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2012 Archives

Simmons Luminary Awards honor education pioneers

'“Our recipients exemplify a superlative commitment to families and children'

Honoring the Recipients

Introduction and The Salesmanship Club


Joan Ganz Cooney and Sesame Workshop

January 27, 2012

DALLAS (SMU) – Three organizations that created new ways of enhancing children’s education were honored with the Luminary Award presented Thursday by SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development.

The following organizations and individuals were honored for creating research-based and innovative programs, which have served as longtime models for improving education:

  • Joan Ganz Cooney and Sesame Workshop, the creators of the children’s public television program, “Sesame Street”
  • AVANCE, a parenting and early childhood program that supports at-risk Hispanic families

  • Salesmanship Club Youth and Family Centers, a nonprofit that supports education and therapeutic services for at-risk Dallas children.

“Our three Luminary recipients exemplify a superlative commitment to families and children. In setting the bar high to obtain strong educational outcomes, each one demonstrates the impact of using research to improve lives, from our youngest ones to their parents,” says David Chard, Leon Simmons Endowed Dean of the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development. “At a time when education is buffeted by winds of dissatisfaction, this year’s recipients offer solutions and hope.”

Children’s educational television was a new concept in 1968 when the Children’s Television Workshop created “Sesame Street,” a television show designed to help children prepare for school. The program now teaches children throughout the world, most recently with a new presence in Afghanistan.

Accepting the Luminary Award on behalf of Sesame Workshop (formerly Children’s Television Workshop) is Lewis Bernstein, Sesame Workshop executive vice president of education and research.  Bernstein joined Sesame Workshop in 1972 as director of research, guiding the collaboration of researchers and writers and producers on each “Sesame Street” episode.

AVANCE’s signature nine-month program has since 1973 provided parents with tools to become active participants in their children’s lives, while providing their preschoolers with the education they need to become successful students. With programs in Texas, California and New Mexico, AVANCE’s evidence-based program is a national model of a community-centered education program for parents and children.

Luminary AwardOlga Llamas Rodriguez, vice chair of the AVANCE National Board of Directors, will accept the Luminary Award. Rodriguez is vice president of public affairs for the Port of Houston Authority and active in the Houston community, past president of the board of directors for Houston’s Local Infant Formula for Emergencies program and a former mentor for Amigas Latinas for College.

The Salesmanship Club Youth and Family Services has served Dallas children since 1920, opening its first camp for orphans in 1921. Since then the organization has provided residential and community programs specializing in education and therapeutic services to at-risk children and their families. The club in 1997 opened the J. Erik Jonsson Community School, a researched-based laboratory school for at-risk children in Oak Cliff.

Sandy Nobles, Jonsson Community School principal and Salesmanship Club director of education, will accept the Luminary Award. Since 2006, Nobles has led the school’s comprehensive approach to education research, including evaluation of student achievement through high school.  The school relies on research-tested curriculum and opens its doors as a model to student teachers and education professionals.

The Luminary Award was created in 2009 by SMU’s Simmons School to honor individuals and organizations that have shown an extraordinary commitment to improving people’s lives through education.

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