Syracuse University announces the recipients of the 2002 Unsung Hero and Heroine Awards
Syracuse University announces the recipients of the 2002 Unsung Hero and Heroine AwardsJanuary 18, 2002Judy Holmesjlholmes@syr.edu
Syracuse University’s 2002 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration committee announces the recipients of the annual Unsung Hero and Heroine Awards. The awards are presented to people who exemplify the spirit, life and teachings of King, but who are not widely recognized for their efforts. This year’s recipients are: Trey Hunter, a Corcoran High School senior; Maureen Klueber-Quigley, an activist for children with disabilities; Twiggy Billue, executive director of ACTS, Alliance of Communities Transforming Syracuse; Cora Thomas, WAER office manager; and the African American Male Congress, a student group at SU.
Cora Thomas, host of WSIV-AM 1540 Gospel Hour
A typical day for Cora Thomas starts at 6:30 a.m., when she takes her mother for dialysis treatments. She spends the next eight hours as office manager for WAER, and as choir director for Second Olivet Baptist Church, 818 S. West St., spends several hours in the evening working with about 100 children ages three to 19.
That’s just her weekday schedule. Thomas, host of Saturday Morning Gospel on WSIV-AM 1540, spends six hours on Saturday mornings at the WSIV radio station in Kirkville. WSIV is a broker station, which means Thomas pays the station in order to host Saturday Morning Gospel. And she spends three hours on Sunday mornings employed by WAER to host Sunday Morning Gospel.
In addition, she somehow finds time in her schedule to serve on committees for the CNY American Diabetes Association, the Black Leadership Commission of Aids, the National Council of Negro Women and the New York State Fair gospel committee. She also organizes events for the community. Recent events included a city wide gospel concert to celebrate her 10th anniversary as host of Saturday Morning Gospel, a fashion show fund-raiser and a gospel bowl-a-thon, to name a few.
“If you are serious about doing something, the Lord will give you strength,” is Thomas’ simple answer to questions about where she gets the energy to keep up with such a full schedule. “I love what I do. It’s the true desire of my heart to be a blessing to others.”
Thomas is also a wife and mother of three, now grown children. Thursday nights are reserved for her husband. It’s the one night of the week where both take time out from their busy schedules to do something special together.
Thomas approaches all of her activities with an unprecedented sense of commitment, energy and enthusiasm.
“I just want to make a difference,” Thomas says. “I want people to know that it is the life you live that the community sees. I hope the community sees in me that I care about people.”
While she loves everything she does, her work on the radio is closest to her heart. She fell into hosting gospel radio quite by accident after visiting her mother in the hospital more than 11 years ago. Her mom asked Thomas to bring a radio so she could listen to her favorite gospel show on WSIV, which she also supported with donations.
“Through my mother, I saw how music soothes,” Thomas says. “When people are in pain, music makes a difference.”
Thomas became involved in WSIV and wound up hosting the Saturday morning show. Her listeners say that the music she plays offers healing and comfort to a diverse audience. More than 1,000 of her listeners showed up to her 10th anniversary celebration last fall at the Greater New Testament Church on South Salina Street.
“Radio is my love,” Thomas says. “I bring in guests from the community, share community announcements and try to keep the community informed of the issues that surround them. During a special segment every week, I send out a special song just for people who are ill, convalescing, discouraged, grieving or going through a rough time. It’s my goal to reassure God’s children that they are never alone and inspire faith in God and his word.”
Twiggy Billue, the Alliance of Communities Transforming Syracuse
When there is a problem, Twiggy Billue believes in taking action rather than waiting for someone else to do something. “If I see a child who is having trouble crossing the street, I’ll jump out of my car and stop traffic,” she says. This direct approach has led to her new job with the Alliance of Communities Transforming Syracuse. It also is the reason she has been named a recipient of the 2002 Unsung Heroes and Heroines Award.
Among Billue’s many community projects is the creation of the Rockland Avenue Neighborhood Association. “We created it because we felt voiceless when it came to neighborhood problems,” she says.
She has also been president of the Shea Middle School Parent-Teacher Organization, coached youth little leagues and basketball at Our Lady of Lourdes Elementary School and has been involved in the Youth Enrichment Opportunity Program.
In 1989, Billue began exploring the issue of infant mortality in the Syracuse community. She was invited by Congressman James Walsh to testify before a Senate subcommittee on infant mortality. The Syracuse Housing Authority adopted a program she wrote to combat infant mortality. The program involved educating parents who lived in zip codes where the rates of infant mortality were the highest about parenting techniques. As a result of her efforts, Billue was offered a job at the Syracuse Community Health Center. She eventually became the center’s member service coordinator, the interim marketing director and a marketing representative for Medicaid managed health care.
Billue has also been involved in efforts to find out why the African American community has a high rate of alcoholism and is a member of the Syracuse Partnership to Reduce Gun Violence trauma response team. Team members go to the scene of violence or trauma in the community to debrief and offer assistance to community members.
Despite her heavy involvement in community organizations, Billue still believes in dealing with problems directly. If a parent calls her because they can’t find their child, Billue will go right out and look for the child. “I believe in the one-on-one community-building approach,” she says.
Maureen Quigley-Kleuber, activist for children with disabilities
Maureen Quigley-Klueber’s favorite mug has the phrase “Success is Loving What You Do” written on it. With that standard, Quigley-Klueber considers herself among the most successful people in the world. She gave up a promising career to devote all of her time to finding ways to help her son, Hank, who was born with a rare genetic disorder, achieve his potential. And she loves what she does.
A professionally trained actress and graduate of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, her life took a sharp detour 11 years ago when doctors diagnosed her newborn son with 5-Q Minus Syndrome. Hank’s DNA is missing the genes he needs for his muscles to develop properly. Communication is extremely difficult for him, as is mobility. He uses a wheelchair and depends on someone else for most of his activities of daily living.
“I barely knew what a chromosome was when Hank was born,” Quigley-Klueber says. “I was an actress. That’s what I knew. I was thrown into a world of hospitals, doctors, therapists-you name it. I was afraid for Hank and for what was going to happen.”
Quigley-Klueber didn’t let the fear win. She became a strong advocate for her son, and along the way, has become a strong advocate for the rights of all children with disabilities. She is past president and a current member of the Parent Advisory Board to Special Education in the Syracuse City School District. She is a parent representative on the district’s Special Education Committee. She lobbies state legislators on behalf of children with disabilities.
She educates teachers, therapists and school administrators about how they can help children with disabilities achieve their potential. Her advocacy has helped blaze a trail for inclusive education in the city school district. Most importantly, she teaches parents how to advocate for their children.
“Many of the concerns I have for Hank, are also the same concerns other parents have for their children with disabilities,” Quigley-Klueber says. “Often, parents are afraid, overwhelmed or they don’t know where to begin to go for help. I try to share what I know, and the things I’ve done, with them. I don’t take ‘no’ for an answer, and I don’t stop until I get heard.”
Quigley-Klueber, whose home is filled with mementos about the life of Martin Luther King Jr., was overwhelmed when she learned she would receive a 2002 Unsung Heroine Award at Syracuse University’s MLK celebration.
“Martin Luther King is my hero,” she says. “Just thinking about his life has helped me get through the rough times in my life after I had Hank. MLK had rocks thrown at him. He was thrown in jail. He didn’t give up, and I won’t either. King’s advocacy had a ripple affect. I don’t think people with physical challenges would be where they are today without him. King opened doors for Hank and for me.”
Trey Hunter, high school senior
Trey Hunter is a senior at Corcoran High School. He plans to attend college after graduating in June and major in business administration. He has been accepted at Allegany College in Maryland and is planning to apply to Morehouse College in Atlanta.
When Hunter learned he would receive a 2002 Unsung Hero award at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, he couldn’t believe it.
“Words cannot describe how I felt,” he says. “It is a huge honor. Thank you is just not enough to say to anybody.”
Like most teenagers, Hunter leads a busy life-going to school, holding down a part-time job and helping with senior class events are among his many activities. When he is not at school or working, he can often be found at his church, the Tucker Missionary Baptist Church, 515 Oakwood Ave., Syracuse, where he works with children through a variety of programs as a mentor, group leader, teacher and peer.
As a member and past-president of the church’s Junior Usher Board, Hunter established an outreach program to provide small gifts and food baskets for residents in nursing homes and others in need during the holidays. Hunter’s youth group also sends cards to people in the congregation who are ill, grieving or having difficulties, and to those who are celebrating birthdays or other special events.
According to Hunter’s pastor, Rev. Leslie J. Johnson II, Hunter can often be found helping senior members of the congregation with daily activities such as shopping, mowing lawns and other household tasks.
“I have seen Trey grow from a bright and cheerful child into the fine young man he is today,” Johnson says. “His determination and selfless giving of his time to help those in need describe how he has embraced the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.”
Hunter is a member of the church’s Youth Board, sings in two of the church’s choirs, and is active in the Youth Ministry program, where he helps organize a variety of activities for children. Most recently, he helped organize the Children/Youth Ministry Christmas Gala. He is also active in the Northeastern District Baptist Association Youth Department, helping to organize meetings, fundraisers and other fellowship activities for the group.
Hunter gives credit for his accomplishments to the support of his grandmother, who raised him, his two brothers and his sister, and to a supportive network of aunts and uncles.
“My family has stood by me 120 percent,” Hunter says. “They have always told me that if I believe in something, they’ll believe in it too. But, most of all, it’s my grandmother who should be applauded. She has always put us kids first. She looks beyond her own needs to do what needs to be done for us. I thank God for putting her in our pathway.”
The African American Male Congress, Syracuse University student group
A commitment to developing leaders among African American male students, and addressing the concerns that cause too many African American males to drop out of Syracuse University after their first year are the things that make the African American Male Congress stand out. They are among the reasons the organization was chosen to receive a 2002 Unsung Heroes and Heroines Award.
“The AAMC is committed to educating and encouraging leaders who, like Dr. King, will use their leadership skills to facilitate change where it is needed at all levels,” says Dean of Student Affairs and Senior Vice President Barry L. Wells in his nomination letter. “During each year of its existence since its founding in 1998, the AAMC has continued its service by focusing on the needs and issues affecting students on the Syracuse University campus and beyond.”
Marcus Nathaniel, a junior in the School of Information Studies and current president of the AAMC, has seen the organization make a difference in his own life. “I came into college kind of quiet,” he says. “Then, as a sophomore, I became secretary of the AAMC, and I’m now president. I see myself growing, becoming a better speaker and leader because of my involvement in this organization.”
All AAMC members must maintain a GPA of 2.75 or better. Each member must also be an active member of another student organization in order to encourage communication and idea sharing throughout campus. The AAMC also encourages continuous learning in order to promote leadership development by having members participate in conferences across the country, including the National Black Student Leadership Conference and the Men of Color Conference.
The AAMC sponsored the Talented Tenth Leadership Institute, a six-week leadership-training program. In order to successfully complete the program, participants were required to make presentations on communication skills and conflict resolution. The organization has also started a peer-mentoring program in which students are paired with those one-year ahead of them and seniors are paired with alumni.
The AAMC was part of the planning and implementation of Dream Week, an annual event focused on the dream and vision of Dr. King. It also encourages its members to participate in the surrounding Syracuse community through volunteer programs at the Wilson Park Community Center, H.W. Smith Elementary School, the Bishop Foery Foundation and the Southwest CommunityCenter.