Stephens bestows annual MLK awards

Monday, January 21, 2008 | 9:17 p.m. CST; updated 11:50 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

COLUMBIA — Two citizen leaders of Columbia’s visioning process—an optometrist who provides free eye exams to uninsured youths and a Stephens College student involved in outreach to children and families with AIDS — were among those honored Monday by Stephens College at its annual Martin Luther King Jr. Award Convocation.

The ceremony, which took place before a full house in Windsor Auditorium, recognized individuals for promoting King’s values in their everyday lives.

M. Dianne Drainer, co-chair of the “Imagine Columbia’s Future” visioning project, told the crowd she believes that women and minorities “must have a seat at the table. Our opinions must not just be heard, our opinions must be valued and seriously considered I must continue to work much harder to move both our community and individuals to the solid rock of human dignity.”

Drainer also serves as treasurer and a steering committee member of the Women’s Network, executive director of the Mizzou Flagship Council and the Chamber of Commerce executive committee.

Jeffrey Williams also co-chairs the visioning project. He said the community effort “in many ways envisions a better community, a better way of life and intersects with Dr. King’s dream to bring together diverse groups in the community. We must remain hopeful that Dr. King’s vision will become more than just a dream.”

Williams also serves as director of access and urban outreach in the Office of Enrollment Management at MU. He is developing initiatives to increase the college enrollment of low-income students through the Missouri Advising Corps and a comprehensive college access program, Kauffman Scholars.

Optometrist Sahba Jalali is a consultant with school nurses and counselors. He offers free eye exams and glasses to students without insurance or financial access to vision care, and he works to eliminate racial prejudice in Columbia through activities associated with Columbia’s Baha’i community.

“To me, whenever a recognition is made, I ask myself, does this draw out of me another potential for a higher level of service?” Jalali said.

Stephens students in the audience gave a standing ovation to Tina Smith, a Stephens student active in social outreach.

“I accept this award as a representation of the collective work we do to make this a community of love and understanding regardless of race, socioeconomic background, sexual orientation and religious affiliation,” she said.

Smith, a liberal studies major, volunteered with various organizations after the 2005 hurricanes. She spent time mentoring and tutoring elementary school children, worked as a camp director for Camp City Year as well as Habitat for Humanity projects. She continues service as Stephens’ chapter leader of Keep a Child Alive. The not-for-profit organization provides free AIDS medicines to children and families with HIV and AIDS.

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