The East St. Louis Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People recognized Southern Illinois University Edwardsville East St. Louis Center Executive Director Jesse Dixon for his educational contributions to the Metro East.
Dixon received the branch’s education award at its 64th Annual Freedom Fund Awards Banquet on Sunday, Oct. 7, at the Marriott St. Louis Grand Hotel.
Dixon was one of many honorees hailed for bringing change to the community, according to East St. Louis NAACP Branch President Franklin Stanley.
The theme for the gala was “Pursue Justice and Defeat Hate – Vote.” National NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson was the guest speaker.
Approximately 30 people received awards and scholarships and more than 1,000 people attended the event.
“It was a tremendous honor to receive this education award from the East St. Louis NAACP,” said Dixon. “When I looked at the list of previous award recipients, I was humbled to be named among such important contributors to the East St. Louis education landscape.”
“Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education was a key focus of this year’s banquet,” continued Dixon, “and Mr. Franklin noted the Center’s impressive STEM contributions.”
“The East St. Louis Center has focused on connecting East St. Louis youth to such innovative and impactful STEM initiatives as a National Science Foundation grant that focused on computer science and STEM programming for elementary age girls in East St. Louis,” said Dixon. “The Center also has federal funding to support full-time math tutors at East St. Louis Senior High School, and a comprehensive coding and engineering curriculum for high school students in the Upward Bound programs. We infuse STEM programming and coding in early childhood education, and have a new project to teach science concepts through dance in the SIUE East St. Louis Performing Arts Program.”
Another factor in the award was the ESLC’s collaboration with the East St. Louis NAACP, according to Dixon. “Most recently, we have developed a strong partnership around the ACT-SO competition sponsored by the national NAACP,” Dixon noted. “The East St. Louis Center has hosted this event for the last two years, recommended and prepared local students to participate, and brokered collaborations with SIUE faculty to assist local students.”
“The NAACP East St. Louis Chapter Awards Banquet recognizes leaders making significant contributions in social justice, health, economic development, education, scholarship and community service,” said Johanna Wharton, director of Workforce Development and Strategic Partnerships at the ESLC. “Most of the programs at the SIUE East St. Louis Center fall into one of those categories. With Jesse Dixon receiving the education award, it shows that the Center is closely connected to the community and that the programs here are making a difference. We should all be proud of that.”
The educational impact of the ESLC on the East St. Louis community is far reaching, concluded Dixon.
“Half of all kindergarteners come through our SIUE Head Start/Early Head Start Program,” he said. “One in five high school students in East St. Louis participates in an Upward Bound program, and now hundreds of local residents are finding new careers through our MATCH (Metro East Accelerated Training and Career Hub) initiative.”
“I hope this extraordinary honor will call more attention to our transformative work, and will remind the community to recommend our programs and offerings to their families and friends.”
With a focus on empowering people and strengthening communities, the SIUE East St. Louis Center is dedicated to improving the lives of families and individuals - from pre-school through adult - in the Metro East. Head Start/Early Head Start and a charter high school are among the programs that offer the community renewed hope and an opportunity to reach educational, career and life goals. The center also assigns first priority to encouraging, supporting and improving the educational success of the residents of East St. Louis and surrounding urban communities. The Center provides comprehensive programs, services and training in the areas of education, health, social services and the arts.