M.E.R.I.T. badge: Seaford man receives Jefferson Award for entrepreneur service

POST hollis award with venables

Seaford resident John Hollis, left, pictured here with former State Sen. Robert Venables Sr. at a tribute event for Mr. Venables in February, recently received the Jefferson Awards Foundation’s “Outstanding Service by an Entrepreneur” award.

WILMINGTON – If John Hollis is a betting man, perhaps he should ante up on the Kentucky Derby.

Four months into 2015 the longtime leader, school administrator, coach and community servant has already hit the daily double.

In March, Mr. Hollis received the 2015 Blue/Gold Leadership Award at the Blue/Gold All-Star Basketball Banquet at Dover Downs.

Then on April 20, in Wilmington, the Seaford man received the Jefferson Awards Foundation’s “Outstanding Service by an Entrepreneur” award.

For years, Mr. Hollis worked as a teacher and a coach in the Seaford School District. After his teaching days, he then became the Senior Vice President of the Delaware Community Foundation and the Boys and Girls Club in Delaware. He also was the Personnel Director for Delaware Technical and Community College.

Currently, he is the Sussex County Manager of Community and Government Affairs at Nemours Health and Prevention Services. Besides these accomplished titles, he gives Sussex County youth his time by mentoring them in a youth program for minorities.

In 1974, M.E.R.I.T. (Minority Engineering Regional Incentive Training) was formed by engineers at the Seaford DuPont nylon plant to foster the academic success of minorities, specifically those of African America, Native American, and Latino descent. Mr. Hollis has worked with M.E.R.I.T from the start with a goal of helping students apply and attend higher education.

Over the past 41 years, the program has a 97-percent success rate of students going on to higher learning. The programs give its members challenging engineering projects and tasks to overcome.

Mr. Hollis not only mentors them in the project but in a way that provided the students with confidences and determination that they will carry for the rest of their lives. Since its inception, M.E.R.I.T. and Mr. Hollis have impacted the lives of over 330 minority students. He has encouraged them with hope and positivity to earn college degrees. He has also taught them powerful leadership skills to aid them in the real world.

At each M.E.R.I.T. meeting every other Saturday at the Western Boys and Girls Club, parents are actively involved in the students’ training and activities. Alumni of the program often return during college breaks to give back to the students’ whom they once were.

Mr. Hollis encourages alumni to share their experiences to the current MERIT students and others choose to make in kind donations such as SAT preparatory workbooks. Since the funding diminished with the closing of the nylon plant, Mr. Hollis has reached out to the Delaware Commission for Higher Education and Delmarva Power which have been faithful funders. Additionally, several corporate sponsors, including the University of Delaware, Trinity Transportation, and Delaware Technical Community College Owens Campus, support the program in a variety of ways.

For Mr. Hollis, these partnerships are critical in fulfilling his passion of giving kids a better future.  This passion has lead him to receive “The Volunteer of the Year Award”, “The Family Focus Award” and the “Robert A Kasey Lifetime Achievement Award.”

The Sussex County Post delivers news from Georgetown and southern Delaware. Follow @SussexPost on Twitter.

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