Close to 400 people attended the Voice of Hope’s (VOH) 2014 Annual Dinner—Can YOU Hear The Voices?— on January 30 at the Belo Mansion. Voice of Hope graduate Mikaela Nweke, 28, received the Award of Excellence for exemplifying the qualities that the organization embodies: being a leader in her profession, a community volunteer, and a maturing Christian. Two-time National League Cy Young Award winner and Dallas native Clayton Kershaw presented this year’s Award of Excellence, to Nweke. Kershaw, pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, spoke on last year’s panel.
Nweke lived in South Dallas at the time she became involved in the Voice of Hope program. “I was 11 years old when I started the Voice of Hope summer program. By the age of 13, we were actually responsible for teaching lessons, including devotions, to our age group and younger.” Voice of Hope also provided her with work experience at age 14.
Nweke thanked her parents, Cyril and Vikki, who attended the dinner, and she mentioned that they have been married for 29 years. The oldest of five children, Nweke attended Skyline High School and graduated from West Mesquite High School. She has two bachelor degrees from Prairie View A&M in Mathematics and Computer Engineering Technology. She also has a master’s degree in Computer Information Technology, Project Management from Purdue University. She works for Exxon Mobil Corporate as a Global Productions Volume & Allocations Analyst. “In West Dallas and in South Dallas, the opportunities are limited, so it’s great to have organizations like Voice of Hope, which taught me leadership and life skills to apply in college and in my career.”
Nweke added, “When I was asked to be the recipient of this award, I was completely honored. The same grounding principles and values that Voice of Hope helps to instill in youth were the same qualities that they saw in me. Being a part of this program has molded me into a spiritual leader and definitely opened so many doors.”
Ray Nixon, a long-time Voice of Hope supporter, moderated a panel discussion with these three distinguished speakers:
Voice of Vision: Mike Rawlings, Mayor of Dallas
Voice of Spirit: Ron Washington, Manager of Texas Rangers
Voice of Faith: Joseph ”Skip” Ryan, Chancellor Redeemer Seminary and Professor of Practical Theology.
Mayor Mike Rawlings said, “We have so much wealth but also so much poverty in this city, with 37% of children growing up in poverty. I see education as the way out of it. We need to be focused on education from cradle to career. Voice of Hope helps with after-school tutoring and filling that summer learning gap.”
Skip Ryan talked about how Park Cities Presbyterian Church (PCPC) members Debbie and Bill Dunlap, honorary chairs for the dinner, connected the church to West Dallas’ Voice of Hope as a way of celebrating a major anniversary. “Why are we wealthy in this city, and why should we give? It’s the opportunity to do something with it. We give because of what it does in West Dallas and what it does to us. It’s an open-handed generosity.”
Ron Washington talked about being manager of the Texas Rangers as well as the various players they signed. His parents’ advice to him: “Treat people the way you want to be treated,” is a mantra he lives by, and advice he also gave the audience, many of whom volunteer for Voice of Hope.
Moderator Ray Nixon concluded the program by telling that a Salvation Army study ranked Voice of Hope’s after-school program as one of the best run in the U.S. He added that Baylor conducted an independent study of ministries and concluded that Voice of Hope has one of the best returns on investment. For every $1 donated, it returns $11.61.
“Voice of Hope has been in West Dallas since 1982, giving hope and building communities,” said Ed Franklin, president and CEO of Voice of Hope. “The panelists have inspired all of us to do better because it’s our duty to help those like Mikaela. She is an excellent example of someone who has taken the lessons she’s learned and applied them in her life to become a young leader who gives hope to our current Voice of Hope students, and to all of us.”
Honorary Chairs were Debbie and Bill Dunlap and Event Chair was Andrea Pedigo.
ABOUT VOICE OF HOPE:
Voice of Hope Ministries, Inc., founded in 1982, is a Christian community center founded on principles of self-help, spiritual enrichment and urban renewal. Voice of Hope Ministries exists to provide children living in the neighborhoods of West Dallas with strong character models, education support, life skills, and family support services needed to become productive Christian citizens. For more information, please contact Voice of Hope at 214-631-7027 or visit http://voiceofhope.org.