News / News + Updates

Feeling of Joy in the Air: 2023 Brother Mike Awards

  • CLX Staff

On September 19, 2023 at Second City, the Chicago Learning Exchange (CLX) hosted the 2023 Brother Mike Awards–a night dedicated to honoring excellence in mentorship and the immeasurable impact Chicago mentors have in young people’s lives.

Since 2019, CLX--in collaboration with our partners at Digital Youth Network, Chicago Public Library’s YOUmedia, and SocialWorks-- has hosted the Brother Mike Awards to give $5,000 in no-strings-attached financial resources to an outstanding out-of-school-time mentor working with youth in Chicago. These awards are named in honor of CLX founding member and mentor to many Chicago youth, the late Mike Hawkins, better known as “Brother Mike.”

This year we received nominations for 36 mentors–the most in the award’s history! CLX works year-round with many of these mentors and we know that they don’t do this work for recognition, but we believe it’s important to invest in, spotlight, and support the influential people that support youth. The Brother Mike Awards is one opportunity to celebrate these mentors each year.

And, boy, could you feel the joy in the air at the Awards this year. It was clear from the smiles of the guests, to the bass-pumping dance jams filling the room, to the colorful bouquets of flowers in nominees’ hands, and more.

The night started with a VIP reception where we could raise a glass with nominees to kick off the program. As attendees filled the sold-out room for the main event, the electric feeling was further amped up by our MC, PHENOM, a longtime Chicago-based youth development leader and 2019 inaugural Brother Mike Award winner. Nia Singletary, SocialWorks OPEN MIKE participant, followed up by sharing a riveting poem about Mr. Mentor and Mrs. Mentor entitled, “The Greatest Love of All.”

This year’s main act was when CLX announced the three winners of the 2023 Brother Mike Awards!

Our first award, supported by supported by an anonymous donor, was designated for an emerging mentor, someone who has been developing their mentorship practice for less than five years. The winner of this award was Arinique Allen, the Project 3rd Space Manager with SkyART.

We were excited to have the opportunity to give an award, supported by Julia Stasch and Connie Yowell, that recognized the dedication and contributions of mentors to our own CLX community by being designated for an active CLX Member Organization. This award was given to Maricela Ramírez, who works with Marwen as the Manager of Youth Pathway Programs.

Finally, with the support of SocialWorks, we were able to award the 2023 Brother Mike Award to a mentor whose work speaks daily to the values and practices at the center of Brother Mike’s practice—those of racial equity, social justice, love for young people and belief in their potential. This award went to l o t i walker, the Senior Manager of Teen Programs at Adler Planetarium.

Following the awards, we featured an electrifying and heartfelt performance from ” Che “Rhymefest” Smith who shared this message with the audience,

“A teacher [mentor] influences, guides, and help you rise to your highest potential…and a lot of times we do this work and we don’t always know where it came from within us.”

See a recap on @CLXchange’s Instagram page.

Sana Jafri, CLX’s Executive Director closed out the evening, “If we had all the money in the world, we would give everyone of these 35 nominees an award because we know the work they are doing is so important and is essential!”

CLX was excited to grow the awards from one to three this year and looks forward to building on the joy in the future!

See below for a full list of all the nominees:

Aaron Williams, CHAMPS

Abhi Shrestha, Steppenwolf Theatre

Afrika Porter, Afrika Enterprises/ Afrika Cares

Alina Hernandez, Chicago Youth Boxing Club – ASM Ring Leaders

Apostle Dr. Darris Lewis, Temple of Praise Apostolic Faith Ministries

Arinique Allen, SkyART

Wajeeha Ariya Siddiqui, IMAN: Inner-City Muslim Action Network

Ayana Chavis, Art Institute of Chicago

B. Lamar Scates, G.R.O.W.T.H Mens Wellness Program LLC

Brianne Caplan, Code Your Dreams

Charles Miles, Youth Guidance

Deon Grace, South Holland Youth

Derious Devante’ Braswell, Chicago Debates and YNPN Chicago

Dushunda M Jefferson- Henderson, Chicago Youth Centers

Eboni Sloane, Chicago Public Schools

Elaine "Coach M" Marthel, Project Impact 180

Evan D Robinson, By the Hand & BUILD

Gabriel Calderon, Erie Neighborhood House

Jamie L. Enge, The Collegiate Black Male Network

Jenn Thompson, Noteworthy Youth

Jesus Contreras Jr., Villapalooza

Jorge Alaves, Lindblom Math and Science Academy - Chicago Public Schools

l o t i walker, Adler Planetarium

Larry Potts, Youth Guidance

LaTanya Johnson, LaTanya & The Youth of Englewood

Louis Carr, Louis Carr Foundation

Maricela Ramírez, Marwen

Mario Mena, National Museum of Mexican Art/Yollocalli Arts Reach

Marquiesha R Grant, Marillac St. Vincent Family Services

Michael Neal, Timothy Community Corporation

Nichole "Nikki B." Bruce, Youth Guidance

Ray Scott, We As People LLC

Ronda Flowers Gibson, Ronda’s Ridiculous Foods, LLC

Sam Carroll, McGaw YMCA, Evanston

Steve Thomas, S.T.R.I.D.E

Y. Blak Moore, Y.U.R.W.I.