Clark State College and the City of Springfield hosted the annual MLK Luncheon in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Friday, January 13, at the Hollenbeck Bayley Creative Arts and Conference Center in Springfield.
The luncheon celebrated the life and vision of Dr. King, and honored youth peacekeepers. Awards were also presented to the recipients of the Clark State Diversity and Inclusion Award and the Diversity Champion Award.
The Youth Peacekeepers were nominated by their schools and were honored for acting as positive and respectful role models and leaders among their peers. The following youth were recognized:
The Clark State Diversity and Inclusion Award recognizes leadership in diversity—either internally or externally—honoring the individual or organization who have implemented innovative strategies to promote the development of skills to meet the needs of a multicultural society.
This year’s Diversity and Inclusion Award was presented to Dr. Dawayne Kirkman, Vice President of Student Affairs at Clark State.
“Dr. Kirkman is a champion for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging at Clark state and beyond,” said Dr. Jo Alice Blondin, president of Clark State. “His commitment is evident in his mentoring of students and his development of frameworks in Student Affairs that empathize these values. His impact on the students and culture of Clark State cannot be overstated.”
The Diversity Champion Award, presented by Clark State and the Greater Springfield Partnership, recognizes a business in the community that believes in and supports diversity and inclusion in their place of work; one who brings awareness and ensures inclusion is an everyday reality.
This year’s Diversity Champion Award was presented to the City of Springfield.
“We appreciate the partnerships in diversity with the City of Springfield and its awareness of the need for programs that improve and empathize the principles of equity and inclusion among its employees and in city operations,” said Blondin.
Joey Oteng, Lawyer and Educator at The Ohio State University, was the Keynote speaker. His topic was Reflecting on the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., through the lens of Equity, Identity and Belonging.
Oteng, founder of Youthful Life Works, LLC, is a Columbus, Ohio-based educator, blogger, photographer, and podcaster passionate about people, their stories, and helping them express those narratives.
“Social justice education has been necessary for self-preservation and helping others, communities, and organizations do the work of multicultural community building,” Oteng said in his biographical statement. “Being able to break down, empower, and guide others as they navigate challenging topics like race/racism, classism, etc. is such a gift.”
Also at the luncheon, Choices Ohio will collected donations to support young adults aging out of foster care.
“As Dr. King Jr’s legacy highlights service, it was important that we thought of a way to give back. Considering King’s belief in the youth and youth’s impact towards the future, we wanted to support a cause that would support our youth,” said Breion Hawkins, diversity coordinator at Clark State. “This led us to partner with CHOICES, as part of their work supports age-out foster care youth, a population often forgotten about, but in need of support, so they can enter the world and live out their full potential.”
Additional support for this event was provided by Benjamin Steel, CareSource, Mercy Health, Park National Bank and The Springfield Foundation.
“This annual event is important for the community, as it is a true indicator of Dr. King’s lifetime work coming to fruition,” said Hawkins. “It’s an event that builds and uplifts the community, as there’s opportunity to learn, honor, and partake in fellowship together.”