Light of Dawnn Awards

Light of Dawnn Awards Logo







2016 Light of Dawn Winners

     Dawnn’s Parents with the 2017 Light of                                              Dawnn Winners

A selection committee made up of Dawnn’s colleagues, peers and family make the annual selection of three individuals to receive a Light of Dawnn Award. Those selected will be recognized at a public event and receive a monetary award for their outstanding efforts.

About the Awards

Now in its third year, the Light of Dawnn Awards were created to honor the life of Dawnn Ashley Jaffier, a victim of gun violence, who was tragically killed on her way to a neighborhood celebration. Though only 26 years old, Dawnn had begun a promising career in 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 nonprofit organizations play within a community and created a life devoted to giving back for all she had been given. To honor Dawnn, and all victims of senseless acts of violence, the Highland Street Foundation, community leaders, and Dawnn’s colleagues, peers and family, created the Light of Dawnn Awards. These awards celebrate individuals working in the nonprofit sector who demonstrate the spirit that is Dawnn’s legacy.

2017 Light of Dawnn Award winners:

Dawnmarie Salmons, Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston: Edgerley Family South Boston ClubDawnmarie

A Dorchester native, Dawnmarie Salmons has been part of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston, Edgerley Family South Boston club since she was 12 years old. Dawnmarie is the Music Clubhouse Director overseeing all of the clubs music programs. When she first started this role at the young age of 18, she was operating music programs out of a small office that could barely fit six students. Today, after a lot of hard work, fundraising, and seeking out partnerships, the Clubhouse now boasts five classrooms, a recording studio, and other state-of-the-art features. Dawnmarie also started a program, Positive Notes, through which she mentors kids to give back to their communities. The program is open to children ages six through 18. “Music is empowering. It’s all about teaching the kids how to give back with the music.” Dawnmarie is currently pursuing a master’s degree from Berklee College of Music in music therapy.

JuanJuan Manuel Cantu, Jr., Hyde Square Task Force

The oldest of three, Juan has always been driven to lead. But, he doesn’t want to just lead, he wants to bring others along with him. Juan is the College Success Coordinator at Hyde Square Task Force. He supports high school students and college students to stick with their educations and overcome hurdles including needing to work full time, supporting families, and financial strains. Now he keeps up with more than 75 youth mentees as they pursue higher education. Through text messages, email, phone calls, and personal meetings, he supports them. Many of the youth he works with affectionately call him “tio.” Juan had not even considered applying to college until his high school English teacher pushed him. He wants to do the same, to push his students to persevere, to get an education, and ultimately, to improve their lives. Juan is now pursuing a master’s degree in Education and Urban Education Policy.

ThaTha Thai, Roca, Inc.

Tha is Assistant Director of Roca Boston, where he has worked for 11 years to disrupt the cycle of incarceration and poverty by helping young people transform their lives. A previous employee of Dorchester Youth Collaborative, Tha was quickly promoted to Lead Youth Worker at Roca and was the obvious choice to build the nonprofit’s new site in Boston. He is the person everyone calls when they need advice, support, or direction. He uses every moment as a teaching moment. Tha plans to return to school to study trauma informed therapy.

Recipients of the 2017 Light of Dawnn Scholarship:

Justina Riopelle, Big Sister Association of Greater Boston

Sominisha Wright, Beacon Academy

Noor Al-saad, Project 351

Read a recap from last year’s award reception.

Below is a video that highlights Dawnn’s impact on her family, friends, colleagues and Boston community. Thank you to Comcast for producing the video.

LightOfDawnn-desktop from Comcast VPS on Vimeo.

If you have questions about the awards, please contact