Current winners Alexis S. Harris-Dyer and Kofi A. Hopps (left) and 2014 winners Jordan Wallace and Aaron Smith with Superintendent Eric Witherspoon. The painting is of Tiff Rice and Dajae Coleman. RoundTable photo

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The Dajae Coleman Foundation (DC3F) held its second annual Achievement Award Ceremony on May 3 at Skylight in Evanston.

Alexis S. Harris-Dyer and Kofi A. Hopps received the award in recognition of their leadership in the community. Their winning essays, combined with good grades and teacher recommendations, earned them the awards and a $1000 scholarship toward their secondary education.

DC3F established the annual award to recognize two African-American freshmen students at Evanston Township High School who honor the values articulated by Dajae’s life and ethics.

In his final Humanities paper, Dajae expressed the skills a young person needed to become an honorable member of society. That belief statement became the foundation DC3F uses to guide its initiatives and programming.

“Dajae recognized the problem in our community … and provided the cure,” said Tiffany Rice, Dajae’s mother and founder of DC3F. In his paper, Dajae identified support from family and friends as keys to success. “I think the kids that are on the street not doing anything with their lives don’t get the type of support they need from family. They probably don’t have anyone to look up to,” wrote Dajae.

In September 2012, Dajae Coleman, a 14-year-old Evanston Township High School student, was gunned down by a known gang member in a case of mistaken identity. Ms. Rice created the Dajae Coleman Foundation, or DC3F, in 2013 to honor her son’s memory and help others in the community. The 3 in the foundation name comes from Dajae’s Evanston Pride basketball jersey number.

The non-profit DC3F “provides Evanston’s youth with the opportunity to maximize their potential by creating an informed and mobilized environment, which aims to enhance their quality of life, and develop them into men and women of integrity.

“DC3F offers programs that motivate the youth and instill positive values that help to guide them. It is DC3F’s mission to uplift, encourage, empower, and reward our youth,” according to its website.

Excerpts From the Winning Essays

“”I’m 14 and I don’t know what my purpose in life is yet. I believe with the encouragement of my family and the Evanston community and the DC3F that I can achieve great things in the years to come. In order to accomplish this, I plan on promoting kindness and non-violence by continuing to be involved through organizations like this and others that promote success through teens.””……..

“”In Dajae Coleman’s belief statement he says that his mother and grandfather pushed him to be better in life, advised him to never settle and told him to work hard for the things he wanted. My parents, like Dajae’s mom, push me to get a good education in school. … School does not come easy for me, so in the classes I struggle in, I do extra work. Due to my extra work efforts, I have made the honor roll through my first three quarters at ETHS, I qualify for the freshman honor society and I have good relationships with my teachers.””