Omega Psi Phi, a service fraternity of African American men, honored Cortez McDaniel, the Father McKenna Center’s Director of Services, as “Citizen of the Year” for his lifetime of service to men struggling in today’s world. The award was part of Omega Psi Phi’s annual “National Achievement Week” banquet. The event was Saturday, November 11, 2017.
Cortez started life with many skills and talents. He was recruited to play football at Virginia Tech, but a devastating hip injury led him in a different direction. Cortez fell into the drug scene of the mid-1970’s, and became a drug dealer here in DC. He was later arrested, convicted and imprisoned for his crimes. While in prison he completed his college degree promised himself, if he was ever released, that he would dedicate himself to helping others avoid the mistakes he had made. While in prison he wrote and taught fellow prisoners a “Recidivism Prevention Workshop” that became required for all men seeking parole. When he was released Cortez was homeless, but he would not be defeated.
Today, as Director of Services at the Father McKenna Center, Cortez works every day to assist men work to reach their personal goals of stability, productivity and a life with purpose. He is also a co-founder of the Homecomers (recently released prisoners) Academy and a co-founder and an active member of the DC Peace Team serving our community.
In reading the citation, Walter Hill, a leader in Omega Psi Phi and a member of the Board of Directors of the Father McKenna Center, drew attention to two of the four tenets of Omega – “perseverance and uplift.” Mr. Hill commented that Cortez is an outstanding example of these values.