From left to right, Assistant Dean for Student Life, Equity & Inclusion Dr. Teo Cooper; City of Columbia DE&I Administrator D’Andre Thompson ’18; Senior Clinical Nursing Instructor Theresa Veit; International Student Services Director Britta Wright; and President Dr. David Russell pose for a photo at Columbia College’s 2024 Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Awards on Tuesday, Jan. 23, in Dorsey Gymnasium. Photo by Strategic Communications Specialist Kevin Graeler

D’Andre Thompson ’18 worked as an enrollment specialist at Columbia College when the institution held its first Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Awards in 2020.

Thompson, who earned his Master of Business Administration from CC, served on the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee during his time working and learning at the school, including in leadership positions. Last year, he began as the City of Columbia’s inaugural Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Administrator.

On Tuesday, Jan. 23, Thompson returned to campus to deliver the keynote address at the 2024 edition of the MLK Awards Ceremony inside Dorsey Gymnasium.

“I was able to take the passion that was ignited during my time here at Columbia College and cultivate that passion into a career helping our local government strategize equitable practices that will improve the overall quality of life for all our citizens,” Thompson said during his address. “Dr. King’s legacy has inspired many to stand up in the face of injustice and speak truth to power.”

City of Columbia DE&I Administrator D’Andre Thompson ’18 delivers the keynote address at Columbia College’s 2024 Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Awards on Tuesday, Jan. 23, in Dorsey Gymnasium. Photo by Strategic Communications Specialist Kevin Graeler

Commitment to a cause larger than one’s self is one of the most dignified forms of generosity that can ever be expressed, Thompson said.

“In a community where there’s enough wealth to ensure every individual has a home, food, clothing and access to a quality education, we should never be so apathetic to needs of the most vulnerable,” he said. “This is the motivation of today’s recipients of the Columbia College Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Awards.”

The MLK Awards annually recognize and acknowledge CC staff, faculty and community members who emulate the values of Dr. King.

“The honorees reflect Dr. King’s ideals of equity, faith, nonviolence, education, love, leadership, selflessness and hope,” said Dr. Teo Cooper, assistant dean for Student Life, Equity & Inclusion.

“The honorees reflect Dr. King’s ideals of equity, faith, nonviolence, education, love, leadership, selflessness and hope.”

Dr. Teo Cooper, assistant dean for Student Life, Equity & Inclusion

As part of this year’s ceremony, Cooper formally introduced the first student cohort of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Peer Educators at Columbia College: Deniz Tuncer, Jada Inanga, Travis Hudson and Maleeka Jubin. These student leaders will support the college’s DE&I efforts by providing peer education, mentorship and advocacy for students.

“We are grateful that they have offered themselves for service to our students for the advancement of this very important work,” Cooper said.

Employees Britta Wright and Theresa Veit received individual awards during the ceremony after being nominated by their colleagues.

Wright serves as director of International Student Services at CC, where she has dedicated herself to international students for the past 30 years. She goes above and beyond in her personal time to provide support to international students, helping them acclimate to Columbia.

International Student Services Director Britta Wright poses for a photo with President Dr. David Russell after receiving an award at Columbia College’s 2024 Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Awards on Tuesday, Jan. 23, in Dorsey Gymnasium. Photo by Strategic Communications Specialist Kevin Graeler

Wright also teaches a weekly English as a Second Language (ESL) class, building relationships and bringing in guest speakers to cover topics such as how to build a resume, job searching and interview techniques, and how to network and build a community within Columbia.

Veit serves the Nursing Program as a senior clinical instructor and skills lab coordinator. She volunteers with Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society, employing creative strategies such as making and selling unique arts and crafts, wrapping presents at the mall, and hosting tables at events to raise funds for the cause.

Senior Clinical Nursing Instructor Theresa Veit poses for a photo with President Dr. David Russell after receiving an award at Columbia College’s 2024 Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Awards on Tuesday, Jan. 23, in Dorsey Gymnasium. Photo by Strategic Communications Specialist Kevin Graeler

Veit extends her impact globally by taking students to study abroad in the Dominican Republic, where they volunteer in rural areas to provide basic health care to communities in need.

To Thompson’s surprise, he returned to the stage near the end of the event to accept this year’s group award on behalf of the Minority Men’s Network, a volunteer network of men in the Columbia area who serve and provide leadership, mentorship and advocacy on issues affecting minority populations.

Members of the Minority Men’s Network visited campus last fall to deliver a check with funds they personally pooled together in support of the college’s Nadria Wright Memorial Nursing Scholarship.