Meet Our 2021 Angels
Miguel A. Alonso
New Orleans Children's Health Project
Miguel immigrated to the US from Cuba in 2015, where he was a physician. He arrived without a license to practice medicine in the United States, and immediately started working any available job to support his family.
While working as a porter in an apartment complex, he was invited to serve as a patient representative for the New Orleans Children’s Health Project (NOCHP). He was mentored by past Angel honoree Carlos Naranjo and, after Carlos’ passing, Miguel became the primary case manager for more than 1,000 children each year. His caseload consists primarily of children fleeing horrific violence in Central America.
Miguel helps children and families navigate the barriers to accessing lifesaving healthcare and social services, including language barriers, lack of transportation and access to health insurance. In many cases, he is the first person with whom families connect that has also walked through the tribulations of resettling to a new, unknown place.
Miguel goes above and beyond to meet the needs of the families in his care: delivering groceries, making home visits and connecting them with organizations who can help make ends meet. Through his efforts, families get the resources they need to reach stability and thrive.
Stephanie Antley Herrmann
Union Parish Library
Stephanie is the director of the Union Parish Library, where she has transformed that library system into an open, responsive community resource that supports children of all kinds in a rural region.
In addition to her passion for creative programming to enrich the cultural and creative lives of children, Stephanie has led the library staff to meet the needs of children after natural disaster and COVID-19 shutdowns, including converting libraries to meal distribution centers, providing free book mobile/technology/WI-FI access, and adding bilingual staff and support for ESL students and families.
Stephanie has a passion for the outdoors, and has created a lending library of tents, camping tools and more so that all families can experience the wonders of nature. She is compassionate and kind, and is the heart of her team’s efforts to make the library a resource to any- and everyone in Union Parish.
James "Big Brown" Joseph
Big Brown Reaching Back
James “Big Brown” Joseph is a former Harlem Globetrotter and a current UPS driver who pours his time and heart into helping communities across south Louisiana.
Big Brown helps kids and families whenever and however is needed, often by rallying coworkers and community members. Together, they provide AC units and fans to those who don’t have them, collect school supplies, paint and beautify civic spaces and so much more.
In 2020, Big Brown and his foundation stepped up for families and kids in Lafayette and Lake Charles after devastating hurricanes and floods, providing supplies, shelter, and toys. When Hurricane Ida made landfall in 2021, he went to work raising funds to purchase and deliver generators and air conditioners to those whose homes were damaged, or who went without electricity for weeks.
Delivery drivers are the eyes of their communities – often noticing needs first. Big Brown fulfills those needs with a smile and resounding joy, making thousands of friends along the way.
Dr. Marc Behar
Pride Prom NOLA
Marc has been an advocate, supporter, fundraiser, volunteer and leader in the New Orleans community for decades. He is one of the founders of “Pride Prom NOLA” for LGBTQ+ high school-aged young people, which is presented annually for hundreds of young people at no cost.
Even now, many young people coming out are rejected by their families, leaving them in crisis and vulnerable to significantly worse outcomes than their peers. Marc supports organizations that provide housing, food, career opportunities and mental health services for young people in need.
Though he works in many areas, Marc was nominated for Pride Prom NOLA, which provides LGBTQ+ young people with a fun, safe and accepting space to gather and experience joy. For many young people on their own, it is one of their first experiences of an accepting, loving and affirming community. The program also connects young people with counseling and community agencies.
As an advocate, Marc has fought to make a path for the upcoming generation of young people. He has lent his voice and resources for the rights of all, and established a legacy that has significantly changed the lives of many LGBTQ+ young people.
Kellie DeRouen Duhon
The Life of a Single Mom
Kellie has distinguished herself to colleagues, friends and her community as a true service-minded leader. Among many volunteer roles, she has faithfully served The Life of a Single Mom for years, including time as its board president.
The Life of a Single Mom (TLSM) exists to make sure that no single mother walks the path of raising children alone. The organization provides counseling, career services, training and access to financial resources. Founded by a previous Angel Award honoree, Jennifer Maggio, TLSM also helps establish local support groups of single mothers who can lean on each other for support.
Kellie, who was raised by a single mother, gives her whole heart to the organization. She is kind, compassionate and dedicated, showing up to serve however needed. By empowering single mothers, Kellie and TLSM have improved outcomes for children and families.
As this year’s Blue Angel, Kellie stands out for her humility and willingness to lend a hand. Guided by a deep and quiet faith, no chance to help someone in need is too small or unimportant for Kellie.
Calcasieu Parish Schools \ PILOT Program
Ken is a teacher at Washington-Marion Magnet High School in Lake Charles. He is also one of the founders of Peer Initiative Leaders of Tomorrow (PILOT), which builds resilient networks of students and teachers who can guide students considering suicide to mental health services.
When multiple deaths by suicide shook his school community, Ken rallied teachers, parents and students to form support structures to make sure no student feels alone. He has dedicated himself to making sure students have access to mental health services and advocated for policy changes that teach suicide prevention in schools.
The PILOT program has become a model and has been implemented for thousands of children. Ken also led his students in advocating for changes in state laws that have made mental health services more readily available to young people.
Through his efforts, Ken is building a movement of trauma-informed teachers, mentors and youth to build environments that support young people and end death by suicide.
CRD No Limits Foundation
At just 13 years old, Rylie is creating a legacy of improving the lives of children living with disabilities. Rylie, who loves archery and community service, lives with cerebral palsy. More importantly, she’s brave, headstrong and tenacious — and when she saw that other children and their families couldn’t afford adaptive medical equipment, she decided to do something about it.
Her organization, the CRD No Limits Foundation, provides for the needs of children with disabilities, and gives relief to families — who can be overwhelmed by navigating the complexities of school, healthcare and home life for a child with special needs.
Rylie and her family have raised more than $100,000 to date, helping more than 30 children facing difficult challenges. Rylie is committed to becoming a neurologist, to bring her lived experience and compassionate care into the healthcare system for more children. Her dream is to grow her foundation to the point where it can build truly adaptive playgrounds across the country.
Dr. Erin R. Wheeler
Dr. Wheeler is passionate about seeing young people achieve their educational dreams, especially those who are first generation students, from rural places or who come from backgrounds of generational poverty.
She is the executive director of College Beyond, which focuses on mentoring and interventions to get young people into college and walk with them through the journey, providing support until graduation and beyond. The organization provides counseling, financial support and helps students however needed — such as giving students rides to campus or work.
Dr. Wheeler is also the founder of Be Preppy, a rural program in her native Amite, which uses technology to make college prep coaching available to all young people. She dedicates almost all of her waking time to supporting the students reached by these two nonprofits, personally intervening and coaching to help them navigate the obstacles to college and career placement – permanently altering the trajectory of the lives of hundreds of children in southeast Louisiana.
Baton Rouge Youth Coalition
As a young teacher, Lucas became passionate about changing systems to support children through their educational careers. He left the classroom to become the executive director of the Baton Rouge Youth Coalition (BRYC), an organization that reaches children in schools across Baton Rouge to provide college counseling and prep.
BRYC helps students into their college transition, providing any and every service to help reach their graduation goals. Lucas is known for going above and beyond for the hundreds of students reached by BRYC, providing personal mentoring, supplies and much more.
For many young people, small bumps in the road can feel like mountains. BRYC prepares students and empowers them to succeed. Those students who have been mentored by Lucas and his team are easily recognizable – they are bright, courageous and have a passion for creating change. They are the leaders of tomorrow.