Newark, NJ—Three local men and one corporation received awards from the Marion P. Thomas Charter School (MPTCS) Foundation at its annual “Fathers for our Children” Awards Ceremony and Scholarship Fundraiser.

This year’s award recipients are Modia "Mo" Butler, political strategist; the late Dr. Fabian Rice of RWJ/ Barnabas Health’s Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and Pastor Vincent Rouse, Sr., Pastor of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church. This year’s corporate honoree is Newark-based Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield. 

The event took place Friday night at Marion P. Thomas Charter High School on Sussex Avenue.

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Proceeds from the event will be awarded, in the form of scholarships, to “scholars and alumni of MPTCS who have demonstrated academic excellence and are matriculating into higher academic colleges, universities, culinary schools or other post-secondary career training institutions.”

Since 2004, through funds provided by sponsors and individual donors, the MPTCS Foundation has awarded scholars more than $500,000 in scholarships through honored and recognized men who serve as role models and father figures to the scholars at the school. The purpose of the “Fathers for our Children” Awards Ceremony and Scholarship Fundraiser is to debunk the stigma that in the black community fathers and men are not present as role models.

Students danced, sang, performed sketches and cooked a four-course meal for those in attendance of the fundraiser using the school’s state-of-the-art kitchen where students learn from professional chefs.

“But all of our children are not that fortunate to have those kinds of men in their lives and so you honorees this evening stand in that stead,” said Dr. Karen Thomas, founder of MPTCS.

All the honorees thanked Thomas for her work at the school. Thomas will be retiring at the end of the school year. Thomas said everyone being recognized exemplified the positive role model that all children need and deserve.

Students presented each honoree with large works of art as their award.

“I know as a father of a beautiful daughter how important this institution is and how important it is to recognize fathers,” said Mo Butler after being presented with his award. “I have a lot of titles. People call me senior advisor, they call me a consultant, up until yesterday they called me a managing director, now I’m a partner. But my most important title is dad, is father. I take that role… I can’t even go into how seriously I take that role.  Because I know how difficult it is to navigate the world.”

Butler said that caring educators and community can make all the difference in a child’s life.

“We can help our children navigate these very difficult environments,” said Butler. “And not just navigate them to do fine but to be the best they possibly can be. I’m honored to accept this.”

Alison Banks-Moore, Chief Diversity Officer of Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Jersey accepted the award on behalf of her company. Students made a video thanking the organization for the lives they saved and positive work they have done in the community. The organization also donated the funds allowing the school to open its kitchen.    

“I’m very proud to be here tonight to represent a Newark company that understands the connection between today’s learners and tomorrow’s leaders,” said Banks-Moore. “Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Jersey is humbled to be recognized.”

Assistant Vice President of Newark Beth Israel Medical Center Dr. Kevin Lawless accepted the award on behalf of late Dr. Fabian Rice, his friend and colleague.  

“Sometimes when you lose somebody so young you ask why did God take him but maybe the better question is why did he give him to us,” said Lawless. “He gave us a life in service. He would have loved this. He was a great dad. All he talked about was his kids. He’d have been so proud of this award. We’ll miss him dearly. We think of him every day and this is a great award.”

Pastor Vincent Rouse, Sr., Pastor of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church thanked his family while accepting his award.

“I love Newark. Newark is my heart,” said Rouse. “I love the young people in the city of Newark. God has always opened opportunities for me to serve in different capacities. Never having to beg. Never having to ask to do it. God has always opened the door. Every single time. I’m appreciative that God would see that in me. That he would always allow to be able to be a part being able to touch someone’s life. Thank you so much. I am so delighted for this opportunity, for this privilege. I am because of all of you. I am because of you and I thank God for that today. Continue to do this. Pray for one another. Pray for our city. Pray for our children. Pray for the Marion P. Thomas Charter School. The legacy will continue with the foundation that this school was built upon.”