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'Dreamers, Visionaries and Leaders' of Victor Valley earn honors

Fifth year of program sees 107 honored and four scholarships established

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's Jr. "I Have a Dream" speech, "Dreamers, Visionaries and Leaders" gathered to be honored at the fifth anniversary tribute event at Victor Valley College Performing Arts Center on Saturday.

“I do a lot of events, but this one is very, very special,” Rep. Paul Cook, R-Yucca Valley, of California’s 8th Congressional District said.

Cook presented the “In Memorial” Tributes. Four honorees had Memorial Scholarships established in their names and living family members were on hand to receive the honors on their behalf.

“I think (today is) a tribute to not only everyone here but also the college and the communities of the High Desert,” Cook said.

Founded in 2009 by Regina Weatherspoon-Bell, the Dreamers, Visionaries and Leaders Project honors individuals in the High Desert communities who contribute to American History. The project has honored 107 people and for the first time at Saturday's event, established four $500 annual scholarships to be awarded to three local students and one nonprofit organization starting next year.

The four extraordinary individuals whose legacies will live on through their established scholarships were Dr. Gerard Brown, Bishop Nathaniel Ruffin, Leona Griner and Jackie Wilson.

“I had to come to honor my daddy,” Zaneta Ruffin said. “He will always be my daddy.”

Zaneta Ruffin's is youngest daughter and flew out from Ohio to receive her father's award.

“He was a big legacy and a big icon in the Victor Valley area. Daddy had touched so many peoples' lives,” Ruffin said.

There was time when her daddy would not be home because he was helping less fortunate children.

“Now I understand that, and I’m totally grateful for what he did,” she said. “This is one of daddy’s favorite months of the year because it was honoring African Americans, but at the same time ... it’s not just us (African Americans), we honor other people as well, and that is what he wanted.”

Brown, also had a scholarship established in his name. A U.S. Air Force veteran, he had participated in the Freedom March, vowed to be a lifelong student and gave the Victor Valley 30 years of public service.

His daughter, Melanie Ajanwachuku, was on hand to accept the honor. She spoke about how one of his favorite programs is the Victor Valley Chamber of Commerce “Read to Me” program.

“His motto: education first, education always; the way to a better life,” Ajanwachuku said.

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