WASHINGTON, DC — February 8, 2021 — The late Allison Ranelle Brown, a lifelong education justice champion, will be honored posthumously with the 2021 First National Bank of Omaha Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education at the virtual NEA Foundation Salute to Excellence in Education Gala on February 12, 2021.
“Allison was an inspiration to all who were fortunate enough to know her,” said Sara A. Sneed, president and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “She was passionate and gracious, brilliant and brave, and always committed to the betterment of children, giving them a voice. We are humbled to honor her many contributions to the civil rights movement. We will look to build on her legacy and continue to advocate for education justice for all children.”
Brown was a determined advocate for racial and education justice, who passed away in August after her battle with cancer. She spent her professional career fighting for justice, working to provide opportunities and pathways for all children.
Brown’s work as a trial lawyer for the United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, brought her face to face with the school-to-prison pipeline in Mississippi. It was her work on a court case in Meridian, Mississippi, where students were denied basic constitutional rights, being sent to court and incarcerated for minor school infractions, that led to a historic settlement with the school district and paved the way for national visibility around this issue.
Brown’s work continued to focus on supporting Black and brown children. She wanted to provide children access to safe and equitable schools. This paved the way for her to lead the organization the Communities for Just Schools Fund (CJSF). Brown served as executive director, helping to eliminate barriers and advance educational opportunities for traditionally under-served students. Her passion can be found in the community-led organizations that CJSF works with every day. Brown’s accomplishments during her time with CJSF had both local and national impact, focusing on school climate to help students with better academic and social outcomes.
Starting when Brown was young, her mother was determined to ensure that those around her embraced and acknowledged her “genius.” In Brown’s own words, “I still have in me that shy little girl from Indiana who would never let her mother get too far from her. Who grew up in the unspoken richness and traditions of the African American community. Whose instincts were her ancestors, her great grands, ordering her steps. Who has seen success because her family told her to, and expected nothing less.”
“We are honored to celebrate the life and achievements of an advocate who exemplified outstanding service,” said Jerry O’Flanagan, executive vice president at First National Bank of Omaha. “There is much that we can all learn about selfless determination from Allison’s example and the way in which she dedicated her life to causes greater than herself.”
The Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education pays tribute to those who have significantly increased understanding of public education or have otherwise dedicated themselves to serving educators and students. Past recipients of this prestigious award include Linda Darling-Hammond, Billie Jean King, Sesame Workshop, the NAACP, Nickelodeon, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, Global Kids and the American Indian College Fund.
The award is part of the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala, an annual celebration of the men and women who work in America’s public schools. The gala will also honor 46 public school educators nominated by their peers for having attained the highest teaching standards, as illustrated by their exemplary instruction, advocacy for the profession and staunch support of public education.
The 2021 gala will be held virtually on February 12, 2021, at 8 p.m. EST and registration is complimentary and open to all. To register, neafoundation.org/for-educators/awards-gala/.
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