Click here for the full article discussing this year's recipients and the significance of the Simmons Luminary Award.


Nakia Douglas

Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy and Nakia Douglas

North Texas Honoree

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.

Video clip of recepient Nakia Douglas for Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy

Raise Your Hand Texas logo

Raise Your Hand Texas

Regional Honoree

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, accepted the regional Luminary award for Raise Your Hand Texas.

Video clip of recipient Raise Your Hand Texas


All Stars Project Inc. logo

All Stars Project, Inc.

National Honoree

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. accepted the national Luminary Award on behalf of the All Stars Project.

Video clip of recipient All Stars Project, Inc.