Ceremony recognizes advocates for children’s causes
By Antonio Walcott
Special to the Outlook
Two advocates for children’s causes were recognized for their work around Leon County.
Mimi Graham, Ph.D., and Rickards High School student Sruthi Sentil were each presented awards during a ceremony at FSU Dunlap Champions Club last Monday evening.
Graham, Director of the Florida State University Center for Prevention and Early Intervention Policy, was presented the Chiles Advocacy Award. Sentil, senior in the International Baccalaureate program at Rickards, was recipients of the Youth Advocate Award.
Graham, who has been working with the center at FSU for the past 30 years, was initially on the staff of former Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles. She eventually became director of the program.
Graham oversees programs that aim to provide needed resources to children and teenagers with troubled backgrounds. Those that are targeted include victims of child trafficking and parents who are struggling with addiction.
Devoted to helping children throughout the Tallahassee area, CPEIP also spearheads early development programs in Gadsden County. That program focuses on low-income neighborhoods by giving residents the opportunity to gain a head start under their first teachers.
Graham said she was humbled by acknowledgement of her work.
“I’m very humbled and it’s a very meaningful experience because I knew Lawton Chiles,” Graham said. “I feel like I’m carrying on his legacy to really leave no child behind.”
That sentiment was echoed by Struthi Sentil, a graduating senior at Rickards.
Founder of BuddyKnit, a nonprofit peer mentoring program for children, Sentil has reached nearly 100 volunteers around the Big Bend area.
In addition to being director of BuddyKnit, Sentil is co-chair of the Student Council of Leon County School Board. Her roles give her a platform to spreading the word about BuddyKnit.
Sentil was selected through an application process that included recommendation by the assistant superintendent of Leon County Schools. She credits her supporters for her success.
“I’m incredibly grateful to all the people here,” she said. “I am honored to be able to come in and talk about future opportunities.”