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African-American Achievers honored by JM Enterprises

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Vern Dooling believes there are no bad kids.

“If every family would … provide guidance and leadership, many of the problems we see now would go away,” said Dooling.

Dooling has guided children all of his adult life. For the last 17 years, he has worked with youth through the Boys & Girls Clubs of Broward County, where he is the area senior director.

JM Family Enterprises will honor Dooling and four others as African-American achievers tonight at the Broward County Convention Center. The ceremony is dedicated to the late Jim Moran, who passed away in April. This is the first African-American Achievers awards ceremony since he died.

Dooling said a diagnosis of cancer renewed his sense of the value of life. He reacted by practicing what he has told kids for decades— to stop feeling sorry for himself and accept help from people around him.

He has been cancer free for three years, which he considers his greatest personal accomplishment. Professionally, Dooling measures success when he sees kids in his program do well.

“I realized three years ago when I was going through chemo that I had to do what I’d told the kids all my life. ‘Hold your head up,'” Dooling said.

“I thought I was teaching kids but I was the biggest student,” he said. “They were teaching me.”

Dooling said the students taught him to keep an open mind and to give even when you think you’ve got nothing to give.

“Through small successes comes positive change,” Dooling said.

George L. Burrows Sr., became Fort Lauderdale’s first black licensed master electrician in 1948, despite segregation.

Over 60 years, the Burrows Electric Company has installed service to more than 90 percent of the African-American community in Fort Lauderdale and unincorporated Broward County.

Burrows also has served as a mentor to countless young men who wanted to become electricians.

But his pride is the lighting on the Dillard High School football field. He installed it so the team can play night games. Daisy Odom Fulton has a passion for serving Delray Beach.

“I love to make people aware of our culture,” she said. “It brings riches to my life.”

Fulton is executive director of the Spady Cultural Heritage Museum, which is dedicated to preserving the area’s black history.

The museum is in the former home of Solomon D. Spady, the leading African-American educator in the area from 1922 to 1957.

Fulton became the museum’s executive director in 2001. Since then, she has overseen an increase in its budget from $60,000 to more than $600,000, raised another $500,000 to expand the building, and developed new exhibits, programs and events that attract 15,000 visitors each year.

“The significance of what we offer crosses all cultures,” said Fulton. “We play a major role in race relations. It gives us the opportunity to learn about our culture and others find it is similar to theirs.”

Fulton was born in Georgia in 1946 , but was raised in Delray Beach and graduated from Carver High School, which was segregated at the time.

“I am overwhelmed with joy that some people think enough of me to nominate me,” Fulton said in an interview. “I am so honored JM Enterprises chose me.”

Andrea Kilpatrick parlayed her degrees in African-American studies from Princeton, education from Oxford, and law from Harvard into Cool Kids Learn Inc.

The Miami nonprofit serves more than 2,000 at-risk students a year. Through mentoring, tutoring and recreation, it teaches students skills that improve test scores and grades.

Gregory Lewis can be reached at glewis@sun-sentinel.com or 954-356-4203.

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Written by Symphony

March 28, 2008 at 6:00 pm

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