SALISBURY, MD---When Paula Morris, faculty in Salisbury University’s Franklin P. Perdue School of Business, founded the non-profit organization Kids of Honor in 2001, she had just one goal: give local children the guidance and incentives they needed to graduate high school.
The concept may seem simple, but its impact has been great, helping hundreds of children on Maryland’s Lower Eastern Shore.
The Baltimore-based Daily Record recently honored Morris for her success with the program, naming her among “Maryland’s Top 100 Women.” This is her second year making the prestigious list. (The first was in 2008.) Her accomplishments, along with those of other honorees, will be celebrated during a gala event Monday, May 7, at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.
Kids of Honor works with at-risk children as early as the fourth grade to help teach and reinforce the basic skills needed for success in school. Rather than focusing on grades, which can be a de-motivator for underachieving youth, the program promotes communication and appropriate behavior.
Mentors celebrate accomplishments instead of punishing misbehavior, encouraging personal success with a goal of establishing lifelong habits of respect and responsibility.
“One of three kids in America doesn’t graduate from high school,” said Morris. “Kids beating these odds is not magic. It is the result of committed youth, parents, communities and policymakers who help change the odds.”
Since 2006, Morris also has been involved with the Youth Leadership Academy at SU, a summer program she describes as “leadership training by youth for youth … with fun mixed in, of course.”
She also promotes community service in her marketing classes, charging student groups with designing and promoting charitable fundraisers each semester. In 2011, the amount raised for community organizations in donations and in-kind services since the program began topped $100,000.
Morris’ nominators touched on her giving spirit. “She is a beloved and enthusiastic teacher,” said Dr. Debbie Easterling of SU’s Management and Marketing Department. “Not only is she considered an expert in her field, but perhaps more importantly, she loves teaching students that business is not only about profits but also about making a difference.”
“There is no dream too big and no idea too farfetched for Paula,” said SU alumna Nadia Sicard, now a volunteer coordinator and social media consultant in Washington, D.C., who credits Morris with inspiring her to begin her own non-profit organization. “I dream of not only starting my own after-school programs for youth, but I dream of starting them and sharing my triumphs with Paula.”
Perhaps former Kids of Honor program participant Nkongho Beteck, now a journalism major at the University of Maryland, College Park, summed it up best: “Mrs. Morris has always made it seem like I matter.”
The Daily Record is one of many organizations that have honored Morris for her dedication to the community. In 2006, she received the National Points of Light Award for creating change and helping to meet critical needs.
In 2010, the White House honored her with the President’s Call to Service Award for lifetime achievement, noting her more than 4,000 hours of volunteer service to youth programs. She also has been recognized with Outstanding Volunteer and Troop Leader awards from the Chesapeake Bay Girl Scout Council.
Morris earned her M.B.A. from George Washington University and her B.A. in marketing from East Carolina University. She has taught in SU’s Management and Marketing Department since 1997.
For more information call 410-543-6030 or visit the SU Web site at www.salisbury.edu.