Trailblazer Awards Program

Trailblazer in Government & Politics

Stephanie Foster
House of Representatives, District 63

Born on March 8, 1967, in Jackson, Mississippi, Representative Stephanie Foster is a beacon of leadership and service in the realm of politics and government. A product of Raymond High School, she pursued higher education at Hinds Community College and Mississippi College, laying the foundation for her impactful career. Elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives in November 2019, Foster assumed office on January 7, 2020, marking the beginning of her journey to enact positive change in her community and beyond.

President of the Western Hills Homeowners Association, a board member of the Association of South Jackson, and an active member of various parent-teacher organizations including the PTA of Utica Elementary Middle School, Representative Foster embodies the spirit of civic engagement and community involvement. Her dedication extends to the halls of legislation, where she serves on pivotal committees such as the House Agriculture Committee, House Education Committee, Military Affairs Committee, and House Municipalities Committee. Through her multifaceted roles and unwavering commitment, Representative Foster epitomizes the essence of a trailblazer in politics, driving progress and advocating for the betterment of her constituents and society as a whole.

Trailblazer in Music & Fine Arts

Kathleen McGriggs
Gospel Recording Artist

Kathleen McGriggs is a beloved figure in Utica, Mississippi, renowned for her unwavering dedication to her community and her boundless passion for music and fine arts. Born into a large family to the late Lillie Bell and Percy McGowan, Kathleen’s upbringing instilled in her a deep sense of community and a love for nurturing young minds. Educated at Mixon Elementary and Consolidated High School in Utica, she later pursued studies in Clerical Science at Jackson State University and Early Childhood Development at Hinds Community College, setting the stage for her lifelong commitment to nurturing the potential of children.

Kathleen’s journey in childhood development began at the Welcome Head-start Center in Utica, where her love for children blossomed alongside her dedication to her community. Through workshops and programs, she honed her skills and even formed a Head-start gospel singing choir, uniting her fellow coworkers in a shared passion for music and mentorship. Despite facing challenges, including a tragic incident in 2000 that led to her early retirement, Kathleen’s spirit remained unbroken, and she found a new home at Hinds Community College’s Upward Bound Summer Program, where she continues to uplift and inspire young minds to this day.

Outside of her professional pursuits, Kathleen’s heart finds solace and joy in music and faith. Her passion and love for singing inspired her to write heartfelt encouraging songs that she now sings with her quartet group “Sensational Chosen Voices.” As a member of New Mount Zion Church in Hazlehurst, under the leadership of Pastor Kenneth Frazier Jr., Kathleen serves as the combined choir director and deaconess trustee. Additionally, she directs the choirs of Greater Zion Travelers, led by Pastor Casey Fisher, and New Oak Ridge, under the guidance of Pastor Emmitt Pollard Sr. With her favorite scriptures guiding her path (Philippians 4:13 and Ephesians 3:20), Kathleen’s life radiates the transformative power of faith, love, and community.

Trailblazer in Humanitarian & Philanthropy

Brandi Turner
Co-Director, Mississippi Center for Cultural Production

Brandi Turner embodies the essence of compassion and dedication, leaving an indelible mark on the humanitarian and philanthropic landscape. Born in Michigan and shaped by her upbringing in New Orleans, LA, and Oxford, Mississippi, Brandi’s journey reflects a deep-rooted commitment to community and creativity. With a passion for beauty and an innate artistic flair, she has cultivated a remarkable career in the beauty industry, showcasing her talents as a freelance makeup artist and garnering invaluable experience with esteemed brands like Estee Lauder and Mary Kay.

In her current roles as co-owner and Managing Director of TWA Consulting and Co-Director/Programs Manager for the Mississippi Center for Cultural Production (aka Sipp Culture) in Utica, Brandi continues to channel her creative energy towards meaningful endeavors. Through TWA Consulting, she empowers organizations to amplify their impact in arts and culture through innovative strategies and creative consulting services. Meanwhile, at the Mississippi Center for Cultural Production, Brandi plays a pivotal role in nurturing the region’s cultural landscape, fostering community engagement and promoting inclusivity through various programs and initiatives.

Residing in Utica alongside her husband Carlton Turner and their three children (Jonathan, Xiauna Lin, and Tristan), Brandi’s commitment to making a difference extends beyond professional realms into the very fabric of her daily life. With her unwavering dedication to uplifting others and her visionary leadership in humanitarian and philanthropic endeavors, Brandi Turner exemplifies the transformative power of compassion and creativity in creating a brighter, more equitable future for all.

Trailblazer in Education

Doris McClure
Executive Office Manager, Title III (retired)

Doris McClure‘s journey as a trailblazer in education is deeply intertwined with her roles as a wife, mother, and community leader. Married to Reverend Lonzo McClure, Sr., she finds strength and support in her family as she navigates her impactful career. Together, they have raised two sons, Lonzo McClure, Jr. and Isiah Deon McClure, and a daughter, Cynetria Frazier, while also cherishing the joy of seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Doris’s professional trajectory spans 38 years of dedicated service, beginning with her roles at Bernstein & Sons Shirt Corp in Utica & Crystal Springs. and culminating in her transformative tenure at Hinds Community College, Utica Campus. Her impact as an Office Manager, Budget Analyst, and Administrative Assistant extended far beyond the confines of her office, as she spearheaded vital initiatives and oversaw multimillion-dollar budgets, leaving an indelible mark on the institution and its students.

Even in retirement, Doris’s commitment to service and mentorship remains unwavering. As a member of Greater White Oak M.B. Church, under the pastoral leadership of her husband, she embodies the values of compassion and leadership, serving on the mother board, directing Vacation Bible School, and actively participating in the Food Ministry. Through her dedication to family, faith, and community, Doris McClure epitomizes the essence of a trailblazer in education, inspiring others to reach for their highest aspirations and leave a lasting impact on the world.

Utica Community Choir

Drawing on Utica’s long tradition of outstanding musical performing groups inside and outside of churches, the Utica Community Choir is composed of talented musicians who enjoy sharing their talents.


MADDRAMA was founded on the campus of Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi in 1998 by Mark G. Henderson. The Founding Student Members are Harold Barnwell, Treasure Shields-Redmond, Frank Terry, Jr., and Taranasha Wallace. The group’s purpose, at that time, was to provide an outlet for students interested in drama activities on campus. Although there were other drama activities on campus, there were very few opportunities for students to develop and distribute their theatrical ideas beyond the campus environment. With the founding of MADDRAMA, the students began to travel extensively throughout the city, state, and country. MADDRAMA became a major recruitment vehicle for both the Department of Speech and Dramatic Art and the university. In 2000, MADDRAMA began to expand its scope and solicited members of the Metro Jackson, MS community. Cynthia Bell, Rhonda Chambers-Davis, Alisa R. Patrick-McDonald, and Louis Wright, Jr. are the Founding Members. In 2004, MADDRAMA became an official campus organization and is now part of the Special Interest Council at Jackson State University. 

Montage Theater of Dance

Montage Theatre of Dance, under the direction of Tiffany Jefferson, is a multi-disciplinary dance theatre company which infuses many genres of dance including ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop, modern, acrobatics and African to perform original, cutting-edge choreography. Montage Theatre of Dance performs original, cutting-edge choreography both professional and novice dancers. In doing so, the audience experiences unique, imperative, and theatrical stories while celebrating diversity in the arts, education, and in life. Montage Theatre of Dance is Mississippi’s only multi-disciplinary dance theater company and has performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City, New York, Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., Somerset, England at Bridgewater College, The Shanghai Acrobats in Branson, MO, Tyler Jr. College in Texas, The Historic Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, The Scottish Fringe Festival in Edinborough, Scotland, The Aloa Moana Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, and Venice, Italy just to name a few. 

Kathleen McGriggs & the Sensational Chosen Voices

Kathleen McGriggs & the Sensational Chosen Voices is a dynamic gospel group whose passion for music is surpassed only by their devotion to the Lord. With hearts ablaze with the spirit of worship, this talented ensemble considers themselves vessels of God’s grace, empowered to touch the lives of others through the transformative power of gospel music. Through their ministry of song, Kathleen McGriggs & the Sensational Chosen Voices seek to uplift, inspire, and edify all who have the privilege of experiencing their melodious harmonies and heartfelt lyrics.

The Jim Hill Concert Choir

Under the leadership of Choir Director Pamela Moody, the Jim Hill High School Concert Choir stands as a beacon of excellence within the Jackson Public School District. With over 22 years of dedicated service, including 9 years specifically at Jim Hill High School, Pamela Moody has cultivated a culture of musical achievement and artistic excellence. The JHHS Choir’s remarkable accomplishments include international travel, superior ratings at prestigious competitions, and even being featured in a documentary, showcasing their talent and dedication on a global stage. Through the choir’s unwavering commitment to musical excellence, the Jim Hill High School Choir continues to inspire audiences and leave a lasting impact on the world of choral music.

The Mississippi Mass Choir

The Mississippi Mass Choir‘s powerful ministry is rooted in founder, Frank Williams’ humble obedience to the vision of uniting and mentoring some of Mississippi’s finest singers in a massive way. Williams reached out to friend and minister of music, David R. Curry Sr. and piano prodigy Jerry C. Smith to help recruit over 150 singers statewide. From teenagers to seniors, teachers to police officers to truckers, they came together as one. They came from diverse churches and vocations, united in one faith and for one purpose, “To Serve God Through Song!”

Success came quickly. The choir’s debut album hit No. 1 on Billboard’s gospel charts for 45 consecutive weeks, setting a record for a recording in any music genre which earned the choir a special achievement award.

In 1993, after to sudden passing of Frank Williams, Pastor Jerry Mannery was passed the reins as the choir’s executive director. Under his guidance, they’ve recorded 11 albums, earned 2 Grammy nominations, Gospel Hall of Fame, 5 Stellar Awards, and a Stellar Gospel Music Lifetime Achievement Award along with a host of other awards and recognitions. But accolades only underscore their higher calling: to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

It doesn’t matter where they are or the size of the stage, the Mississippi Mass Choir pursues a single purpose: to glorify God and uplift souls. With voices as timeless as their message of hope, what began as a vision of unity among individual vocalist statewide has spanned continents. Their accolades and opportunities—from the Acropolis to the Vatican to Tokyo—only deepen their dedication to the guiding vision of their founder, Frank Williams. His dream of bringing people to Christ’s redemptive throne through music will continue as long as there are souls longing for grace, and a Mississippi Mass Choir to stir hearts with the timeless power of gospel truth.

Maggie Wade-Dixon

Maggie Wade-Dixon, a proud native of Crystal Springs, Mississippi, embarked on her journey of service and achievement from her early years. Graduating from Utica High School after attending Hinds County Public Schools, Maggie’s path was set for a life dedicated to making a difference. Her academic pursuits led her to Jackson State University (the 89th member of her family to attend JSU) before transferring to Mississippi College to explore corporate law, but it at MC that she discovered her passion for radio, igniting a spark that would propel her into a distinguished career in media.

With decades of experience in the field, Maggie has left an indelible mark on the landscape of journalism and community service. In her Emmy-nominated role as a news anchor for the 5, 6, and 10 p.m. news at WLBT, Maggie’s commitment to storytelling and advocacy shines through in every endeavor. Her many accolades, ranging from the 2014 Woman of the Year Award from the Mississippi Commission on the Status of Women to her appointment by Governor Haley Barbour to the Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Service, underscore her tireless dedication to uplifting her community and championing causes close to her heart.

Beyond her professional achievements, Maggie’s impact extends into the realm of philanthropy and social justice. Recognized by organizations such as the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, and the National Association of Social Workers, Maggie’s unwavering commitment to service has earned her numerous awards, including the prestigious Angel in Adoption Award and the NAACP Vernon Dahmer Award for service to children. As a member of the Mississippi Association of Public Broadcasters Hall of Fame and a recipient of the Top 40 under 40 Business Award, Maggie’s legacy as a trailblazer in media and humanitarianism continues to inspire generations to come.

Event Director – Cedric Smith (Melva Burks assisting)

Production Manager – Stephanie Burks

Assistant Production Manager – Dr. Tasha Thigpen

Hospitality Team – Joyce Woodhouse & Harry Watson, Marquita Shelby, Nikki Gilmer, Denise Taylor, Xavier Reed, Pamela Fultz, Diana Brown, Jackie Braggs, Clarisse Jones, Nicole Billingsley, Pamela Williams, Deshanna Dixon, Kamesha Williams, Gerald Collins, Denise Williams, Zoe Griffin, NiShan Shears, Jamon Jefferson, Jasmine Jones

Utica Concert Choir – Anahja Reed, NiShan Shears, Tarianna Talbert, Jalen Collins, Zoe Harris, Manuel Johnson, Mya Kennedy, DeLani Triplett, Shatyra Ellis, Nathaniel Jenkins, Lakera Williams

Title III Reporting & Surveys – Dr. Carrie Kirkland

Culinary Services – Chef Adams & the students of Culinary Arts

Security – Chief Adams and the Utica Campus Police Department

Audio Services – James Salone

Media Services & Tech Support – Dan Fuller, Marcus O’Neil, Jeremy Holmes, Ky Beard

Uticanite Yearbook – Da’Jnea Antoine, Katelyn Leason, Zy’Nila Conecin, Ky Beard, Maya McFadden