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SDG Awards – Global Leaders

SDG Awards- Local Leaders

Every year Greater Lansing UNA awards “Global Goals – Local Leaders” awards to community members who have helped develop any of the Sustainable Development Goals (also called Global Goals and SDG’s) through their work and/or volunteer service. We do this at our most formal event – UN Day Celebration – in October. Previous winners are listed below. You can nominate someone for this year’s awards below!

View our UNA Lansing/Detroit 2020 MI SDG Awardee video!​

Past Awardees​

2022 Local Leaders​

Barbara Roberts Mason​

From the time of her role as a member of the city-wide Detroit High School Student Council, Barbara Roberts Mason has been concerned about social issues impacting peoples’ quality of education, civil rights, health, and well-being. She has worked as a school social worker, in administrative roles in special education, and local, state and national Education Association positions. She served 25 years as an elected member of the Michigan State Board of Education working to better the educational experience of all students regardless of gender, race, disability, or economic status. Her work included educating the public through a bi-weekly public service television show called Challenge which focused on education and relevant social issues.

Ms. Roberts Mason’s concerns for Black children and families lead to work at the state level with support from then Governor Jim Blanchard to host regional symposia and a statewide conference to develop action recommendations geared toward solving the problems of Black children in the areas of health & mental health, education, family issues, jobs & economic security. This inspired her to found the Black Child and Family Institute in Lansing in 1987 that continues today as Building Child and Family Initiatives. Because of her global vision, Ms. Roberts Mason established a Foreign Language and Culture Program at BCFI, which included teaching Japanese, Spanish, French and German. This global vision coincided with leadership of a Michigan Goodwill Mission to Shiga, Japan, which expanded into leading many delegations to countries in Europe, Africa, and mainland Asia to study their education systems and /or for humanitarian missions. Ms. Roberts Mason has served as President of the Lansing Regional Sister Cities Commission for over twenty years and it is recognized as among the best such programs in the world.

Ms. Roberts Mason has secured federal and Bill and Melinda Gates funding for several development projects in Ghana and Cameroon improving water and sanitation systems, health clinics, medical supplies, and other needed resources. Ms. Roberts Mason has done amazing work, much more than can be put on this page, and we recognize her for her synergistic efforts around SDG goals 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 11, and 17. Clearly the world is a better place because of her efforts. Thank you!

Joan Nelson

Joan Nelson was a co-founder of Allen Neighborhood Center (ANC), a 23-year-old hub for comprehensive and integrative community development. As ANC’s first Executive Director, Ms. Nelson has overseen programs focused on health, food security/access, housing restoration, youth development, strengthening families, commercial corridor revitalization, and neighborhood capacity-building. 

Originally from Bay City, Ms. Nelson, a resident of Lansing’s Eastside for 47 years, is a graduate of MSU. Just out of college (which included a fair amount of anti-war and feminist organizing) she worked as a community organizer with Lansing Model Cities, an urban anti-poverty program, which deepened her involvement in social causes. She was involved in the creation of the Council Against Domestic Assault (predecessor of Eve’s House), the first local shelter for battered women. Following receipt of a master’s degree in exercise physiology, she established Movement Arts, a studio offering classes in health, fitness, martial arts, women’s self-defense, and more. A growing interest in community health led to working as facilitator of the Eastside Healthy Community Summit, which morphed into ANC in 1999.

Ms. Nelson, along with many partners and supporters, has launched and developed programs at ANC including the Allen Farmers Market; Health Enrollment programs; Hunter Park GardenHouse; ANC Veggie Box, a 30-farm CSA (Community Supported Agriculture); and the Incubator Kitchen, which supports food entrepreneurism. The Incubator Kitchen has led to 70 new businesses, 53% of which are women-owned and 43% minority-owned.

During the last three years, Ms. Nelson led the organization through the creation of Allen Place, an $11M mixed-use development offering 21 units of mixed-income housing and new health and food-related entities. Engaging multiple partners, the initiative has produced the Allen Community Health Center and Pharmacy, as part of the Ingham Health Centers Network. The 40-year old ELFCO (food co-op) just opened as a neighborhood grocery, featuring locally grown produce. A partnership with the Board of Water and Light is resulting in the creation of Lansing’s first micro-grid, utilizing solar technologies.  

Thasin Sardar

Thasin Sardar volunteers extensively in our local community, with issues of social justice as his greatest focus. His strong belief in civic engagement and in caring for our environment has guided his decisions regarding where to lend his time and energy beyond his full-time work and family.  

Mr. Sardar volunteers in outreach efforts to bridge his own faith community with the larger community and to foster a spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood. He led a major fundraising program to secure solar panels for the Islamic Center of East Lansing and for University Lutheran Church, promoting harmony, mutual respect and climate crisis action. The $50,000 raised was shared equally as a gift from the Islamic Center to the Church  as a “challenge gift” for a solar panel system. Both houses of worship now have 20 kWh systems on their rooftops. The University Lutheran Church plans to “pay it forward” towards a similar sustainable development goal. Mr. Sardar is continuing his fundraising effort to add more panels with a goal of attaining self-sufficiency.

Thasin Sardar was a founding member of the City of East Lansing’s Citizen Innovation and Technology Panel and serves on the community advisory boards of Michigan Muslim Community Council and of East Lansing Info. He is a member of Action of Greater Lansing and of Capital Area Michigan Interfaith Power and Light. He currently serves as a board member of the Islamic Society of East Lansing, Michigan Chapter of the Council of American Islamic Relations, Greater Lansing United Nations Association, and Peace Education Center. He is a commissioner on the City of East Lansing’s Human Rights Commission and is Chairperson of the Greater Lansing Islamic School.

Mr. Sardar lives in East Lansing, with his wife and two sons. He has a master’s degree in Software Engineering Administration and works as an IT Infrastructure Architect for Secure Solutions of Lansing. We thank him for his prominent role in helping our local area reach the UN Global Goals (SDG’s) 7, 11, 13, 16, and 17.     

2021 Local Leaders​

Makayla Piggott

Makayla Piggott, a 2021 graduate of Fowler High School, responded to the GL-UNA call for Sustainable Development Goal PSA’s (public service announcements). As a student in the Clinton County regional videography class, she created PSA’s about two of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals: Goal #1 – No Poverty and Goal #14 – Life Below Water

She created the videos to “help promote awareness of worldwide issues.”  She hopes her videos will shine some light on difficult truths in the world and will motivate people to do something about them. Makayla is currently at Lansing Community College and is exploring her many possible career options.


Zonta International District 15

Zonta International District 15, a charter district of Zonta International, is comprised of 750 members in 35 clubs throughout Michigan and Ontario, Canada. Zonta International is a global organization of professionals empowering women worldwide through service and advocacy. It seeks to improve the legal, economic, educational, health, and professional status of women. It envisions a world in which women’s rights are recognized as human rights and every woman is able to achieve her full potential. This primary focus supports UN Sustainable Development Goal #5 – Gender Equality as well as #3 Good Health and Well Being and #4 Quality Education.

Zonta District 15 supports programs to assist victims of domestic and sexual violence, to raise awareness about ovarian cancer, and to support breast cancer research. They provide scholarships and they monitor and attend hearings on laws and policies that impact women. Zonta District 15 is seeking to end child marriage in Michigan working with Unchained At Last. It supports the passage of MI House Bills 4003-4005, which protect our young girls by ending child marriage – with no exceptions.

Dr. Jack Schwille

Dr. Jack Schwille, professor emeritus and former assistant dean for international studies in education at Michigan State University, has made outstanding contributions to the UN Sustainable Development Goal 4: Quality Education.

During his fifty-year career, he focused on international research in education and the expansion of international studies in education at MSU and across the U.S.

He also focused on cross-national studies of educational achievement, primarily in civic education and mathematics and was co-director of the 17-nation TEDS-M teacher education in mathematics study, he worked extensively on international development in education, primarily in Africa. He has made a huge impact on the education of children around the world.

2020 Local Leaders​

Organizations Recognized for Promoting UN SDGs

17 organizations in Greater Lansing, Greater Detroit, and out state Michigan were recently recognized for their work in promoting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Sustainable Development Goals, or Global Goals, are a collection of 17 intertwined goals designed to be a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.

The SDG’s were adopted in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly and are intended to be achieved by the year 2030. On October 25, 2020, the Greater Lansing and the Greater Detroit Chapters of the United Nations Association of the USA combined their efforts to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the founding of the UN. The keynote speaker was Andrew Young. Young was a civil rights activist alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Young was the United Sates Ambassador to the UN during the Carter years. Later, he served as mayor for the City of Atlanta, Georgia through a time of economic and community growth. After sharing inspiring words and stories to the 95 virtual attendees, Young then received the Ralph Bunche Award from the Detroit Chapter. Then, 17 Michigan organizations were recognized for their exemplary work in promoting the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

No Povery

Cass Community Social Services Tiny House Project, Detroit

Zero Hunger

Chanel Taylor with the Detroit Benevolent Society, Detroit

Good Health & Well Being

Kiwanis Club, South Lansing

Quality Education

Kalamazoo Promise, Kalamazoo

Gender Equality

London Bell with Bell Global Justice, Detroit

Clean Water & Sanitation

Flint River Watershed Coalition, Flint

Affordable & Clean Energy

Michigan State University Carport Solar Array, East Lansing

Decent Work & Economic Growth

John Beck/ MSU School of Human Resources & Labor Relations, East Lansing

Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure

Appropriate Technology Collaborative, Ann Arbor

Reduced Inequalities

Michigan League for Public Policy, Lansing

Sustainable Cities & Communities

City of Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids

Climate Action

Citizens Climate Lobby, Michigan

Life Below Water

FLOW (For Love of Water), Traverse City

Life on Land

The Nature Conservancy, Michigan

Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions

Freedom House Detroit, Detroit

Partnerships for the Goals

Detroit Means Business, Detroit

2019 Local Leader

Judi Harri

Judi Harris has been Program Director for Refugee Services at St. Vincent Catholic Charities in Lansing since December 2008. In this role, she manages Refugee Services staff and coordinates programs for all refugees coming to the Lansing area. Judi leads her program to establish housing, health care, employment, education, and community connections for new arrivals. Judi fights to keep the refugee resettlement program working and healthy by building partnerships and conducting outreach and education to community groups, schools and universities, business and faith-based organizations around mid-Michigan.

Judi has been a refugee foster parent for over 12 years and has fostered 10 children from five different countries. She is one of the founders and a board member of the Global Institute of Lansing, a non-profit organization that helps refugee youth earn high school diplomas. She also helped to establish and advises the All Faith Alliance for Refugees (AFAR). In 2018, she joined the Peace Quest Greater Lansing planning committee to support the development of the peace culture in Lansing.

Judi earned a double Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and French from San Francisco State University and a Masters in Health Education from Trinity College in Washington, DC. Judi has over twenty-five years of experience in international health education and project management having lived, developed and managed health programs in Africa, the Balkans, Southeast Asia and the Caribbean. Judi has worked with refugees in the United States and overseas.

2018 Local Leaders

Jane White

Director and Founder of the MI Human Trafficking Task Force. What began in 2006 with Jane inviting 20 Michigan police chiefs to a meeting has become a task force of more than 135 agencies committed to a collaborative effort to identify, rescue and restore victims, prosecute offenders, and educate people about human trafficking, in both sexual and labor exploitation. As a former law enforcement officer and an educator, Jane has talked with thousands about human trafficking and has researched, developed, and been a trainer in courses on diversity, race relations, sexual harassment, ethics and integrity, and more.

Jane served as the Associate Director of the National Center for Community Policing at the MSU School of Criminal Justice. She was Board President of the Lansing Boys Club in the late 1970’s, during which time she led it to become the Boys and Girls Club. She was appointed to the original Michigan Commission on Human Trafficking. Jane White has spent her life protecting the human rights of many. She has been a leader in work aligned with the Global Goals 5, 8, 16. Greater Lansing United Nations Association thanks Jane for her dedication, vision and persistence in the fight to eradicate human trafficking.

Will Lawrence

Will Lawrence is the creator of the Sunrise Movement. Will is truly a global goals leader working on many of the Sustainable Development Goals (especially goals 7, 8, and 13.) Will has been a national leader since college. His clear focus on the urgency of organizing on climate change led him to develop what has turned into the national Sunrise Movement, formed to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process. He designed the Sunrise Movement plan with colleagues and advisers, then moved back to Michigan to organize young people concerned with climate change and environmental justice.

He designed an organizational structure that allowed the movement to support 65 campus groups at once. He organized coordinated non-violent protest actions at up to 25 campuses simultaneously. He helped to grow the organizational budget from 0 to $300k in two years. He is a trainer and facilitator of the Momentum leadership team. Greater Lansing United Nation Association applauds Will’s important work to protect our climate by inspiring and organizing many, many others to take action as well!

2017 Local Leaders

Dr. Joan Jackson Johnson ​​

Joan Jackson Johnson, affectionately known as ‘Triple J,’ is dedicated to the struggles of the poor and vulnerable. Dr. Johnson, a clinical psychologist, is the principal owner of the East Lansing Center for the Family and has been the Director of the Human Relations and Community Services Department (HRCS) For the City of Lansing since 2006.

Terry Link

Terry Link is president of Starting Now LLC, a sustainability consulting firm that helps small business, nonprofits, schools, and government agencies improve their social, environmental and economic performance. He has served as Executive Director of the Greater Lansing Food Bank, a regional charity that rescued food and developed community gardens to help feed those in need, and Director of Michigan State University’s Office of Campus Sustainability, an office he started in 2000. For nearly 25 years he was an academic librarian focusing on public policy and environmental studies.