Above, the 2017 Light of Dawnn scholarship winners with Dawnn’s parents.

On August 23, 2014, Boston lost a shining star. Dawnn Ashley Jaffier was tragically killed as a result of gun violence on her way to a neighborhood party. At the young age of 26, Dawnn was considered a cherished member of Boston’s non-profit community, holding direct service positions at the West End House, Playworks, City Year and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston. She understood firsthand the important role non-profit organizations play within a community and created a life devoted to giving back for all she had been given.

To honor Dawnn’s memory, the Light of Dawnn Awards were created in 2015 to recognize individuals working in the non-profit sector who demonstrate the spirit of Dawnn’s legacy. Last year an additional component was added in the form of three $5,000 scholarships and five $1,000 scholarships, awarded by John Hancock to Boston-area scholars dedicated to following Dawnn’s footsteps. Dawnn’s mother, Althea, has is a valued employee at the Company and is an integral part of the John Hancock community.

By way of introducing this year’s scholarship winners, Tom Crohan, AVP & Counsel, said it best, “This event is a celebration of community, extraordinary non-profits, and extraordinary leaders.” Each of the three winners embodies the spirit of generosity that marked everything Dawnn did.

As the youngest child of eleven half-siblings, Sominishia Wright takes her strength from her family. Watching the struggles her parents endured to create a good life for their children has motivated her to succeed. A senior at Newton Country Day School, Sominishia refuses to let her family’s financial instability hold her back. She is an active member of her community, volunteering at ABCD Head Start and as a freshman orientation leader at her high school. Sominishia credits the positive influence of role models in her life for much of her success and strives to be that person for those she mentors. She plans to double major in biology and African-American studies and hopes to become an OBGYN.

Justina Riopelle considers herself lucky to have known Dawnn as her camp counselor and uses her positive energy as a benchmark for how she treats others. Over the past five years, Justina has volunteered her time with Solutions At Work, a non-profit that works with families and children struggling with homelessness. As a young person who has struggled with poverty herself, Justine feels an innate connection with the population she works with and is inspired to help them move forward in their lives. Currently finishing her senior year at Dorchester High, she hopes to go to a four-year college and then on to Harvard Law.

As the child of parents who immigrated from a war-torn country, Noor Al-saad knows that her success stems in part from the sacrifices of others. Because of this she feels a call to give back to her community, and does so through service. As an eighth grader, Noor was chosen as a delegate for Project 351’s year of service, today she sits on their alumni leadership council and mentors young scholars like herself who want to make a difference. After graduating from Quincy High School in the spring, she hopes to go on to college and eventually pursue her passion for poetry, harnessing her voice as an agent of change.

Dawnn Jaffier’s legacy of compassion and commitment to serving those in need will certainly live on in these three promising young women. We look forward to seeing what their futures hold!

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