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SJU Employee Wins Accolades for Community Service

June 9, 2014

During her two-year military deployment in Kuwait, Lakia (Kia) Echols discovered her true passion—community outreach. There, she helped build orphanages for abandoned children.  

Upon her return to the United States, Echols focused that passion on her hometown of Far Rockaway, NY. She eventually created MakeMyMotherProud, a community service organization designed to help young adults pursue a better future.

For her efforts, Echols, an executive secretary in St. John’s University’s Office of Enrollment Management, has won state and local recognition. In May, she received a Queens Impact Award, sponsored by TimesLedger Newspapers in Queens, NY.  She also was named A Woman of Distinction by the New York State Senate, an honor bestowed on women who embody the qualities of leadership, compassion, and diligence.

"Kia has a huge heart, and it shows through in everything she does," said Beth Evans, vice president for enrollment management at St. John’s. "She's the type of person who constantly gives of herself and never says no. She tries to have a positive impact on kids so they can go out and change their community and the world. She lives the Vincentian mission every single day."

Her first civilian job since active duty was her role at St. John's, and Echols credits Evans as being an inspiration and a mentor. "I love her structure, her leadership and her fearlessness," she observed.

Working at St. John's has intensified her passion for community service. Since coming to SJU, Echols became involved in the Liberty Partnerships Program (LPP), which offers comprehensive pre-collegiate/dropout prevention programs and youth services in urban, rural, and suburban communities. Through LPP, Echols has taught and mentored local high school students.

She also stepped forward when Hurricane Sandy struck. Echols quickly mobilized assistance for community residents who could not reach a distribution center, bringing food and materials directly to them. Echols also helped raise $20,000 from private companies that went directly to families affected by the storm.

A 13-year US Army veteran, Echols said her military service helped open her eyes to the need for helping others. "If you told me my true passion would be working with kids, I wouldn't have believed you, but being with them all the time really grows on you."

Echols doesn't limit her spirit of outreach to her local community either. "I love walking around campus and just engaging with students. I want to help anyone who needs it."