Star power: Former NASA astronaut and NFL player speaks at Village of Promise event

HUNTSVILLE – Leland Melvin is the first person to have been drafted by an NFL team and flown in space as a NASA astronaut. He will share his philosophy on serious, local concerns in the Speaker Series that Village of Promise or VoP sponsors.

The 2023 event with Leland Melvin as special guest will be held at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in the Davidson Center for Space Exploration on May 16 from 6 to 8 p.m.

Melvin served on board the Space Shuttle “Atlantis” as a mission specialist on STS-122 and STS-129. Injuries prevented Melvin from on-field play with the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys.

Axient Corporation is presenting the Speaker Series for 2023. Village of Promise opened the series in 2011. This sixth venture by nonprofit organization Village of Promise ties directly to its mission to advance families out of poverty using a multigenerational approach.

“Our Speaker Series events all feature keynote speakers with expertise in education and poverty, and the relationship between the two, with Leland, being no exception,” Village of Promise CEO Dana M. Gillis said. “We invite community members to join us for an unforgettable evening in support of Village of Promise as Leland’s story is sure to inspire attendees to reach for the stars.”

During its run, the VoP Speaker Series has included these personalities:

* Geoffrey Canada — President of Harlem Children’s Zone. VoP is replicating its strategy. 2011.

* Dr. Marian Wright Edelman — Founder of the Children’s Defense Fund. 2013.

* Paul Tough — Education researcher and author of “How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character.” 2015.

* Dr. Ruby Payne — Educator and author, best known for “A Framework for Understanding Poverty.” 2017.

* Manny Scott — An author and original Freedom Writer. 2022.

Karen Stanley and Brenda Martin are co-chairing this year’s event. “I sincerely believe that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers,” Stanley said and added that she is honored to lead the event’s volunteer team and that they are all happy to help families in need. “Village’s Speaker Series is a valuable resource in strengthening our community,” Martin said and noted she is elated to support Village of Promise.

With VoP’s status as a Family Advancement Center, the organization addresses the needs of children and families in distressed, under-resourced neighborhoods. The Speaker Series event provides a stage for national, thought leaders to share their insight with the Huntsville community on best-practice solutions for confronting generational poverty.

To open this year’s event, a cocktail reception will begin at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are available for advance purchase only through May 5. The webpage for Village of Promise’s Speaker Series, villageofpromise.org, contains event information and purchasing details.

For more information on Village of Promise, call 256-536-8052 or visit Facebook or Instagram.

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