Wally Marks Changemaker Award

Derek Steele

This award is a testament to those who, through their leadership and lifelong commitment, have significantly advanced equality and justice in our communities. Derek's extraordinary journey from an electrical engineer at Northrop Grumman to the impactful leader of the Social Justice Learning Institute (SJLI) embodies the spirit of this accolade. His leadership in changing the health equity landscape in Inglewood and beyond has been remarkable.

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Derek Steele, an electrical engineer and graduate of Morgan State University, is the Executive Director of the Inglewood based Social Justice Learning Institute (SJLI), a leading organization combating inequities by improving the health, education and well being of youth and communities of color and empowering them to enact social change so they can live whole, free, healthy, thriving lives.

Under his direction, SJLI has empowered over 15,000 families with nutrition and physical education, established 126 community gardens, distributed over 3M pounds of produce, stewarded the passing of state and local policy and pioneered initiatives like the Inglewood Certified Farmers' Market and Food for Thought Produce Pick Ups. Recognized as the State of California 2023 Nonprofit of the Year, SJLI, under Derek's leadership, also launched the Higher Pathways Program, supporting 18-25 year old young adults in their educational and career pursuits. Furthermore, Derek and his team champion youth empowerment and progress of over 500 students a year through initiatives like the Youth Justice Fellowship, Urban Advocates, Urban Health Fellowship, and the flagship program Urban Scholars. 

Derek extends SJLI's impact as Chair of LA County's Care First Community Investment Advisory Committee where he and his peers guide investments in critical areas like housing, re-entry, youth development, education, behavioral health and more. Additionally, he serves as a steering committee member of the CA Jobs First LA High Road Transition Collaborative, advocating for equitable economic development and job opportunities in Los Angeles County. As a 2024 fellow of the Black Leadership Institute, Derek committed to using his unique skill sets garnered over his 14 years career to lead SJLI through future decades of impact to solve the inequities that plague communities of color, particularly the black community.