A Champion of our Youth. Loretha Dawson, the 2023 Winner of the Department of Juvenile Justice (“DJJ”) Provider of the Year “Everyday Hero” Award

by | Dec 14, 2023 | Announcements, Awards, Uncategorized

We are thrilled to announce that Ms. Dawson, ONIC’s Youth Program Specialist, has been honored as the 2023 Everyday Hero Awardee! 

As a result of her exceptional dedication to our youth and outstanding contributions to ONIC communities, the DJJ, in partnership with the Florida Youth Foundation, presented Ms. Dawson with the “2023 Everyday Hero Award” on October 31, 2023.

Commitment and passion are two words often used to describe Ms. Dawson, or “Lady D,” as often referred to by community members.  For 15 years, Ms. Dawson, has served more than seven ONIC communities, committed to seeing the successful development of our youth and their families.  Ms. Dawson’s work is defined by her impact in the community.  In August of 2023, a 17 year-old former Prodigy Youth Ambassador publicly recognized Ms. Dawson to Tallahassee state legislators during Children’s Week as his mentor and the most important non-parental figure in his life while stating the case for free place-based youth programming in communities similar to those that ONIC develops.  This youth‘s story is one of many who attributes Ms. Loretha to inspiring his success, confidence, and personal belief that he is a valued member of society with a voice that matters.

“What inspires me and sparks my passion is the opportunity to help the youth and their families in the communities that we serve.  My motivation comes from the outpouring of love that the community shares with me when I spend time connecting with each individual on a personal level.  Being authentic and genuine has helped keep me connected, grounded, and true to who I am.”

Ms. Dawson’s dedication to ensuring our youth’s success extends beyond the doors of ONIC’s community clubhouses and learning centers.  Through her connection to the youths’ families, Ms. Dawson is often the first person on staff to know when a family is in crisis or is experiencing a sudden hardship.  Through her intervention and belief in collaboration, Ms. Dawson has helped to connect families to resources through the respective onsite ONIC Resident Services Coordinator and directly through ONIC’s community partners.  Even during the pandemic, while many social services closed their doors to the public, Ms. Dawson remained accessible and committed to the youth.  From March 2020 to July 2020, she helped to facilitate online youth enrichment classes, distributed food boxes to families in need, managed lunch and hot meal distributions for students and seniors, assisted families in securing school laptops and hotspots to remain engaged; and even helped to enroll youth when schools remained closed to in-person visits.


For Ms. Loretha, her position as a Youth Program Specialist is more than just a job.  It is an opportunity to uplift a youth by providing an environment where he/she feels valued, builds character, develops skills, and expresses himself/herself through arts and enrichment education.  For that, we are honored to share her achievement!  Please join us in raising a toast to Ms. Dawson, who for 15 years, has advocated for our youth and helped empower ONIC Communities.  Her unwavering dedication is greatly appreciated!