Class of 2002 Grad Honored with Inaugural Alumni Service Award

The Berkeley Preparatory School Alumni Association presented its inaugural Alumni Service Award to Elizabeth Davis Dearborn Hughes ’02, CEO and Co-founder of the Akilah Institute for Women, on September 24 as part of a special Upper Division convocation.
The award, presented to Elizabeth by Kimberly Hannah Trammell ’98, Alumni Association President, recognizes an individual who, through volunteer and/or vocational endeavors, demonstrates an exemplary commitment to service and to making a positive difference in the quality of life for others in a significant way, either on a personal level or by engaging and empowering others through organizational leadership and local, national or international initiatives.

After receiving her award, Elizabeth shared her compelling story with the students explaining that she moved to Rwanda just three days after graduating from Vanderbilt University in 2006. She admits it was a huge risk to move to a war-torn country where she had no friends, family or connections to help her make a difference there. Regardless, she had a goal to help those in need and an unwavering determination to make it happen. After volunteering with grassroots projects, she co-founded the nonprofit Amani Africa to provide scholarships to street children, support an orphanage in Kigali, and organize reconciliation and conflict resolution conferences for genocide survivors. In 2008, Elizabeth and her husband Dave Hughes began working with business and civil society leaders to analyze the training needs of the Rwandan private sector.

In 2010, they founded Akilah in Rwanda to provide market-relevant education and career development to promising young female leaders. In 2013, Akilah made a commitment at the Clinton Global Initiative in partnership with the Segal Family Foundation to scale the Akilah model by opening a second campus in Burundi. Plans are now in motion to expand that model to additional countries throughout the African continent.

She concluded her presentation by telling the students to surround themselves with positive energy and people because that’s what brings about positive change. She also encouraged them to believe in their goals and see them through. “If you truly believe in accomplishing your goals you need to stay focused by putting on blinders, putting in earplugs and looking forward.”

Hannah Trammell said on behalf of Berkeley, “We are so proud of all that Elizabeth has done. She truly is a person who embodies our vision statement of Berkeley puts people in the world who make a positive difference – and we don’t think she is finished yet!”

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