2017 IGR Outstanding Alumni Award recipient: Kevin Trimell Jones

May 1, 2017

IGR presented the 2017 Outstanding Alumni Award (OAA) to Kevin Trimell Jones at IGR's Graduation Celebration. Below is a short biography of Kevin's numerous and ongoing accomplishments.  

Originally from Detroit, Michigan, Kevin completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan, earned a Master’s of Education from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and a Master’s of Public Health from the University of Pennsylvania. He lives in Washington, D.C.

For over 15 years, Kevin Jones has been working to build the capacity of residents, students, organizations and government stakeholders to design, implement and evaluate community-based strategies that make a profound influence on the communities that they serve. 

Kevin currently serves as the Executive Director of the Urban Coalition for HIV/AIDS Prevention Services. Since 1998, UCHAPS has been essential in facilitating an urban response to address the unique needs, challenges and opportunities in its nine jurisdictions. This work is accomplished by the selfless work of its health department and community members and the UCHAPS team. 

Previously serving as the Chief of Programs for the DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative, Kevin was responsible for identifying and nurturing program development opportunities. From the identification of service gaps to the building of strategic partnerships, Kevin’s leadership ensures the quality and timely delivery of all DCPNI programs.

Kevin has an unyielding passion for examining the impact of strategies for youth and families, substance users and LGBT communities in local, national and international settings. His entire career has been organized around these key issue areas.

Prior to his role as Chief of Programs, Kevin was DCPNI’s Chief of Data and Evaluation. In this role, he provided oversight for the collection, aggregation, analysis and dissemination of individual, program and community level data that ultimately guided 17 partners funded to serve DCPNI’s community. 

Kevin has held roles at Metro TeenAIDS (now of Whitman-Walker Health), The University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, the Public Health Management Corporation, and The Institute for Community Research. 

Below is the full text of Kevin's remarks and address to the 2017 graduates:

To the graduating seniors, families, friends, and IGR staff – I’m excited to be with you today. When I graduated from the University of Michigan 17 years ago, I did not think I would be invited back – at least not for this type of recognition.

Throughout undergrad, I identified as a student activist – and, at times, more of an activist than a student. Sometimes, by any means necessary, I found opportunities to join others in addressing campus issues that affected our ability to learn and live as students.

As a founding member of the Students of Color Coalition, we kept many University Administrators and student group leaders on their toes – especially during our 37-day occupation of the third-floor tower of the student union.  

Many of us were graduating seniors – or had been enrolled for 4 years. This was going to be our final stand, our grand gesture to bring monumental awareness and hopefully change for issues we were trying to have addressed. That Sunday morning, in February 2000, when we gained access to the Tower, I figured we would only be there for a few days, perhaps a week. But what we saw and what we found, including a University that was unwilling to engage in meaningful dialogue, created an opportunity for a student-guided pop-up museum for learning – long before pop-ups were a thing.

Yes…37 days! 37 days pale in comparison to the half century legacy of Students of Color organizing to bring attention to low enrollment, retention and graduation rates of students of color – as well as a number of issues affecting diversity, equity and inclusion.

I vividly remember the August morning in 1995 when my twin brother and I left the Westside of Detroit to begin our journeys in Ann Arbor. As a first-generation college student, I did not arrive with a road map to help guide me toward academic success. Instead, my compass was this nagging feeling that I was attending this great institution, a place of many privileges…that the mass majority of my high school classmates – and many others who look like me – would not get to experience due to social inequalities.

Of everything I learned on campus, the Program on Intergroup Relations offered tools and an approach to address social inequalities. My instructors at the time, Jackie Simpson and Dr. Ruby Beale, helped me understand the roles of recognition and dialogue in dismantling systems: [one] that conflicting parties must be able to recognize the existence of one another before meaningful change can take place; and, [two] engaging in sustained dialogue can help disrupt the status quo.

The Tower provided an opportunity to put these lessons in practice, and I still reflect and incorporate them in my work today. Currently, I work with a great community-based non-profit organization -- DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative. As one of 18 sites funded by the US Department of Education, our goal is to design and implement programming that helps students throughout their educational and career pathways so that they are successful and a key to ending multigenerational poverty.

Family and community engagement are central to our work, as their knowledge and input are key to building the most effective and efficient program models. We know that it is essential to recognize family and community members and create opportunities for dialogue that will help clarify intentions, motivations, plans and even possible solutions.

Through sustained dialogues, we ultimately align our intentions, push aside certain misconceptions, and honor the experiences in each person’s journey. The process is often messy, but worth it. Together, we build program models that work.

With these strategies, we are disrupting what has been: isolated families, fragmented services, and sustained conflicts; to help usher meaningful changes: families and neighbors that feel supported, less barriers to important services, and more students graduating from high school and enrolling in colleges and universities.

Today, I encourage each of you to continue to be disruptive for the cause of social justice, and use proudly the tools that you learned or honed at IGR. The world outside of the University, at least as I have found it, is still in disarray. Yet, by participating in IGR, we have the tools to dismantle what is not working and create something better. There are future generations of Wolverines – poor students, students of color, LGBT students, as well as students of privilege – that will build on the foundation of our work. Always keep them in mind, as you continue your commitment to the University of Michigan.

It is truly an honor to accept the 2017 Outstanding Alumni Award from the University of Michigan’s Program on Intergroup Relations…for being disruptive.

Learn more about how to apply for the IGR Outstanding Alumni Award here.