‘Living the Dream’ Award Lauds Service 1/19/18 01/19/18 3:48:57 PM
Printer Friendly Version
‘Living the Dream’ Award Lauds Service
By Lorraine Boyd
The Daily Record
At the annual joint city-county observance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on January 12, three individuals – two law enforcement officers and a community leader – were recognized for their achievements.
The “Living the Dream” award was presented to Deputy Omaha Police Chief Greg Gonzalez, Douglas County Corrections Officer Tanya Burnside and longtime community leader Tommie Wilson.
Franklin Thompson, director of Omaha’s Human Rights and Relations Department, presented the first award to Gonzalez. He oversees the Executive Services Division, which includes training and recruitment. He was instrumental in creating the PACE program, which offers mentoring through athletics to at-risk youth. In 2005, the Latino Peace Officers Association created PACE (Police Athletics for Community Engagement). The program has grown to serve over 2,500 Omaha youth.
“This award is about people and that’s why it’s special to me,” said Chief Gonzalez. “I owe it to Dr. King to make the Omaha Police Department a better police force than when I joined. One day at a time, by building trust and galvanizing relationships, we will become one team.”
When Lt. George Merithew nominated Gonzalez he wrote: “He is an executor and a game-changer who demands fair representation and treatment in and outside his workplace. His values and ethics echo Martin Luther King’s hope for higher standards, just treatment, hope and inclusivity.”
Gonzalez has served the citizens of Omaha for 23 years.
“These awards are especially meaningful because they come from our peers,” said Mayor Jean Stothert. “Each nomination describes a person with a passion for service, a commitment to fairness and equality, and a goal to make our community the model for diversity and inclusivity. I am very proud to work beside others who inspire us to do better and be better, not once a year in celebration of Dr. King, but as a way of life.”
Corporal Tanya Burnside has worked for the Douglas County Department of Corrections since 2006. She is currently a work release officer for the department.
Karen Buche, director of Douglas County Human Resources, presented the award to Burnside, who was recognized in part for her compassion, vision and work on the No Bars project. The project helps at-risk youths avoid incarceration and limits their exposure to violence.
Her nominator wrote: “Tanya works diligently to promote a diverse work environment. Her vision includes everyone having the opportunity to achieve their personal goals and maximize their contribution to any organization.”
Twenty-two city and county employees were nominated for the awards.
Civil rights veteran Tommie Wilson was honored with the community award for her tireless efforts to promote diversity and inclusivity.
Wilson was a musical prodigy who grew up in segregated Nacogdoches, Texas, graduated from high school at 15, and earned a teaching degree in music from Texas Southern University. She and her husband were recruited to teach here by Omaha Public Schools in their effort to provide a more diverse body of teachers. She was tireless in her efforts to prevent segregation in the schools as well as her ongoing fight for civil rights.
In accepting her award, Wilson spoke of her efforts and her hope that the fight for human rights would continue. The seasoned teacher had no trouble capturing the audience and inspiring everyone with her passion and humor.
The awardees’ accomplishments were all shining examples of the message delivered in the keynote address by James Hunter that was part speech, part rousing sermon.
“Aspire to inspire. That’s our theme,” Hunter said. “Throughout his life, Martin Luther King Jr. was frequently faced with the very worst that people had to offer one another. But rather than give in, he chose to aspire to inspire.”
“Omaha is a special place,” said Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer. “Martin Luther King would be proud of our relationships and how we all work together to solve our issues.”