This year, Walmart is celebrating the Juneteenth holiday by honoring Black Excellence through the recognition of leaders in the Chicagoland area who work to bring inclusion and opportunity to the Black community. For the inaugural recipients, Walmart is recognizing four outstanding African Americans for excellence in their respective fields and contributions to their communities. This year’s recipients are Jason Coleman, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Project SYNCERE, Patrice Gibson, Director of the Walmart Community Academy, Chicago, Roderick Hawkins, Associate Dean of External Affairs at Northwestern University, and Dara Munson, President, and CEO of Family Focus. Walmart proudly honors their dedication because living better begins with supporting equity and opportunity in the communities where we work and live.
The 2022 Spark Award recipients:
Jason Coleman, Director of Project SYNCERE – Launched the educational non-profit as a pathway for minority students to pursue studies in STEM fields. Since its launch in 2008, Project SYNCERE has served over 22,000 Chicago area students, increasing their interest in STEM and engineering.
Patrice Gibson, Director of the Walmart Community Academy, Chicago – Beginning as an overnight stocking associate, Patrice has held countless leadership roles in her 13 year career with Walmart, both in stores and in the community. As director of the first ever Walmart Community Academy, Patrice oversees programs that offer community members a wide range of educational opportunities from resume workshops to HVAC training and certification, and much more, The Community Academy provides easy access to classes or online learning at little to no cost for community members.
Roderick Hawkins, Northwestern University – Roderick spent much of his career expanding civil liberties for marginalized communities. In 2017, on behalf of the Chicago mayor’s office, he partnered with the Department of Public Health to convene a panel of African-American and Latino LGBTQ advocates to advance issues from health to public safety.
Dara Munson, President and CEO of Family Focus – Leads the Chicago non-profit in their mission to achieve upward economic mobility for families in Chicago. Family Focus has created innovative programs and services, grounded in their focus on anti-racism and equity.
“We are honored to highlight the efforts of these four outstanding leaders and their impact in making a more inclusive and equitable community.,” adds John Bisio, Walmart Senior Director of Community Relations. “The recipients of our inaugural Spark Award provide great examples of leaders in Chicago that should inspire each of us to find meaningful ways to make a difference.”