Dawn Demps, mother, crusader, organizer, speaker, artist and life student, is a Flint native that has been involved with community advocacy since 12 years old. Following in her mother’s footsteps, she started out in summer outreach programs and soon developed her own youth initiative called “Eyes on the Prize” that uses the fine arts to reach out to resource denied young people in urban communities to help them reach their full potential academically, emotionally, and creatively. She utilizes her own lived experiences to understand how youth can feel disconnected from their elders and the community and to conceptualize the devices needed to keep them anchored to success.
8 years after dropping out of high school and the subsequent birth of her first child, Dawn entered a community college and continued on to complete her studies at the University of Michigan-Flint as a double major in Africana Studies and Social Sciences with a concentration in sociology with honors. Noting the profound effect education has had on her life, she started a student organization on the University campus, The Shariki Group, dedicated to serving as a bridge between academia and the citizens of Flint.
Dawn formerly served as the Director of Youth, Education and Community Projects for the Urban League of Flint and served nearly 400 youth every year through various initiatives. Some of her most recent endeavors have included collaborations with nationally renowned scholars and innovators such as: Educational sociologist, Dr. Pedro Noguera, environmental justice crusader, Majora Carter, Dr. Tyrone Howard, UCLA educator and author and non-violence advocate and Hip-Hop legend KRS-One.
She was most recently the Executive Director of the Urban Center for Post-Secondary Access and Success (UPASS) and the Beecher Scholarship Incentive Program which helped students successfully navigate high school and tackle postsecondary challenges and opportunities.
Some of her past awards and honors have included: The 2006 Myron and Margaret Winegarden Scholar, 2007 University of Michigan-Ann Arbor Center for the Education of Women Margaret Dow Towsley Scholar, 2007 Juan E. Mestas Scholar for Academic Excellence, 2008 Michigan Campus Compact Heart and Soul Award Recipient and a 2008 Dr. Charlie Nelms Community Contribution Award Nominee. She was the Louis Stokes Fellow at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and attended Marygrove College for a Masters in Social Justice. Her work focused on Educational Equity and Access for Disenfranchised Youth. She is currently a PhD student of Education Policy and Evaluation at the Mary Lou Fulton Teacher’s College of Arizona State University where she is studying the history of student exclusionary policies and practices against minoritized populations and the resulting community responses.
Dawn believes the difficulties that presently face oppressed communities are more complex than the band-aid policies of current and past leadership. “We need to fully understand how issues of agency, race, gender, and class intertwine underneath a tarp of economic and governmental policies that effectually promote or prohibit the life chances of all groups to succeed.”