Leadership role


WSU alum receives NAACP Community Service Award

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Thomas Burke, the former corrections officer at the Jackson prison, the courts and the Michigan Department of Corrections who founded Save Our Youth in Jackson, was the recipient of the Community Service Award at the Oct. 11 Jackson County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) 74th Anniversary Fight For Freedom Fund Banquet.

The banquet celebration, held at the Country Club of Jackson, celebrated the theme "Pursuing Liberty in the Face of Injustice," and included keynote speaker Pastor Strick Strickland Sr., from the Second Baptist Church in Kalamazoo.

The nonprofit Save Our Youth, Inc., of Jackson program, introduced to the Jackson community in 2006, is dedicated to maximizing the potential of all K-12 students through educational, informative, physical, cultural, collaborative, and innovative programs.

Working with families, churches, other mentoring programs and local schools, the program has served more than 3,000 youngsters. Programs are held in the United Way building in Jackson and at St. John's United Church of Christ, where Burke serves on the board.

In addition to his work as founder and director of Save Our Youth, the Summit Township resident is a member of Mason Lodge 17; NAACP member; a volunteer mediator for the community dispute resolution services; a member of the Jackson Area Civil Rights Awareness Association; member of the Allegiance Health Board of Governance quality control committee; serves on the Community Action Agency Advisory Council; and is an ambassador for the Center For Family Health in Jackson.

Last year the City of Jackson Human Relations Commission honored Burke with the Harold White Sr. Memorial Volunteer Award, named after a dedicated community organizer who died in 2001.

A Detroit native and graduate of Henry Ford High School in Detroit, Burke attended classes at Wayne State University, worked as a Detroit police officer; then in 1985, he attended the Earle F. Demarse Corrections Academy located at the former Michigan School for the Blind campus in Lansing, before starting his career for the Michigan Department of Corrections at Jackson Prison, where he had a dual role as acting chaplain and correction officer.

Burke has been a member of the Jackson Branch NAACP for several years.

"I joined the NAACP to help carry out the mission of the oldest civil rights organization in this country," he says. "Advocating for those whose civil rights have been violated is one of my passions. I'm currently on a mission to help increase membership, several of the current members are ready to pass on the torch."

Published: Tue, Oct 20, 2015