4 staff members honored for community leadership roles


Emily Deletter

Four WKU staff members were recognized for their leadership qualities by the Bowling Green Trailblazers Committee on Sunday. Awarded during Black History Month, the Trailblazer distinguishes six local African-American community members for leadership qualities in management, civic engagement, community service, law, entrepreneurship and higher education.

The two honorees not on WKU’s staff are Ronald Lewis and Carlos Bailey, distinguished for their work in civic engagement and law.

The event was held at Eleventh Street Baptist Church in Bowling Green and featured various forms of artistic interpretation by youth and adults demonstrating the achievements and life stories of the honorees.

Martha Sales, selected for her work in higher education, said she was pleasantly surprised when she watched the skit, performed by one of her former students.

“I was filled with tears and laughter,” Sales said. “It was very emotional.”

Sales is the executive director of WKU TRIO programs and the Intercultural Student Engagement Center. TRIO is a federally funded program assisting first-generation and low-income students to continue pursuing higher education.

Ryan Dearbone, assistant director of college advancement in the Office of Development and Alumni Relations, was also one of the 2017 Trailblazers from WKU, recognized for entrepreneurship. Dearbone said he was humbled when he heard the news.

“I’m one of the new kids on the block, so I was completely shocked,” Dearbone said. “I like to be busy in Bowling Green and find ways to make it better.”

Dearbone is active in his local community both inside and outside of WKU. He is the president of the Martin Luther King, Jr. planning committee, chairperson for Black Leaders Advocating for the Community as well as the secretary for the Bowling Green-Warren County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

“I’m passionate about dealing with equality – social, racial and economic,” Dearbone said. “I want to be a part of those discussions.”

For Aurelia Spaulding, communications and marketing coordinator, becoming a Trailblazer gave a special meaning to her work. Spaulding previously served as the second vice president of the Bowling Green chapter of the NAACP, and now serves as the current fiscal manager for nonprofit organization Light of Chance.

Spaulding was recognized for her community service and said she believes her mission in life is to help others by working with them.

“I try to identify different ways I can work with others,” Spaulding said. “My belief is that from the moment I wake up I work to somehow contribute to the greater good.”

Another WKU honoree recognized was WKU’s shipping and receiving manager, Johnalma Barnett, in the area of management. Many of her employees are international students with whom she has formed a connection going beyond the daily workforce.

Barnett said she  felt she received the award because of her passion for people.

“I was very surprised, because everyone else has a lot of titles and degrees,” Barnett said. “But I always say, when you succeed, you succeed in all phases of your life.”

Reporter Emily DeLetter can be reached at (270)745-0655 and [email protected].