News Release

University of Georgia Student Kaitlyn Mills Receives “Ginny Looney Servant Leader Award”


Media Contact:  Mitch Leff, (404) 861-4769,; Kim Speece, (404) 849-6579,; and Melissa Sanders, (404) 909.6726,

ATLANTA — The Southern Education Foundation (SEF) today announced its Ginny Looney Servant Leader Award has been presented to University of Georgia student Kaitlyn Mills, who is earning her Master of Public Administration. Mills was honored for her outstanding work as a Southern Education Leadership Initiative (SELI) Fellow with the St. Helena Parish School District over the summer.

A continuation of SEF’s legacy of cultivating leaders in the South — which spans more than a century— SELI’s 2004 launch marked the 50th anniversary of the S. Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision. This initiative recognizes there is still important work to be done to ensure all children, regardless of race or class, receive an excellent education.

The Award, named in memory of long-time Atlanta attorney Ginny Looney, supports and acknowledges rising leaders who exemplify Looney’s commitment to ethics, to serving the community, to advance racial equity, and to create school systems in the South that can offer the opportunity-rich lives all children deserve.

Mills has been awarded:

  • A $2500 stipend to help her continue her service work
  • A $500 donation to an education equity organization of her choosing

Mills has directed her donation (plus another $500 of her awarded stipend, totaling a $1000 donation) to Successteam, a Foundation that specializes in educational youth development catered to youth, ages 13–18, by a platform of support en route to accomplishing their dreams and goals. Their non-traditional educational programs and events enhance and expose community youth to the endless possibilities of life, resulting in increased awareness of personal strengths, professional aspirations, and the importance of effective goal setting.

“I have decided to add another $500 to the donation to Successteam’s Leadership Academy for Young Women, and I want to put $1,000 towards school-related costs as I finish my Master in Public Administration,” said Award Recipient Kaitlyn Mills. “I’m not entirely certain how I will spend the remaining funds — perhaps I will use the last bit for professional development opportunities, or maybe for a certification program or as seed money for my own nonprofit organization. Either way, I am grateful for being selected as this year’s winner, and for the opportunity to invest in programs that advance equity in education and improve my skills as a public servant.”

“It was an absolute joy working with Kaitlyn this summer! Her work in St. Helena Parish School District not only helped to transform existing policies but also helped to transform our thinking of those policies through an equitable, inclusive lens,” said Dr. Kelli Joseph, Superintendent of St. Helena Parish School District. “We all fell in love with her enthusiasm and passion as she did great work to include our community in the equity conversation, create a clear framework for our staff to continue our progress toward inclusive practices, and revise our policies that are focused on our learners. It is our hope to continue our relationship with Kaitlyn beyond the SELI fellowship.”

There were 14 outstanding graduate and undergraduate students in the 2022 SELI cohort. Criteria for the selection of Kaitlyn Mills included:

  • Excellent Attendance: Demonstrates excellent attendance over the course of the 8-week fellowship placement
  • Exemplary Achievement and Performance: Consistently and substantially meeting or exceeding the expectations of the fellowship
  • Excellence in Service/Personal Interaction: Consistently and substantially demonstrating:
    • An ability and willingness to work positively, respectfully, and effectively with others
    • To manage changes in work priorities, procedures, and organization
    • To show initiative and exemplify the meaning of the fellowship

The Award is endowed by Looney’s husband, Steve Suitts, former Vice President of the Southern Education Foundation, who said: “Kaitlyn Mills is a grand choice for the Ginny Looney Servant Leader Award. She devoted enormous energy, enthusiasm, and some real know-how this summer in helping the St. Helena Parish School District advance both equity and community involvement in its schools. Clearly Kaitlyn went above and beyond the call of duty. I’m sure the University of Georgia is proud to have such an outstanding graduate student!”

The Southern Education Leadership Initiative (SELI) is an intensive, eight-week, paid summer fellowship for graduate and undergraduate students interested in advancing racial equity and improving education across the pre-K through college continuum. Placed in nonprofits, school districts, or state education agencies in the South, SELI Fellows spend the summer developing as leaders, advancing the mission of their host sites, and acquiring practical job skills through direct learning experiences.


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About Southern Education Foundation

Originally founded in 1867 to educate Black children and children from low-income families in the South, the Southern Education Foundation also has a long history of developing leaders in education, and was a pivotal source of research and data to support legislation and litigation aimed at fighting inequity in education during the civil rights era. The organization today conducts leadership development, research, and advocacy to improve educational opportunities for low-income students and students of color and achieve educational equity in the Southern U.S. It is based in Atlanta, Georgia.


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