News Release

Young leaders from GA, NC receive SEF Ginny Looney award

August 3, 2023 – Media Contact: Alan Richard, (202) 641-1300

ATLANTA — The Southern Education Foundation (SEF) today announced this year’s recipients of the Ginny Looney Servant Leader Award, recognizing Georgia State University graduate student Madison Adcock and Morehouse College sophomore DaQuan Brown for their exemplary service during the 2023 cohort of the Southern Education Leadership Initiative (SELI).

Adcock worked with Sheltering Arms in Atlanta, contributing to organization’s mission of providing high‐quality early education, child care, and family support services to metro Atlanta.

Brown served with Voices for Georgia’s Childrenand the Georgia Statewide Afterschool Network, contributing to their work of advancing whole-child policy and promoting accessible, high-quality afterschool and summer programming.

In remembrance of Ginny Looney, the late Atlanta-based attorney, this award is granted to exceptional SELI fellows who demonstrate excellent attendance, exemplary achievement and performance, and excellence in service during their summer fellowship. The honor acknowledges emerging leaders who exemplify Looney’s commitment to ethics, serving the community, advancing racial equity, and creating school systems in the South that can offer the opportunity-rich lives all children deserve. Program leaders chose to recognize both an undergraduate student and a graduate student for the first time this year.

The award is co-founded and endowed by Looney’s husband, Steve Suitts, former vice president of the Southern Education Foundation. “Both DaQuan and Madison capture the essence of the Ginny Looney Servant Leader Award. They are smart, energetic, and in their own individual ways were able to make a clear impact on the non-profit groups where their work will be of real benefit for children now and over time,” Suitts said of this year’s award recipients.

“Given their deep commitment, growing capacity, and practical know-how, I fully expect they have just begun to make real contributions in developing equity and excellence in Southern education in the years ahead,” Suitts added.

Each of the fellows have been awarded a $2,500 stipend to help continue their service work and a $500 donation to an education equity organization of their choosing.

Originally from Waxhaw, NC, Adcock chose to donate to the Center for Racial Equity in Education, or CREED, an organization that centers students of color, inspires institutional change, and facilitates better educational practice to transform the education system in North Carolina.

Brown, from Decatur, GA, has directed his donation to STEAMsport, Inc., a nonprofit organization based in west Atlanta with the mission of providing effective mobile exposure, education, and competition in the areas of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM).

“I cannot begin to express my gratitude for the SELI program and people I have met through it. While working with Sheltering Arms over the summer, I was given a space to grow as an educational leader, researcher, and life-long learner,” Adcock said. “I have chosen CREED to receive this donation because of their race-conscious research regarding North Carolina-specific education issues and their direct impact on education within my home state.”

“Madison demonstrated a spirit of excellence from Day 1.  Her strong performance and teamwork caused us to feel as though she had been employed with us for much longer than a summer,” said Norman V. Hill, the Sheltering Arms chief people officer  who supervised Adcock’s work.

“SELI has given me something that can never be taken away: courage. I now believe that education is for me, whether I’m in the classroom, running a school or a county, or advocating for equity at Capitol Hill,” Brown said. “I chose to donate to STEAMsport because that’s where my interest in education began. They do great work with aspiring youth in the underserved West End community of Atlanta, and I hope to continue seeing that community improve over time.

Julia Morris, the summer learning manager at Voices for Georgia’s Children who supervised Brown’s work with the Georgia Statewide Afterschool Network, said, “We are thrilled to have had DaQuan’s support for our summer learning work this summer. He is a mission-hearted team player and his contributions really enhanced what we were able to do this summer with communications and quality supports.”

“We are grateful for the dedication DaQuan and Madison showed this summer to earn this honor,” said Kenita T. Williams, chief operating officer for SEF and one of the leadership development program’s main organizers. “This year’s cohort was an exceptional group of equity-minded fellows, and we look forward to following these emerging leaders in their careers.”

The SELI program at SEF provides intensive, eight-week paid summer fellowships, placing graduate and undergraduate students in nonprofit organizations, school districts, and state education agencies in the South to develop their leadership skills. SELI fellows interested in advancing racial equity and improving education across the pre-K through college continuum grow as leaders, advance the mission of their host sites, and acquire practical skills through direct learning experiences.

A continuation of SEF’s more than a century legacy of cultivating leaders in the South, SELI’s 2004 launch marked the 50th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, recognizing the work still to be done to fulfill the promise of racial equity in education.

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A 155-year-old organization, SEF continues to expand its work to improve education in the South through policy and advocacy, research and data, leadership programs, and innovations: SEF is now the home of the federal Equity Assistance Center-South that works with school districts to address educational disparities as outlined in federal law. And the SEF Outcomes Based Contracting center is supporting school districts across the country to require that outside vendors working with schools meet specific goals before they are paid in full.

For more information, contact SEF Communications.