Ms. Olivia Ojeda Selected as the 2018 Recipient of the Richard E. Herman Leadership Award
We Raise Foundation is pleased to announce that Ms. Olivia Ojeda has been selected as the 2018 Richard E. Herman Leadership Award winner. The Leadership Award recognizes the commitment and service of one leader interrupting the cycles of poverty, violence, and inequality in the United States, whether through their professional work or as a volunteer.
Ojeda is a Youth Re-Entry Case Manager for Straight Ahead Ministries, Worcester, Mass. After spending most of her teen years locked up in juvenile detention centers, Ojeda brings both experience and passion to her work with girls in and coming out of juvenile detention.
Working with girls in lockup, sometimes in the same juvenile detention centers where she was once locked up, Ojeda brings the redeeming message of the Gospel to offer juvenile offenders an opportunity for a new direction and a new life. After they are released and return to their communities, Ojeda continues to work one-on-one with the girls, not only to grow in their faith, but also to build their new lives through assistance with housing, education, employment, and restoring broken relationships.
Ojeda established Breaking Bread, a community service program that gives formerly incarcerated youth the opportunity to build relationships with and support neighbors struggling with poverty and homelessness in their community by preparing and serving healthy meals, and distributing seasonal clothing, hygiene products, and other essentials.
This approach interrupts the cycles of poverty, violence, and inequality by seeing the image of God in all, by building community connections, and by providing leadership opportunities for young women who are often considered a risk by others, overlooked, and never given those chances.
Prior to joining the staff of Straight Ahead Ministries in November 2016, Ojeda completed a two-year youth work internship program. She is currently attending Quinsigamond Community College, Worcester, Mass., with a focus in criminal justice.
“I am excited about the growth in leadership opportunities this award provides for me in the work I do,” Ojeda said. “Receiving this award signifies to me how God is able to transform and use a broken life and put it into a place of leadership. It validates that I am walking in the purpose He had for me before I was born.”
Ojeda was selected by a panel of ministry practitioners, all with passion for and expertise related to alleviating poverty, violence, and inequality. The expert panel reviewed finalists from a pool of applicants from communities across the country. Applicants each submitted a video that articulated how their unique work was alleviating systems of poverty.
“I’m impressed by the deep investments Olivia is making in the women she’s pouring into,” said Lisa Sharon Harper, Founder and President, FreedomRoad.us. “She is giving them a sense of agency and capacity for them to grow up and become leaders. Think about what those women will do collectively for their neighborhoods and for the world.”
In recognition for her work in interrupting the cycles of poverty, violence, and inequality, Ojeda will receive a cash award of $4,000 and an invitation to gather with other inspired emerging leaders at the We Raise Foundation Emerging Leader Convening, to network, learn and reflect, hosted and paid for by We Raise. She also joined We Raise staff at the Christian Community Development Association National Conference, Nov. 1-3, 2018, in Chicago.
The Leadership Award was established in honor of Dr. Richard Herman, We Raise Foundation’s fourth president (2006-2015), a passionate supporter and encourager of young adult Christian leaders.
About We Raise Foundation
We Raise Foundation identifies innovative ideas, people, and programs that raise consciousness, community leadership, and capital. Motivated by the belief that freedom is grace in action (Galatians 5:1a), We Raise provides grants and assistance with resource development to organizations that work at the intersection of poverty, violence, and inequality. We Raise supports Christian nonprofit organizations and emerging leaders and has a preference for funding solutions within the areas of education, workforce development, and criminal justice. To learn more, please visit weraise.org. You can also find We Raise on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.