cafritz Awards Finalists

Individuals

  • Sybongile Cook, Project Manager, DC Office of the Deputy Mayor for the Planning and Economic Development
  • Ingrid Drake, Senior Analyst, Office of the DC Auditor;
  • Carl Matthews, Lead Mechanic, Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services
  • Phetmano Phannavong, Environmental Engineer, DC Department of Energy and Environment
  • Carolyn L. Davis, Community Outreach Coordinator, Metropolitan Police Department
  • Alice Thompson, Community Outreach Specialist, DC Office on Aging
  • Sam Ullery, School Garden Specialist, DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education
  • Willair St. Vil, Lead Human Resources Specialist, Department of Human Resources
  • Aisha Williams, Program Manager, Department of Health

Teams

  • Spanish Catholic Center Team
    Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington
    (Isabela Azucena, Chanelle Bonner, Elizabeth Caritj, Xiomara Escobar, Yolanda Giraldo, James Goedert, Carmela Miglionico, Christian Paletta, Laura Shaw)
  • 2-Generational TANF Team
    Department of Human Services
    (Jackie Burton, Brian Campbell, Tamitha Davis, Kandis Driscoll, Martina Green, Won-ok Kim, David Ross, Anthea Seymour)
  • Youth and Young Adult Team
    Department of Health
    (Andrea Augustine, Minerva Lazo Bernal, Mariel Cedeño-Edge, Danielle Naji-Allah, Kenya Troutman, Veronica Urquilla)
  • Global Education Team
    DC Public Schools
    (Jillian Flood, Kayla Gatalica, Kate Ireland, Ximena Marquez, Allyson Williams)
  • Connect.DC Team
    DC Office of the Chief Technology Officer
    (Akilah Everett, Michell Morton, Delano Squires)
  • Family Support Team
    Metropolitan Police Department
    (Gregory H. Alemian Sr., Jeffrey Colleli, Daniel Hickson, Brett Parson)
  • Interagency Council on Homelessness Office Team
    DC Office of the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services
    (Kristy Greenwalt, LaShun Lawson, Theresa Silla, Kimberly Waller)
  • Deaf and Hard of Hearing Unit Team
    Metropolitan Police Department
    (Tayna Ellis, Jessica Hawkins, Myra Wheeler-Jordan)
  • 4th District Burglary Team
    Metropolitan Police Department
    (Joseph Boehler, Andrew Dawidowicz, Peter Eschinger, Kevin Kentish, Robert Merrick, John Pugh, Erik Smith)
  • My School DC Team
    DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education
    (Aryan Bocquet, Michele DeSando, Patricia Etienne Payano, Lisvette Garcia Acosta, Amy Lerman, Aaron Parrott, Catherine Peretti, Antoinette Williams)