Six honored for building stronger communities

By CRA News Service

FORT LAUDERDALE – Lt. Nathaniel Lasseur’s enthusiasm for saving lives extends beyond fighting fires in his West Palm Beach fire station’s district.

His missionary parents taught him at a young age that blessings in life are only earned by helping others, and he practices that belief in everything he does.

Lasseur was among six South Florida leaders who were honored recently for their commitment and service to their local communities at the 19th annual African-American Achievers awards ceremony held at the Broward County Convention Center.

More than 1,000 supporters attended the event, presented by JM Family Enterprises, Southeast Toyota Distributors and JM Lexus.

Attendees were inspired by each Achiever’s impressive accomplishments, humility, and the inspirational examples they consistently set for others.

“There is nothing more important than to say ‘thank you’ and to recognize people achieving extraordinary things,” said Colin Brown, president and CEO of JM Family, during the celebration.  “We are all interconnected and individuals who lift up the community deserve our respect and our honor.  That’s what this event is all about.  Our Achievers’ stories give us hope, and they inspire us to do great things.”

Calvin Hughes, WPLG-TV Local 10 news anchor, served as the evening’s emcee, which he has done for the last three years. Local 10 has been a sponsor of the event for the past decade. Other features were special performances by the Women’s Ensemble of Dillard Center for the Arts and EJ’s Company Band.

In honor of the Achievers, JMFE, SET and JM Lexus donated a total of $40,000 – $10,000 in each adult Achiever’s name – to the charity or charities of his or her choice.

More than $242,000 has been awarded since automotive legend Jim Moran, founder of JM Family and subsidiaries Southeast Toyota and JM Lexus, created the program in 1992.

This year’s Achievers contributed to the following organizations: The Dwight Stephenson Foundation, International Firefighters Assistance, John Battle Theatre Ensemble, Inc., Fred Taylor Foundation, Inc., Girl Power and Lotus House Women’s Shelter.


About the 2011 Achievers:

Arts & Culture: John W. Battle III

As a performing arts instructor at Hallandale Magnet High School, John Battle works tirelessly to provide students with an avenue for their creative energy.  He believes success in the classroom can translate to success in life as long as you work hard to achieve it.  Battle was instrumental in reinstating the school’s Drama Club in 2002 and has seen significant academic improvement from its members – 100 percent receive their diploma and go on to college.  In 2003 he founded the John Battle Theatre Ensemble, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to entertaining and educating inner-city youth through theatrical training, performances and a summer camp program.

Business & Entrepreneurism: Dwight & Dinah Stephenson

Dwight and Dinah Stephenson have been building communities and inspiring lives since the early 1980s. Their construction company, D. Stephenson Construction, has become a respected leader by operating with honesty and integrity, and it is those same values that fuel their service to the community. Stephenson, an NFL Hall of Famer and former Miami Dolphins offensive lineman, and his wife Dinah, a lawyer, are partners in life and in business.  They established the Dwight Stephenson Foundation in 2007 to generate funding for charities that provide educational, health and human services to underserved children and families in South Florida.

Community Service: Lt. Nathaniel Lasseur

Lt. Nate Lasseur’s enthusiasm for saving lives extends beyond fighting fires in his West Palm Beach fire station’s district.  His missionary parents taught him at a young age that blessings in life are only earned by helping others, and he practices that belief in everything he does.  Nate’s commitment to serve took a new direction after a memorable trip to Haiti.  There he saw first responders battling fires in civilian clothes with minimal safety equipment. The experience inspired Nate to establish International Firefighters Assistance, Inc.  A grassroots organization with a global reach, it partners with local firefighting units to collect equipment and coordinate training for rescue workers in underprivileged countries.


Education: Mia Y. Merritt, Ed.D.

An administrator for Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Merritt uses her personal experiences as a misdirected youth to teach at-risk teens and young adults that their past choices do not dictate their future.  She believes that both the seeds of greatness and the seeds of failure can be found in each of us.  Her goal is to motivate young people to feed their greatness by setting goals, working hard and cultivating their gifts. For Merritt, facing obstacles is a necessary part of growing up.  It’s overcoming them and learning from mistakes that make the difference in your life.  She is an eight-time author of personal development books, motivational and keynote speaker, and an avid volunteer with Girl Power!


Youth Achiever Awarded FSU Scholarship

At the ceremony, The Jim Moran Foundation announced Palm Beach Gardens High School senior Victoria Fleury as the recipient of the Jerome Edmund Gray Youth Achiever award.  A natural-born leader, Fleury was recognized for her commitment to academics and community involvement.  She consistently places in the top 5 percent of her class and is enrolled in her school’s pre-medical Five Star Magnet Program, which means she will be a certified nursing assistant upon graduation.

Fleury’s passion for helping others and her interest in pursuing a career in neurobiology developed in high school when she befriended a classmate who has Tourette’s Syndrome. Already an aspiring medical school student, Fleury will be the first in her family to attend college.

The Jim Moran Foundation, in partnership with Florida State University, selects a high school senior every year who qualifies for financial aid and has applied and received admission to FSU for the Jerome Edmund Gray Youth Achiever award.

Named in memory of 1995 African-American Achiever Jerome Edmund Gray, Esq., the award is a needs-based, four-year scholarship to FSU with funding provided through the Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship at FSU.


Independent Selection Committee

The 2011 honorees were selected by an independent panel of community leaders from Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties that included former Achievers.  The selection committee reviewed more than 110 nominees after an extensive public outreach campaign.

Ramon A. Brayan, Account Executive for WPLG Local 10

Juliet Gray-Williams, Educator at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School

Julie Hunter, Associate Director for Public Services of Broward County Public Library

Hamish Reed, 1993 African-American Achiever and Account Manager for Hospira

Perry Stokes, 2010 African-American Achiever and Teacher at Carver Middle School



About Pedro Heizer

I'm a person of simple taste, all I need is some country music, Batman, Star Wars, sports, coffee, and most importantly Jesus Christ, because what profits a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? View all posts by Pedro Heizer

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