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Seven students to receive OU’s Keeper of the Dream Award

Lisa Leslie to serve as keynote speaker for Jan. 20 event

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published January 15, 2020

 The 2020 Keeper of the Dream Award recipients include, from the left, Zakia Ali-James, Jennifer Medrano Delacruz, Maya Ford, Mikal O’Neal, Raneen Allos, Donovan Hernandez and Isaias Cruz.

The 2020 Keeper of the Dream Award recipients include, from the left, Zakia Ali-James, Jennifer Medrano Delacruz, Maya Ford, Mikal O’Neal, Raneen Allos, Donovan Hernandez and Isaias Cruz.

Photo provided by Oakland University


ROCHESTER HILLS — Seven Oakland University students will be recognized for their work in breaking down racial and cultural barriers during the university’s annual Keeper of the Dream Scholarship Awards Celebration.

Slated for 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Jan. 20 in the Oakland Center Founders Ballrooms on OU’s campus, the event pays tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for his pioneering work on behalf of civil rights, according to OU officials. Established in 1993, the event also awards $5,000 scholarships to OU undergraduates who have contributed to King’s legacy by breaking down racial and cultural barriers.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to celebrate Dr. King Day in the spirit of Dr. King, in terms of education and contributions to improving race relations. This is an opportunity to recognize students who are ideal in that regard, who have exemplified the principles and the values of Dr. King, and it is an excellent opportunity to come and see those students, hear their stories, and also get a message from someone who is a leader in the community,” said Omar Brown-El, the senior director of the Center for Multicultural Initiatives at Oakland University.

Raneen Allos, a senior at OU who has worked for the university’s Center for Multicultural Initiatives for three years, has been involved in planning the Keeper of the Dream event for numerous years.

“A lot of my friends have won this award, so it was always something I held at a very high esteem. I always looked up at the people who were winning, and I wanted to strive to also be a part of the Keeper of the Dream winners group,” she said.

Allos is one of seven students who OU officials said will be awarded a scholarship during the event for “demonstrating exceptional leadership qualities through their involvement on campus and in the community by breaking down racial and cultural stereotypes and promoting unity.”

Other 2020 Keeper of the Dream Award recipients include Zakia Ali-James, Isaias Cruz, Maya Ford, Donovan Hernandez, Jennifer Medrano Delacruz and Mikal O’Neal.

“To win Keeper of the Dream stands for students who truly care about other people,” Allos said. “We really care about making Oakland the best place possible. I love that we are all involved in very different ways in the university … because we are able to make campus more inclusive, more diverse, create that actual family feel, and address issues that are present in the campus in different ways.”

This year’s event — which is free and open to the public — will feature keynote speaker Lisa Leslie, a four-time Olympic gold medalist and three-time WNBA MVP who led the Los Angeles Sparks to league championships in 2001 and 2002. Upon retiring, she became a co-owner of the Los Angeles Sparks, received her master’s degree in business and became an author, releasing her first book, “Don’t Let the Lipstick Fool You.” She became a commentator for ESPN in 2004, covering the NCAA Women’s Tournament, and covered the 2012 Summer Olympics for NBC. In 2016, she wrote her second book, “From the Court to the Boardroom.” Currently, she’s an in-studio co-host of CBS’ first all-female sports talk show, “We Need to Talk.”

Brown-El said he’s looking forward to having Leslie on campus because she has “displayed strong leadership and dedication to the community.”

“We thought that she would be an excellent choice to speak to young people about the value of education and leadership and our roles in the community,” he said.

The Keeper of the Dream Award Celebration is free and open to the public. Doors open at 10:30 a.m., and the program starts at 11:30 a.m. Brown-El said the event is at capacity each year.

“Our seating capacity is 800-850, and for those who are not able to get in that space, we will have an overflow room with a monitor and other resources available for guests to view the ceremony,” he noted.

This year’s event is sponsored by Oakland University Credit Union, Autoliv, Flagstar Bank, Willis Towers Watson, Meritor, the OU Alumni Association, the Marshall Family Scholar Foundation, the Lynne and Lia McIntosh Scholarship, KeyBank, and St. Joseph Mercy Health Systems Oakland.

For more information, contact the Center for Multicultural Initiatives at or at (248) 370-4404.