Friday, February 22, 2013

Urban Professional League debuts awards for professional achievement

Have you heard?

JoAnne Poindexter

JoAnne Poindexter

'Have you heard?'

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The Urban Professional League, in partnership with the Harrison Museum of African American Culture, has presented its premiere Community Achievement Awards.

The awards highlight exceptional accomplishments of young African-American professionals within the Roanoke and New River valleys and honor Black History Month.

This year's awards are:

nLucy Addison Award (Education) was presented to Robert Johnson Jr., principal of Lucy Addison Middle School.

nRev. F.E. Alexander Award (Business): Dr. Jennifer Alston-Sako, dentist and owner of Affordable Dentures in Bedford County.

nC.C. Williams Award (Community Service): Jerel Rhodes, guidance coordinator at Forest Park Academy and executive director and founder of the Renaissance Academy.

nDr. Beth Brown Award (UPL Member of the Year): Kaila Elam, Hometown Bank financial specialist; and Davina Irvin, owner of Definite Directions Inc.

Each award is named in honor of deceased Roanoke residents who blazed trails in education, business and community service.

The award recognizing two UPL members was named in honor of the late Beth Brown, a William Fleming High School graduate and NASA astrophysicist.

In its second year, the Urban Professional League promotes professionalism, networking, and community service among young African-American professionals by offering professional development seminars, networking opportunities and projects geared toward giving back to the community.

The league can be reached by email at or by visiting

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Roanoke and New River Valley residents can vote for their favorite Black History Month Art piece through Thursday at U.S. Cellular stores in Roanoke, Salem and Christiansburg.

For the sixth year, U.S. Cellular has partnered with Boys & Girls Clubs of Southwest Virginia to showcase artwork by students in its afternoon and summer programs.

The contest is designed to honor influential African-Americans and to inspire students' creativity, according to a news release.

"We believe in partnering with the community to celebrate our county's rich culture, heritage and diversity," said Dana Dorcas, U.S. Cellular Mid-Atlantic director of sales. "At U.S. Cellular we're about connecting people. By sharing the success of our heroes and role models, we can learn to build better futures for ourselves and our children."

"Rewarding relationships with partners like U.S. Cellular helps us inspire young people to recognize important contributions that people have made and use their creative expression at the same time," said Laurie Gibbons, chief professional officer, Boys & Girls Clubs of Southwest Virginia.

Members of nine Boys & Girls Clubs in Roanoke, Christiansburg and Shawsville were invited to select an influential African-American and develop his or her likeness into an original 81/2-by-11-inch portrait using any medium. Several hundred submissions were received before the Boys & Girls Clubs selected the 10 finalists.

In the past five years, more than 1,500 club members have participated in the contest. Logan Baker from Bonsack Elementary, the 2012 first-place winner, won for his portrait of NFL player Deion Branch.

The 10 finalists' entries will be on display at U.S. Cellular stores in Salem, Roanoke and Christiansburg, where the public can view and vote for their favorites. The top three will win prizes, with first prize being a $500 gift card, and they will be announced at a ceremony in March.

Voting is being held at the following U.S. Cellular locations: 4760 Valley View Blvd., Roanoke; 3260 Electric Road, Roanoke County; 1420 West Main, Salem; or 103 Conston Ave., Christiansburg.

For more information, contact Melissa Watkins or Katie Frey with U.S. Cellular at 804-402-5316 or 773-355-3275

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