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Kelsi Deel Franco Named CCCU Young Alumni Award Winner

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Kelsi Deel Franco, a 2013 graduate of Lee University and founder/executive director of the House of Cherith in Atlanta, Georgia, has been named the 2022 CCCU Young Alumni Award winner by the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU).

This award will be presented as part of the 2022 CCCU International Forum on Feb. 11-13. Lee University leaders will be present at the Forum alongside Deel Franco as she receives the award.

“Lee takes seriously its mission of preparing students for responsible Christian living in a complex world,” said Lee President Dr. Mark Walker. “Kelsi’s character and professional work embodies our mission in every way. She is a model of Christian scholarship, service, and vocation. We are very proud of her!”

At the age of 13, Deel Franco met a survivor of sex trafficking and was ignited with a passion for this cause. Her heart for Christ and for those on the margins was cultivated in a large family of city pastors and nonprofit founders. During her undergraduate career at Lee University, Deel Franco majored in Spanish with a minor in religion, where she became equipped with tools and resources to create supportive services designed for survivors of human trafficking. She also had the opportunity to return to Lee after her graduation to speak in a chapel service in 2019.

According t o Deel Franco, Lee represented the time in her life that fanned into flame her love for Jesus, fueled her passion for fighting for freedom, and empowered her to, “not only dream big but to do big things.”

“The scourge of human trafficking has plagued our city, nation, and world for far too long,” said Deel Franco. “But where there is darkness, there is an immense opportunity for light. Lee played a crucial role in equipping me to be resilient in this fight despite the countless tears I have cried for this population, to use my voice for those that have theirs silenced for far too long, and to change the world by shining the light for one woman, one child, one survivor at a time.”

In 2014, Deel Franco founded the House of Cherith, a trauma-informed residential recovery program providing a safe place for adult female survivors of sex trafficking and exploitation. Women at the facility receive a variety of services including medical, dental, and mental healthcare, substance abuse counseling and recovery, case management, life skills, cognitive behavior therapy, and financial literacy.

“We’re awfully proud of Kelsi and her commitment to service after graduation,” said Dr. Paul Conn, Lee University chancellor. “She is a second-generation Lee grad whose entire family has modelled this kind of lifestyle. The CCCU couldn’t honor a more deserving alum.”

Since graduating from Lee, Deel Franco has earned a master’s degree in organizational leadership with a specialization in nonprofit management, mental health first aid, vicarious trauma certification, and suicide intervention from Northcentral University in La Jolla, California. She is a member of the National Honor Society of Leadership and Success and holds certifications in a variety of specialties including trauma-informed care, crisis de-escalation, and mental health first aid.

Currently, she is pursuing a doctorate in business administration with a nonprofit management specialization from Northcentral University.

The CCCU Young Alumni Award is given to those who have achieved uncommon leadership or success in a way that reflects the values of Christian higher education. These values include integrating biblical truth not just into spiritual aspects of life, but in all areas; exemplifying a moral commitment to living out Christian virtues such as love, courage, and humility; and using gifts, talents, and opportunities to make a difference for the common good, whether in their local communities or on a broader national and international scope.

“Through her commitment to being a light in the darkness, Kelsi Deel Franco embodies a significant and timely example of the words of the Old Testament prophet beckoning us to, ‘act justly and love mercy and walk humbly with their God (Micah 6:8),’ said CCCU President Shirley V. Hoogstra. “She actionably draws close to suffering and seeks redemption. We are honored to present her with this award as she immediately stood out to us as a person who modeled initiative and courage to face a deep crisis and extend the love of Jesus in such a tangible, holistic manner.”

For mo re information about the House of Cherith, visit hocatl.org.

For more information about Lee University, visit leeuniversity.edu.

For more infor mation about the CCCU, visit cccu.org.

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