CHAMPAIGN, Ill (WCIA)–It’s the first year for this national award honoring service, and a Champaign woman got it for her work in the community. Debarah McFarland was one of thirty people to receive the Distinguished Service Award. She’s the only person in the midwest to get this. It’s presented by the 400 Years of African American History Commission. It rewards people who have dedicated their lives serving the communities around them. McFarland did just that when she started her group, Dream Girls Academy.
Six years ago, a Champaign-Urbana native saw a problem sprouting in the community.
“There was a big disconnect and I knew a lot of people that needed some assistance,” Debarah McFarland says.
So she refused to sit by and let it get worse. She decided she wanted to bridge the gap, empowering women to reach their highest potential and become leaders.
“My thing is a lot of people want to do better but they don’t know how to navigate the system or know how to start to help themselves get better,” McFarland.
That’s when she started Dream Girls Academy, a group focused on promoting positivity through pride, courage, and grace. Now because of the work, she’s done Debarah McFarland got the Distinguished Service Award. She was among just a handful of people from around the country to get it, and the only one from the midwest.
“She has such a drive. Such a compassion for helping young ladies especially. The youth, seeing them to find their worth,” Andralena Corey explains.
The people who know her describe her and her hard work as humble. So they’re glad she is finally being recognized for it.
“She just leads by example. It makes me want to do better when I see her,” Corey says.
McFarland says what she’s most proud of isn’t this award. It’s how she’s been able to accomplish her mission of helping other people.
“I am at my best when I am helping someone. I am a servant and proud to be one,” McFarland.
She doesn’t just help this cause through her organization. Friends say she plays a big role in organizing event through her church also.