SMU Simmons School's Luminary Awards honor advocates for education

Three will be honored Jan. 21 with Simmons School's Luminary Award for extraordinary commitment to education.

SMU Luminary Award

SMU Simmons Luminary AwardDALLAS (SMU) – Three education advocates and organizations who are taking fresh and research-based approaches to the improvement and advancement of education will be honored with Luminary Awards Thursday, Jan. 21, by SMU's Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development.

 Luminary Awards will be presented at a 7 p.m. ceremony at the Martha Proctor Mack Ballroom in SMU's Umphrey Lee Center to:

  • Local recipient Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy and principal Nakia Douglas
  • Regional recipient Raise Your Hand Texas
  • National recipient All Stars Project, Inc.

“One of our jobs at Simmons is to impart how students grow and learn so educators and other caring adults can understand how to ignite development," said David Chard, dean of the Simmons School. "The Luminary Awards showcase the spark for students that may happen in or outside of the classroom. The 2016 Luminary Award recipients exemplify undeterred commitment to improve the lives of children, their families and their communities.”

Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy and Nakia Douglas

Nakia Douglas
Nakia Douglas

As the founding principal of the Dallas Independent School District 's new, all-male magnet school, Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy, Nakia Douglas has set the tone for the unique public school in southern Dallas. Students dress in navy blazers and slacks, take college preparatory courses like Latin and calculus and develop their leadership skills. The year before the academy opened in 2011 Douglas traveled throughout the United States and to China, researching best practices for the school designed to prepare young men for college.

 Now in its fifth year, Barack Obama is home to 470 students, grades six through twelve, and has a waiting list.  Every member of the first graduating class in 2015 now attends college.

 A Dallas native and DISD graduate, Douglas' recent honors include the 2015 DISD Magnet Principal of the Year Award, the 2015 Simmons Young Leaders in Education Trailblazer Award, the 2015 Phi Delta Kappa Trailblazer Award and the 2014 Alpha Phi Alpha Trailblazer Award. In addition, he was named the KERA American Graduate Champion and a DISD exemplary principal. Douglas will accept the Luminary Award at the Jan. 21 event.

Raise Your Hand Texas

Raise Your Hand Texas logo

A nonprofit education advocacy organization dedicated to strengthening Texas public schools, Raise Your Hand Texas sponsors education research, leadership training for school principals and master teachers, and advocacy for public education at the Texas Legislature.  

For principals and other school leaders, Raise Your Hand Texas supports executive coaching and training at Rice University and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. It also supports the Teaching Trust, which partners with the Simmons School to prepare leaders in urban schools. Other training opportunities include the implementation and evaluation of blended learning, a concept that combines self-paced online learning and brick-and-mortar schooling.

Committed to evidence-based education, Raise Your Hand Texas supports researchers analyzing topics such as successful innovation in schools, the best use of educator data and how to turn around chronically low-performing schools. Easy-to-access research results are made available to school and district leaders.

With 90 percent of Texas children attending public schools, Raise Your Hand Texas advocates for key issues that will advance public education such as full-day pre-kindergarten, charter schools and digital learning. Wallace Jefferson, former Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court, will accept the regional Luminary award for Raise Your Hand Texas.

All Stars Project, Inc.

All Stars Project Inc. logo

The All Stars Project combats poverty in inner-city neighborhoods by providing unique after-school opportunities for students, such as performance workshops, leadership training and bridge building with other community groups. Students participating in the All Stars Talent Show Network develop confidence and skills by auditioning, rehearsing and performing at All Stars events.
Other students participate in leadership training programs, which match students with corporate professionals to provide mentoring and internships. Positive interactions between the police and inner-city youth are developed at a series of workshops that use performance, improvisational games and conversation to help teenagers and police officers develop and improve their relationships.
The All Stars Project was founded 1981 by philosopher Fred Newman and developmental psychologist Lenora Fulani. Under the leadership of CEO Gabrielle Kurlander, the project has become a national advocate for and successful example of the use of after-school development to fight poverty. More than 40,000 young people participate in All Stars programs each year in seven cities, including Dallas.

The Simmons School hosted a symposium introducing the project in 2014 when the All Stars Project expanded to Dallas. Since then, Dallas All Stars has become part of Dallas Mayor Rawling's Anti-Poverty Task Force, the School Zone at SMU's Budd Center and a performance partner with SMU's Meadows School of the Arts. Gabrielle Kurlander, CEO of the All Stars Project, Inc. will accept the national Luminary Award on behalf of the All Stars Project.

The Luminary Awards

The Luminary Award were created in 2009 by the Simmons School to honor individuals and organizations that have shown an extraordinary commitment to improving people’s lives through education. The award is given annually to a local, regional and national recipient.


The Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development at SMU reflects the University’s vision of serving the most important educational needs of our city, region and nation, graduating students for successful careers in a variety of fields and providing educational opportunities beyond traditional degree programs. The school is committed to rigorous, research-driven programs that promote evidence-based, effective practices in education and human development.

SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools.

Media Contacts:

Nancy George

Yolette Garcia