MLK Prayer Breakfast celebrates investments in community

DOVER — What sort of dividend does a community’s investment in itself pay?

The 36th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast’s answer to that question was: Karen Jordan.

As the event’s keynote speaker, Ms. Jordan spoke to a packed house of hundreds at the Modern Maturity Center on Monday about her experience being a “proud and grateful” recipient of the 1987 MLK Scholarship from the Zeta Rho Lambda Chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.

It was presented to her at the 4th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Prayer Breakfast.

Many delegates, public servants, law enforcement officers and politicians turned out for the event despite the frigid cold.

Recalling her own brief scholarship acceptance speech at the same event 32 years ago to a far smaller audience, Ms. Jordan said she was so nervous that she hardly remembers any of what she said.

“What I do remember though, much bigger than my words, is that this community listened to what I had to say anyway and this community had the grace to allow me to stumble and fumble through my words — and you still gave me that scholarship anyway,” she joked.

“But I’m so grateful to have to opportunity to come back and thank you for the seed that you planted in me.”

Karen Jordan

The Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity bills itself as the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for African American men. It was founded by seven men in 1906 at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

Since then, 175,000 men have been initiated into the fraternity. There are now 353 college chapters on campuses and 339 alumni chapters in 45 states.

Though hosted by a fraternity, a distinctly feminine tone was struck at the event on Monday. Introducing Ms. Jordan, Fraternity brother James F. Marshall, who presented her with the scholarship 32 years ago, made special mention the event was proud to have many strong women on its stage.

“This is the year of the female and don’t you ever forget it,” he said.

The daughter of an Air Force colonel, Ms. Jordan lived in Texas, Illinois and the Philippines. But she notes that she “came of age” in Dover. Graduating fifth in her class of more than 300 students in Caesar Rodney High School, she went on to study at Princeton University. She graduated with a degree in civil engineering and operations research.

She then began a career with Proctor & Gamble, working in its supply chain operations. She went on to join PepsiCo in 2002 as Supply Chain Operations Manager. Since then, she’s risen to senior vice president of Planning, Commercialization and Strategy.

Sharing her story, Ms. Jordan noted that although the community planted a “seed” in her in the form of their support, achieving success didn’t always come easy. Coming back to encouraging her home community, she said standing up for what you believe in helped her achieve what she set out to do.

“You may run into someone who doesn’t believe in you the way you want or you may run into someone that challenges the very actions you take to stand,” she said. “I’m here to say to you: stand up, take action, be authentic, be bold, be powerful and be you.”

As is it’s yearly custom, the fraternity planted two new “seeds” in the community in the form of two $1,500 scholarships to local students. Tyjh Idea Weldon and Brianna Nicole Arthur were the recipients of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Achievement Award and Brother Hardin T. Watkins Achievement Award respectively.

Tyjh, son of Dana and Bern’Ardine Weldon, is a student at Polytech High School. As class president for the past two years and through involvement in community activities, he’s a “shining” example of leadership, says the fraternity. He hopes to obtain a masters-level degree in electronics engineering.

Brianna, also a Polytech High School senior, is pursuing a media career. With a long list of extracurricular activities and athletics behind her, she’s also been an ambitious young beacon of “exceeding racial stereotypes, black excellence and breaking glass ceilings,” said the fraternity. After graduation in June, she expects to pursue a degree in mass communications and eventually go on to become a social media director and/or publicist.

Staff writer Ian Gronau can be reached at 741-8272 or igronau@newszap.com

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