Dr. George Whitehead is known as many things — Salisbury University professor of psychology, former Wicomico County Board of Education president, ShoreCorps/PALS project director, Rotary Club of Salisbury member and Salisbury’s Promise chair, among them.
Within all of these positions, one theme is clear: his passion for serving youth.
Under Whitehead’s leadership, the Salisbury-Wicomico County area was named one of the America’s Promise Alliance’s “100 Best Communities for Youth” six times. With the award, he founded the Wicomico Youth Leadership Academy (YLA) in 2006. The annual program has provided leadership training opportunities for hundreds of middle and high school students in the county.
Now, those students have shown their appreciation in a big way. In a surprise announcement during the academy’s 10th-anniversary celebration on Friday, August 7, Derek Wu, who helped form the first Youth Leadership Academy session, announced Whitehead as a national Daily Points of Light Award winner for his decade of work with the YLA. Whitehead was nominated by the academy and its co-director, Paula Morris of SU’s Management and Marketing Department. The Points of Light Foundation will officially bestow the honor in September.
Former YLA members erupted with cheers at the announcement, marking the occasion with a standing ovation punctuated by glow necklaces and other illuminated novelties, representing the light that Whitehead shined into their lives.
Following their involvement with the academy, many have gone on to enroll in college, complete master’s degrees, join the military, and take on additional leadership roles in the community and beyond. They have interned on Capitol Hill, served on the Maryland State Board of Education and even carried the Olympic torch.
“They’ve used their experience from the YLA to reach beyond our community,” said Morris.
For some, the YLA paved their first step on the path to leadership, with Whitehead serving as a quiet role model.
“You’ll never hear him talk about the work he puts in,” said Morris, a past Daily Points of Light Award winner. “The past and future success of the YLA lies in community collaboration. Bringing together varying stakeholders requires coordination. George seems to be the common thread.
He is the moneyman. He makes certain funding is in place each year. Quietly, he finds the funding and support in our community for our youth. I only hope that someday I can humbly serve our community in a way that emulates my friend and mentor, Dr. George Whitehead.”
The award is a capstone for Whitehead’s involvement with the academy. Both he and Morris have announced their retirement from the YLA after this year.
Daily Points of Light Awards recognize volunteers who provide long-term educational, safety and service opportunities in local communities. President George Bush implemented the Daily Points of Light program in 1989, recognizing more than 1,000 volunteers nationwide through 1993. The program was reinstated in 1998.
For more information call 410-543-6030 or visit the SU website at www.salisbury.edu.