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2022 Awardees

Shakealia Finley – Scholarship

Shakealia Finley is this this year’s winner of the Carnahan Scholarship at the Truman School of Public Service. She is an economics educator with a myriad of professional experiences, including serving as a graduate research assistant at the Truman School. Her scholarly interests include economics teaching and learning in urban high highs, economics teacher preparation and education, race and economics, and economic history. Her professional career has landed her at Georgia Perimeter College, Jackson State University, Georgia State University, and Columbia University. While pursuing her doctorate, she has also found time to serve as a volunteer program coordinator for the Red Cross.

Jean Peters Baker – Law

Jean Peters Baker, the elected Jackson County Prosecutor, is the winner of the Gov. Carnahan Public Service Award in the area of law. Jean grew up on a small farm in Osage County. She has degrees from Columbia College, a master’s degree in public administration from Mizzou, and a law degree from UMKC. “Fearless public servant” may be the best phrase to describe Jean. She served as a state representative when she was appointed to be the prosecutor. Jean prosecuted a bishop for failing to report child abuse by a priest. She was named by the Missouri Supreme Court to investigate a high-profile sexual assault in NW MO. Her nominator wrote “Jean is courageously candid about the effect of race in the criminal justice system. Jean share data which unequivocally shows unequal and inequitable outcomes and tries to do something about it.” Most recently, she did something about it standing up and fighting for an innocent man, Kevin Strickland, to be released from jail after 26 years. Echoing Martin Luther King Jr, Jean the press that an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Les Wagner – Public Service

Les Wagner has dedicated his entire professional career to caring for people with disabilities. After studying at Mizzou, serving in the Missouri Army National Guard during Vietnam, and then getting his degree at Lincoln University, Les took a job riding minibikes. His first job was a youth program for teenagers using minibikes. He went on to be the director of Boone County Group Homes, Executive Director of the Jefferson County Commission for the Handicapped, Executive Director of Boone County Family Resources, and finally the Executive Director of the Missouri Association of County Developmental Disability Services. He led the charge on locally based case management that is now used by 105 of Missouri’s 114 counties. Les was the first president and executive director of the Missouri Association of County Developmental Disability Services, which collectively has $91 million dollars in tax levy funding. His nominator wrote “the growth and stability of MACDDS is largely attributed to Les Wagner’s guiding hand.” To paraphrase one of the letters in support, “it is my great honor to present Les Wagner the Carnahan Award for devotion of a lifetime of service to some of the most vulnerable Missouri citizens.”

Samara Crawford Herrera

Samara Crawford Herrera is a passionate fighter for public schools.  Samara holds a degree in political science from Spelman College, a master’s in education from Boston University, and a master’s in social work from the University of Oklahoma.  She spent her first four years after college as an officer in the United States Navy, moving on to being a kindergarten teacher, curriculum specialist, and early care specialist.  That strong background based in leadership and education took her to management positions in both Texas and Oklahoma.  For the last five years she has been a part of the team that has taken the Kansas City Public Schools to new heights and recently re-accreditation.  At SchoolSmart KC, Samara promotes parental and community involvement, coordination with community leaders, and training for principals, teachers, and staff.  She is also in charge of the overall strategic and operational planning.  One of her nominators noted that “Samara is a focused, resilient, intelligent, and charismatic leader whose impact can be seen throughout the urban education landscape in Kansas City.”