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2023 Community Leadership Honorees

Updated: Feb 16, 2023

Each year, BCDI-Atlanta honors individuals who have made significant efforts to improve and advance the quality of life for Black children under 8 years old and their families. We are proud to recognize the following individuals as the 2023 Community Leadership Award Honorees. The honorees will be recognized during the Awards Luncheon at our 4th Annual Culturally Responsive Early Education & Care Leadership Summit on

Tuesday, February 21, 2023 in Atlanta.

Read to Succeed Literacy Award

Through the NBCDI Read to Succeed Program, BCDI-Atlanta has provided books to families and learning programs to help develop early literacy skills and establish at-home libraries. Lisa B. Dwyer has taken this mission to heart as, for the last five years, she has managed the Mayor’s Summer Reading Club, distributing over 15,000 books to children in the Atlanta and Columbus areas. On a daily basis, Lisa is the Director of Strategic Operations at the Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students (GEEARS) where she oversees the general operations of the nonprofit dedicated to providing leadership for a statewide movement on quality early learning and healthy development for all children under five. Off the clock, she currently serves on the Board of the Atlanta Speech School and has served on the Atlanta Children’s Shelter Board, Prevent Child Abuse Georgia Advisory Board, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s Hope & Will Ball, and more. Lisa helped raise $100,000 for Agape Youth & Family Center last year and spent many years volunteering for the parent-led organizations that support Atlanta Public Schools.

Dr. Asa G. Hilliard, III Legacy Award

In the spirit of Dr. Asa G. Hilliard, III, Dr. Victoria Long-Coleman is a life-long learner and a published researcher in early childhood education teacher preparation. With a career spanning 47 years on the local, state, and national levels, Dr. Victoria is currently an Early Care and Education Specialist with Quality Care for Children, where she coaches child care providers and center administrators on best practices. Because she believes the purpose of a teacher is to help children discover—and support them in learning—their “assignment”, Dr. Victoria has spent over a decade growing family child care programs and worked with her family members in their child care program which served Black children and families as part of a neighborhood childcare network during the Civil Rights Movement.

Elaine Banks Collins Early Care & Education Award

Yeni Garcia-Villegas believes that a strong foundation in early childhood education leads to life-long success for children and their families—a job that cannot be done without the active participation of parents, families, and community partners. After receiving her Masters in Social Work at Georgia State University, Yeni joined the YMCA of Metro Atlanta Early Learning team and has served in many capacities. She is currently the Sr. Director of Family Services and Strategic Partnerships, leading the teams for enrollment and family engagement efforts for the Early Head Start, Head Start and the Early Learning Readiness program, a community-based mobile program for Latino families.

Powerful Families: Family Engagement Award

You don’t have to be tall to be a giant; you just have to have heart and the desire to overcome the impossible. With that as her life’s philosophy, Summer Smothers collaborates with community partners to organize events and training opportunities to equip families with the necessary tools to aid them in becoming self-sufficient. She has been an advocate for students and their families for over 20 years and currently serves as the Parent Family Community Engagement Manager for YMCA of Metro Atlanta Early Learning. Summer’s greatest passion is to educate families about their roles as their child’s first teacher and how their presence and support shapes the lives of our future leaders.

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