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2021 Awardees

We are grateful to these social workers for upholding the integrity of the social work profession and for their tireless efforts to serve in the midst of global pandemics.

Mark Brentley, Jr MSW

Mark Brentley, Jr earned his master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work and a bachelor’s degree from Clarion University. As a Pennsylvania State Constable Mark engages in community policing within minoritized housing complexes in Allegheny County. In this role Mark uses his background in social work to serve as a resource to residents providing support to address issues such as mental health, employment, food insecurity and domestic violence. He also provides informal training to other state constables regarding culturally responsive ways to respond to tenants residing in the housing complexes in ways that uphold their humanity and dignity. 

Chaunda Cunningham, MSW, LSW 

Chaunda Cunningham is a Licensed Social Worker, holds a master’s degree in Social Work and had spent over a decade fulfilling her passion as a Black social worker. Ms. Cunningham's various work experiences consist of supporting children and families. Becoming a therapist allowed her to know firsthand that an individual’s ability to address their mental health is intrinsically linked to their ability to meet their own basic needs. 

Dawn Gordon, MSW, LSW, M.Ed.

Mrs. Dawn Gordon is currently the Principal at Pittsburgh King PreK-8 and has worked in the education and mental health settings for over 20 years. Prior to her school administration promotion, she was a school social worker and served as a field instructor and adjunct professor at the University of Pittsburgh, School of Social Work. Mrs. Gordon graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor of Science degree in Child Development and Child Care and Master of Social Work degree with a direct service concentration in children and families. Additionally, Mrs. Gordon earned a Master of Education degree and principal certification from Duquesne University. Mrs. Gordon is also a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc, the largest historically black service organization in the world. Mrs. Gordon is a dedicated life-long learner with a vision to remove barriers in academic settings and cultivate a learning environment that is culturally responsive and nurturing for all students.

George Little, MSW

George W. Little Jr. holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Saint Francis University and a Master of Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh. He is currently employed as the Assistant Principal of his alma mater Duquesne City School District and has decades of experience in the Social Work profession. Mr. Little aspires to remain in a position to advocate for youth and their families. The trials and tribulations experienced through life circumstances has inspired his passion to service our communities.

Jaquala Lowery, LSW 

Jaquala Lowery is a Licensed Social Worker in the state of Pennsylvania and a Certified College Admissions Counselor. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor and master’s degree in Social Work, with a Direct Practice focus. Jaquala has gained experience as a foster care and adoption caseworker, program coordinator, structural family therapist, assessor, mental health service coordinator, and a social work administrator. Throughout Jaquala’s personal and professional experience, she has developed a passion to help students pursue higher education and she is passionate about self-care in the black community. Jaquala is currently a college and career counselor with the Pennsylvania State University, however, located at McKeesport High School.  Jaquala is a co-founder of the Blackout on Mental Health, LLC. She aims to educate the black community about holistic wellness, to help individuals recognize that taking care of their mental and emotional health is just as important and to empower and encourage the black community to heal in healthy and positive ways to establish and attain overall wellness.  

Ashley Pesi, MSW

Ashley, born and raised in Pittsburgh, is Project Manager of the Auberle Northside Employment Institute, which provides workforce development services to Pittsburgh’s Northside communities. She has done work with the communities of the Mon Valley, working with the Director of the McKeesport Hospital Foundation to make communities safer and healthier. She was honored at the Mon River Fleet Women of Achievement for outstanding contributions to the Mon Valley region, recognized in the Inaugural 40 under 40 Award from California University of PA, and most recently has been named a Nonprofit Superhero from the Northside/Northshore Chamber of Commerce at the 2020 award luncheon. Ashley is also an adjunct professor at Chatham University in the Social Work department teaching Juvenile Justice and is currently attending Robert Morris University working towards her Ph.D. in Instructional Management and Leadership. When not at work or in school, Ashley is the chair of Fundraising for the Huntington’s Disease Society of America’s National Youth Alliance and enjoys spending time with her daughter Adrianna and fiancé.

Jenna Weidner, LCSW 

Outpatient Mental Health Therapist

Village Center for Holistic Therapy 

Jenna has extensive experience working and volunteering with individuals and families in the community at the Alle-Kiski Area HOPE Center, UPMC Magee-Women’s Hospital, Center for Children and Families, ADHD Across the Lifespan, AHN Enhanced Pain Management, No One Dies Alone and Therapets. She also completed her mindfulness meditation teacher training.

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