Dr. Stephens wins Cultural Jambalaya award

Equity development coordinator recognized for work in Park community

Dr. Stephens wins Cultural Jambalaya award

Alicia Mainjeni

Every year, Cultural Jambalaya — a non profit organization — grants a diversity award to resource educators who promote multiculturalism and diversity. 

When granted the award, equity development coordinator Dr. Lee-Ann Stephens said she felt like an impactful educator because her efforts are changing school structure.

“It was exceptionally validating because of all the push back with not talking about race in schools and not making people uncomfortable (when) talking about racism,” Stephens said. “It was just affirmation and validation that the work that we’re doing is touching lives.”

Kaelyn Dagon, achievement and support coordinator, said Stephens is beyond deserving of the award.

“She’s more than deserving because she uplifts the voices in this school that are not always heard,” Dagon said. “She makes everyone believe in themselves and in the leaders that they are. This award was well deserved.” 

Senior Asha Mohamed said Stephens forms relationships with her students and provides an enriching learning experience.

“She really cares about everyone and she does more than just teach. She tries to know you beyond academics,” Mohamed said.

Dagon said she commends Stephens for her leadership and recognizes the effect she has on the Park community.

“She has such a presence, not only on the students of this school but the staff as well. She’s always looking out for everybody, wants to make sure everybody’s good,” Dagon said. “She is a respectable person who has done so much for the St. Louis Park community and the students here. She’s a very admirable woman.”

Stephens said students are the reason she has hope for the future and they are a large contributor to her work ethic.

“Students inspire me to do what I do. I don’t know if I have a lot of hope for people my age, but I have so much hope (for) students,” Stephens said. “They inspire me every single day, I do what I do because of them. I wouldn’t have gotten the award if it hadn’t been for the work that the students have been doing.”

Mohamed said she admires Stephens’ efforts to improve inclusivity within Students Organized Against Racism (SOAR) and teach students about concepts beyond racial identity.

“With SOAR, everybody is in there, not just black students. It’s nice to see all the POC’s and white kids in SOAR,” Mohamed said. “She is teaching us beyond race and making sure that we all know we can be a part of anti-racism work even if we’re not black.”

Stephens said she hopes her work instills life long values in students and that they learn and grow from the guidance she gives.

“I hope my work has an impact on students and on teachers in the community. I hope that the students are able to take what I’m able to share with them beyond these four walls,” Stephens said. “(I hope they) take it with (them) whenever they graduate and still have those principles and that commitment to anti-racism.”