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The 2023 Dirk Tillotson and Rachel Henry-Willis Awards

In late August, FIA hosted an awards ceremony to celebrate the legacies of Dirk Tillotson and Rachel Henry-Willis. It was wonderful to gather with the friends and families of these two amazing leaders who left us far too soon and were foundational to the founding of FIA and the values we lead by every day. Big thank you to Lighthouse for hosting us!

The four award winners were selected by the families of Dirk and Rachel. Scroll down to watch videos of each of their amazing speeches.

You can view more photos from the awards on Facebook.

Larissa Adam — Dirk Tillotson Education Advocate Award 

“One could certainly despair every single day, looking at the outcomes in Oakland. But this is the legacy of Dirk: a never-failing belief that we will disrupt the predictable patterns of power, and privilege and opportunity. We will act with unrelenting discipline to confront the brutal facts of the dismal way that the education system in Oakland has served our children and families. And I promise to keep carrying on that legacy.”

Watch on YouTube

Viveca Ycoy-Walton — Rachel Willis-Henry Parent Advocate Award 

“I’m going to continue to honor Rachel’s legacy by continuing to fight for our children, and inspire other parents to use their voice and their power to do the same. Cox Academy is in Deep East Oakland and it’s a lot of Spanish-speaking parents. A lot of them don’t feel like they’re welcomed, they don’t know how to exist in the same room if you’re speaking English. I brought them along with me and every time I had an opportunity, it wasn’t, ‘what can Viveca do to lead’ because yeah, I can lead it. But no, ‘give this person a speaking spot, she’s going to be good at asking these questions.’ The parents started realizing that they weren’t voiceless, that they just needed to use their voice in the right way.”

Watch on YouTube

Katya Caballero — Rachel Willis-Henry Parent Advocate Honorable Mention 

“For me, it is very important to be able to leave an inheritance to my children, but it is better to be able to leave a legacy, and I see no better way to do it than by being an example to them. My dream is that my children, Camila and Christian, see that I raised my voice demanding what every Oakland student deserves. I want my children to have empathy and never stop fighting for them and others who may not have a voice.”

Watch on YouTube

Maurice Williams — Dirk Tillotson Education Advocate Award honorable mention 

“I dedicate this to my mom because she was a strong advocate of education. Not because she was educated in that particular sense, but because she did not graduate from high school, and had me when she was 18 years old. I dedicated this to my mom as well because, in my entire K-12 experience, I attended 12 different schools. In the midst of that, I became the first of my family to go to college, from Oakland High School, HBCU, Pepperdine, USC, and God-willing, getting my doctorate degree pretty soon. But the long and short of all of this, though, is I don’t do all of this for myself.I do it for the students.”

Watch on YouTube

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